Customer Reviews

Different Methods of Auto Transport

Posted on 06/13/2023

Jump to section:
Shipping your car with an auto transport company
Transporting your car by towing it yourself
Shipping your car on an auto plane
Shipping your car on the auto train
Conclusion
FAQ
 
different-methods-of-vehicle-transport

 

Shipping your car with an auto transport company

 
The most frequently used method of transporting a car will be to ship it with one of several car shipping companies on the ground. This tends to be one of the cheapest auto transport options available depending on when you are shipping your car and which shipping methods you selected.
 
Using an auto transport company to ship a car also allows maximum scheduling flexibility. With other vehicle transport methods, very advanced booking may be required. Typically, when shipping with one of the auto transport companies you find online, a week or two of notice will suffice. Most vehicle transport companies offer pickup/delivery 365 days a year, whereas shipping a car by plane or train will have certain days when the service does not operate.
 
Finally, when you choose to transport your car with a car shipping company, door-to-door transport is offered in most cases. This means that your car will be picked up at the exact address you select and delivered to the exact address you choose. When you use other methods to transport your car, you will have to drive it to the train depot or airport/airfield.
 

The benefits of shipping a car with an auto transport company

 

The different methods of transporting a vehicle with a car shipping company

 
The following are the different shipping options that you will have when you choose to transport a car with an auto transport company:
 

  • Open-air car shippingOpen-air car shipping is when you choose to have your car shipped on a typical car carrier truck that has no walls or roof. This is, by far, the most commonly selected method of auto transport. It is also the cheapest way to ship a car with car shipping companies.

  • Top-loading – Top-loading is when you elect to have your car placed on the top deck of an open-air or enclosed car carrier. On open-air car carriers, this ensures that small pebbles and rocks from the road cannot kick up off the road and scratch or chip the exterior of your car, and it also ensures that fluid leaks from vehicles above yours cannot damage your car. In an enclosed carrier, this only ensures that your car is not damaged by a fluid leak from above, as your car will already be protected from all outside elements due to the walls and roof.

  • Enclosed car shipping – When you choose to ship a car in an enclosed car carrier, your car will be placed on a car carrier that houses all vehicles with walls and a roof. This protects the cars from any potential damage from strong UV rays, rain/snow, tree branches, and rocks. This will add a few hundred dollars to the cost of your car shipment.

  • Specialty vehicle shipping – Specialty vehicle shipping includes a variety of services that many auto transport companies offer. This includes:

    • Motorcycle shipping – As you would expect, motorcycle shipping is the special type of vehicle shipping used to transport motorcycles, mopeds and even other similar vehicles such as small ATVs. This type of shipping usually occurs in an enclosed carrier with one deck but can sometimes occur on an open-air flatbed trailer.

    • Oversized vehicle shippingOversized vehicle shipping includes the transport of any type of vehicle too large to fit on a typical car carrier truck. This can include much larger cars/trucks, construction or agricultural equipment, RVs, limos, and more. This type of vehicle shipping will always occur on one type of flatbed trailer or another.

    • Military car shippingMilitary car shipping refers to the shipment of cars for military members to or from their bases and PCS assignments. Most of the time, this is just typical car shipping with the wrinkle that car carrier trucks are typically not permitted on the base. Thus , the driver must meet the military member close by for their pickup and/or delivery. Sometimes, the military will pay for a portion or all of the cost of a military member shipping their car.

  • Inoperable car shipping – Inoperable car shipping is the method of auto transport in which cars that do not run at all or well enough to be driven onto a regular car carrier truck are transported. The process entails a special car carrier with a winch connecting that winch to the car in question and pulling it on board while the car is in neutral. This will cost extra in comparison to orthodox car transport.

 

options with car shipping companies

 

Transporting your car by towing it yourself

 
The cheapest option for transporting a car can be towing it yourself on a tow dolly or car transport trailer (if you have a second vehicle with the correct towing capacity). However, on top of spending several days on the road driving at fairly low speeds due to the extra weight, much of your savings will get eaten by the extra fuel you burn with your engine working twice as hard. You will also need to cover the cost of lodging and overpriced meals along the highway. When you factor in the additional cost of depreciation on both vehicles due to driving while towing for several hundred or thousand miles, you will likely only see two or three hundred dollars in savings at most.
 
If you plan on renting an auto trailer to be able to tow your car, there are several options including a U-Haul car trailer. However, a U-Haul car transport trailer’s cost can be quite discouraging for many people. For trips over 250 miles, the cost can easily exceed $1,000. U-Haul car transport tempts many people with a low starting rate, but when you do the math and consider it is only so cheap for very short trips of 50 or a hundred miles, you can see how this might not be the best option.
 

