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.

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