Shipping Your Car Across State Lines: How to Avoid the DMV Headache

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There are a number of reasons you might need to transport your car to another state. Students ship their cars to and from campus. Classic car enthusiasts may find an amazing deal across the country. And people selling vehicles often want to tap into a broader audience of buyers. But one of the most common reasons people will transport a car to another state is because they are relocating.

Transporting your car as part of a move is a good idea because it’s safer and frequently less expensive than driving it across the country. Plus, you can focus on getting settled into your new neighborhood while your car is trucked safely from state to state instead of dealing with the stress of a road trip on top of a move. But getting your car from Point A to Point B is only the first step. When you ship your car to another state because you’re relocating, you will need to take steps to make sure your vehicle is registered and insured in your new hometown.

In this post, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you when you transport your car to another state during a move. Whether you haven’t even considered shipping your car or you’re just about to move, read on to learn more about choosing a reputable car transport company, what should you be prepared for when you get to your new state, what you need to know about registering and insuring your car, and what documents you’ll need along the way.

Five reasons to transport a car to another state instead of driving it

There are a lot of good reasons to ship your car to another state instead of driving it during your move. As tempted as you might be to load it up with your stuff and drive it to your new home, don’t start planning your route just yet. Here’s why you should consider moving your vehicle with a reputable auto transport company:

You can move multiple cars. If yours is a two-car family and one of the household’s adults will be driving the moving truck, you’ll probably be shipping at least one vehicle anyway. The alternative? Making multiple trips. Shipping both of your cars means you and your partner can make the journey together or, if there are very young kids in the family, one parent can fly with the little ones (which is usually preferable to road tripping).

Transporting your car to another state can be cheaper. Many people make the mistake of assuming that driving a car across the country will be less expensive than shipping it, but the reality looks very different when you factor in gas, hotels, food and other expenses associated with cross-country road trips (plus the future cost of wear and tear).

And if you’re hiring someone to drive your car so you can man the helm of a moving truck, you’re paying for their services and the cost of their trip. There’s also the fact that they probably won’t have the kind of insurance that a carrier will have, so if something happens en route you may end up paying a lot more.

Shipping a car is less stressful. Moving to another state is stressful enough as it is without having to plan a road trip on top of dealing with the logistics of relocating. Add kids into the mix and driving your car to your new home can be a real nightmare.  

Your car is safer on a carrier. The interstate highways that crisscross the United States are some of the most dangerous roads in the nation. But the truckers who drive auto carriers from coast to coast have a lot of training and a lot of experience driving defensively to avoid accidents. Your car will also avoid a lot of wear and tear on a carrier.

The documents you’ll need to ship your car to another state

Most auto moving companies will require you to provide certain documents in order to transport your car to another state. This may vary depending on the auto transport company; if you’re shipping your car with us, check out our help center for all the information you need!

Some things to keep in mind include:

Your car’s registration and title: Although you’ll definitely need this when you visit the DMV, you will not need to present these when shipping. All you need are the keys and the vehicle!

Your driver’s license: You’ll want to make an appointment to get a driver’s license in your new state, but you do not need to present your driver’s license when shipping.

Proof of insurance: It is recommended that your vehicle is insured when shipping, but it’s not required. Your vehicle will be insured by the Truckers cargo and liability policies as well as Montway’s “Contingent Cargo Insurance”.

Calculating how much car shipping is from one state to another

Every auto transport company will calculate how much it costs to transport a car to another state a little differently, but you’ll find that the estimates you receive probably won’t differ that much. The cost of shipping a car to another state will depend on a few different factors:

  • The make and model of your vehicle
  • The distance your car will travel
  • The cost of fuel at the time of transport
  • Whether you’ve chosen open or enclosed transport
  • Whether your car is operational
  • The pickup and drop off locations
  • The season and the weather conditions at the time of transport
  • The value of your vehicle

The easiest way to get a ballpark price when you want to transport a car to another state is to use a vehicle shipping calculator. These free online tools instantly generate shipping rates using details you submit about your vehicle and where it needs to go so you have a general idea of how much shipping your car will cost.

Once you’ve chosen a reputable carrier, it’s time to prepare your car for shipping. There are a number of things you’ll need to do to get your vehicle ready for its pickup date, from cleaning it up to cleaning it out to giving it a bumper to bumper inspection and making sure the gas tank is only about a quarter of the way full. Make sure you build time for these tasks into your moving timeline.

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What you’ll need to do once your car arrives

Dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is never a walk in the park, but it’s actually easier to get your vehicle’s paperwork in order in your new state after shipping because the documents you had to show your carrier are the same ones you’ll use to transfer your registration and insurance.

It’s worth updating all of your car’s documentation ASAP after shipping it across state lines because failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in penalties. For instance, in New York you have 30 days to transfer your out-of-state license (in person at the DMV) after moving to the state.

You also need to update your auto insurance so that it meets New York’s minimum requirements and get an emissions inspection before you can apply for an updated title (the legal document that shows who owns a vehicle) and register your vehicle. To complete your registration, you’ll need to show proof of ownership plus any other documentation (e.g. a lien release) required by the state.  

To change your title and registration: In most states, you’ll pay a fee and show proof of ownership, proof of insurance, proof of inspection, a government-issued ID, and a utility bill that is your proof of address. You can find the requirements for out of state title transfers for each state here and more information about registering your vehicle in your new state here.

Note: If your car has a lien, your title transfer may be slightly more complicated. But in states that don’t issue titles, you won’t have to do a title transfer after shipping your car.

Avoiding the DMV headache

Nowadays you can make some of these changes online, though what you can do virtually and what must be done in person will differ from state to state. The DMV website can generate a custom moving checklist for you based on the zip code you’re moving from, the zip code you’re moving to, and the date of your move. The checklist generated for you will include personal to-dos, action items related to your vehicle, information about relocation services in each state, and to-dos related to your new home – along with links to the requirements for each of the action items.

Of course, sometimes a visit to the DMV is unavoidable. In that case, the easiest way to make your visit less of a hassle is to be sure you have everything you need to update your vehicle’s title and registration before you go.

The good news is that most of the information you needed when you were shipping your car will be useful when you’re at the DMV. The bad news is that you will almost certainly need to bring additional documentation to your DMV appointment, so triple check your new home state’s requirements.

And if you have a question about whether or not you need a specific piece of documentation, bring it anyway! This is absolutely a time when a better safe than sorry approach can save you a lot of headaches.

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