Auto Transport Scams and Auto Transport Companies to Avoid

Posted on
6 min to read

Car shipping scams are uncommon in the transportation industry, but they do happen. No matter how professional a car shipping website may seem, car shipping scams exist, and their rates are often too good to be true. When you transport your car across the country, we believe it should be a worry-free process. In this article, we discuss how you can avoid any scams and how to spot untrustworthy auto transport companies. 

Scammers often target individuals with very convenient services and low prices. They’ll usually ask customers to make a deposit via a digital wallet service like CashApp, Paypal or Venmo. After the money is transferred, the scammer will give the customer a pickup date but never follow through with their end of the deal. Oftentimes the scammer will tell the customer the driver is being delayed, or they will simply cut contact with the customer altogether. 

While there are many trustworthy auto transport companies in business, the market is susceptible to scammers making easy money on unsuspecting customers. They have professional-looking websites and promise great service for a very low cost. Inexpensive quotes end up costing customers a fortune once all the hidden fees are uncovered.

Before you go down the wrong path, see how Montway Auto Transport can ship your car the way you deserve! Learn more about our car shipping services.

Car shipping scams do occur and with so many companies in the industry, it may be difficult to identify the ones you can trust. Follow these simple steps to make sure you’re working with a trustworthy company.

5 ways to spot car shipping scams and find legit auto transport companies

Gather information on the car transport company

Get all the contact information on your potential car mover, including the full company name including any DBAs (Doing Business As), addresses and phone numbers (local and toll-free). Ask them for Department of Transportation (DOT) and Motor Carrier (MC) license numbers. Once you have all this information, get online and investigate further. Make sure to check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA) on complaints filed for the auto transport company you are considering.

Do not get discouraged if you see a history of complaints next to the company’s name. Even a reputable company will have some negative comments. Be sure to compare the number of complaints to the total customers served to see if the percentage is high—even 100 complaints in a year for a company that shipped 100,000 cars represents less than 1%. Also check if the complaints were satisfactorily resolved, as that demonstrates a company’s commitment to customer service. 

Read online customer reviews

Reading online reviews is standard practice when buying a product or a service today. Seeing other customers’ recommendations will help you understand the type of service you will receive. Thus, reading reviews plays an important part when it comes to identifying a reliable car transport company.

Pay attention to your car moving quote and terms and conditions

The quote for transporting your car across the country should include all the details about moving your car. Your customer service rep should be able to walk you through the charges as well as the terms and conditions and answer any questions you may have in regards to moving your car.

Ask when payment is required (it shouldn’t be before a trucker is assigned)

Companies that are just out for your money will try to get it as quickly as possible and may ask for payment upfront, sometimes even before a trucker is assigned. That’s a red flag. A reputable car shipping company will only ask for payment after your vehicle has been accepted for transport by a qualified trucker. It’s common for a deposit to be paid when your vehicle has been assigned to a trucker, with the remaining balance due when your vehicle is delivered to its destination.

Talk to the auto moving company

Regardless of the deal you were offered by the car shipping company, you should trust your instincts. So pick up that phone and talk to a rep directly. If the company is not answering the phone or calling you back, scratch that one off your list and move on to a more responsive company. Highly reputable car shipping companies will be more than happy to answer your call as well as any questions you may have.

Auto transport companies to avoid

While researching car shipping services, you’ll likely gather a list of potential companies to consider. Below are some red flags to watch out for when selecting an auto transport company. If the company you’re researching fits into any of these categories, you’re probably better off taking your business somewhere else. 

Unregistered auto transport companies

The FMCSA regulates the operation of commercial motor vehicles, including auto transport companies. There are two types of auto transport companies that the FMCSA oversees: carriers and brokers.

Carriers are the companies directly responsible for picking up, transporting and delivering vehicles. They own the trucks and employ truck drivers who understand the auto transport process.

To be registered with the FMCSA, a carrier must meet a number of requirements including:

  • Obtaining a Motor Carrier number
  • Carrying appropriate insurance coverage
  • Complying with safety regulations 
  • Meeting driver qualification requirements
  • Complying with hours of service regulations

Brokers do not own car shipping equipment or employ truck drivers. Instead, they facilitate business between customers and carriers, helping customers more easily find the best solution for their auto transport needs. To verify an auto transport broker, the FMCSA will check: 

  • Operating authority
  • Insurance coverage
  • Processing agreements
  • Payment practices
  • Licensing and financial responsibility
  • Consumer protection
  • Complaint handling

These checks help protect both customers and carriers and ensure fair business practices. 

How to verify a carrier or broker with the FMCSA

You can check the registration status of a company or carrier on the FMCSA website. To look up a company, visit the FMCSA Company Snapshot database and enter the company’s DOT number. A reputable carrier or broker will have its DOT number and/or MC number readily available online or by request. If a company refuses to share its registration number with you, or you find that they are not registered with the FMCSA, look elsewhere for car shipping services. 

The database will locate the company and provide an overview of the business, including contact information, operating status, operation classification and the type of cargo it is qualified to carry. Some carriers will be registered with the FMCSA, but only for commodities like metals, building materials, produce, chemicals, etc. If you’re transporting your vehicle, you’ll want a carrier that is qualified and registered to move motor vehicles. 

Imposter auto transporters

Scammers looking to trick unsuspecting customers will sometimes imitate successful and established companies. They’ll create websites or social media profiles using another business’s name and image to lure customers in before taking advantage of them. 

Be sure to verify a company’s contact information and identity before doing business with them. You can verify a company’s legitimacy by looking up its FMCSA or DOT numbers. 

Also, be sure that the company is easy to contact and has an available phone number with a responsive custom service team. If a company is hard to reach or does not readily offer a phone number and contact information, steer clear. Look for the auto transport company on the Better Business Bureau and confirm that its website, phone number and address match what the BBB has listed. You can find the same verified information with the FMCSA Company Snapshot. 

Frequently asked questions: 

How do you trust a car transport company?

See if previous customers trusted the auto transport company by checking their rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and reading online customer reviews. A high rating and plenty of positive reviews will tell you that the company is dedicated to customer service and will most likely treat you well. 

How do I know if a car shipping company is legit?

If a company you’re considering using doesn’t have proper licensing, don’t use them. All operable car movers must have a Motor Carrier (MC) number, as well as a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT/DOT) number. The USDOT number is a unique classifier that the U.S. Department of Transportation uses to conduct audits and track accidents and safety information. Read how to select the best car shipping company

Is car shipping safe? 

When working with a licensed and bonded company with a solid reputation, shipping your vehicle is very safe. Shipping your vehicle can even be safer than driving it to your destination yourself as you may save time and money and have less wear and tear on your car. 

What do I do if I’m the victim of an auto transport scam? 

You can report an auto transport scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC may not be able to resolve your issue, but your report is shared with law enforcers and used to investigate cases of fraud, scams and bad business practices. You may help someone else avoid using a fraudulent auto transport company in the future.

About Montway Auto Transport

With over 15 years of experience and 90,000+ customer reviews, Montway Auto Transport has become a leading car shipping broker in the U.S. We leverage our network of over 15,000 carriers to provide the best rates possible. Use our instant quote calculator or speak to a helpful shipping advisor at 888-666-8929 to learn more about our service and reputation.

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