How to Ship a Car (That You Bought Long Distance)

how to ship a carBuying a car out of state is now easier than ever thanks to the internet, and there are many reasons that people do so. But once you've bought your car long distance, you must find a way to get it to you. Many times, especially for very long-distance purchases, shipping the car makes the most sense.

In this post, we break down the process and considerations for shipping a car you bought long-distance.

Should I Pick Up my Car Across the Country or Ship It?

Pick Up v ShippingOnce you purchase a vehicle long-distance, you must decide how to retrieve it. You have two options. You can either go to the location to pick up the vehicle and drive it back, or you can have the car shipped to you. To decide which option is best for you, you must consider two main factors: cost and convenience. Evaluate how long it would take to get the car and drive it back, as well as the cost of shipping vs driving. A big factor will be the distance.

While it is usually cheaper to drive the car, the difference may not always be worth the time investment, and you may be willing to pay for the added convenience of shipping the car.

For example, it costs about $1,023 to ship a 2014 Ford Focus 2,668 miles, and $890.80 to drive it the same distance. Would it be worth less than $200 savings to spend the many hours it would take to drive 2,668 miles?

Recommended: Check out our guide on how to buy a car out of state.

Is Shipping a Car Worth It? Benefits of Shipping Your Vehicle

Even though shipping is usually more expensive, it is the smarter option in some cases. The benefits of shipping a vehicle you bought long-distance include:

  • Shipping BenefitsConvenience. You will save many hours and a lot of hassle when you ship your car.
  • Safety. Interstates that cross in America are very dangerous, so driving long-distance puts you and your car at risk.
  • Save money in the long run. Upfront, shipping your car may be more expensive, but it saves your vehicle from wear and tear that can lead to more repairs down the road.
  • Save time. As they say, "time is money". While the cost to drive your car may be less, you have to consider the amount of time you will spend getting the car.

Drawbacks of Shipping a Car You Bought Out of State

Of course, shipping your car is not a perfect solution, there are still some considerations. Here are the top drawbacks of shipping a car you bought long-distance:

  • Shipping Car DrawbacksWaiting times. When you ship your car, it does not arrive overnight. Many U.S. deliveries have a four-week window from when the car is picked up to when it is delivered. You must be prepared to wait up to a month for your car when you ship it.
  • Risk of damage. Shipping your car puts it at risk for damage during transport. While some shipping options are more protective than others, they all include a risk that something could happen to your car during the transport.
  • Price. Overall, shipping your car tends to be more expensive than driving it. You will need to spend more money to have your car shipped, especially when you choose certain shipping options.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car?

There is no set price for shipping your car, the price will depend on a number of variables including:

  • Shipping Car CostLocation. Shipping between two major cities is often cheaper than shipping between two smaller cities. Consider shipping to the nearest major city and driving there to save on shipping costs.
  • Distance. Naturally, the distance between pick-up and drop-off location will impact the price. While it could cost less than $1,000 to ship within your region, it can easily top $2,000 to ship across the entire country.
  • Vehicle size. The bigger your vehicle is, the more space it takes up, and the more expensive it is to ship.
  • Shipping options. You can choose an open transport or enclosed. Open is the industry standard, but enclosed shipping offers the ultimate protection. Open transport is less expensive than enclosed.
  • Season. Auto-shipping prices are not uniform year-round. When demand is slower during the winter, rates often drop. Summer is the busiest, and therefore most expensive, time to ship a car. However, poor weather conditions can also impact your quote.
  • Timing. Allowing a wider window of arrival times often allows you to get the best shipping price. You can pay for expedited shipping, and may also have to pay more for a very narrow arrival window.

Open or Enclosed Car Shipping

There are two primary types of car shipping, open or enclosed. Open is the most common type of shipping, and it's still safer than driving the vehicle yourself. Open shipping is suitable for most vehicles, and there are more open transport carriers available. With open transport, you will get your vehicle quickly and can save money.

However, enclosed shipping offers the maximum protection for your vehicle during the transport process, and it's far more expensive. If the car you are buying is particularly valuable, antique, or rare, then you may want to consider enclosed shipping to shield it from weather, road debris, and prying eyes. Just be prepared to pay more and wait longer.

