How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car? (2024 Guide) (2024)

Featured Car Shipping Companies

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car?

It will generally take between a few days and two weeks for your car to arrive at its pickup point after it heads out for transport. This window is extremely wide because auto transport times vary considerably based on the individual shipment.

If your car is heading just a few hundred miles away, it could take as little as a day to receive it. For long-distance car transports like from California to an East Coast location like New York or Florida, expect the shipment to take about a week. Beyond that, auto carriers could take a week or more to get your vehicle to spots like Hawaii, Alaska or international locations.

What Affects the Car Shipping Time Frame?

As mentioned, it’s tough to calculate an average shipment time frame without the details specific to your potential transport. However, there are a few factors that consistently contribute to the vast difference in how long it takes to ship a car.

Car Shipping Route

The distance and popularity of your required shipping route play a major role in how long it could take to ship a car. Long distances between your dropoff spot and pickup location will extend the move’s timeline, but so will towns far away from metropolitan areas.

When you choose door-to-door transport, it may increase both the shipment’s cost and timeline. The roads to your house may not be as suitable for a large hauler as compared to highways around a major city. Requiring truckers to carry vehicles to rural areas may cause similar issues or could lead to your car being one of the last ones delivered.

Type of Vehicle

If you’re shipping a vehicle like a motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or recreational vehicle (RV), you’ll have to find a driver who’s willing to move it. This may take longer as these specialized drivers aren’t as common as typical auto transport carriers.

If you need luxury or classic car transport services and want to use enclosed shipping, availability will also be more limited. Open transport is the most popular vehicle transport service, so requesting enclosed car shipping may add time and costs to the process.

Time of Year

How long it takes to ship a car also depends on when you’re moving the vehicle. After all, truckers may not be able to drive at the normal speed limit in snowy or stormy conditions.

Owners hoping to move vehicles during popular periods of the year may also find themselves stuck in a backlog. The summer months and January are popular car shipping months, so you may have to wait a bit longer during these times, as haulers can struggle to keep up with high demand.

How To Ship Your Car Faster

You can’t speed up or slow down the shipping process once your car has been hauled away. Instead, here are some tips you can use before the auto transport begins that could increase the likelihood of a speedy shipment.

Plan Ahead of Time

When shipping your vehicle, book a reservation at least a few weeks in advance to give car shippers plenty of time to find the right carrier. Since most auto transport providers are brokers who connect you with truckers, they’ll be able to find the most efficient options. Waiting until the last minute may lead to your car getting placed on whichever hauler is willing to move it, regardless of the speed.

Choose Open Transport

Open auto transport services are far more popular than enclosed shipping. Open car haulers are much more prevalent in the shipping industry than enclosed options, and could lower the time it takes to match you with a carrier.

While open transport has a lower price, it leaves your vehicle more vulnerable to damages. That’s why we’d recommend that drivers with valuable or rare models stick with the slower time frames of enclosed car shipping.

Pick Terminal-To-Terminal Shipping

Terminal-to-terminal shipping offers carriers an easier way to transport your vehicle. Delivering cars to a central location such as a city terminal is far safer and more efficient than needing to head down back roads or through subdivisions.

Note that some providers, such as Montway Auto Transport, only offer door-to-door shipping. Still, it’s worth considering terminal-to-terminal options if they’re available to you.

Consider Expedited Shipping

Expedited shipping services are extremely expensive, but they’re the best way to decrease how long it takes to ship a car. Because it’ll spike your price, it’s best to consider expedited delivery as a last resort if you need the vehicle delivered almost immediately.

How Does Car Shipping Work?

While how long it takes to ship a car is highly variable, there’s a pretty standard process for how to ship a vehicle. Some providers do a few things differently, but these are the general steps to expect during the car shipping process:

#1. Choose a Car Shipping Provider

When choosing an auto transport company, check that it’s fully licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and offers plenty of cargo insurance coverage. While this won’t be a problem with the industry’s top providers, you’ll want to perform some research when using a marketplace like uShip.

The best way to find reasonable rates and a quick time frame is by comparing car shipping quotes online from various companies. While one provider may have the best rates on a certain shipment, its prices may be higher-than-average on a different route.

Select Transportation Methods

Each company offers a variety of car shipping services that can enhance your experience. Below are a few options for auto transport that you’ll be able to choose from:

  • Open transport: Your vehicle will be shipped on an open trailer rather than in a sealed container. Open shipping is much cheaper than enclosed transport but leaves your car more vulnerable to damages from bad weather and road debris.
  • Enclosed transport: Your car gets shipped inside an enclosed trailer to better protect it against damages. This is pricier and usually gets used for classic or luxury vehicles.
  • Door-to-door shipping: In this case, an auto carrier moves the vehicle from your old house directly to the new place of residence or delivery location. It’s convenient but pricier and potentially slower than terminal-to-terminal transport.
  • Terminal-to-terminal shipping: Vehicles get picked up from a central terminal and are delivered to another terminal. This typically costs less and is quicker than door-to-door transport as it creates a more accessible route for the carrier.
  • Expedited shipping: Car owners can select this option if they need a rush delivery of their vehicle to a new location. Since it’s a last-minute service, costs are often steep.

