How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car?

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Whether you are moving or selling, a car is a large item. Working out how much it will cost to ship a car can seem daunting if you have never done this before. Fortunately, it’s no more difficult than shipping any large item. We’ll break down the process, so it’s fast and simple. Cars are bulk-shipped on unique vehicles made for handling vehicles. Otherwise, it’s not much different from shipping with PODS or another company that picks up a big container to do the driving for you.

Shipping Versus Driving

There are situations where driving your car is the best option if you can. However, the cost of shipping is often worth it because of the time involved. If, for example, you purchase the car of your dreams, but it is on the opposite side of the country, you can easily see that gas to drive it home is less. However, that’s not the whole story. In this scenario, you aren’t merely driving the car. You would have to take time off work, which will cost you a few days’ pay at least. On top of that cost, you have to get yourself to the new car. Busses are tedious and take a longer time to arrive, losing more workdays. Trains are a little faster, but they may not have convenient stations. Flying is the quickest, but airfare can be costly if you don’t book well in advance.

In addition to travel fees, you need to consider in-town travel costs like cab fare to get to your long-distance transport. On arrival, you will likely need a cab or Uber to get to the new car. You will have to pay for meals and, most likely, several stays in hotels as you drive back. Likewise, if you have pets at home, you may need to pay someone to watch them or boarding fees, and there are other incidentals. It all adds up quickly. If you’re heading across town or the state, you may want to arrange to drive, but otherwise, shipping is the smarter option. Moreover, the shipper is insured and responsible for ensuring your vehicle arrives in the condition the shipper received it. Plus, you don’t have to deal with traffic when you ship.

Open Transport and Enclosed

Shipping a car cross country mostly involves getting your car onto a vehicle that is making the trip. These massive trucks transport multiple cars simultaneously and are driven by professional, licensed, and insured drivers. Doing this is a lot safer than trying to tow your car behind a moving truck. The two biggest issues you have with national car shipping are pickup or dropoff and open or enclosed shipping. Pickup and drop-off are fairly self-explanatory. Many vehicle shipping services are door to door, but in large cities, you may have the option to drop your car off with the shipper.

Most people have seen an open shipping vehicle full of cars. These massive trucks have layers of parking and multiple vehicles parked and secured on the beds. This method is less expensive, but your car is exposed to the elements as it goes down the road. Enclosed car shipping usually involves fewer cars. In fact, you can ship a single car via enclosed shipping. The security and peace of mind are fantastic with enclosed shipping, but according to SGTAutoTransport, it also costs around thirty-five percent more.

Industry Standards

Ultimately your needs and budget will determine the type of shipping you choose. Forbes reports that it will cost more than two dollars per mile for short shipping trips under two hundred miles. Open transport is the best choice for those on a tight budget, but the air freight is better for a tight schedule. Shipping rates vary by the mile and company. Typically you will pay less per mile for a longer distance. Cost can be as low as fifty cents per mile or as much as two dollars for open transport. The national average for auto shipping is $1650. Notably, some services that sell new cars will ship to your door for free, so it is always worth checking with the seller before you buy.

International Car Shipping

Though it is far less common, international car shipping is a whole different animal. You cannot DIY an international car shipment unless you own a huge plane or a superyacht. With the exceptions of Canada and Mexico, it’s not really an option to drive. International shipping uses several methods. Container Shipping- Using this shipping method is a lot like packing any shipping container, except yours will be full of cars. You can ship solo in an individual shipping container. It is safer to ship solo, but the trade-off is that it often costs much more.

  • RORO – The Roll-On/Roll-Off method involves parking directly inside a ship. A deck is dedicated to vehicles, and you or the company shipping your vehicle will drive the car onto the ship directly without a container. The downside is less protection, but the cost is usually less, and RORO can accommodate larger vehicles easily. RORO is like taking a ferry, but the trip is longer, and the ship is larger.
  • Air Freight – You can ship a car on a plane. Notably, this method is much faster, but the downside to air freight is the cost. According to, the fees for this type of international car move can end up costing more than your car.

Final Thoughts

Shipping a car can be the most cost-effective and sensible way to move. However, it would be best if you planned well in advance. Except for Air-Freight, most international shipping takes about two months. You always need to ensure all your paperwork is in order before you ship. Meanwhile, national shipping often takes a full month. The driving doesn’t take thirty days, but car shipping companies have to make numerous stops. The shipper will wait to put your car on a transport that is headed to the right area along with other vehicles. Shipping your car doesn’t have to be a headache, but it will require smart planning.

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