Do Dealerships Ship Cars for Long-Distance Sales?

More dealerships are embracing long-distance selling. Some dealerships offer to ship your car directly for the additional cost of the shipping. Before purchasing from a long-distance dealership online, ask about their shipping policy to see if shipping is included. While you still pay the added cost, the process is taken care of by the dealer which saves you from a lot of headaches. Keep in mind that you can still negotiate with a long-distance dealer to get the best price.

Insurance Coverage for Shipping a Car You Bought Out of State

Before shipping your new vehicle, you must check on insurance coverage. Most shipping companies include liability insurance that covers anything that happens to your vehicle during transport. Find out what insurance the carrier has, and also check with your own insurance to see what coverage you have if there is an accident along the way. Check out which state has the lowest insurance rates.

Recommended: Check out our complete breakdown of the car sales tax by each state.

How Does Shipping the Car That You Bought Work?

Before shipping your car across the county, you need to follow a few steps including:

  1. Steps to Ship CarResearch car shipping carriers. Once you have a list of options, head to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to check the carrier's insurance records, verify their business license, and review customer complaints.
  2. Think about your drop-off location and type of shipping as you browse. 
  3. Get car shipping quotes based on your requirements. The process starts with quotes. Obtain quotes to ship your vehicle from several different companies. You can get several quotes at a time from sites like Move My Car, AutoTransport411, or Haulingdepot.
  4. Select the shipper based on the best offer that meets your needs.
  5. Arrange the shipping based on location, timing, and any special instructions. Often times, you must pay a deposit and authorize them to pick up the vehicle.
  6. Wait for delivery. The company should update you when the vehicle is picked up, and provide you with an arrival date.
  7. Pick up the vehicle. Meet the driver at the pickup location and sign off on the delivery to receive the keys.

What to Do Once Your Car Arrives

Before signing off on the delivery, you should inspect your car. Do a visual inspection to look for any signs of damage that occurred during the transport. This is critical for getting proper coverage if any damage occurred.

Once you have your new car, you must insure and register it as soon as possible. The dealer may be able to help you, but many times you'll need to handle these details on your own. Insure and register as soon as possible. Keep in mind that you'll pay your state's sales tax on the purchase when you register your new vehicle. Here is a complete breakdown of the car sales tax by state.

When it comes down to it, shipping a car that you bought long-distance is often the best option. It typically makes the most sense when you bought a car across the country, but you should always take the time to get the best rates possible and ensure your transport was damage-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the cheapest way to ship a car?

Open transport is the least expensive car shipping method. You can also save money on shipping costs when you allow for a wide delivery window, drive to the nearest city to pick up the car, or ship during a slow season.

How much does it cost to ship a car across the country?

The average cost to ship a car within the U.S is $950. However, you could pay much less or much more. The factors that determine the cost of shipping a vehicle are size/type of vehicle, distance, season, and extra fees (added space for oversize, insurance for rare vehicles, express shipments).

Should I ship my car or drive it?

It's often cheaper to drive the car, even when you consider the cost of food, hotels, and getting to the car, but it can be much more of a hassle. To decide if it's worth it to ship a car, look at the cost difference and amount of time you would save. While it may make sense to just go pick up a car in a neighboring state, it's typically much easier to ship a car that is several states over or across the country.

How long does it take to ship a car?

Many car transport companies have a four-week window, even though delivery can come much quicker. Be prepared to wait up to four weeks, but you should have a personalized estimate from the company once the car is picked up.

How much do dealerships charge to ship a car?

If you buy your car from a far-away dealership, they may offer shipping services for an additional cost. The dealer will charge you for the cost of shipping the vehicle but will take care of the process for you. Therefore, the cost varies based on your specific purchase, but generally, it will be an additional $800-$1,000.

How do you buy a car long-distance?

The best way to buy a car out-of-state or long-distance is to check for deals and specials that are not available in your area. Also the market value of the car may differ from state to state. Learn more about how to buy a car out of state.