Ship a Car Cross Country

Have you recently relocated for your job?  Got into your dream college on the other side of the country? Did you purchase your dream car from an out of state auction or eBay? Whatever the reason, if you need to ship a car cross country, you must decide the best way to get it there. And you need to know, should you ship a car cross country?

Most people think the cheapest way to relocate a vehicle is to drive it themselves. But gas, food and lodging add to the cost of moving your vehicle. Plus, it costs your valuable time. Did you know that to ship your car cross country is possibly more cost effective and efficient than driving it yourself?

To decide if this is the best option, you need to know how the cost to transport a car is calculated and how the average cost per mile can differ.

Ship a Car Cross Country

What Does it Cost?

Distance and Condition

Several factors are involved in determining the cost to transport a car. The distance the car shipped is the first element to determine the price and is based on the Zip Code of the pickup and delivery locations. Transport prices vary depending on whether the shipping is cross state or cross country. Typically, shorter distances have a higher cost per mile than longer distances. Obviously, the farther the vehicle needs to travel, the more shipping costs. The size and condition of the transported vehicle also effects the price.  For example, a small sedan or motorcycle costs less to ship than a truck or SUV.

Vehicle Condition

The condition of the car is another big factor in determining the cost to ship a car cross country.  When we talk about the condition of the car, we are looking at two things. Whether the car is operable or inoperable. 

An operable vehicle can start and drive and is cheaper to transport than inoperable vehicles. An inoperable vehicle is non-running due to mechanical issues, collision damage, or missing keys.  It is a great deal more work for the transport driver to move an inoperable vehicle as a driver’s trailer must be equipped with a winch and a fork lift might be required.

Another factor is the time of year the car is transported. Summer is peak car transport season so you may save costs by shipping in the winter.  Fuel prices are factored in the price per mile as well. When fuel prices go up, price per mile goes up along with it.

Origin and Destination Location

Pickup and delivery location of the vehicle is one of the largest impacts on the price. The larger and more populated the city of origin and destination of the vehicle the cheaper the transportation rate. Why? Big cities have a larger supply of cars requiring relocation and carriers are more likely to service areas with more supply. Also, the routes to big cities are bigger and easier to use, as opposed to some rural areas where the roadways are smaller.  It’s much easier for a big truck to travel a highway than a two-lane road.

Shipping a vehicle internationally or outside the continental US costs more than to ship a car cross country.  If you are looking to transport out of the continental US, please call our customer service line for more information.

cars loading on a ferry
Loading of cars on the ferry for transportation to the other shore.

How Long Does It Take to Ship A Car Cross Country?

The time it takes to ship your car depends on your vehicle shipping destination and the shipping rate you would like to pay. A standard transport obviously takes longer than a rushed transport. The speed of shipping you choose depends on how fast you need your car and how much your budget allows. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars more for rush shipping. Tracking your vehicle is also a service most providers offer. You can keep track of where your vehicle is during the shipping process

A general estimation for shipping time is:

  • Coast to Coast around 1-2 weeks
  • Midwest to the Coast around 5-10 days
  • North US to South US around 5-10 days
  • Intrastate around 1-3 days

It is also important to note that it is always a good idea to plan your shipping in advance.  You can usually book your reservation service weeks or even months ahead of time. You then can choose the dates and the shipping method with more flexibility.

How Do I Calculate the Cost of Car Shipping?

Many car transportation companies have instant car shipping calculators on their websites which will provide you with the car shipping cost.  The price quoted is based on the price per mile and varies depending on season, fuel price, location, vehicle’s size and condition.  Be sure the information entered in the quote calculator is correct.  All these elements are used to accurately determine the quoted price per mile.

To use a quote calculator, put in the zip code of the pick-up as well as the drop off locations.  This determines the number of miles to calculate distance.  Next, describe the vehicle to be transported by giving the make, model and year.  Then, choose the preferred transportation type, the condition of the vehicle and desired shipping date.  The number of vehicles to be shipped is also a factor in the cost.

What is the Cheapest Way to Transport a Car?

Most auto transporters offer two different transportation services so you can determine the most budget friendly method.

Open Transport

The most popular option is open car transport.  Your vehicle is transported in an open, uncovered trailer. You frequently see these types of trailers hauling cars and trucks.  This is the transport method you are probably most familiar with and is the most efficient and cost-effective transport type.  Plus, it gives you more flexibility for scheduling pickup and delivery dates.

Enclosed Transport

The other service typically offered is enclosed car transport.  Your vehicle is transported in an enclosed trailer and protected from the weather, dirt and outside elements.  Enclosed trailer transport is usually for luxury or classic vehicles and hold fewer vehicles than open trailers. Therefore, each spot on the transport is more expensive.

Also, consider shipping your car during the offseason, typically late fall to early spring. The most popular time to ship a car is summer and early fall. Prices are increased during this time of year because of the demand.

City Size

The cost to transport a car to a major city is less than shipping to a smaller town. Roadways to major cities are much easier for large trucks and trailers to travel.  Some smaller towns are only accessible by two lane roads and can be more difficult for a large trailer to navigate on. Also, big cities tend to have more people moving to them.  The more cars going to one place lowers the average cost per mile. If you need to transport to a smaller city, consider picking your vehicle up in the closest big city.

What is the Average Cost to Ship a Car Per Mile?

To get an idea of average cost per mile, use these estimates:

  • To ship a car less than 500 miles – About $1.00 per mile
  • To ship a car to the mid-west – About $.75 per mile.
  • To ship a car coast to coast – About $.50 per mile.

Again, these are just very basic estimations. Remember to ship a car cross country or even within a state several factors are involved. To review, here is what goes into calculating the average cost per mile.


The farther your vehicle needs to go the higher the transport cost. Shorter distances have a higher cost per mile than longer distances.


Summer and early fall are the busiest months for vehicle relocation. The difference in price can be several hundred dollars. Try to ship your car during late fall and winter. This can give you significant savings. When transporting in the winter months, remember that inclement weather can affect the shipping time for your vehicle.

Whether the vehicle is operable or inoperable

A car that can steer and drive on its own is much easier to ship because the driver can easily get it on to the trailer. A vehicle that is inoperable will require special equipment and increases the average cost per mile.

Transport service

Open trailers are more budget friendly than enclosed trailers. They cost much less and offer more flexibility in shipping dates due to the higher volume of shipments using this method. Enclosed trailers are a good choice if you are transporting a valuable luxury or classic vehicle. Cars stay safe from dirt and the weather. Enclosed trailers are limited in the size and number of cars that are transported.  This raises the cost considerably.

Vehicle size

Vehicle size effects the shipping costs as well. It costs less to ship a small sedan or motorcycle the same distance to ship a large SUV.

Fuel cost

This goes without saying, but the higher the price of fuel per gallon, the higher the average cost.

Shipping speed

Your shipping quote includes prices for both standard and rush shipping. The faster shipping costs several hundred dollars more. Plan to ship a car cross country early and the standard shipping can save you a lot.

Destination location

More popular routes tend to cost less because of the higher volume of cars. The more vehicles traveling to a location lowers the cost per mile. Also, vehicles shipped to larger cities cost less per mile than vehicles transported to small towns.

As you can see, there are many factors that affect how much it costs to ship a car cross country.  It is important to choose a company that offers great service as well as a great price. We strive to make you feel comfortable trusting us with one of your most valuable possessions. You can feel confident that we will treat your car as we would treat one of our own.

Ready for an instant quote?

Go to our calculator and start booking your shipping reservation. Our care team will guide you through the process and answer any questions. Our promise to you is your satisfaction.

Published by Katerina Boyko
Categories: Uncategorized