Shipping your car on an auto plane

 
When you choose to ship your car on the auto plane, you will be using the most expensive option for having your vehicle transported. It will likely also be the fastest. However, the cost will be more than double that of shipping a car on a car carrier truck with an auto transport company. If a car shipment on a typical open-air car carrier costs $1,500, you can expect the same shipment to cost over $3,000 shipping the same car on the auto plane. If the ground shipment would take seven days, shipping a car by plane would only take one. However, let’s break down the cost.
 
If you were to be without your car at your new destination for an additional six days and needed to rent a car for those six days, the rental would cost $50 per day at most. So, with the $1,500 cost of the ground car shipment plus $50 times six days, you would spend about $1,800. For no extra convenience other than the peace of mind you are driving your very own car, airplane car transport would cost you at least $3,000. So, it would be an additional $1,200 for essentially no extra convenience other than not having to pick up and drop off a rental car.
 

Shipping your car on the auto train

 
The Amtrak auto train is an effective way to get yourself and your vehicle to the same place simultaneously. That is a distinct advantage over other methods of having a car transported. Plus, the auto train’s cost will be fairly affordable as well. The catch is that the auto train only runs between Virginia and Florida. In fact, it only runs from/to one location in each state with no stops in between. So, unless you are transporting your car between the Lorton, Virginia, area and the Sanford, Florida, area, you are likely out of luck.
 
The odds are that you will have quite a bit of driving before you arrive at the train and after you depart it. Depending on your starting location, this could defeat the entire purpose of transporting your car via the Amtrak auto train. Another potential issue with the auto train is that it holds up to 320 vehicles at a time. This means you will have to wait for your car to get loaded when you get there and unloaded after the train arrives. It will typically take one to two hours to get in your car and drive to your final destination. In fact, the whole auto train schedule, from arrival with your car to driving away, can be nearly 24 hours long.
 

auto-transport-methods

 

Conclusion

 
Different methods of auto transport will offer different upsides and downsides. Some methods are faster, some are cheaper, and some are easier for different reasons. One certain thing is that shipping with a vehicle transport company like RoadRunner Auto Transport is the most frequently chosen and trusted option, year after year. This is because instant free quotes are always available, as are a staff of car shipping experts with decades of experience. Plus, you can ship your car with a car shipping company just about whenever you like, it will always be one of your cheapest options, and your involvement will be absolutely minimal.
 

FAQ

 

What is the best method of auto transport?

 
Whether a method of auto transport is “best” for you will depend on what you consider most important. If the ease of process, cost, or scheduling flexibility is most important to you, shipping your car with a car shipping company will be best.
 

What is the cheapest way to transport a car?

 
The cheapest way to transport a car will either be to tow it yourself or to ship it with an auto transport company on an open-air car carrier. Other factors, like the cost of fuel at the time of transport and what time of year you are transporting your car, can also impact the overall cost of transporting a vehicle.
 

Is it cheaper to ship a car by train or truck?

 
While the overall cost of shipping a car on the auto train can be cheaper than shipping on a car carrier truck, the cost to ship per mile will almost always be cheaper when you ship by truck. Remember, the auto train only runs from one Virginia location to one Florida location and vice versa.

Instant Car Shipping Quote

Calculate your car shipping rate in 3 easy steps!

1Shipment Details

Different Methods of Auto Transport

Posted on 06/13/2023

Jump to section:
Shipping your car with an auto transport company
Transporting your car by towing it yourself
Shipping your car on an auto plane
Shipping your car on the auto train
Conclusion
FAQ
 
different-methods-of-vehicle-transport

 

Shipping your car with an auto transport company

 
The most frequently used method of transporting a car will be to ship it with one of several car shipping companies on the ground. This tends to be one of the cheapest auto transport options available depending on when you are shipping your car and which shipping methods you selected.
 
Using an auto transport company to ship a car also allows maximum scheduling flexibility. With other vehicle transport methods, very advanced booking may be required. Typically, when shipping with one of the auto transport companies you find online, a week or two of notice will suffice. Most vehicle transport companies offer pickup/delivery 365 days a year, whereas shipping a car by plane or train will have certain days when the service does not operate.
 
Finally, when you choose to transport your car with a car shipping company, door-to-door transport is offered in most cases. This means that your car will be picked up at the exact address you select and delivered to the exact address you choose. When you use other methods to transport your car, you will have to drive it to the train depot or airport/airfield.
 

