How are Car Transport Costs Calculated?

The most frustrating thing for many people is that some car transport organisations don’t make it easy to understand how are car transport costs calculated.

You could potentially end up paying hundreds of dollars to transport a car interstate but do you really know what you’re paying for?

So, how are car transport costs calculated?

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common factors that many car transport companies take into account when determining the price to ship a car:

Car Transport Company Reputation

The vehicle transport industry is actually pretty unregulated and there are many, many questionable car transport companies out there.

Going with the cheapest vehicle transport company is not always the best idea.

In fact, one of the worst things you can do when shipping a car is to pick the company that offers the cheapest rate.

Words on a company’s website are pretty cheap to put up and the “fine print” in their terms of service means you might only really discover the true quality of the vehicle transport company after it’s too late.

Image courtesy of Xpress Fleet

Vehicle Type & Size

This one might be pretty obvious. There’s only limited space available on a car carrier and larger vehicles will come at a premium.

Some companies also take weight into their pricing plans, so a smaller car will likely be cheaper to ship than a larger SUV or pickup truck.

Many companies typically require that customers remove all personal belongings from the interior of their cars (and even from the exteriors, since things like spoilers or hood ornaments are easily damaged).

When considering the overall price of a car transport service, keep in mind, you might have to pay for these goods to be transported too. It might not be much but you should definitely consider it in the overall price.


When you have to ship a car, distance is one of the main factors in determining the price. Where will your car be picked up, and where will it be delivered?

Can a large, multi-car carrier drive it across land, or will it have to be put on a train?

While distance is often a hassle when it comes to vehicle transport, it’s also one of the reasons why so many people choose to ship their cars in the first place.

New cars and antique/expensive cars lose their value as more kilometres are put on the vehicle, but when you ship the car, you don’t have to worry about your odometer creeping up on the actual car you’re transporting.

Keep in mind, too, that fuel cost and surcharges factor into this equation.

If fuel is on cheaper side, then you might get a more attractive rate for transporting your vehicle.

Forward-Loading vs. Back-Loading

Some car carrier companies have large established contracts with the vehicle manufacturers to transport vehicles from manufacturing facilities and wharfs to the dealer networks.

It means that they are a likely to have limited capacity on certain lanes. For example, vehicle transport from Melbourne and Adelaide has traditionally been more expensive because many of the larger carriers are under contract to Ford, Toyota and Holden.

On the flip-side, those carriers need to return and, instead of sending the trucks back empty, spots are often sold at a discounted rate. It’s this scenario that is known as back-loading.

You would see this if you were to compare quotes for Melbourne to Perth car transport with quotes to transport a car from Perth to Melbourne.

This is likely to change though as the last of the vehicle manufacturing facilities are shut down in Adelaide and Melbourne.

Transporting a vehicle can expensive. Some options can even be ridiculously expensive. There’s no way around it. Trusted vehicle transport companies won’t try to hide that fact.

Instead, they’ll make sure that customers are aware of the true costs, damage liabilities, and if certain carriers (like enclosed carriers) might provide better protection than others (like multi-car open carriers).

Remember though…cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to car shipping.

Need a Quote?

Let’s Get Started

188,306 kmTransport requested last 24hrs

100% FREE. No account needed.

Need to Move a Car Interstate?

From budget-friendly, open carrier choices to express delivery and enclosed transport options, there’s a solution to match your needs.
Get a Quote

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