Auto Shipment Brokers vs. Carriers: What’s the Difference?

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When you need an auto shipment, your first stop will probably be Google. You might assume you’ll do a quick search, get quotes from a couple of auto transport companies, and then pick whichever one seems like the best fit. There’s just one problem… your results keep mentioning brokers and carriers. So, what are they? Both assert they can get your vehicle where it needs to go. At first glance, these two types of companies may seem interchangeable, but the fact is they aren’t.  

In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at the differences between brokers and carriers, why those differences matter when you’re shopping around for an auto shipment company, and why you should consider going with a third option that most people don’t even know about. 

The difference between auto transport carriers and brokers

The biggest difference between carriers and brokers is that carriers operate the trucks that will ship your vehicle and brokers coordinate shipments using a network of carriers.   

A single driver who owns a truck can be a carrier. These solo carriers will usually schedule their shipments through a broker that will verify the trucker’s licenses, cargo insurance, and USDOT credentials.   

Larger carriers may operate and coordinate the movements of a fleet of their own trucks — though they also may sometimes work with brokers. And that same carrier might work with an owner-operator if they needed extra resources during the busy season.  

Brokers typically work with a lot of different carriers — some big and some small — to serve the entire country, whereas a single carrier may only operate in one or two regions of the U.S.   

But wait! When you search for a shipper, your results will also include auto transport management companies like Montway. These are firms that manage the entire auto shipment process from end to end: coordinating car shipping, updating clients, handling any hiccups that might arise, and making sure that vehicles are delivered on time. From quote to delivery, an auto transport management company will care for your car – and for you. 

Similarities between brokers, carriers, and auto transport management companies

The obvious similarity between brokers, carriers, and auto transport management companies is that they all work directly with customers to coordinate auto shipments, but the parallels don’t stop there. The lines between these different types of shippers are frequently blurred.    

While there are companies that act only as brokers or as carriers, many fall somewhere in between. There are licensed brokers that also own a fleet of their own, making them broker-carriers. Some carriers will work with owner-operators, effectively acting as brokers some of the time even if they don’t use the word broker anywhere in their marketing. And most companies, whether they’re brokers, carriers, or auto transport management companies, will advertise a full-service experience.  

All of this overlap in terms of operations and the services provided can make choosing a company to handle your shipment that much harder.   

Choosing between your options

Just because there is a lot of overlap in the different segments of the auto transport industry, doesn’t mean you should just pick the cheapest shipper you can find and call it a day. There are pros and cons to choosing a broker over a carrier — and vice versa – plus benefits you can only get by working with an auto transport management company.   

Why you might want to work with a broker:

Brokers are flexible. They aren’t tied to the movement or the schedule of a single fleet, which means they will be able to meet your auto shipment needs no matter where you are and when you need transport. They’ll be able to track down car carriers with open spots that will be in your area, so you get a faster pickup time.  

You’re protected against the unexpected. If you book with a carrier and the truck that was going to carry your car breaks down or gets stuck somewhere far away, you’re out of luck until they can fix the issue or you’re going to pay a second company a premium to haul your vehicle on short notice. Given the same circumstances, in some cases, a broker would be able to get your car onto another truck with minimal or even no delays.   

You know your driver is qualified. Brokers are industry experts! They vet all the truckers they work with so you can be sure they’re properly licensed, insured, and accredited. You know that your vehicle is being shipped by a legitimate carrier — which can be very difficult to verify on your own.  

You get great customer service. A brokerage literally exists to provide customer service. Your broker will be your go-between, getting you a great deal, solving any issues that may arise with your shipment, and keeping you up to date when it comes to your vehicle’s status.  

You save time. Shopping around for an auto carrier is risky. You’ve found a few online, but do you know if they’re fully licensed and insured? Does that owner-operator have a clean driving record? Do they have trucks in their fleet that will do the job you need done? Are they available when you need your vehicle shipped? Do they operate where you need to go? Is the price really competitive? Going directly to carriers can mean doing a lot of legwork that a brokerage could be doing on your behalf. As a result, you get a stress-free shipping experience.  

The biggest cons of working with a broker are that they don’t have direct control over pickup or transit times (which could mean dealing with unexpected delays) and the fact that you won’t have the opportunity to vet your carrier or your driver yourself.  

