How to transport a car to another state

Need to transport a car to another state? With a lot of cross country moves, it might make more sense to ship your belongings and fly, rather than driving everything over yourself. And when that’s the case, you need to figure out how to ship your car—including logistics and how to fit the cost into your moving budget.

There are other reasons you might need to transport a car too, aside from just moving. For instance, if you’re selling your car, displaying it in a show, or want to bring it on vacation with you. Either way, we’ll go over everything that you need to know in order to successfully transport a car from state to state, with a few helpful hints for making sure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Finding a transport company

The first thing on your to do list if you’re looking to transport a car to another state is to find a reputable auto shipping company. Use our free online auto transport company directory to easily search companies in your area and receive quotes for your move.

There are a lot of good auto transport companies out there to choose from, so your decision will likely be based on availability and total cost. Always be sure however that the company you choose to work with can check off the following boxes:

  • Must be licensed and insured for interstate moves. To verify licensure, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website and look up a company’s U.S. DOT number. (Note that any company listed on our directory has already been screened for license and insurance.)
  • A good rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • Good online reviews.

To do your search, start by narrowing down your list to companies that meet all three of those criteria. From there, request quotes to ensure that you’re getting the best deal. We recommend getting quotes from at least three auto transport companies before making your choice.

How much does it cost to transport a car to another state?

There are a lot of factors that play in to the total cost to ship a car to another state, though average car shipping costs are about $600-$1,000 for a four-door sedan and $800-$1,070 for a small van, pickup, or SUV (based on a New York to California move). You’re more likely to hit the lower end of the range if you’re moving in the off-season winter months. Likewise, expect to spend more if you’re moving in the summer.

Other factors that will affect the total cost of transporting a car include:

  • The size and weight of your car. The bigger and heavier your car is, the more it’s going to cost to move.
  • The distance of your move. As you would probably expect, longer distance moves cost more due to increased labor charges, fuel charges, and tolls.
  • The make and model of your car. The specifics of your car do factor in when it comes to total cost. Expect to spend more if you’re transporting a luxury or classic car, since it will require more individualized attention from the shipping service.
  • The time of year you’re moving. As previously mentioned, you’ll spend more to transport a car to another state if you’re moving in the summer than in the winter, since there’s a higher demand for auto shipping services at that time.
  • The type of transport you choose. Costs vary depending on if you opt for an enclosed carrier or an open air carrier. We’ll get into more detail on those below.

An important additional cost to consider: insurance. All legitimate auto transport companies are required to carry insurance, but it may not be sufficient for your needs—especially if your car is very valuable. Check with your existing auto insurance policy holder to see if your plan covers long distance shipping, or consider purchasing supplemental insurance that will protect your car in the event something happens on the road.

Enclosed transport vs. open air transport

A big cost determinant is going to be the type of transport method you choose—i.e. an enclosed carrier or an open air carrier. Open air carriers tend to be the most popular shipping method since they run cheaper than enclosed carry transports, but there are a few variable to keep in mind aside from just cost.

Open air carriers: You’ve likely seen a lot of open air carry transport vehicles on the road. Typically, they hold about nine to 10 cars at a time on two separate levels, each car safely secured to the base so it doesn’t move around.

These types of carriers are more readily available, which is part of the reason that they’re the more affordable option. Having your car completely visible during the entire trip is also an advantage in that it allows the driver to notice any signs of damage immediately. That being said, open air carriers mean that your car is exposed to the elements during transport, including any inclement weather that comes its way. This makes it more susceptible to damage in the first place.

Another notable aspect of an open air carry transport is timing. Because open air carriers transport nearly a dozen vehicles at a time, they’re usually making multiple stops on their trips. This can push back the delivery date of your vehicle, and may also mean that your car is dropped off at a central hub in your area instead of directly at your door. Inquire about delivery specifics when sourcing quotes so that you don’t inadvertently sign up to get your car a week or two after you expect to.

Enclosed carriers: If you want your car to be completely protected during the shipping process you’ll want to go for an enclosed carrier, though it is going to cost you more. Enclosed carriers have a few big advantages that warrant the price hike, including a lack of exposure to outside elements and higher overall security. And many times, there are only about three to five vehicles on the carrier at a time, which means you get your car back faster.

The biggest con, of course, is the price tag. According to A-1 Auto Transport, it costs about an additional $0.25 to $0.50 per mile to ship your car on an enclosed carrier, which adds up quickly if you’re sending your car across the country. If you’re worried about exposure to the elements though, and especially if you’re shipping a luxury or classic car, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Getting your car ready for interstate transport

To ensure your transport goes off without a hitch, prep your car before it hits the road. The auto transport company you work with will generally go over the specifics that you need to do prior to pick-up, but be prepared to do these tasks either way:

  • Check your fuel gauge and ensure that it is no more than one-quarter full.
  • Empty out all items from your car. The company you hire may require your car to be completely empty or may just have a set weight limit that you have to abide by.
  • Remove all valuables, including those that don’t add weight on to your car, such as important documents in the glove compartment and standalone GPS devices.
  • Check your car’s tires to ensure that they are inflated and in good condition.
  • Check your car’s battery to ensure that it is fully charged.

To be safe, it’s also a good idea to check your car closely for any existing damage and to photograph it from all angles. That way, if it incurs any damage on the road you will have proof that it was not pre-existing and can go through the appropriate insurance channels to be reimbursed.

Other ways to transport a car to another state

Auto transport companies aren’t your only option when it comes to interstate car shipping. Here are some other methods that you may want to consider.

Hitching your car to your moving truck. If you’re driving a moving truck to your destination you may be able to hitch your car to the back using a tow dolly or car trailer. Check with your truck rental company to see if it’s something that they allow (if they do, most will also rent out the equipment that you need). Do note however that this will add a bit more of a challenge to your drive in terms of mobility, so if you’re already uncomfortable about hauling a big moving truck you may not want to deal with a car trailer too.

Hiring a driver. Concierge transportation companies (also called professional driving companies) allow you to hire a driver to make the trek for you in your car. A lot of them will even take your pet along too, stopping for plenty of potty breaks along the way, of course. This is definitely a pricey option—and it will put miles on your car—but may be a good way to go. Of course, if you are going to hire a driver, always go through a driving company, instead of just finding someone online. Concierge transportation companies pre-vet their drivers and have the move covered by insurance.

Remember: if you need to transport a car cross country, we can help. Get free auto transport quotes and a quick look at reputable companies from our auto transport center.