Moving a step-van coast to coast.
February 4, 2014 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I (might) need to move a vintage step van from New Jersey to Portland, Oregon and need help sorting out my options. The van does not move on its own volition.

Criteria is as follows. It doesn't need to be fast, in fact it can be slow. Cheaper is better. I can flex my time and schedule to put my own labor into this process. The van will fit on a typical car carrier type transport, it will fit on a regular flatbed tow truck. Towing it behind a truck on its own wheels as a trailer isn't a great idea.

Options I've considered-

1. Pay professionals to do this. Quotes range from $1500-1800 bucks. This is clearly the easiest option, i'm aware.

2. Fly out and drive it myself. I would only need to spring for 2 hotels, and have people I can stay with along the way. I can't find a flatbed-style tow-truck to rent one way however. Is this a thing? I can't seem to find them through normal rental-houses. (Hotels would be $120+/-, estimated 700 gas…cost of the truck is the wildcard)

3. Amtrak shipping? I've heard shipping cars is a thing….I can't find any clear information on it.

4. Harness a couple hundred carrier pigeons to the truck, hope the know where Portland is.

Is getting it shipped by professionals the cheapest zone here? Is there any major option i'm missing?
posted by furnace.heart to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
You're at $900 for lodging and gas, not counting food or the value of your time, before you even get around to renting a one-way tow truck and flying back home. I think you can't realistically beat $1,500 to have it magically taken care of by pros for you.

Alternate option: why not put $2,000 in it to get it running again, and then sell it for more money that you're getting now. Or if you're keeping it, drive it to the west coast under its own power, sleeping in the back so as to save on lodging costs.
posted by jsturgill at 12:00 PM on February 4, 2014

How much work does it need? I really like the "Get it fixed and drive it" option, but if it's not doable, it's not doable.
posted by Slinga at 12:05 PM on February 4, 2014

Response by poster: Gettig it fixed to drive cross country isn't an option for a couple reasons at all. And the mileage that this truck would use up necessitates it's shipping regardless.

Little buddy can't make a cross country trip in the best case scenario.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2014

Best answer: I stand by everything I said in this very similar thread. Driving it on a rental truck, or driving the thing under its own power are bad and worse options monetarily.

If you have any issues with the truck you rented, it'll be a pain in the ass to deal with the rental company, whereas if you pay a shipping company they'll just Handle it instead of being obstinate butts you have to wait around for.

Assuming you read my post there, you'll get my general gist. But it's like:

Shipping: get a quote for shipping*fuel surcharge, that's what you pay
Rental truck: rental fees, mileage fees, fuel, lodging, food, unforeseen circumstances money
Driving it: everything above + AAA+ service, potentially new tires/belts/other parts along the way PLUS the cost of any repairs needed, some of which you'll likely find 150 miles in.

Shipping is the cheapest and smartest option unless your buddy owns a rental truck franchise or something.

On preview I saw you agree that driving it under it's own power isn't an option, but I'll just leave that bit in there. Also worth noting: any truck you'd load this on will get TERRIBLE mileage. A shipping company charging you a one or two hundred buck fuel surcharge or something will be the goddamn discount of the century.
posted by emptythought at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2014

I'm pretty sure, not positive, that you can rent a heavy-duty pickup and a trailer for less than it would cost to rent a flatbed tow truck.

That said, though: your time's worth something, right? Because if it is, this is probably not one of those situations where you can do it cheaper than the pros.
posted by box at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2014

Best answer: At least in my part of the country rental tow trucks are available. As you can see, they aren't cheap and I have no idea what qualifications (such as some sort of CDL) are required to rent one. Another consideration is that if you somehow do find a rental that is affordable, it will almost certainly not be one way; so flying one leg is not likely to be an option. Also, driving a big load like that is not a good idea unless you have experience in that sort of thing; I do not know everything that can go wrong but I am sure there are lots of things that can go wrong in a big way.

Paying a pro is looking like a pretty good deal from here.
posted by TedW at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2014

While your professional shipping quotes look pretty normal and customary, does the quote take into account the potential extra costs to ship a non-moving vehicle? If not, there may be accessorial costs to load the van on and off the transporter. The loading on and off the transporter is often done via flat bed tow truck at a cost of around $250 on each end.
posted by lstanley at 2:05 PM on February 4, 2014

Best answer: Amtrak only transports vehicles with their Auto-Train, which runs between the DC area and Florida, and requires the cars to be driven on and off. If you really want to do it by train, BNSF has their CarsOnTrack service, but I don't think it's particularly cheap.
posted by ckape at 2:22 PM on February 4, 2014

Response by poster: This is pretty much confirming what I thought; Looks like the official car-shipping quote will probably be the cheapest.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:41 PM on February 4, 2014

I shipped a vintage toyota landcruiser from southern california to Eugene, Oregon a few years ago, and offer the following advice (and yeah, ship it):

Make sure the broker you contact understand the dimensions and weight of your vehicle.
Make sure your vehicle can be loaded and dropped off somewhere convenient for a tractor/trailer. The drivers are working on a schedule may or may NOT speak good english (mine spoke russian well, english not so much) so giving them a good spot to get to that also works for you is important. This may or may not be your residence-some streets are too narrow for the rigs and some overpasses/bridges are not strong enough to handle them or too low to go underneath... (car carriers are TALL). So some additional fees for the 'last mile' may also apply for you if the vehicle cant move under its own power. I had to take my LC the last mile on its own under a low overpass with only a sketchy emergency brake and no clutch, than push that heavy bastard up a driveway backward to get it into my garage to work on it.
posted by bartonlong at 4:50 PM on February 4, 2014

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