Car Transport Brokers vs Car Carriers: Advantages & Disadvantages

After your house, your car is often the second most valuable asset you have. Deciding what auto transportation company to use to ship your vehicle isn’t a decision to take lightly and can be very stressful.

Safety, speed, customer service, reliability, and the cost to ship a car are all important factors you have to evaluate when making a decision. As you begin your search, you’ll come across three types of auto transport companies: brokers, carriers, and broker-carriers. Our goal is to help you understand what the differences are among these three types and which one might be best for you.

Car Transport Brokers

Brokers are companies or individuals that have access to a large network of carriers. They don’t actually have their own fleet of trucks and as a result they don’t handle the direct shipping of any vehicles. They are the “middleman” between the customer and the carrier.

The brokers’ primary function is to find a trusted carrier for each customer given their vehicle type and shipping time frame. Another important role they have is to manage, or coordinate, all car shipments on behalf of their customers.

When you Google “car transport companies” or “car shipping companies,” the search results will consist primarily of brokers. Most carriers don’t have websites and those that do aren’t usually great at online marketing, so you rarely find them doing Google searches. That’s important to know because if you begin your search online, you’ll most likely run across brokers and not carriers.

Car Transport Carriers

Car transport carriers have their own truck or fleet of trucks. These companies do the actual shipping of vehicles. They are the ones that show up to pick up the vehicle and deliver it to its destination. The majority of carriers are “moms and pops” with one or two trucks. In fact, most are single owner operators. There are large car carriers too that have several trucks in their fleet, but they are not nearly as prevalent.

Broker-Carrier (or Carrier-Broker)

There is a hybrid business that you may encounter as well. These are companies that are licensed brokers, but they also have their own fleet of trucks. They are called, “broker-carriers.”

Broker-Carriers are licensed carrier with their own fleet of trucks, but they’re also a licensed broker with access to a network of carriers that serve the entire country. They’ll strive to ship cars on their own trucks first (acting as a carrier), but if they can get a vehicle to its destination quicker using one of their trusted partner carriers they may (acting as a broker).

The Pros and Cons of Working with an Car Transport Broker

The main benefit of working with a broker is the flexibility they provide. Since brokers aren’t tied to their own trucks and specific routes, they can help anyone no matter what type of vehicle they have, no matter where they are shipping it to, and no matter when they are shipping it. Brokers work with large and small carriers that serve routes all over the country so they can always find a carrier to meet their customers’ needs.

Another advantage of working with a broker is the tremendous time savings. As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to find carriers directly online because most of them don’t have websites. It can be a chore just to put together a list of carriers to contact.

Once you finally do put a list together, then you’ll have to research each one to make sure they are properly licensed and insured. You’ll also have to make sure they are reputable and reliable by finding reviews online for each one. It can take a lot of time to do all this research on your own.

If you work with a broker, however, you can eliminate all those headaches as the broker will have access to hundreds of carriers and will do all the vetting and research for you. They will verify licenses, insurance coverage, and other credentials for every carrier they may potentially work with. Brokers are industry experts, so they know what to look for when selecting the right carrier for a given shipment.

Reputable brokers that have years of experience will also have a list of top-rated carriers at their fingertips that they can tap into to get a vehicle shipped quickly, safely, and sound. Auto-Logistics is an example of that type of broker. With over 15 years of experience as a broker-carrier, Auto-Logistics has formed partnerships with many carriers across the country that they know and trust. Working with these types of brokers can save you a lot of time and make the car shipping process a lot less stressful!

Yet another advantage of working with auto transport brokers is they manage and coordinate all aspects of the car shipping process. Acting as the middleman, brokers handle all the communications between the carrier and the customer from beginning to end, at least that’s what they’re supposed to do!

Unfortunately, a lot of brokers drop the ball and aren’t the greatest managers and communicators. That leads us to the main disadvantage of working with a broker, and that is relying on a middleman. If a broker doesn’t do their job properly and isn’t a good manager or communicator, it can make the car shipping experience absolutely terrible. You might get stuck dealing directly with a carrier that is also unreliable and unresponsive.

Pros and Cons of Working with an Car Transport Carrier

There are two main advantages working directly with a carrier. The first advantage is you will probably pay less because there is no middleman (i.e. a broker). That isn’t always the case but usually you will pay less working directly with a carrier.

The second advantage is you have one point of contact. You will work with the carrier’s dispatcher and in many cases you will even be dealing directly with the driver that will be picking up and delivering your vehicle. Having direct contact with the carrier’s dispatcher or driver will allow you to get more specific and thorough updates. And if any problems come up it’s usually easier to get them resolved if you’re working directly with the carrier vs. someone in the middle.

Working directly with carriers does have its challenges, however. The first being it’s hard to find them. Most carriers are single driver, or solo, carriers who don’t have the time, money, or interest in marketing themselves directly to the public. Their full-time job is to pick up and deliver vehicles! As a result, most don’t have websites or the knowledge on how to get their websites ranked in Google so they can be found even if they do have a website.

Because of that, most carriers work closely with brokers or they find shipments available on national dispatch boards that aren’t available to the public. There are exceptions, of course. Some carriers are big enough to market themselves directly to the public, so they don’t have to rely on brokers or dispatch boards. Although, even large carriers will use dispatch boards from time-to-time to fill a few spots on their trailers.

The other challenge when working directly with carriers is finding one that can ship your specific type of vehicle, on your specific shipping route, and on your time frame is nearly impossible to do.