The benefits of shipping a car with an auto transport company

 

The different methods of transporting a vehicle with a car shipping company

 
The following are the different shipping options that you will have when you choose to transport a car with an auto transport company:
 

  • Open-air car shippingOpen-air car shipping is when you choose to have your car shipped on a typical car carrier truck that has no walls or roof. This is, by far, the most commonly selected method of auto transport. It is also the cheapest way to ship a car with car shipping companies.

  • Top-loading – Top-loading is when you elect to have your car placed on the top deck of an open-air or enclosed car carrier. On open-air car carriers, this ensures that small pebbles and rocks from the road cannot kick up off the road and scratch or chip the exterior of your car, and it also ensures that fluid leaks from vehicles above yours cannot damage your car. In an enclosed carrier, this only ensures that your car is not damaged by a fluid leak from above, as your car will already be protected from all outside elements due to the walls and roof.

  • Enclosed car shipping – When you choose to ship a car in an enclosed car carrier, your car will be placed on a car carrier that houses all vehicles with walls and a roof. This protects the cars from any potential damage from strong UV rays, rain/snow, tree branches, and rocks. This will add a few hundred dollars to the cost of your car shipment.

  • Specialty vehicle shipping – Specialty vehicle shipping includes a variety of services that many auto transport companies offer. This includes:

    • Motorcycle shipping – As you would expect, motorcycle shipping is the special type of vehicle shipping used to transport motorcycles, mopeds and even other similar vehicles such as small ATVs. This type of shipping usually occurs in an enclosed carrier with one deck but can sometimes occur on an open-air flatbed trailer.

    • Oversized vehicle shippingOversized vehicle shipping includes the transport of any type of vehicle too large to fit on a typical car carrier truck. This can include much larger cars/trucks, construction or agricultural equipment, RVs, limos, and more. This type of vehicle shipping will always occur on one type of flatbed trailer or another.

    • Military car shippingMilitary car shipping refers to the shipment of cars for military members to or from their bases and PCS assignments. Most of the time, this is just typical car shipping with the wrinkle that car carrier trucks are typically not permitted on the base. Thus , the driver must meet the military member close by for their pickup and/or delivery. Sometimes, the military will pay for a portion or all of the cost of a military member shipping their car.

  • Inoperable car shipping – Inoperable car shipping is the method of auto transport in which cars that do not run at all or well enough to be driven onto a regular car carrier truck are transported. The process entails a special car carrier with a winch connecting that winch to the car in question and pulling it on board while the car is in neutral. This will cost extra in comparison to orthodox car transport.

 

options with car shipping companies

 

Transporting your car by towing it yourself

 
The cheapest option for transporting a car can be towing it yourself on a tow dolly or car transport trailer (if you have a second vehicle with the correct towing capacity). However, on top of spending several days on the road driving at fairly low speeds due to the extra weight, much of your savings will get eaten by the extra fuel you burn with your engine working twice as hard. You will also need to cover the cost of lodging and overpriced meals along the highway. When you factor in the additional cost of depreciation on both vehicles due to driving while towing for several hundred or thousand miles, you will likely only see two or three hundred dollars in savings at most.
 
If you plan on renting an auto trailer to be able to tow your car, there are several options including a U-Haul car trailer. However, a U-Haul car transport trailer’s cost can be quite discouraging for many people. For trips over 250 miles, the cost can easily exceed $1,000. U-Haul car transport tempts many people with a low starting rate, but when you do the math and consider it is only so cheap for very short trips of 50 or a hundred miles, you can see how this might not be the best option.
 

Shipping your car on an auto plane

 
When you choose to ship your car on the auto plane, you will be using the most expensive option for having your vehicle transported. It will likely also be the fastest. However, the cost will be more than double that of shipping a car on a car carrier truck with an auto transport company. If a car shipment on a typical open-air car carrier costs $1,500, you can expect the same shipment to cost over $3,000 shipping the same car on the auto plane. If the ground shipment would take seven days, shipping a car by plane would only take one. However, let’s break down the cost.
 
If you were to be without your car at your new destination for an additional six days and needed to rent a car for those six days, the rental would cost $50 per day at most. So, with the $1,500 cost of the ground car shipment plus $50 times six days, you would spend about $1,800. For no extra convenience other than the peace of mind you are driving your very own car, airplane car transport would cost you at least $3,000. So, it would be an additional $1,200 for essentially no extra convenience other than not having to pick up and drop off a rental car.
 

