Tips or suggestions for shipping a car cross-country?
December 28, 2005 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Tips/suggestions for shipping a car cross-country?

I am moving back to New Orleans from San Franciscio and want to ship my 2000 VW Jetta. Can anybody offer insight from experience of doing so? How much should I be paying, roughly? Anything I should look for or avoid? Any good or bad companies? If my friend also ships her 2001 Camry at the same time, could we get a discount?
posted by radioamy to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First thing to do is ask the company that is moving the rest of your stuff. For a fee, they will put your car in the truck and everything will arrive at the same time. Otherwise, they may have the name of a company that they work with regularly for such needs.
posted by ilsa at 3:35 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Good idea except I'm not moving much else except some clothes in a suitcase (all my furniture is sitting in my apartment).
posted by radioamy at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2005

I've done it twice, once from boston to sf, and then from sf to nyc. you will have to sign something saying the company is not liable for damage to the undercarriage, at least I did and could not find any way around that (but there was never any damage so I was lucky or normal or something...)

cost was ~900-1000 each way, as I recall. I think covered (non-open-body trailer, whatever) trucks costed more.

the first time, I had to drive the car to the place to be put on the big truck. which was hasslesome. the second time, they came with a small flatbed to pick it up... BUT when they thought I'd gone, I looked back and instead of putting my car on the flatbed, some immensely obese guy got out of it and drove my car off at insane speeds (think ferris bueller's day off parking attendant kind of hijinks) but again there was no damage to the car, no excess miles, no distressed suspension, nothing I could really complain about.

er, just saying, it's less convenient to drop your car off at whatever depot will put it onto the actual big truck, but may be worth it if your car is your baby (which mine was)

as for getting the car on the other side: in sf I remember that they came to my apartment in the same big truck it was shipped on (like those open-body trailers you see transporting new cars to car dealerships) but for some reason I can't remember how it was in nyc.

(and both times I was also doing a complete household move, but never heard of a company that would do both car and stuff for you. sure would have been useful though.)
posted by dorian at 4:18 PM on December 28, 2005

Car dealers in your area can usually recommend someone they trust to ship your car - if you need a recommendation.
posted by Amizu at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2005

oh and it will normally take at least a week or two; and once the truck gets to the destination city, scheduling the dropoff to something convenient for both you and the shipper is another few added days.

on preview: amizu makes a good point. the shipper I used from boston was chosen kind of randomly, but the one from sf was recommended by this oddly amazing dealership I went to for checkups and stuff (huge, clean workspace, undercharged for repairs, it was quite surreal.) ~~ (the wacky guys with the flatbed were simply some third party, i.e. the main shipper needs someplace to collect cars and often doesn't maintain such a place themselves so depends on local mechanics, uhaul lots, etc....)
posted by dorian at 4:36 PM on December 28, 2005

A friend shipped his car via train from one coast to the other. I don't know what company he used but I remember he was happy with the service and that it only cost a few hundred dollars. The only annoying thing was that he had to show up at the train yard at some werid hour in the middle of the day when the car arrived to pick it up.
posted by pwb503 at 4:37 PM on December 28, 2005

You may want to check-out this result if asking local dealers or a trusted mechanic doesn't work for you:

Also: don't be hoodwinked... there're a lot of shady characters in this business.

And also: your car HAS to be EMPTY — completely void of any personal belongings — for it to be shipped. This is an issue of liability on the part of the shipper, but it's also a matter of weight.

Car shippers know how much a car weighs (with variance for a tank of gas), and personal belongings in the vehicle throw off those estimates, and puts the trucker at risk when they cross state lines and need to weigh their vehicles at the scales.
posted by silusGROK at 4:38 PM on December 28, 2005

I am about to ship my car (Saturn coupe) from NYC to San Francisco (dropping it off tomorrow). I got three quotes that were all $1300-$1400 for an open trailer, door to door. The one quote that was "terminal to terminal" was $800, including basic insurance. The catch is that I have to drop off and pick up the car from the company's terminals -- easy enough in SF but less convenient for me on the NY side, so check that if you go this route. For me, saving that much money made the extra drive worth it.

Since the price differences were negligible, I ended up going with Dependable Auto Shippers because their website offered instant quotes and they were very helpful over the phone. So far (having done nothing yet :) I'd recommend them.

