12 Tips for Finding the Cheapest Car Transport

Finding the cheapest car transport isn’t just about finding the least expensive transport company. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for and hiring a car transport company is no different.

Our goal is to provide you with enough information so that no matter what your situation and budget, you can find ways to save money when having your vehicle shipped. Whether you have to ship a car cross country, interstate or within the same state, we have pulled together 12 tips to help you find the cheapest way to move your wheels.

You may also want to check out another article we wrote outlining the most common factors that impact the cost to move a car between two locations. Understanding these factors, combined with the tips provided here, will make you a smarter shopper so you can keep your auto shipping costs to a minimum!

When you are looking to transport a vehicle, you have two options. You can hire a company to do it for you or you can do it yourself. We have divided these tips into two categories. The first category are general tips to consider when hiring a car transport company. The second category are tips for people that want to go the DIY route.

Tips for Finding the Cheapest Car Transport Company

1. Get Multiple Quotes

Shopping around is the name of the game. Whether you call auto transport brokers, or carriers directly to get their rates, you should get at least four quotes.

Why four quotes?

While three quotes gives you a range and an average, the fourth quotes will tell you whether a company is over-quoting or under-quoting.

Getting multiple quotes is an easy method to help you get an idea of the fair market transport price and to help you find a cheap car shipping company if you are working with a tight budget.

You can get started now by requesting quotes from our carrier partners!

2. Choose an Open Transport Carrier Over an Enclosed Transport Carrier

The vast majority of the carriers on the road today have open trailers and many do not have enclosed trailers. And, since there are far fewer enclosed transport carriers, you’ll pay a premium for them.

The shipping rate, on average, for an enclosed transport can be more than double that of an open transport carrier.

While enclosed transportation is the best option if you have a highly valuable luxury vehicle or restored classic car, if you looking to transport a car on the cheap, always go with an open transport carrier.

3. Have Flexible Pick Up and Delivery Locations

If the pick up and delivery locations are in remote locations far from major cities or interstates, you’ll pay more to ship your car.

The cheapest way to ship a car in this scenario is to be flexible and be willing to drive the car to a more convenient location to meet the driver.

If you’re 30 minutes away from a larger township or bigger city, you can usually save money by driving the car the 30-minute distance to meet the driver instead of making him come to you.

4. Ship in the Off Season

Yes. Seasonality has an impact on car transport.

The busiest months of the year in the auto transport industry are June-August. The slowest months are December-February.

If you want cheaper car transport, consider shipping it during the slow months of the year.

The shipping rate you pay in July will be much lower than the rate you pay in January.

5. Be Flexible with Your Pick Up and Delivery Times

If you tell a broker or carrier that your car must be picked up or delivered by a specific date, you’ll almost always pay a premium to entice a driver to meet your deadline. One of the secrets to finding the cheapest way to ship a car is to be flexible and check prices frequently.

In fact, you can save even more money if you give the broker or carrier the flexibility to fit your transport into their schedule when it works best for them.

Bonus Tip

Most brokers and carriers won’t be able to meet specific pick up and delivery dates no matter how much you’re willing to pay.

We’ll write more about that topic on another day but for now just know that if you want cheap car transport without sacrificing quality or customer service, be flexible.

This might mean having someone that can be the pick up or delivery person for you really do need to adhere to a tight delivery schedule (i.e. you are moving and your flight leaves on a certain day). It could be a friend, family member, neighbour, or even a local mechanic or car dealer you trust.

6. Look for Depot to Depot Carriers

Some larger carriers have depots throughout the country where cars can be shipped to or from. These are called depot-to-depot or terminal-to-terminal carriers.

These depots/terminals are usually off main interstates or near bigger cities.

Because these carriers don’t have to ship the car to you directly and they can just ship them to their conveniently located terminal yards, their rates are usually less than door-to-door transport carriers.

There are far fewer depot to depot carriers, however, so the process of finding one can take longer. Their depots may not be close to you either so you may have to travel long distances to get to them to drop off or pick up your car from them.

There may also be daily storage fees if you have to leave your vehicle in the terminal for any length of time so you’ll want to consider this when trying to determine if depot to depot transport is the cheapest way to ship a car.

7. Hire a Car Transport Broker

Car transport brokers have access to many carriers throughout the country so they can mix and match different carriers to get you the best prices.

Be careful though. Working with a broker can be the cheapest way to ship a car but the quote might sometimes be too good to be true.