Shipping your car on the auto train

 
The Amtrak auto train is an effective way to get yourself and your vehicle to the same place simultaneously. That is a distinct advantage over other methods of having a car transported. Plus, the auto train’s cost will be fairly affordable as well. The catch is that the auto train only runs between Virginia and Florida. In fact, it only runs from/to one location in each state with no stops in between. So, unless you are transporting your car between the Lorton, Virginia, area and the Sanford, Florida, area, you are likely out of luck.
 
The odds are that you will have quite a bit of driving before you arrive at the train and after you depart it. Depending on your starting location, this could defeat the entire purpose of transporting your car via the Amtrak auto train. Another potential issue with the auto train is that it holds up to 320 vehicles at a time. This means you will have to wait for your car to get loaded when you get there and unloaded after the train arrives. It will typically take one to two hours to get in your car and drive to your final destination. In fact, the whole auto train schedule, from arrival with your car to driving away, can be nearly 24 hours long.
 

auto-transport-methods

 

Conclusion

 
Different methods of auto transport will offer different upsides and downsides. Some methods are faster, some are cheaper, and some are easier for different reasons. One certain thing is that shipping with a vehicle transport company like RoadRunner Auto Transport is the most frequently chosen and trusted option, year after year. This is because instant free quotes are always available, as are a staff of car shipping experts with decades of experience. Plus, you can ship your car with a car shipping company just about whenever you like, it will always be one of your cheapest options, and your involvement will be absolutely minimal.
 

FAQ

 

What is the best method of auto transport?

 
Whether a method of auto transport is “best” for you will depend on what you consider most important. If the ease of process, cost, or scheduling flexibility is most important to you, shipping your car with a car shipping company will be best.
 

What is the cheapest way to transport a car?

 
The cheapest way to transport a car will either be to tow it yourself or to ship it with an auto transport company on an open-air car carrier. Other factors, like the cost of fuel at the time of transport and what time of year you are transporting your car, can also impact the overall cost of transporting a vehicle.
 

Is it cheaper to ship a car by train or truck?

 
While the overall cost of shipping a car on the auto train can be cheaper than shipping on a car carrier truck, the cost to ship per mile will almost always be cheaper when you ship by truck. Remember, the auto train only runs from one Virginia location to one Florida location and vice versa.

ready to ship

Ready to Get Started?

Calculate your instant car shipping cost and view carrier availability in your area.

"I would definitely use RoadRunner Auto Transport again without a doubt. Excellent overall service from start to finish."

Trish A.

Miami, FL

5 stars
google reviews

"I was able to get a quote and book within a few minutes. Simple and convenient experience - thank you RoadRunner!"

John T.

Houston, TX

5 stars
shopper approved reviews

"I called RoadRunner and was able to have my car picked up that same day and delivered over 500 miles away the next day!"

Joan B.

Boston, MA

5 stars
transport reviews

"My car arrived in mint condition. The service was great and the personnel very courteous. Great job guys!"

Victor B.

Fresno, CA

5 stars
better business bureau reviews

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the vehicle shipping process.


When determining your car shipping cost, there are a few factors that we take into account in order to provide you with an accurate price quote. The mileage between the origin and destination is the biggest factor that contributes to your total rate. In addition to the distance of your relocation, another factor is the type and condition of the vehicle being shipped. The final factor is the date that your vehicle will be ready for transport. Read more about how much it costs to ship a car.

To get a quote for shipping your vehicle, you can either use our instant online car shipping quote calculator above or you can call (888) 422-7584 to receive a quote from one of our car transport pricing specialists. In order for us to calculate your quote we will need to know the location you are shipping from and to, the type of vehicle you would like to ship, and the date your vehicle will be ready.

The transit time for your shipment is based mostly on the mileage between the pickup and delivery location. Generally, every five hundred miles will add one day to the transit time - so for a 1,000 mile transport, the transit time would be 2-3 days. Check out our estimated transit times for a detailed view of approximate delivery times.

Yes, online tracking is available to you 24 hours a day and is updated in real time. Upon scheduling your shipment, you will receive a unique booking number that will allow you to track the status of your shipment online. Your tracking portal will also give you the ability to live chat with a shipping agent that can answer any questions you may have regarding the status of your shipment.

All shipments include basic liability coverage during transit. Comprehensive insurance options are available for an elevated level of shipment coverage during transit. You will be able to select a level of coverage during the booking process. If you have further questions regarding insurance options give us a call.

We accept all major credit cards, electronic transfer, postal money order, and bank/certified check for the deposit or full pre-payment of your shipment. If a balance is due upon delivery, it can be paid directly to the driver and can be paid in either cash, bank/certified check, or postal money order.

