How much to ship a car?
I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that this is by far the most common question we hear from customers. For good reason, obviously, the cost of shipping a car and how that fits their budget will be a determining factor for most people. Car transport prices are also an easy way for customers to compare auto shipping companies. But while “How much does it cost to ship my car?” is a very simple question, the answer (or how we get the answer) is actually very complicated. So we decided to share a little tidbit of our car transport cost expertise for those people who like to know the why behind the answer.
Components of Car Shipping Prices
When we start breaking this down the most common thing we hear from our customers is “the price of diesel fuel”. Well that is obviously a major cost for auto shipping companies, but believe it or not, there is not really a direct correlation between fuel costs and car shipping costs. But fear not, there are some specific determining factors that go into auto transport cost and here they are.
Average Cost to Ship a Car
The first step in calculating how much to ship a car is determining the average cost to ship a car on your specific route. Basically, this is a determination of supply and demand. Unfortunately, there is no magic auto transport cost per mile calculation. In fact, the price will normally be different for opposite directions on the exact same route. While this is a complicated and important part of determining the cost of shipping a car it’s really just the first step of the process. Once we’ve determined this “base rate” we start on the factors that might alter the car shipping prices.
Do you drive a lifted truck or a Smart car? Not all vehicles take up the same amount of space on an auto shipping carrier. In general, the larger your vehicle is the more it will cost to ship it. Modifications that change the dimensions of your vehicle may also affect the way it would need to be transported and the cost. Weight is also a factor, as auto shipping carriers are limited to a specific overall weight. That means that your car shipping cost might be more for a car that’s heavier but the same size as a different model, like a Tesla Model S.
Type of Auto Shipment
Another factor is the care that is needed to move the vehicle. There are two basic ways to ship a car: open or enclosed auto transport. For instance, are you looking to move a classic show car? You probably wouldn’t want it to go on an open auto transport because it will be exposed to the elements. It would be the same if you have an exotic low-profile vehicle such as a Lamborghini, you’d want an enclosed carrier with a lift gate, not ramps. Enclosed transport drivers are also specialized in how to handle a classic car or exotic low-profile vehicle. Expenses such as insurance for enclosed carriers are also higher due to the nature of the shipment. If you just have your daily driver, you wouldn’t want to pay the upcharge for an enclosed carrier. Open carriers can usually transport more vehicles than enclosed, which also helps lower the cost.
Although you might think the distance of an auto transport would affect the price most, it’s actually the location for pickup and drop off. If you’ll be having the carrier pick up and/or drop of in a more populated or large metro area, chances are your rate will be better. For instance, if you ship a car from a suburb of Chicago, you’re probably going to have a better rate than, say, Billings, MT. The reason for this is the amount of “truck traffic” an area gets. Major metro suburbs like Chicago and New York are more likely to be on a carrier’s route than smaller towns or rural areas. Large cities’ suburbs are also more truck-friendly, whereas the city itself can’t always accommodate a car carrier. The same also goes for drop off location. Another factor to consider is if your locations are major vacation spots because transport could be higher during peak seasons.
Time of the Year
This is actually one of the most important factors in accurately calculating the cost of shipping a car. The exact same shipment and route may be drastically different in price for different times of the year. This is caused by the differences in demand throughout the year. There are several different seasons that all effect car shipping prices differently and specific routes differently. Auto transport prices tend to be higher in the summer when there are more people relocating. Then there are sometimes of the year when people mirage south to warmer climates for the winter, and then later move back north to go home. Situations like this definitely affect the price of those specific routes but can also impact other routes. There are a finite amount of auto shipping carriers on the road. So when there is a large increase in demand on a certain route, carriers may choose to change the normal routes they run, creating a shortage on those routes. Beyond the normal ebb and flow of the seasons, there can be extenuating circumstances that will affect specific routes or even the majority of routes. In 2017 a major hurricane impacted the Houston TX area devastating amongst other things tens of thousands of vehicles. Due to this event the damaged vehicles sold at insurance auctions and were then shipped out of that area to various destinations. Along with that, the damaged vehicles needed to be replaced, meaning thousands of vehicles were transported into the Houston TX area. This mass flow of vehicles caused a significant increase in rates not only into and away from Houston, but many other routes. To serve that demand auto shipping carriers left normal routes all over the country, causing a widespread shortage of carriers.
Get Your Car Shipping Quote
Now that you know some of the factors involved in the cost of shipping your car, use that knowledge. When you are choosing an auto shipping company be aware that setting car shipping prices is an art, rather than a science. Be sure to ask more questions than just “how much to ship a car” and make sure to let the representative know anything unique or special about your vehicle or the shipment itself. For more info on which type of transport is best for your vehicle, read our previous post Know Your Options: Enclosed or Open.
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