Get Car Shipping Quotes Online

Getting instant quotes online is nearly always a free and simple process. Expect to be asked for the following pieces of information:

  • Pickup and dropoff locations
  • Make, model, age and operability of the vehicle
  • Your preferred shipping dates
  • Your name, email address and phone number

Once you fill out this information, the provider will present you with a free quote. Note that final prices may end up being somewhat higher due to service fees and additional charges that could be incurred mid-shipment.

#2. Book Your Shipment

Once you’ve selected a vehicle shipping service, transport date, pickup window and destination, it’s time to book the shipment. Most car shipping companies make you pay a portion of the balance upfront and the rest after the vehicle has been delivered, while a few require the full amount before the auto transport begins.

While you may get a time estimate, know that poor weather conditions, traffic delays and bad road conditions could change the time frame. Though it’s easier to estimate how long it takes to ship a car once the company has your transport details, outside factors can still play a role.

#3. Prepare the Vehicle

Before the pickup day, make sure to prepare your car for shipment. Remove all personal items from inside the vehicle to reduce its weight and protect your valuables from potential break-ins. Also, leave only a quarter tank of gas in the vehicle.

#4. Drop Off Your Car

On the pickup date, meet your designated auto carrier at the agreed-upon location. Before they take your car away, the truck driver will require you to inspect the vehicle for pre-existing damages and take pictures of any that you find. You’ll also need to sign a bill of lading, which serves as a basic service agreement between you and the car carrier.

Check for Updates

While your car is being transported, occasionally check on the carrier’s location to stay informed about delays that could affect the delivery date. Some companies provide GPS tracking while others ask you to call their 24/7 customer service line instead. Either way, this should provide peace of mind and a solid estimate of how long it will still take to ship the car.

#5. Pick Up the Car

When your vehicle reaches its final destination, meet the carrier at the specified dropoff location. Check your car for damages that may have occurred during the shipping process and re-sign the bill of lading if there’s nothing wrong. You’ll need to pay the remaining balance at this point if you only paid some of the car shipping cost beforehand.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car?: The Bottom Line

Every car shipment takes a different amount of time due to the many factors that impact how long it takes to ship a car. To avoid a slow delivery, plan ahead and compare several options to pick the carrier that best suits your time and budget needs.

Recommended Car Shipping Companies

Montway Auto Transport and Sherpa Auto Transport are two companies that offer good value and timely deliveries. While we rate both of them highly, conduct your own research and compare several auto shipping companies before making your final choice.

Montway Auto Transport: Editor’s Choice

Montway Auto Transport stands out for its wide range of services and 4.6-star rating out of 5.0 on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site. The company is one of the industry’s leading providers and offers shipments to all 50 states and to international locations. Montway Auto Transport specializes in door-to-door transport, so terminal-to-terminal shipments aren’t available.

Keep reading: Montway Auto Transport review

Sherpa Auto Transport: Locked-In Cost

Sherpa Auto Transport is another highly rated provider and has a unique spin on costs. Through its Price Lock Promise, the car transport company guarantees that customers only pay what they’re quoted at the beginning of the shipping process. Many other providers add on fees mid-shipment due to delays and other issues, so Sherpa’s Price Lock Promise is valuable.

Keep reading: Sherpa Auto Transport review

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car?: FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about how long it takes to ship a car.

There are many factors that affect how long it takes to ship a car, including the type of vehicle being shipped, the shipping route and the time of year. However, shipping a car cross-country typically takes about a week, while shorter routes can take as little as a few days.

Car shipping can take a while due to long distances, the potential for poor weather, traffic jams and high levels of demand. The best way to decrease how long it takes to ship a car is by booking a delivery weeks in advance, while the most efficient providers are still available.

Generally, shipping your vehicle a few hundred miles can take a couple of days. However, cross-country moves take about a week and transports to Hawaii, Alaska and international destinations usually require an even longer transit time.

Our Methodology

Because consumers rely on us to provide objective and accurate information, we created a comprehensive rating system to formulate our rankings of the best car shipping companies. We collected data on dozens of auto transport providers to grade the companies on a wide range of ranking factors. The end result was an overall rating for each provider, with the companies that scored the most points topping the list.

Here are the factors our ratings take into account:

  • Cost: Auto shipping companies with affordable rates, locked-in pricing and discount opportunities scored highest in this category.
  • Services: Companies that offer a variety of choices for car transport, strong insurance coverage and added benefits are more likely to meet consumer needs.
  • Customer experience: This score is based on customer satisfaction ratings and availability of extras like GPS tracking. We also considered the responsiveness, friendliness and helpfulness of each transporter’s customer service team based on our own shopper analysis.
  • Reputation: Our research team considered availability, ratings from industry experts and years in business when giving this score.

Our credentials:

  • 150+ hours researched
  • 20 companies reviewed
  • 2,000+ consumers surveyed

*Data accurate at time of publication.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car? (2024 Guide) (7)

Alexandra CarverWriter

Alex is a MarketWatch Guides team writer that covers automotive and personal finance topics. She’s worked as a content writer for over a dozen car dealerships across the U.S. and as a contributor to several major auto news websites.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car? (2024 Guide) (8)

Rashawn MitchnerManaging Editor

Rashawn Mitchner is a MarketWatch Guides team editor with over 10 years of experience covering personal finance and insurance topics.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car? (2024 Guide) (2024)
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