Yes, there must be someone present to release and accept the vehicle, provide keys to the driver and sign the initial and final inspection reports. This person can be anyone over the age of 18 that you trust with releasing or accepting your vehicle.

You may transport personal belongings in your car, as long as their total weight does not exceed 100 pounds and they are stored in the trunk or back seat (below the window line). Please keep in mind that personal belongings are not covered by insurance if they are reported as damaged or missing.

To get a quote for shipping your vehicle, you can either use our instant online car shipping quote calculator above or you can call (888) 422-7584 to receive a quote from one of our car transport pricing specialists. In order for us to calculate your quote we will need to know the location you are shipping from and to, the type of vehicle you would like to ship, and the date your vehicle will be ready.

The further in advance you schedule your shipment, the more likely we will be able to meet the time requirements you desire. For best results, we suggest scheduling your transport at least 2 to 3 weeks in advance. Expedited shipping options are available in order to accomodate shipments that require . You can always give us a call and ask one of our car shipping experts what your options are in terms of the schedule for your car transport.

The driver will get the car transporter as close to your door as he can legally and safely get. In most cases, the driver will be able to pickup and deliver directly at your door. Some cities may have restrictions on large trucks that prohibit them from driving into residential areas. Auto transport trucks are large and need lots of room to maneuver and turn around, so if access to the pickup or delivery location is restricted by narrow streets, low-hanging trees or tight turns, the driver may ask that you meet at a location nearby with a large parking lot, such as a grocery store.

Open transport is the most common car shipping method. There are two types of open-air transporters. Majority of shipments are be made with 8-10 car carriers. Smaller carriers which hold 2-3 cars are used for shorter more local moves. There is broader network of carrier availability for open-air carriers since they are used more often. We suggest choosing enclosed shipping methods when shipping classic, luxury or exotic vehicles. Enclosed transporters guarantee maximum protection from exposure to any open-air elements on the road. We suggest booking your enclosed transport in advance since there is limited carrier availability.

RoadRunner Auto Transport specializes in shipping all types of vehicles such as sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, oversized vehicles, antiques, classic cars, motorcycles, construction vehicles, inoperable cars and boats. If you are not sure whether or not we can ship your vehicle, you can give us a call to find out what we can do for you.

You should have about a quarter of a tank of gas in your car at the time of shipment. This leaves enough for the car to be loaded and unloaded but doesn't add much additional weight.

The Bill of Lading is a very important document used by car shipping companies that documents any pre-existing damage on the vehicle during the time of pickup. It also serves as a record of your contact info and the official agreement for transport. If you want to file any insurance claim regarding your shipment you will need the Bill of Lading.

Top load service is when your car is placed on the higher deck or level of an open auto transport trailer. This is considered to be preferable to the bottom load because the cars on the lower deck are at risk of possibly having fluid from the cars above leak on them.

Make sure your car has been completely cleaned, both inside and outside. This is particularly important because this will help the driver conduct their inspection in order to assess any pre-existing damage on your vehicle. You will also want to make there are no additional personal items in the vehicle unless you intend to ship those with the vehicle (remember those items must total less than 100 pounds combined and be kept below the window-line of the vehicle). Be sure to inform the driver of any special circumstances concerning the vehicle. Finally, make sure there is a quarter tank of gas in the car at the time it is picked up for shipment.

Yes, we can ship vehicles that are in non-running/inoperable condition. When inoperable cars are shipped, a special auto carrier is required that makes use of a winch which is connected to your car and slowly and safely pulls your vehicle onto the carrier. There is an additional fee for inpoerable vehicles because of the special equipment and extra work involved with securing the vehicle onto the transporter. You can select the inoperable option on the online booking form or inform your shipping agent if you make your reservation by phone so that the proper arrangements can be made to accomodate a non-running vehicle.

We offer open car shipping and enclosed car shipping services. Open car shipping is used much more frequently and is the type of auto transport that you see on the highway where carriers are hauling vehicles on two decks that are exposed. Enclosed car shipping is when your vehicle is shipped in a trailer which has walls and a roof, they look like a larger version of a regular eighteen-wheeler. This method is recommended for luxury, exotic or classic cars.

Door-to-door car transport is the full service delivery of your vehicle directly from the door at the pickup location to the door at the delivery location. Our drivers do their best to get as close as physically and legally possible to the pickup and delivery locations, but in certain instances there may be restrictions preventing them from being able to safely reach your door. Our transporters need ample space to maneuver and load/unload your vehicle. If your street is too narrow, or if there are hazards such as low lining trees or power lines, drivers may ask that you meet them at a location nearby where they can safely load or unload your vehicle, such as a large parking lot or shopping center nearby.