5 Mistakes To Avoid When Shipping A Car: You Need to Know

Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by John Robinson

Shipping a car can be a tricky thing to understand, especially if you’ve never done it before. This article covers some of the basic pitfalls and mistakes to avoid when shipping a car that people make when hiring an auto transport company. Some of these tips are rather obvious and some are a bit counterintuitive, but following them will help you avoid the problems and complaints most frequently associated with shipping a vehicle.

Mistakes To Avoid When Shipping A Car

1. Not planning ahead

Coordinating the shipment of several vehicles is not easy and the more time you can give a company to organize shipping, the better things typically work out for both parties. A lead time of 3-4 weeks is usually more than enough time for a shipper. Planning ahead is not only helpful for the carrier that’s moving the vehicle, but it can also save you money, especially when compared with a last-minute or expedited shipment which comes with an additional charge.

2. Paying a large upfront cost

Though a small deposit is not out of the ordinary when booking shipment of a vehicle, it should be only a small portion of the total cost. If a company requests a large sum before the vehicle is delivered, that’s often a sign that you might be dealing with a shipper that is less-than-honest in their practices. By the same token, you shouldn’t have to make any form of payment before receiving a contract that details the specifics of the shipment. It is best to find a company that gives instant car shipping quotes online or by phone. Be sure to ask what the upfront cost is and what is owed when the vehicle is delivered so they know that you understand the business.

For a great general resource that covers many of the frequently asked questions regarding transport, including resources for researching companies, visit the website for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Missing documents

Hiring a company to move your car involves a lot of coordination and it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary documents in order. A misstep here could lead to delays in getting your vehicle delivered, or worse, additional fees that you weren’t expecting. For transporting a vehicle within the U.S., these are the documents you’ll need to make sure you have in order:

  • Title & registration
  • Proof of insurance
  • Photo ID
  • Notarized letter (if shipping on behalf of someone else)

*Please note that shipping a vehicle outside the U.S. has additional requirements.

3. Leaving items in the vehicle

With the exception of shipping a vehicle inside of a storage of storage container, it must be clean and empty prior to being delivered. Because deliveries can span hundreds and hundreds of miles, the contents inside the vehicle can shift causing potential damage during the course of transport. Similarly, any non-permanent component on the exterior of the vehicle should also be removed. This includes things like spoilers, luggage or bike racks, and specialty antennas.

4. Taking the cheapest offer

This is probably the single most important piece of advice you can get prior to shipping a car. As with any other type of business or service, not all car shippers provide the same level of service. Unfortunately, one of the common practices within the industry is offering “low ball” prices to get your business, only to later tack on additional fees to make up the difference. In recent years, this practice has been curtailed, thanks largely to efforts for more oversight, regulation, and transparency among auto shippers. Part of the reason it pays off to contact a handful of companies is that you’ll get a solid idea of where the price should be. As with anything else, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


John Robinson
John Robinson

Howdy! I’m John Robinson from Levittown, New York. I am a mechanical engineer for 15 years and already had an established car repair company. I developed a personal relationship with cars since I was a kid. I always love the sounds and smell emitted by a car or truck and even at construction machinery. Since then I have been married but my love for cars only grew.