When you’re hunting for a reliable auto transport company to move your vehicle, chances are you’re going to end up with a lot more search results than you expected. There are tons of auto shippers out there and so the challenge isn’t finding one, but rather figuring out which one will get your car where it needs to go when it needs to get there, at a price you can live with.
You might assume that all shippers are pretty much the same, but the truth is that reliable auto transport companies are rare gems these days. Budget shippers abound, but they aren’t known for their reliability (or customer service). Freelance drivers will gladly move your vehicle across the country but frequently won’t have the kind of insurance or experience that will give you peace of mind on your vehicle’s journey. And as good as it feels to book with a local mom and pop shop, they will almost never be your best bet for a long distance move.
Those are the challenges you’re up against when you’re searching for a reliable auto transport company. Overcoming them takes work, but will be worth it in the long run because your car or truck is probably one of your most valuable assets. Choosing a shipper that will get your vehicle to its destination safely is important. Below, we’ve outlined the steps you need to take to find a reliable auto transport company so you can feel confident about the one you ultimately choose.
- 1 They don’t try to rush you
- 2 They show up in your research
- 3 They come highly recommended
- 4 They have a good, easy to navigate website
- 5 They have up to date registration
- 6 They’ll give you a free, no obligation quote
- 7 They give you time to compare quotes
- 8 They give you a quote that’s not too high or too low
- 9 They have clear pricing
- 10 They don’t hide costs or charge extra fees
- 11 They have verifiable insurance
- 12 They’re proud of their reviews
- 13 They’re responsive
- 14 They let you talk to a person
- 15 They are friendly and helpful
- 16 They’re willing and able to answer questions
- 17 They’re not offering the very lowest low price
- 18 They accept only check and credit card payments
- 19 They offer multiple shipping options
- 20 They don’t push the upsell
- 21 They let you look over the terms before you sign
- 22 They have a clear policy when it comes to delays
They don’t try to rush you
You can’t rush finding reliable auto transport because there are so many shippers out there… plus you’re going to pay a lot more if you wait until the last possible minute to book. Plan ahead, and give yourself plenty of time to find a company to move your car or truck. At a minimum, start looking for a shipper three weeks before your ideal ship date, and keep in mind that the entire process (research, booking, shipping, and pickup) can take a month or more. When you talk to companies, they should never try to push you to book immediately.
They show up in your research
Doing your research doesn’t mean searching for auto transport companies and then choosing the first one that you see in the search results, but any shipper that is worth booking with will have a strong web presence that includes at least a website and plenty of online reviews.
They come highly recommended
Maybe no one in your network of family and friends has ever shipped a car, but one of those folks probably knows someone who has. Ask them to ask their family and friends for recommendations, and definitely look into their suggestions because people typically only recommend companies they’re really happy with.
Can a reliable auto transport company have a less than stellar website? Sure, but a company that puts effort into building a customer-friendly website probably invests similar time and energy into their customer service. Big red flags to watch out for are typos, obvious misinformation, and forms that require you to book now (versus getting a quote).
They have up to date registration
Most people don’t know that you can check on a reliable auto transport company’s registration through the Department of Transport’s Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA). A legitimate shipper will always have a six-digit MC (Motor Carrier) Docket number and a seven-digit USDOT number. Many companies will post the numbers on their websites, but you can also ask a representative for these numbers. You can check the registration of any transporter by doing a search for their MC Docket number here. Keep in mind that shippers without an up to date registration cannot legally operate in the US.
They’ll give you a free, no obligation quote
After you’ve made a list of transport companies that seem trustworthy, it’s time to get quotes. Reliable auto transport companies will always be happy to give you a free quote for the cost to ship your car. It’s important to get quotes from multiple shippers because prices can vary widely between companies. The best auto transport companies will give you a quote based on lots of factors, including the vehicle’s make and model, its condition, the distance it will travel, pick up and drop off locations, and the type of transport. Be wary of any company that gives you a quote without requesting lots of information about your shipping needs because you may not ultimately get that quoted price.
They give you time to compare quotes
Most people who need to ship a vehicle will get quotes from multiple companies, so watch out for shippers that pressure you to make a decision immediately. A super hard sell is usually a bad sign.
They give you a quote that’s not too high or too low
A reliable auto transport company will give you a competitive quote that reflects your shipping needs, your vehicle, and market. When you receive quotes that seem too good to be true, they probably are. A good rule of thumb is that an ultra-low price will mean an ultra long wait for your ship date.