To get your business, some brokers may quote you a great deal but then may scramble to find a carrier to ship your car for the shipping price they quoted you. In that situation they will typically come back to you for more money, or they may sit on your booking for weeks before a carrier can be found to ship your car at a price where they can make some money.

And even if a carrier can be found for such a low price, you may end up working with a less-than reputable carrier.

Like everything in life, you get what you pay for and, unfortunately, the car transport industry is no different.

A cheap price usually means slower delivery and, potentially, a less than satisfactory customer service.

8. Be Your Own Broker and Hire a Car Carrier

This isn’t the most convenient option, but it can save you a bundle if you have the time and energy to do it. Being your own broker means you get rid of the middleman, the auto transport broker, and you contact individual carriers yourself to get multiple quotes.

You can do this by Googling car carriers that might be able to complete a part of the trip and then managing the logistics yourself..

You’ll have to do more than just get quotes, however. You’ll also have to research them to make sure they are reputable, have proper licensing, and have adequate auto insurance coverage by reviewing their insurance policy documents. Often the minimal cost savings of removing a traditional broker isn’t worth the time and headache of vetting carriers out yourself but it will save you money if you’re up for it.

Bonus Tip

When calling trucking companies directly you’ll want to confirm you’re dealing with a carrier and not a broker.

The first question to ask is: “Are you a broker or a carrier?”

You’ll be surprised how many car transport companies are brokers.

There is nothing wrong working with a broker but just know if you do, then you’re not really cutting out the middleman.

Disclaimer: Car Transport Services is not a broker or a middleman in the transport process. We’ll help you get great quotes from multiple carriers. All subsequent dealings are directly between you and the carrier of your choice.

9. Hire a Tow Trucking Company

This option will really only work if you’re transport a vehicle within a few hundred kilometres as most towing companies won’t go any further than that.

We had a customer who traded in his car for another vehicle at a dealership that was about 300 kms away from his house. He was on a tight schedule and he wanted his car shipped to the dealership and then he wanted the new vehicle he was buying brought right back to him.

Given his tight time frame and specific shipping needs, he was going to pay a premium working with a more traditional car carrier company.

We called around and were able to find a local tow trucking company that was willing to transport the cars for him much cheaper than a traditional transporter could do it.

DIY Tips for Cheap Car Shipping

10. DIY Transport

This option isn’t for the faint of heart and will rarely save you money but for some people it can be a cheap car shipping option.

This method will require renting a car dolly or trailer and having access to a truck that can tow a vehicle such as a moving truck or a heavy-duty pickup.

You’ll have to factor in the costs of renting the car dolly or trailer and possibly the truck too if you don’t have one.

You’ll also have to pay for fuel and possibly accommodation and food as well depending on the distance of your transport route.

11. Drive the Car Yourself

You’ve found a fantastic deal on a car through one of the online car buying sites but the car is interstate.

What’s the cheapest way to ship the car to you?

Well, if the stars align, getting a one-way plane ticket to where the vehicle is and driving the car home could be the least expensive option.

I say “if the stars align” because a lot of things need to line up just right to save money over hiring auto shipping services.

The cost of the flight, the time you may have to take off from work to make the trip, accommodation, fuel, food, etc. may negate any cost savings. And don’t forget to factor in the wear and tear on your car as well.

But, if the stars do align, you may be able to save a lot of money bypassing shipping all together and just drive the car yourself.

12. Have a Family Member or Friend Drive the Car

Like the option just outlined above, if you have a trusted friend or family member that can drive the car you may be able to save money.

Of course you most likely still need to pay for their return flight home, fuel expenses and there will still be wear and tear on the car but this could be a cheap way to ship a car.

Bonus Tip

If driving the car to its destination by you, a family member or a friend isn’t an option, there is another possibility.

There are professional drivers you can hire to drive your car and there are marketplaces that connect vehicle owners with people willing to drive their vehicles to their destination.

Trust Car Transport Services to Find You Cheap Car Transport

We believe in being honest and upfront about everything we do and the car transport companies we represent.

Their pricing might not the cheapest in the industry and if price is all you care about, they you’ll probably want to look somewhere else.

The truth is our partners’ rates tend to be modest and there’s good reason for that.

They’ll price their transports to get vehicles delivered safely and promptly, while providing our customers with unparalleled customer service.

When you hire one of our carriers, they get vehicles moved quickly and provide customers with regular communications and updates throughout the shipping process.

We’ve been working with many automotive logistics companies for over a decade and in that time, we’ve helped more than 2,000,000 Australians obtain fast and competitive quotes for car transport.