They said that I could expect delivery within 18 calendar days from drop-off -- standard time in my research seemed to be 2 weeks or so.

They also gave me a doc full of rules (great for newbie-to-car-shipping me), and said I could have stuff in the trunk but not in the cab -- not that I could think of anything I wanted to risk shipping this way!

Incidentally, speaking of newbieness, I definitely got the impression that there are some companies that focus on shipping cars that get shipped a lot -- custom racers, collectibles, what-have-you -- and others that do what I wanted (ship my dead-ordinary used car one time across the country so I don't need to spend 3 days driving through the Midwest on a freeway...). I'm not sure it matters in an absolute sense, but it did to me, and so I avoided ones that sounded all "specialty."
posted by obliquicity at 5:03 PM on December 28, 2005

I've done it twice, once with an open-truck carrier for $1000 (forgotten who) and once on an enclosed carrier for maybe $1700 with Intercity Transport. The cheap folks got the job done with no hassles and no complaints. I shipped 2 cars with the cheap folks - no discount, iirc. The high-end folks were very responsive and accomodating, and also got the job done with no complaints. With the spendy service, I got the cell number of the drivers (husband and wife) and was in frequent contact, which was nice. The car is wrapped in plastic and secured by the wheels to prevent body damage from straps - very careful handling. (I also got to see Ferarri serial #2, which was also onboard).

From the various horror stories I'd read on Epinions, the cheapest folks are basically brokering a slot on any 'ol truck heading in the rightish direction, and so it can be hard to talk to someone who actually knows where your car is & when you will get it. I knew I wanted the attentive service, but I paid mightily for it. So, as always, Caveat emptor.
posted by Triode at 5:11 PM on December 28, 2005

When you drop off the car, they will do a walk-around with you, making note of any damage before load-in. Be very thorough, and do not be in a hurry. It is important that both parties have an accurate and mutually agreed upon document of the car's condition. Of the dropoffs I've done, it took about 60-90 minutes each time.
posted by Triode at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2005

Read the contract carefully. Our shipper tried to stick us with an extra $200 to the the car to our house (as promised) from their receiving area elsewhere in the city. A firm phone call (during which we read the entire contract to them) solved the problem, but it would have sucked if we'd missed any fine print.
posted by bargex at 5:24 PM on December 28, 2005

When you get the car at the terminal end, check all of the important fluids. I had a car shipped and they somehow drained the radiator fluid. This of course killed the water pump in jsut a few miles. In a 70's car, this was a nothing. Now, I think it costs the left arm of your first born child.
posted by caddis at 6:21 PM on December 28, 2005

Though I've never done this myself, I'm pretty sure that there exist companies/services through which you can hire someone to drive your car for you. Ah, yes: "driveaway" is what they call it.
This search would get you started, if this is an option you'd consider. (Has anyone here ever used such a service?)
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:56 PM on December 28, 2005

I've done it twice as well, from SF to DC, and just this week from DC to Austin. Great experience (open trailer) both times. If you go with a broker (that's what you'll get from most online searches), do a google search to see user reviews. They're the ones who can be selective about which movers they use. Don't lowball it - as others have said, the cheapest are usually that for a reason. I paid about $1000 the last time, and I partially loaded up the car with bulky (baby) stuff that would have been hard to pack up for the ol' "u-pack" movers that are coming next week.
posted by laz-e-boy at 9:00 PM on December 28, 2005

Any chance of finding a friend/acquaintance to drive it out for you? Gas/hotel/return flight might be less expensive alternative.
posted by jsteward at 9:39 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Any chance of finding a friend/acquaintance to drive it out for you? Gas/hotel/return flight might be less expensive alternative.

My Ex drove it out here from New Orleans in September...although gas is slightly cheaper now, it ended up costing almost $1000...and my car doesn't need any more miles on it!
posted by radioamy at 11:07 PM on December 28, 2005

Pick up a copy of Hemings Motor News, they have a very large number of ads for shipping cars.
posted by 445supermag at 7:29 AM on December 29, 2005

I've known a couple folks that did it cross country via train. Definitely worth looking into.
posted by shoepal at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2005

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