Why you might choose to work with a carrier:

You may get a lower price. Going directly to a carrier can sometimes mean paying less for the same shipment because there is no middleman in the mix. While there are no guarantees that you’ll save money working with a carrier, a carrier might be the best option for you if you need to ship a vehicle on a budget. 

There are very few surprises. When you book with a carrier, it will be that carrier handling your vehicle on a route that they have determined will be the fastest and most cost-effective.   

You have one point of contact. Should issues arise with your shipment, you will be communicating directly with the carrier about your vehicle’s status instead of with a go-between. Sometimes that can make solving problems easier.  

There are some downsides to working with carriers, too. For instance, if the truck your vehicle was supposed to be on breaks down, your shipment date may be pushed back. And you may discover that a carrier is not as communicative as you’d like about the status of your vehicle once it does ship because carriers are in the business of hauling cars, not delivering customer service.  

Why you should work with an auto transport management company:

An auto transport management company handles EVERYTHING. From that first quote to delivery day, your vehicle is in good hands. So, you are! When you work with an auto transport management company, like Montway Auto Transport, you get top-shelf customer service.   

Auto transport management companies are more likely to work nationwide. This is especially important when you’re shipping a car from coast to coast. You can rest easy knowing that the same company will be handling your shipment from pickup to delivery and everywhere in between.   

And when you choose an auto transport management company, you get all the benefits of working with both a carrier and a broker. You’ll have one point of contact for your vehicle’s entire journey and get updates en route. You’ll get the best possible price because auto transport companies have access to a wider variety of routes and drivers. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your driver has been thoroughly vetted. And you’ll save time, because your auto transport management company will handle all the details of your shipment.  

Ready to transport your car with Montway?

Our car shipping advisors are available by calling (888) 666-8929 to answer all your questions.

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How to have a great auto transport experience

There are some companies that make the claim that working exclusively with a carrier or with a broker is the only way to get the highest quality auto shipment experience, but as stated above, the truth is that both carriers and brokers will ultimately get your vehicle where it needs to go. Quality cannot, therefore, be defined as the customer successfully shipping their vehicle. That will happen regardless.      

So, how do you define quality when it comes to auto transport? We’d argue that it has a lot to do with the experience you as the customer will have before, during, and after your shipment.  

When you work with an auto transport management company, they’re vetting carriers on your behalf, so you don’t have to try to figure out which ones are truly reputable. You can chat with a friendly customer service representative around the clock. There’s no question that you’ll be able to ship a car when you need to. When your vehicle is en route, you’ll be able to check on its status. And you won’t end up paying any extra fees. That sounds like a quality experience to us! 

Tips for choosing a reputable company to ship your vehicle

We understand that your car or truck is very important to you, and chances are that you don’t want to hand it over to just anyone. Here are our top tips for choosing the best auto transport management company: 

Get plenty of quotes

Many auto shipment companies have online quote calculators so you can get an instantaneous idea of how much you’ll pay to have your vehicle shipped by different companies. Since getting quotes won’t take up a lot of your time, get a bunch.  

Don’t make your choice based on cost alone

The cheapest shipper might not be the more reliable choice or the safest one. As tempted as you may be to go for the company offering you that rock bottom discount price, do your due diligence before booking and be sure you’re looking at auto transport management companies (not just brokers and carriers). What do their reviews look like? Are they fully licensed and insured?  

Read reviews

The people who can give you the most insight into how a given auto transport management company will treat your vehicle will be past customers. Don’t stop at the testimonials on a company’s website. Keep looking at sites like Yelp or on social media to find eye-opening customer reviews.   

Be sure of what you need

Auto transport management companies can only give you the right quote if you’re giving them the right information about your shipment. Before you reach out to any shippers, be sure you know your vehicle’s make and model, any modifications you’ve made to it (e.g., a lift kit or a big spoiler), where you’d prefer to ship from, and your vehicle’s destination. What condition is it in? Is there structural damage the shipper should know about? These things will all be a contributing factor in the cost to ship a car or truck. 

The most important things you can do when choosing an auto transport management company (whether you’re looking at brokers or carriers or both) are research and trusting your gut. There are bad apples in every industry, but it’s usually easy to spot them if you do a little digging. Great shippers will have plenty of glowing reviews and treat you like you and your vehicle matter. If you’re not getting that type of treatment, keep searching until you find an auto transport management company that will give it to you.  

Ready to transport your car with Montway?

Our car shipping advisors are available by calling (888) 666-8929 to answer all your questions.

Get an instant quote
Get an instant quote