How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car?

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated August 8, 2022
Auto transport
Photo by Eldon Lindsay

The typical cost to ship a car within the continental U.S. is $700 to $1,200, with the average price being $950

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If you're making a big coast-to-coast move, the cost to ship a car across the country is around $0.60 per mile for journeys over 1,000 miles. For shorter distances, expect to pay around $1 per mile. Shipping a vehicle overseas costs significantly more, from $1,000 for shorter-range cargo ship transport to $40,000 for express air freight shipping.

Cost of Shipping a Car by Vehicle Size

Auto transport
Photo by Eldon Lindsay

The size and weight of a vehicle impact how much it costs to ship. The higher the weight, the greater the gas consumption per mile, and the more expensive it’ll be. The car’s size also impacts mileage because larger cars require larger trailers, containers, or trucks to transport them, increasing the cost per mile.

Vehicle SizeVehicle WeightAverage Cost per 1,000 miles
Compact3,000 lbs$0.57
Mid-Sized3,500 lbs$0.74
Mid-Sized Pickup Truck4,300 lbs$0.87
Mid-Sized SUV4,300 lbs$0.87
Minivan4,500 lbs$0.97

Cost of Shipping Luxury and Vintage Cars

Shipping luxury and vintage cars is common—but costly. Moving these kinds of vehicles across the country in a transporter is the best option. It doesn't add mileage or excessive wear and tear to an already old or luxuriously expensive vehicle. After all, you wouldn't want to put unnecessary miles on the clock of that beautiful 1963 Chevy Corvette you've painstakingly restored to its original glory. Plus, if the vehicle isn't in good working order and you need to send it somewhere, you've got to move it somehow!

The smaller the vehicle, the lighter (and therefore, the more affordable!) it is to transport, but remember, you'll likely pay more per mile compared to shipping a comparably sized modern car. If you want to protect your classic car from road chemicals, debris, inclement weather, insects, and accidents, you need enclosed transport, which costs up to 40% more than open trailer transport. Don't forget to fully document the condition of the car before you hand it over to the movers.

Just like with transporting modern, everyday cars: the greater the distance, the smaller the cost per mile. The costs below are for transporting a mid-size vintage car in a fully enclosed vehicle.

DistanceCost
Less than 500 miles$1.25 per mile
500 – 1,000 miles$1.00 per mile
1,000 – 1,500 miles$0.71 per mile
1,500 – 2,000 miles$0.65 per mile
2,000 – 2,500 miles$0.63 per mile
2,500 – 3,000 miles$0.53 per mile
More than 3,000 miles$0.48 per mile

Expect to pay more for additional services, such as liftgate elevators and door-to-door service. Assuming you care for your vintage or luxury vehicle like it’s one of your children, it's worth investing in a professional, fully insured, licensed transport company rather than trying to save a few bucks by cutting corners and using a company without the right permits and experience.

How Much Does Shipping a Car Cost by Transport Type?

Trucks and trailers are by far the most common method of transporting cars. But for overseas shipping or reaching remote areas that aren't easily accessible by road, there are other methods that carry different costs.

Truck

The average cost to ship a car by truck is $950 within the continental U.S., but door-to-door service will increase the price. If you want to save a few dollars, it might be worth arranging truck terminal pick up and drop off.

Airplane

Though less common, it’s possible to ship a car by air freight. However, it's the most expensive option and, depending on your destination, can cost between $5,000 and $40,000 for international shipping. You'll pay less for destinations within the U.S., but still more than shipping by truck. For particularly remote destinations, airplane transport may be more practical than road hauling.

Train

If you're looking for affordable car shipping, particularly over long distances, a freight train could be the best choice. You'll typically pay less than $1,000, depending on distance, route, and the railway company you use. But note that prices vary with the season and, at peak times, commercial customers receive priority.

Ship

For international destinations, remote locations such as Alaska, and islands including Hawaii, freight ships are a solid automotive transport option. While not as fast as an air freight or train, sea transport is reasonably economical and can usually take your vehicle to difficult-to-access locations. Prices vary according to destination but generally fall between $1,000 and $5,000.

What Factors Influence the Cost of Shipping a Car?

Distance, location, type of vehicle, time of year, and more all impact how much it costs to ship a car. You'll pay less for shipping within the continental U.S., but there are some affordable options for international transport, too.

Distance

Generally, the further the distance, the lower the cost per mile, but the greater the overall cost. If the car needs to go overseas, the cost will increase. Within the continental U.S., the average cost to ship a car is around $950. If you're shipping a vehicle overseas, you can pay up to $40,000, depending on which transport method you choose and how far your car is traveling.

Location

The route the shipping company has to take and the drop-off point influence price. The more mileage the driver can rack up in a day, the cheaper the rate will be. Congested routes, mountainous areas, or those with poor road conditions are all likely to hike up the fee.

Method of Transport

The most economical way to transport a car within the continental U.S. is generally by truck, which costs between $0.60 and $1 per 1,000 miles. The most affordable freight shipping option for long distances is by train, which can cost as little as $1,000.

If you need to ship overseas, by sea is the most affordable choice, typically priced between $1,000 and $5,000. The one drawback: it’s slow. If you need to move a vehicle overseas or to remote regions ASAP, you'll likely want to go with air freight, which can cost you up to $40,000, depending on your vehicle type, distance, and destination.

