Can I Ship a Classic Car That’s Not Working?

5 min to read
Shipping a car that's not working

You found the perfect classic car. Or maybe you’ve finally sold the perfect classic car. The next step is getting it where it needs to go, whether that’s into your garage or into someone else’s. The only problem? That perfect vehicle doesn’t run. The good news is that classic car shipping is pretty simple regardless of whether the car being shipped actually runs. That said, shipping a classic car that won’t turn on or that can’t be driven will require slightly more research and slightly more prep on your part.

That’s because when some auto transportation companies advertise their classic car shipping experience, they’re referring exclusively to work they’ve done with vehicles that run. When you want to ship a non-working classic car, it’s important to look for a company that has the know-how and the equipment necessary to handle it. Ask company reps outright if they’re willing to ship a vehicle that isn’t in running condition and how they handle those vehicles.

Below, we’ve compiled a classic car shipping primer just for owners of vehicles that don’t currently run. Make sure that the information your auto transport company shares about their protocols for non-working cars gels with what we’ve outlined below before you book.

Classic car shipping basics

The safest way to ship a classic car is on an enclosed trailer that will protect your valuable vehicle from weather, road debris, and the possibility of damage on its journey. This is the more expensive choice, but given the value (financial and sentimental) of a lot of classic vehicles, many owners choose this higher-end shipping method. However, whether you choose classic car transport on an open or an enclosed carrier ultimately depends on your needs. Classic car shipping on an open trailer can be a perfectly fine choice if your vehicle isn’t in mint condition.

How do auto transport companies define non-working?

There are a lot of reasons a vehicle might be considered non-running or inoperable by an auto transport company. Some classic cars simply won’t start right now while others can’t roll due to structural issues. Maybe your classic car doesn’t even have an engine or all four wheels. In some cases, a vehicle starts and can roll but it can’t be operated safely because the brakes or the steering mechanism don’t work. Auto transport companies will typically treat these cars as non-working because they aren’t going to risk driving them onto the truck.

The reason this distinction is so important is that almost all vehicles shipped across the country are driven onto and off of carriers. That means that a working car without functional brakes, a vehicle with a dead battery that can’t be jumped, and even a vehicle with four flat tires will be treated as a non-working vehicle. If your car can’t roll, brake, or steer, a forklift may be used. A car without a working key may limit access to the vehicle and require you to hire a forklift or local tow truck.

Special equipment means a bigger bill

As you might expect, classic car shipping that involves an inoperative vehicle will be more expensive, but the increased cost to ship a non-working car makes sense when you consider the extra effort and equipment that is required to get it on and off the trailer. First, the drivers who deal with non-working vehicles receive specialized training so they can safely handle the different procedures and equipment inoperable cars require.

To load an inoperable vehicle onto a trailer requires a winch, and companies that actually specialize in classic car shipping will almost always have one available. Be aware, however, that these winches don’t come standard on most auto transport trucks and can be challenging to operate. The trucks with wedge trailers that do have winches are also less common than the typical carrier. You’re going to pay a premium any time a specialized loading and unloading procedure is required to move a vehicle.

To fix or not to fix

Given the increased costs associated with shipping a non-running vehicle, it can sometimes make sense to have your car fixed before shipping it. Depending on why your classic car doesn’t run, the cost of repairs may be lower than the cost of shipping an inoperable vehicle. Replacing a key, installing a new battery, and even buying and installing a full set of new tires will be less expensive than the cost of having your classic car winched onto and off of a trailer. You may also have more options when it comes to your ship date if your vehicle can be driven onto the carrier.

Ready to transport your car with Montway?

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

How does not having a key affect classic car shipping?

A working classic car without a key will be treated exactly like any other inoperative vehicle.  If access is limited, you may need a tow truck or a forklift for assistance. This additional help will be hired at the customer’s expense, increasing your cost.

The impact of body damage

Most of the time, body damage won’t have any effect at all on how your classic car is shipped, but if the body damage is so severe that the wheels can’t roll, your vehicle will generally have to be transported on a roll-back tow truck or on a truck outfitted with a winch and a wedge trailer.

The cost of shipping a non-working classic car

Your vehicle’s overall condition will have an effect on the quote for shipping your car. Because shipping an inoperative vehicle requires more time, additional or specialized labor, and specialized equipment, transporting a non-working vehicle simply costs more. Your quoted price will also depend on other factors, however, like the make and model of your vehicle, the distance it will travel, the pickup and delivery locations, the type of carrier, and the seasonal fluctuations of the auto transport industry.

It’s usually not a good idea to use the cheapest auto transport company because you get what you pay for. This is especially true when you’re transporting a valuable classic car. Choose a discount hauler and you may be waiting a long time for your ship date… or worse! Never misrepresent your car’s condition in the hope that you’ll get a lower quote. If your trucker shows up and finds a very different vehicle than they expected, you may face major shipping delays and extra fees, too.

How to find reliable classic car shipping

You shouldn’t trust just any company to ship your classic car, regardless of its condition. These special vehicles often require special care and handling even when they’re in mint condition. When they’re in less than stellar shape, they should be treated with even greater care to prevent further damage. You should look for an auto transport company that has lots of experience moving not just classic cars, but also classic cars that are inoperable due to electrical or mechanical issues.

These are the qualities you should be looking for in the company that transports your car:

Equipment: Make sure that the auto transport company has trucks equipped with winches and trailers that can accommodate your classic car. Are the truckers trained to deal with loading, unloading, and transferring non-running vehicles?

Experience: Look into whether the company you’re thinking of hiring has a track record of successfully transporting both working and non-working vehicles safely and on time.

Reliability: Read plenty of reviews and get recommendations. Make sure that at least some positive reviews are from customers who were having classic cars shipped.

Customer service: You should be able to ship your classic car without a lot of hassle or stress. Look for a company that will give you the help and support you need throughout the shipping process. Can you check on your vehicle en route? Even better!

Good value: Don’t overpay for classic car shipping, but don’t choose the cheapest auto transport company either. Saving a lot now may mean paying a lot later!

As you can see, shipping your non-working classic car will be slightly more complicated and slightly more expensive than shipping an operable vehicle. Don’t worry, though. Your auto transport company will handle most of the details, so all you’ll need to do is clean your vehicle out, hand it off, and pick it up once it reaches its destination.

Ready to get a free classic car shipping quote from Montway?

Ready to transport your car with Montway?

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