Automobile delivery can be a real pain for first time shippers, given the fact that they probably do not know the jargon and working model of an automobile shipping company.

Whether it is domestic or international delivery or not, the main goal is to deliver the car safely without burning a hole in your pocket.

Cheapest Ways to Ship a Car Safely

Carriers should also make sure that they do not make any mistakes on the part of a newcomer that could lead to unpleasant delivery experiences. Here are some cheapest ways to ship a car.

To help you achieve trouble-free car delivery, here is a step-by-step plan on how to approach car delivery for a painless experience.

The detailed explanations cover everything from getting a quote for the car delivery, collecting the necessary documents, and preparing your car for its trip.

Step 1.  Choose A Car Shipping Company

The first step for transporting your vehicle, both domestically and abroad, is to find a reliable and trustworthy shipping company.

You can start with a simple online search by sending the necessary data, such as the type of car and the estimated time of receipt and delivery.

Compare at least five price offers before finally deciding on your transportation company; however, do not automatically fall for the lowest prices.

Check if they have been delivering cars for a long time, and ask for customer reviews. You can also ask your friends and colleagues for references for reliable services.

Step 2.  Pick A Reliable Shipping Option

When you are looking for a transportation company, you will most likely get the following options:

Shipping By Truck

If you wish to ship your car abroad, but you live far from a sea terminal, then you can hire a local delivery truck to transport your car from your home to the nearest port.

The price to have your car shipped to a sea terminal (freight transport) is dependent on your location and can start from a few hundred dollars if you live near a shipping dock up to $1,000, or even more if you live in a midwestern state for example. Bigger or oversized vehicles will cost more if you transport from a state to the terminal (approximately $150- $250).

Open-Air Shipping

Road transport in the open air is the cheapest way of road transport, where cars are transported on a truck 75 – 80 feet long, with a two-level trailer system. As its name suggests, the trailer has no roof or sidewalls, so the vehicles are exposed to external elements.

However, outdoor transport provides better visibility for inspection of the vehicles being transported and is most suitable for used cars, hatchbacks, or lower and middle-class sedans.

Enclosed Shipping

The enclosed delivery option provides the highest level of safety and protection for vehicles on the road. It is most suitable for highly valued cars, classic cars, or expensive luxury and sports cars.

Vehicles are protected from external weather and road debris in closed shipping, so they cost more than open trailers.

The transportation company tries its best to transport fewer cars in closed shipping to ensure that there is no potential damage to the car during transit due to bumpy roads.

delivery truckImage Source: Unsplash


This model of automatic delivery may need you to dig deeper into your pockets as it guarantees choice and delivery dates without delay.

If delivery is delayed midway for some reason, you can count on a discount on the shipping cost for each day when it is late. Full auto-delivery service is also convenient, as most of the auto-delivery suppliers in the segment work on a door-to-door model.


The economic model is your option if you are not in a hurry to get the car sent on a certain day. The delivery cost is quite low, and your car will be queued up behind the higher paying customers of the car shipping company and will most likely be shipped when “extra” space is available.

Delivery may be delayed for a few days or even weeks, as it depends on space availability.

This option is most effective if you plan to move a few months in advance or already have access to a car in a new location.

Shipping By The Sea

American road carriers send cars from several places (so-called ports of origin) in the country:

  • Los Angeles and San Francisco (California),
  • Miami and Jacksonville (Florida);
  • New York City (New York);
  • Norfolk (Virginia);
  • Charleston (South Carolina);
  • Wilmington (Delaware) and
  • Baltimore (Maryland).

Consolidated Vehicle Shipping

The most popular method is the consolidated transportation of vehicles. It is where your vehicle is transported in a container with other cars heading to the same port of final destination.

Not always, but it usually takes longer, since the company must have other cars to fill the container before it can be sent abroad.

However, you get extra container cargo protection and can save hundreds of dollars, if not more.

Sole Container Shipping

If you are trying to determine how quickly to send your car abroad, the answer is simple. Order your own 20-foot container, deliver your documents, and pay the bill.

Once it is in the shipper’s hands with the documentation, the company will do the U.S. customs clearance, and it will be loaded onto the next available ship and then shipped.

Trading here is a cost, so expect to pay hundreds of dollars more than you would pay for other methods.

Roll-on Roll-off

The average value of time concerning value can be considered “rolling.” Your vehicle will be loaded into the hull or belly of a RORO vessel and then secured and fastened. It is slower than the one mentioned above, but it is cheaper.

The three things to consider when using this method are that these ships are often ferried, which means that they do not go straight to your final destination. Therefore, they may end up taking longer. However, it is not always the case.

The other problem is that there is a lack of additional protection and security that container transportation offers. Therefore, it will be open to elements such as seawater, moisture, etc.

Finally, when using RORO, absolutely nothing is allowed inside the vehicle except a standard tire jack, spare wheel, etc. Therefore, if you want to provide a small manifesto and place objects inside, this method is out of the question.

Note: This does not mean that cars are washed in ocean water, but in the end, cars are exposed to the elements.

Shipping By The SeaImage Source: Unsplash

Step 3.  Inspect And Insure

Contact a car shipping company for confirmation of federal licensing, insurance, and bond requirements. Although shipper’s car insurance covers your car, you should understand finer lines to ensure that your car is covered for any potential damage.

To do this, ask about the type of damage covered by the service provider’s insurance and if you need additional coverage.

Familiarize yourself carefully with the “bill of lading” before shipping, as it documents the current condition of your vehicle so that there are no surprises during delivery.

Also, remove all personal items from the vehicle, including electronics, C.D.s, tapes, or other expensive items, as your transportation company will not be responsible for the loss of the vehicle.

Step 4.  Check Required Documents

Delivery may require documents to be presented at multiple checkpoints during transport to ensure that your vehicle is legal. Typically, vehicle delivery within the U.S. can be done with the following documents:

  • Original Title and Registration
  • Insurance
  • Photo Identification

Shipping a vehicle overseas or outside the U.S. requires the following documents:

  • Original Title and Registration
  • Insurance
  • Photo Identification
  • Bill of Sale or Notarized Bill of Sale
  • Sales Tax Proof
  • Import Duty
  • Original Power of Attorney

Step 5.  Inspect Vehicle Condition

When transporting any type of vehicle, always create an inspection report and take photographs. We recommend that you repair your vehicle first, as well as wash it before handing it over.

Please make sure that the brakes work correctly to ensure maximum safety during the loading and unloading of your vehicle.

This way, you are sure to know what condition your vehicle is in, and it will be much easier to detect any external marks or damage that should already be reported.

Most road carriers will also do so once the vehicle arrives at their warehouse or office. However, two inspection reports are better than one.

The Bottom Line

Finding a reliable car delivery company can be difficult for a variety of reasons, especially when you are delivering for the first time. Many people are either unaware of how road transport works or are skeptical about the safety of their vehicles during transport.

Road delivery is one of the most preferable and convenient modes of road delivery, whether it is saving on costs or ensuring the safety of your vehicles.

On the other hand, the most common way to deliver your car abroad is in a freight container by sea. It often costs more than the Roll-On, Roll-Off method of delivery.

Still, it provides much greater security simply because your car will be more protected inside a container throughout its journey.

Anyway, with this quick guide, you should have all the information to choose the most convenient method to safely plan your car delivery.

Featured Image Source: Unsplash


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