Type and Size of Vehicle

Everyday-use vehicles cost less than luxury and classic cars that require extra care, equipment, and insurance. The car’s weight also impacts the price, too. If your runaround is a smart little compact, you'll pay less than if you drive a gas-guzzling SUV. The compact weighs less, so the transport company will get more miles per gallon. A compact vehicle weighing around 3,000 pounds costs approximately $0.60 per mile. But if you've got a big family and drive a minivan weighing 4,500 pounds, you'll pay around $1 per mile.

Time of Year

The time of year has an impact on price, too. The price of gas has seasonal fluctuations, demand for transport is greater at certain times of the year, and the roads are busier. Summer transport generally costs more than the same journey in winter. Costs may also go up due to increased demand around school breaks and holidays.

Open vs. Enclosed Shipping

You might want to transport a luxury or classic car in an enclosed carrier. This reduces the risk of damage from exposure to bad weather or poor road conditions. However, it costs more than standard uncovered trailers. 

Even your car’s position on an open trailer can affect price. More costly top loading minimizes the chance of chips, cracks, or dents from road debris, and there’s no chance of leaking oil from a vehicle above.

Level of Insurance

If you require your carrier to have a higher level of insurance because your car is particularly valuable, you can expect to pay a premium. Ask the carrier for proof of insurance to make sure the level of cover is adequate.

Express Shipping

Express shipping will incur extra costs. Fast shipping by truck may mean your hauler has to turn away other jobs to meet your deadline, so you'll pay a premium for that. And if you need fast shipping to remote areas or overseas, air freight is costly but quick compared to transport by sea.

Level of Service

If you want to keep costs low, your best option is to arrange drop-off and pick-up at a truck terminal. For greater convenience, you can opt for door-to-door service, but this is generally a premium add-on.

Economic Conditions

Fuel rates vary, and when there’s a fuel crisis or economic downturn, expect prices to rise considerably.

Ways to Save on Car Shipping

With good planning, resourcefulness, and flexibility, securing decent discounts on car shipping costs is possible. Try these tips:

  • Shop around: Don’t book the first provider available in your area. Get multiple quotes and compare their offerings, experience, and reputation.

  • Be flexible on timeframes and locations: If you’re willing to wait a few months, you could get a discount for a delivery slot when the shipper is looking to pick up business. And, forgoing the convenience of having your car brought right to your door can result in big savings.

  • Ask about discounts: These vary by company, but often frequently moving military qualify, as do senior citizens, return customers, students, first responders, or those shipping more than one car. Shippers don't always advertise these discounts, so it pays to ask.

  • Opt for open shipping: If your car isn’t a classic or your absolute pride and joy, open rather than closed shipping ensures lower pricing.

  • Look at guaranteed shipping prices: In the shipping industry, quotes generally aren’t guaranteed. Fuel crises, inclement weather, and road closures are just some problems that increase the final price. While guaranteed prices often cost more, they can be more economical when fuel hikes are common, or a harsh winter is on the way.

  • Consider your payment method: Some companies charge a 1.5% to 3% surcharge on credit card payments. While it won’t make a tremendous difference to the price, it’s worth taking into account.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car Yourself?

Sure, you can ship a car cross-country yourself, but it involves a lot of time and effort—and it may cost as much as hiring a professional haulage company, anyway.

If you’re buckling down for a cross-country move and planning to haul your car along the way, you'll need to rent the right kind of trailer or truck to store and carry the vehicle. Then you have to factor in the price of gas, food, and hotel rooms.

Something to consider before hitting the road: You may not be comfortable driving hundreds of miles through unfamiliar territory with a trailer. So with minimal, if any, cost savings, transporting a car yourself may not be worth the stress.

FAQs

What's the cheapest way to ship a car?

Within the continental U.S., the cheapest way to ship a car is by truck. Depending on the distance and the size and weight of your vehicle, you could get transport as low as $0.40 per mile.

How much does it cost to ship a car to Alaska?

The typical cost to ship a car to Alaska is roughly $1,000. You may pay less if you live in Seattle over, say, Miami, and if you're shipping the vehicle to an easily accessible urban area. But if you're sending the car to a cabin in the remote Alaskan mountains, you may pay more.

How much is it to ship a car overseas?

How much it costs to ship a car overseas depends on where and how you're sending it. If, for example, you're sending a mid-sized vehicle from the U.S. to the U.K. by freighter ship, it'll cost you between $650 and $1,300. If you want to send that same car by plane, the price can run as high as $20,000.

Is shipping a car worth it?

There’s no escaping the fact that the upfront costs are more when you ship your car rather than driving it yourself, especially on shorter moves. However, you might find the advantages of shipping your car well worth the extra outlay. It saves time and avoids vehicle wear and tear. Plus, long-distance driving, for some people, can be mind-numbingly monotonous.

Is it cheaper to drive or ship a car across the country?

It almost always costs more to ship a car across the country than drive it yourself. However, there isn’t such a big price difference when it’s a trip covering thousands of miles. A coast-to-coast move could take you a week or more to drive yourself. You’ll have to factor in the cost of fuel, lodging, food, tolls, taking time off work, and other incidental expenses.

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