Talking with thousands of customers over the years we’ve heard many of them try to save money on shipping a car by implementing the tips in this article and yet in the end they turn to us. Why?

Because, after factoring in the time and effort involved, they quickly learn that the savings of a DIY approach just don’t add up. And some of the tips just aren’t practical for most people. If you’re moving in February, you can’t really wait to ship your car in July can you?

We may be a little biased, but we really do believe that at Car Transport Services, requesting quotes here is your best option if you want your car shipped safe and sound with very little time and effort on your part.

And when all is said and done, the quotes you’ll receive from our carrier partners are fair and reasonable.

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Customer Success Story

Why Car Transport Services Exists Today!

When I had to move my car from Melbourne to Perth, the journey of finding the right transportation service felt almost as daunting as the 3,400 km drive itself. Through trial and error, a bit of luck, and a few missteps, I learned a great deal about how to select the best service for such a task. Here’s my experience, and I hope it can guide you smoothly through your own process.

Start with Research

The first thing I learned was the importance of research. Initially, I made the rookie mistake of choosing the first service that popped up in my Google search results. Big mistake. The company had hidden fees I hadn’t anticipated, and the service was far from satisfactory. What I learned was to dig deeper. Read reviews on multiple platforms, ask for recommendations from friends or family who’ve undertaken similar moves, and don’t skip on checking the forums where real customers discuss their experiences.

Check for Licensing and Insurance

One good decision I made was ensuring the company was licensed and insured. Insurance is important. Transporting a vehicle across such a long distance has its risks, and you want to ensure that your car is covered in case of any mishaps. Verify the transporter's accreditation with transport authorities and ensure they have valid insurance that covers your vehicle during the transit. This gave me peace of mind, knowing my car was in safe hands.

Compare Quotes

Getting multiple quotes was another area where I initially faltered. I assumed all prices would be roughly the same and didn’t bother shopping around. However, after a pricey quote from the first company, I decided to get several more. The price differences were significant, and some companies offered more comprehensive services at lower costs. Always compare quotes from at least three to five companies. This not only gives you a better idea of the price range but also allows you to negotiate better terms.

Understand the Service Types

I wasn’t aware initially, but there are different types of car transport services: door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal, open carrier, and enclosed carrier. Each has its pros and cons. I chose an open carrier for its cost-effectiveness, but in retrospect, considering the long journey across Australia, an enclosed carrier would have been better to protect my car from the elements. Understanding these options beforehand helps in making a more informed decision based on your needs and budget.

Communication is Key

One of the best decisions I made was selecting a company that had excellent communication practices. They provided updates at every major juncture of the journey, which eased my anxiety. Ensure that the company you choose has a point of contact who is reachable and willing to update you throughout the process. This is vital for peace of mind and to ensure that any issues are quickly addressed.

Timing and Flexibility

I learned the hard way that flexibility is key when transporting a car such a long distance. The initial service I chose promised a delivery within a week, but it ended up taking more than two weeks, which disrupted my plans significantly. Ask about the expected delivery times and check if the company can offer guarantees or compensation if they exceed the estimated delivery times.

Avoid Rush Decisions

A bad decision I made was rushing into booking without fully understanding the terms and conditions. This led to unexpected charges for additional services I wasn’t aware I had agreed to. Take your time to read the fine print or have someone else review it. Make sure you understand every aspect of the service contract.

What I Wish I Knew

If I knew then what I know now, I would have placed more emphasis on checking customer feedback about their post-service experience, especially regarding how companies handle damage claims and disputes. Knowing a company's track record in these areas can save you from potential headaches if something goes wrong.

Open vs Enclosed Car Transport

Open car carrier with new vehicles

Open Car Transport

Open car transport involves shipping vehicles in an open-air trailer, exposing them to weather and road conditions.

This method is cost-effective and widely available, making it a popular choice for transporting vehicles quickly and economically.

The main benefits include lower costs due to multiple vehicles being transported simultaneously and quicker delivery times. However, the downside is the potential risk of damage from environmental elements and road debris.

moving cars in an enclosed car carrier

Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed car transport uses fully enclosed trailers to provide maximum protection for vehicles against weather, theft, and damage during transit.

This method is preferable for high-value, classic, or luxury vehicles requiring extra security. Enclosed transport is more expensive and less readily available but offers higher insurance coverage and peace of mind.

Specialised services include GPS tracking and expert handling, ensuring vehicles are delivered safely and discretely.

Find out more