When you need a car moved from Point A to a distant Point B, auto transport companies can save you the time and expense of doing it yourself or sending an employee. Auto transport services can also help save money in ways you might not have thought; for example, to ship vehicles purchased at low cost via classified ads or auctions at distant locations.
An auto transport company will not only save you time, fuel and money, but also protect you against vehicle damage and theft, since auto shippers carry your car under their own bond and insurance. Shipping your car adds no mileage on its odometer, so you may see savings in reduced depreciation or unused lease mileage. Most cars ship on open car carrier trucks, but especially expensive or delicate cars can travel in closed, climate controlled trucks for maximum protection. Contracting for auto transport services begins with the price estimate, or quote. To get an accurate quote, be ready to tell any prospective auto transport company:
- Where the car will be picked up and where it will be delivered (these can be terminals/depots, or street addresses for costlier "door-to-door" auto transport).
- The approximate departure date (and a required arrival date, if you want to negotiate a specific delivery date for a higher car transport fee).
- Type of vehicle (compact car, full-size car, truck, etc.).
- Any special requirements for the car carrier, such as an enclosed truck.
Manage car transport pickup, delivery, and cancellation datesBesides the quote, the heart of your contract with an auto transport company is all dates. Most contracts have built-in penalties for your failure to drop off at the allotted time, but not for the auto shipper's late pickup and/or delivery. After negotiating pickup and delivery dates, ask to add to the contract a clause protecting you if the car is not picked up on time (say, a waiver of the cancellation fee if the car is picked up more than one week late) and if the car is not delivered within the promised time frame (a discount, a free rental car until the car shows up, etc.).
Check the insurance of your auto transport companyThe law requires the car transport carrier to fully insure your vehicle (at book value) against damage or theft while it is in the carrier's possession, so you're typically pretty safe--but read your contract carefully for any mention of a deductible or exclusions. Although your vehicle and its original equipment are usually insured, other stuff that may be in the car -- your CDs, luggage, jewelry in the glove compartment, etc. -- may not be covered, so avoid sending any items along for the ride. Your own insurance may cover such items, but many auto shippers will refuse to accept your vehicle until it's empty. And if your car is damaged thanks to heavy items in its trunk, the auto transport company's insurance may not cover that damage.
Check references and reviews for auto shippersMany auto shippers post testimonials on their Websites, but of course, they exclude complaints. You may find the complaints filed with the local Better Business Bureau in the auto transport company's HQ city.
Inspect your car thoroughly before releasing it to an auto transport company (and at delivery)Before accepting your car at the pickup location, the auto transport company will inspect the vehicle and note any damage--including dents, dings, scratches, and so on--on an inspection report or bill of lading, present it to you for your signature, and leave you a copy. Check it carefully for accuracy before signing. When you car is delivered, you'll want to inspect it again for any damage; if you find any damage not already listed on the report, file a damage claim with the auto transport company.
- Like any long-distance movers, most auto transport companies cannot guarantee exact delivery dates; a window of from three days to one week is typical.
- Many auto shippers require that you drop off your car at least one week in advance, but some require two weeks or even four weeks.
- * Your car should be driven very little during auto transport, typically just on and off the truck and to a nearby parking space upon delivery. Still, make sure it has at least a quarter tank of gas when you drop it off, to prevent damage that can occur when a car sits too long with a low tank.
- Many auto transport companies now offer online tracking, so you can see where you car is at any moment.