Can I ship a car?
August 26, 2005 7:58 PM   Subscribe

My car broke down while I was trying to drive it cross-country, and I had to catch a flight and carry on without it. Now the car is in Bloomington, Indiana and I am in New Haven, Connecticut; I would like the car to join me. How should I do this?

One obvious possibility is to fly to Bloomington and go drive it back. Given that the car is rather old (ten years old and well over 100,000 miles) and the drive is rather long I'm not wild about this plan, plus the one-way plane ticket might be rather expensive. I assume there are also services that will, say, put the car on the back of a flatbed truck and ship it out here (I'm thinking of those trucks you see going down the highway carrying half a dozen cars on their back), but I have no idea-- is that exorbitantly expensive? (Does it cost hundreds of dollars? Thousands of dollars?) Are there trustworthy companies that will do this? Other creative solutions are also welcome.
posted by willbaude to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
I have done the flatbed truck thing. The googleabl;e phrases are "automobile shippers" It's expensive and annoying but it does solve the driving the car problem. A few things to know about these sorts of services

- there are high and low end ways to ship a car, make sure you are looking at the low end ways when you start out.
- some of them get very very huffy if you have stuff in the car [they don't want you to use the car to ship your stuff in]. I was told I couldn't have anything in the backseat of my car that came up over the windows. Other folks told me I couldn't have anything in my car at all.
- the cost, for me, about five years ago to ship a car from Indiana [yes, I also broke down in Indiana, long story] to Cincinnatti was a few hundred bucks. I did not need to be at either end of the deal but someone had to sign for the car and pay the guy at the end and BE THERE when he arrived which was a little tricky.
- There was a pretty wide time window for when the thing would arrive, but it generally went pretty fast and they got to my car within about six days after I called them.

What is wrong with your car exactly, and was it fixed? I ask because, oddly, I am going to be in Bloomington Indiana in a few weeks [I know, what are the chances?] and might be able to either help out or find someone local who can if you don't know anyone there. On way tickets out there are fairly cheap, however, if that is influencing your decision. I think I got a round trip from Manchester NH to Indianapolis for like $90.

Other creative solutions include Craigslist, though you might get into a situation where someone *else* was stranded by the side of the road with your car, and that is a bad situation to be in.

Part of what will affect your decision is if it is currently costing you money to leave the car where it is. I assume you flew out to start school, but if you had a few days over Labor Day you could conceivably fly out, get it and be done with it. In my case I had a car that I was not quite sure was driveable, so the shipping route worked for me
posted by jessamyn at 8:19 PM on August 26, 2005

Response by poster: My car's axle came loose in Elkhart, IN, which damaged the transmission. I stopped driving before the transmission was ruined, but the local mechanic we went to in nearby Mishawaka didn't look carefully enough, and thought it would take at least a week to fix, so I flew on to Connecticut because I had to be here to move apartments.

My parents had the car towed to Bloomington (where they live) so it is currently in good hands; the mechanic who gave the car the once-over before I took it on the road fixed everything for free, so that's taken care of too.

The major trouble with driving is time. My girlfriend is coming into town this weekend, then I'm busy here over labor day weekend and for the next three weekends with school things (I'm in law school). I could conceivably come fetch it in late September, or skip some class.

posted by willbaude at 9:11 PM on August 26, 2005

School is starting.. perhaps you can find a student to drive the car out for you? Craigslist is a great resource for that..
posted by dhammala at 10:07 PM on August 26, 2005

I put my car on a train 15 years ago when I moved to BC. The transport from Montreal to Vancouver took about a week or so, and I only had to pick up my car from a stock yard.

The car was working well when I put it on the train, and working well when I collected it on the Western side of the country ten days later.

However, there was one niggly problem with the car when I picked it up. For several weeks there was soot blowing out from the vents. LOTS of soot. I had closed my vents before shipping the car (as advised by the train company). Apparently this is normal with cross-country car crossings using a train.

Thought I would mention this, in case you were considering using Amtrak or another US train service to transport your car.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:02 PM on August 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's a thing called Auto Driveaway (and probably there are similar services - experiment with searches online). You could look into that if you're pretty sure the car can make the trip. I've never used them either way, so I can't say anything about how the arrangement works or how safe or reliable it is, though.
posted by dilettante at 8:57 AM on August 27, 2005

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