To be profitable, carriers have to be very smart and efficient in how they operate their business. For starters, carriers have to decide what specific type of trailer to use which will limit the type and number of cars they can haul and how much they have to charge. Are they going to have a 3-car carrier, 7-car carrier, enclosed trailer, open trailer, etc.? Whatever they choose will dictate what type of vehicles they can haul and what they have to charge.

Since most carriers have only 1-3 trucks as part of their fleet, they can’t drive all over the country on random days and still make money. They have to determine what specific routes they’ll run and on what specific days they’ll run them. They’ll obviously choose specific routes that are the most profitable for them which might not be the route your car needs to be shipped on.

All of this means is you’ll have to make a lot of calls or have a lot of patience to find a carrier that has room on their trailer for your type of vehicle and is running your specific route.

The best option when working with an auto carrier is to work with the “big boys” in the industry as they have fleets large enough to cover routes throughout the country. You will usually pay more to work with these larger carriers, however, and there still may be a bit of a wait to get your car shipped. Even these large carriers have limited resources. They may only have one truck running back and forth on their routes so the timing of the shipping of your vehicle will depend on where their truck is on that route.

The final challenge to working directly with a carrier is that you don’t always get the greatest customer service. Most carriers are single driver owners who are truck drivers first and foremost, so they are extremely busy and always on the road. Providing great customer service usually isn’t their specialty.

What Car Transport Brokers and Car Carriers Have in Common

Up to this point we’ve highlighted the pros and cons of these two types of auto transport companies and how they differ, but there are similarities between the two that you need to be aware of.

No matter what a broker or carrier tells you, or no matter what you read on their websites, neither brokers nor carriers can guarantee pick up and delivery dates. There are too many variables on the road that can impact actual pick up and delivery dates. Weather, traffic, construction, accidents, breakdowns, and pick up and delivery delays along the route make it impossible for anyone to guarantee a specific pick up and delivery date.

Finally, most brokers and carriers are door-to-door shippers – meaning, they will pick up and deliver your vehicle from your home or business and ship it to another home or business location. They don’t use depots as their pick up and shipping destinations, although some do so be sure to ask before you book!

And in case you’re wondering, depot-to-depot transport is when a carrier has depots that they use as pick up and delivery points. In those cases, you will have to get your vehicle to the depot for pick up and arrange to pick it up at another depot. These depots may be far away from you and there may be storage fees so be sure to ask questions so there aren’t any surprises!

Side Note: Door-to-door shipping often times doesn’t mean literally from the front door of your house to another door of another house. Many residential areas have narrow streets or city ordinances that don’t allow semi-trucks or trucks over a given weight. Door-to-door shipping usually means meeting a driver at a nearby big box store or grocery store, or anywhere where a large truck and trailer can get into and out of without breaking any laws.

Preference for Brokers or Car Carriers

People’s preferences for obtaining car transport quotes can vary based on several factors, such as convenience, price, trust, and personal experience. Here’s a breakdown of why someone might choose to get a quote directly from car carrier companies versus using an aggregator site (broker):

Directly from Car Carrier Companies

  1. Trust and Control: Some customers prefer dealing directly with the service provider for a greater sense of control and trust. They might feel more confident knowing exactly which company will handle their vehicle.
  2. Direct Communication: Direct interaction allows for clearer communication. Customers can get specific questions answered directly by the company that will be transporting their vehicle.
  3. Possibly Lower Costs: Without middlemen, there’s a potential for lower costs, although this isn’t always the case as individual carriers may not offer the same discounts a broker could achieve through volume.

Through an Aggregator Site (Broker)

  1. Comparison Shopping: Aggregators allow customers to compare multiple quotes quickly and efficiently, saving time and potentially finding lower rates.
  2. Convenience: Using a broker can be more convenient, as they handle the details of finding a suitable carrier and negotiating terms on behalf of the customer.
  3. Broader Options: Brokers often have access to a larger network of carriers, which can be particularly beneficial if the customer has specific needs, such as an unusual route or a tight timeline.

Preference Trends

  • Market Trends: Depending on market conditions and consumer trust in digital platforms, trends can shift. With the rise of online services, many people appreciate the convenience and breadth of options that brokers provide.
  • Personal Preferences: Individual experiences and priorities (e.g., price vs. service quality) greatly influence this choice. Someone with a prior positive experience with a broker might lean towards using one again.

In summary, the preference between direct carriers and brokers can depend heavily on individual priorities and past experiences. People who value direct dealings and potentially lower costs might prefer direct carriers, whereas those looking for ease of comparison and broader options might opt for brokers.

Car Transport Services – The Best of Both Worlds

At the end of the day, auto transport brokers and car carriers will get your vehicle shipped from point A to point B. Which one is best for you depends on what you’re looking for and what your specific situation is. Hopefully, this article answers many of your questions and helps you to decide which type of auto transport company is going to work best for you.

If you’re still stuck and not sure which one is best for you, try requesting quotes through Car Transport Services gives you the best of both worlds. We’ll connect you to a combination of both Brokers and Carriers for you to compare prices across the board.

In addition to our reputation for outstanding customer service as shown on third party sites such as ProductReiew.com or Google, we pride ourselves on our straight-forward and honest communication throughout the entire process.

Whether you work with us or another broker or carrier, it all starts with getting quotes. Get started today. Request quotes and receive the largest range of quotes – FASTER!

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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