5 Tips for Getting Your Car Across the Country While Moving

Barbara Bellesi Zito
Updated December 16, 2021
A family unloading boxes from the car on moving day
Photo: Monkey Business / Adobe Stock


  • Auto shipping can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the shipper, type of vehicle, and its destination.

  • You can choose between open transport or enclosed transport when shipping your car to its destination.

  • Consider hiring a driver or driving the car yourself to your new home.

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If only moving a car across the country was as easy as wrapping it in a big box with a huge roll of bubble wrap. But alas, you’re going to need something heftier, be it a truck, a train, a plane, or yes, even an actual ship, if you are relocating to the other side of the map.

Consider these four transportation tips when deciding how to get your car from point A to point B.

1. Choose the Correct Towing Option

If you have more than one vehicle, or you’re renting a van to move your belongings yourself, towing your car is an option, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll need to figure out the best towing option based on factors such as:

  • The vehicle’s weight

  • How low the vehicle is to the ground

  • The type of transition

  • Whether it’s front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive

Typically, a flatbed is a good option for rear-wheel-drive cars and cars that are low to the ground. It’s also the preferred option for antique cars or other collectibles. On the other hand, a tow bar allows flat or four-wheel towing and works best for compact cars. For front-wheel-drive cars, use a dolly to save on the car from experiencing wear and tear. 

Keep in mind that you will have to ensure that your towed car is what is known as “street legal.” This qualification means that your haul is safe for you to drive and for it to share the road with other passenger vehicles. Some towing options are fine for short-distance hauls, but not for long-distance trips. If you’re moving across the country, remember that you’ll be passing through different states and have to adhere to different road rules and regulations, so you’ll want to choose the towing option that fulfills all of them. 

Regardless of the option you choose, you’ll need a tow hitch. These are generally easy to attach yourself, but it’s always a good idea to consult with an automotive professional if you have any concerns about your car’s operation. To be safe, hire a professional to hitch your car to the back of the hauling vehicle so you don’t leave any precious cargo behind.

2. Find the Most Economical Shipping Option

 A tow truck on the freeway transporting a car
Photo: Grigory Bruev / Adobe Stock

Another option is to use a car shipping company to transport your car to its far-away destination. But it will increase your moving budget significantly—auto shipping can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the shipper, type of vehicle, and its destination.

It costs around 60 cents per mile to ship your car. This figure is based on trips longer than 1,000 miles; for shorter trips, it will cost upwards of $1 per mile. These prices are based on transport by ground or sea and do not factor in other costs like whether you are having your car delivered to a train or airport terminal or straight to your driveway. 

Not every method is appropriate for your situation, though. For example, you would only need a ship for your car if you’re heading to Alaska or Hawaii from some other part of the contiguous 48 states. And you might not spring for a plane trip for your car if you’re moving across a couple of state lines

Open Transport vs. Enclosed Transport

Another decision you will have to make is whether you want to ship your car using open or enclosed transport. You’ve likely seen an open transport carrier on the highway, which stacks 10 or more cars on an open truck that exposes the vehicles to the elements. Enclosed transport will keep your car safe in a closed truck with only a few other vehicles. But you can expect to pay a premium for the service. Typically, the average cost for enclosed car transport is about 40% more than you’d pay for open transport. 

Your car will certainly be safer traveling via enclosed transport since it’ll be surrounded by four walls during the entire trip. But you can also expect the trip to take longer. Still, this is a good option for luxury or antique cars that you do not want on the open road while it travels to its destination.

3. Ask Your Moving Company About Car Transport 

When shopping around for car transport quotes, start with your moving company. Your best bet is to work with one that specializes in long-distance moves because they have the experience and the appropriate vehicles for hauling your car.

Keep in mind that just as it costs more for a regular move during peak moving season—typically April through September—you’ll have to pay a lot more to move your car during these months. Plus, moving a car isn’t as easy as moving a load of boxes, so you’ll need to book far in advance so the moving company can iron out the logistics. If you’re on a tight moving deadline, it would be a good idea to work with car transport companies so that you have the best scheduling options.

4. Hire a Driver

Just as you might hire someone to drive you from Point A to Point B, you can hire someone to do the same for your car. There are professional services that offer this service—sometimes called driveaway services—but you can also ask your family and friends if anyone is willing to take a road trip.

If you hire someone to drive your car, take it in for a tune-up so you don’t have to deal with a potential breakdown during the trip. You’ll also want to ensure your car is insured properly for another driver. If you hire a professional company, they’ll likely take photos of the car before departure to note any existing dings or scratches, and you should do the same. 

5. Drive It Yourself

Okay, so this tip might not require thinking outside the box. But sometimes the obvious choice is the best one. While driving your car across the country is time-consuming and expensive—hello, high gas prices!—it could be worth it in the end. 

If airfare is too expensive, you have pets, or you’re toting other valuables with you, it could be a good idea to pack up the car for a road trip and meet the moving van there. When planning your trip, don’t forget to budget for expenses like food, lodging, gas, and tolls.

Is It Worth Taking Your Car to Your New Home?

There’s one more thing to consider before exploring any of the above options: Make sure it’s worth it to take your wheels with you. 

Cars are expensive to own and maintain, and you’ll spend a nice chunk of change moving them across the country. But if you’re moving to an urban area where a car is more of a hassle than a convenience, it might be time to sell it. 

If you will need your car to get around, consider whether it’s the right vehicle for your new location. A zippy sports car might have been perfect for driving down a suburban cul-de-sac, but it’s not ideal for taking on dusty, bumpy country roads. If you’re planning to switch up your vehicle or you don’t have the time or money to move it cross-country, consider selling it before your big move.

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