Letting your car take a ride by itself?
August 4, 2014 3:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving from Boston to Seattle in a month. Hooray! I need to ship my older (1990) but much beloved Jeep Cherokee there, as the economics and time of a road trip don't make sense. Boo! What advice/experiences have you had with car shippers? Are there particular companies you'd vouch for or avoid?

I know that most of the companies you contract to ship your car are actually brokers and the shippers themselves are independent mom-and-pop type folks with trucks. Fair enough, you are really just paying the broker to be an aggregator of car transport jobs so that the shipper can have a full truck. But! This makes it a bit harder to find a quality-assured shipper. What did you do to ship your car and how did it work out?

Other considerations:
- I'm looking at using a open (non-enclosed) truck for reasons of cost and a slight oil leak.
- Paying a driver to direct-drive the car isn't on the table. The Jeep runs but needs a little work that I'm planning to have done on the other side of the trip with some trusted mechanics.
- Dear god do I not want to learn how to navigate U-ship and act as my own broker, but if that is what I need to do to ensure that the shipper has good reviews, I guess I should get started on it now.

posted by andorphin to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did this twice and I have absolutely no idea which company we used. I remember it was hard to decide who to use because they were all essentially the same, so we just picked one. Both times it was fine.

I'm pretty sure there are some other Asks about this as well.
posted by radioamy at 6:44 AM on August 4, 2014

Yeah I've done this three times and each time it's been pretty weird, but the car got here fine. Every company I've used has been pretty interchangeable from the next and they've each been uniquely weird (e.g. last time my car was dropped off by a Russian guy who called me from the street and had me sign a crumpled up sheet of paper, then he trotted around the corner and disappeared with no visible means of returning to wherever he came from, the time before that I had to meet them in a supermarket parking lot after hours like we were meeting up to swap stolen goods, but the car's been fine all three times).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:21 AM on August 4, 2014

We used U-Ship for other stuff and it was totally easy and I loved having the reviews available. Unless it has become really hard to use, I'd recommend trying it out.

Many of my friends have had experiences like above - random guys with bits of paper, shifting dates, not really being sure about the likelihood that it will turn out, etc.. The whole thing feels kind of sketchy but it has worked out fine.
posted by barnone at 7:48 AM on August 4, 2014

When my dad moved from Michigan to California in 2000, he had his car shipped. It worked out in the end but there were some very confusing phone calls in which the driver wanted directions and information on the best place to hand over the car and Dad was all "wtf I just moved here how would I know?" This is probably easier to manage in the modern era.
posted by shiny blue object at 8:10 AM on August 4, 2014

I also shipped a car from Boston a few years ago (in 2011). I looked at online reviews and got a few quotes from transportreviews.com, then also checked the companies that looked good with the BBB. The prices for the different places were pretty similar. I went with the one that was willing to take credit card payment, because many of them wanted a cashier's check and I thought that the consumer protections of using a credit card might be helpful if something went horribly wrong. I wound up going with Cascade vehicle shipping; from their website it looks like they are now part of Auto shipping group.

I also found the experience pretty weird - I didn't get any confirmation when it got close to the ship date, so I thought maybe they were going to flake out. Then there was a phone call saying meet me in this place right now to drop off the car. In Boston itself the big trucks can't go on many streets, so you might have to meet them somewhere for drop off. The place I was moving to had newer/wider streets, so they dropped the car off at my house. It was hard to get a date for when the car would be delivered (I guess they don't know their schedules very far in advance). But I did get a normal-looking receipt, so I guess I was lucky. I took pictures of the car right before it was shipped so that if it got damaged during shipping I would have something to compare to, but there were no problems.

There is something slightly terrifying about handing over your keys and vehicle, for me this was weirder than having movers take boxes of stuff because a car is a single pretty expensive item and if it gets lost or damaged that would be really bad. But it was fine.

In retrospect I wonder if I should have tipped the driver at dropoff. It didn't occur to me at the time.
posted by medusa at 8:21 AM on August 4, 2014

Thanks for the answers so far! It sounds like the whole thing is weird for everyone. There are previous AskMes on the topic, they are just kinda dated or had sparse replies (here they are for future reference): from 2013 and 2006.

More experiences are welcome, as are more names of specific companies!
posted by andorphin at 8:51 AM on August 4, 2014

Just wanted to chime in that I did also have the experience that communication is a little sparse/awkward, and you will probably have to meet them somewhere a little out of the way. The first time I recall my mom saying that they had a hard time getting the car up her street. The second time I picked up the car at a truck stop about 20 miles away. But both times the car made it to me unscathed.
posted by radioamy at 10:44 AM on August 4, 2014

When you get to Seattle I can recommend a great mechanic--honest, competent, reasonably priced family business. My only affiliation is being a happy customer over a period of years. Feel free to PM me.
posted by donovan at 3:26 PM on August 4, 2014

I used DAS Autoshippers for my LA to DC move in 2010. My car arrived back then without any problems- and 4 years later, it is still running fine.
posted by invisible ink at 5:16 PM on August 4, 2014

I've done it twice and can't recall either company.

I would say it's nicer to bring the car to a lot and pick it up from a lot. The people who pick up and drop off are kind of crazy and it was inconvenient on both ends waiting for them.
posted by rainydayfilms at 4:25 AM on August 6, 2014

So I ended up using Car Shipping Pros as the broker who contracted Transport Express Inc as the actual hauler. They did door-to-door transport from Boston to Seattle for $1600 (which I probably could have gotten for a little cheaper with some bargaining). I found this broker on TransportReviews, which is a really useful site.

Things to note for other folks seeing this:
- The 'deposit' I paid to the broker was their entire profit on the venture ($275 in this case). They got that cash and I paid the remainder of the balance to the hauler directly on delivery. If you are curious as to how much your broker is making on the deal, the deposit gives you that info.
- The broker is earning this fee pretty much for just posting the job on Central Dispatch and then accepting a bid. Were I to do this again, I would try to save the broker fee and post the job directly on Central Dispatch myself, which looks to have a limited trial period you can use for free. I don't think that CD would particularly welcome end users making use of their service in this fashion, and so might have a way to block your sign up, but it might be worth trying if you want to save the broker fee and don't want to experiment with UShip.
posted by andorphin at 10:52 AM on October 30, 2014

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