They have clear pricing
What are you paying for, exactly? Your shipper should be upfront with you about how pricing is determined and whether the price is firm. If the price seems high, can you adjust certain options (e.g., drop off and pickup locations or type of transport) to change the quote?
They don’t hide costs or charge extra fees
Your quote should be your quote, end of story. The least expensive companies often quote extremely low prices, only to charge customers much more when it’s time to ship. Make sure your quote reflects your vehicle, the distance it will travel, and the type of transport so there are no surprises later on.
They have verifiable insurance
Most vehicles get to their destinations on time and undamaged, but preparing for the unexpected is what reliable auto transport companies do. Ask shippers about the extent of their liability in the event that your vehicle is damaged. Negligence will almost always be covered, but natural calamities may not be. You should feel confident that your car or truck will be covered if the worst should happen.
They’re proud of their reviews
Let’s say you find a shipper that looks promising, but you can’t find a single review (positive or negative). That should be a red flag. Auto transporters with a reputation for not only getting the job done but also getting the job done well will have lots of reviews online and may even repost them on the company website. Look for companies that have a lot of reviews (even if a handful are negative) so you can get a more accurate idea of what past customers have experienced.
Reliable auto transport companies will publish their phone number online and actually pick up when you call. If no one is available to take your call, they’ll get back to you quickly. You shouldn’t have to chase anyone down to give them your business. And, even more, reliable companies will offer a LiveChat for online customer support.
They let you talk to a person
You can do everything from get quotes to book transport online, but there’s a good reason to reach out to shippers to talk to a human being. If it’s impossible to get a real, live person on the phone to get more information, assume it will be just as difficult to reach someone if you have questions or concerns when your vehicle is en route to its destination.
They are friendly and helpful
Customer service should matter a lot when you’re putting your vehicle into the hands of a company. When you first reach out, your representative’s demeanor and overall helpfulness will reflect whether that particular firm thinks customer service is important or an annoyance.
They’re willing and able to answer questions
If the representative you talk to sounds like they’re reading from a script, proceed with caution. They should be able to answer basic questions easily, and if they don’t know the answer to a particular question, they should be able to find out the answer quickly. If you get the sense that the person on the other end of the line is avoiding giving you an answer or if they outright refuse to give you certain information, take your business elsewhere.
They’re not offering the very lowest low price
There’s nothing wrong with shopping for deals, but some shippers lure in customers with extremely low bids knowing they won’t be able to get their vehicles onto the truck in the desired shipping window. They get the down payments and the customers get to wait… and wait. In some cases, these deposits are non-refundable so if no spots open up on trucks, the customers forfeit their deposits.
They accept only check and credit card payments
Most reliable auto transport companies will not ask you to submit your payment through a wire transfer. Shippers that ask you for a wire transfer may take your money and disappear.
They offer multiple shipping options
You may be looking for basic open-carrier shipping for your vehicle, but there is a good reason to choose a transport company that offers white glove service and enclosed transport in addition to basic service. You can be reasonably sure that a transporter that has a lot of experience handling valuable vintage cars, luxury vehicles, and race cars will treat your vehicle great care.
They don’t push the upsell
Most operable cars and trucks can be shipped across country in open carriers with no problems, so shippers shouldn’t harangue you into upgrading to more expensive closed transport or a higher tier of service for your everyday vehicle. You are the best judge of what kind of service you need.
They let you look over the terms before you sign
Once you’ve found a reliable auto transport company, it’s time to book. You may be used to signing on the dotted line without reading contracts, but don’t do that when you’re handing over something as important your vehicle. Resist the urge to skim, because you could miss details that change your mind about the company.
They have a clear policy when it comes to delays
Auto transporters know that they have to expect the unexpected, and the honest ones will have clear policies regarding delayed deliveries. Every company will handle delays differently – some offer some money back while others don’t – and you should be fully aware of what will happen if your vehicle doesn’t make it to its destination on time.
Of course, all the checklists in the world can’t protect you from less than honest shippers who do everything right except when they’re actually shipping cars and trucks. That’s where your intuition comes in. If you get a gnarly feeling when you’re looking at a company’s website, talking to a representative, or reviewing your quote, respect that feeling. You’re better off continuing your search than booking with a company you don’t really trust. Sure, the price may be right, and they might do a great job in the end, but you’ll spend the entirety of your vehicle’s journey stressing out and that’s not worth it.
There are a lot of great companies operating in the shipping industry and with this checklist, you’re sure to find the right one for your needs. This also includes military car shipping and international auto transport.