Your Honest Guide to Car Shipping

Shipping your car to another part of a country or the other side of the world can feel like a daunting task. Especially if you’ve never done it before. So our team at Dalo Shipping put together 17 things you should know and do before shipping your vehicle from where it is to where you want it to be.

Domestic Car Shipping

The auto shipping industry splits its services into domestic and international shipping. Your Honest Guide covers both. We start with domestic shipping, which is the business of moving cars around the United States. To jump to international shipping, click here.

1: Advantages you’re not thinking about

First, having someone else coordinate the logistics, and the convenience of not having to drive (or tow) your vehicle across the county has definite appeal. When you let the experts handle the hassle, you can focus on the rest of your move.

Second, driving a car across the country adds thousands of miles to the odometer that could potentially remove hundreds or even thousands from its resale value. This is especially true for luxury vehicles. The investment in shipping your car could pay for itself if you plan to sell your car or trade up.

Third, eliminating a cross country journey reduces natural wear and tear. Hitching a ride on the back of a transporter saves using the brakes, tires, engine, and electrics on a big trip you don’t need to make. What’s more, depending on the type of car transporter you go with, you can protect your asset from whatever nature has to throw at it. That means no cracked windshields, chipped paint, or unforeseen breakdowns from a long haul exposed to the elements. 

2: What are your domestic transporting options

You always have two transport options when shipping a vehicle domestically. Open carriers are the big, double-decker rigs you’ve seen on the highway that can haul up to 12 vehicles at a time. Enclosed transporters meanwhile, carry fewer cars inside a covered truck.

3: Choosing the right transporter

Open carriers are the industry standard. Their prevalence and capacity make them your most cost-effective option. There’s no cheaper way to ship your car than on an open carrier. They’re safe, secure, and with this option, you can rest easy knowing thousands of other people have shipped their vehicles the exact same way as you.

For an extra piece of mind, ask your shipper for a coveted ‘top-loading spot’ to guarantee fluids from other cars won’t accidentally leak onto yours.

While slightly more expensive, enclosed transporters protect your vehicle from weather and debris. We recommend this option for luxury or antique cars. What’s more, it may be the only option if your car doesn’t run, steer, brake, or roll. Because the winches and machinery required to move a car that doesn’t move might not be available on some open carriers.

Shipping companies calculate several variables to determine a customized quote. Knowing all the factors will help you understand how shippers arrive at their numbers.

4: Calculating the cost of domestic auto shipping

Distance, of course, is the main factor. Longer distances result in a higher overall price but a lower cost per mile. Vehicle make and model are similarly critical variables. Not because a newer car commands a higher price, but because the approximate weight and length of a vehicle informs the space and positioning it will need on a transporter. It’s more efficient to haul a dozen small sedans than eight bulky SUVs. Likewise, the type of transporter you choose (open or enclosed) informs the final bill as well.

Now, the factors you might not be tracking. 

You’ll get a better price if your car runs, rolls, brakes, and steers. Some companies won’t quote you unless your vehicle is in operable condition. Inoperable vehicles require special equipment to load onto a truck, and that naturally comes with a slightly higher price tag.

Pickup and drop off location also matters. It’s cheaper to ship to and from major cities because these metropolitan areas have plenty of transporters. Think of it like buying an airline ticket. Flying between major airports is usually cheaper than tiny regional ones. It’s simply more expensive to fly fewer people on a less frequent route. The same is true with auto shipping.

If you’re shipping to a remote location, consider meeting your trucker at a designated location for a cheaper quote and faster transport time.

Time of year is the last unexpected factor. Requests for auto transportation services to states like Arizona and Florida heat up in the winter because of the number of retirees and snowbirds traveling to warmer climates. Increased demand drives up the price during peak seasons. 

5: Tips for securing the best quote

The best advice is to plan ahead. Book your auto shipping as far in advance as you can and you’ll increase your chances of receiving the most competitive price, and extend the time you have to shop for multiple quotes. (It’s not an honest guide if we’re not looking for ways to save you money on your shipment!) What’s more, don’t just ask your shipper for a quote. Ask for their help. Whatever company you choose, they should be there to answer your questions and work with you to find the right solution.

6: The lowest quote and the best quote are different things

Quotes that are too good to be true usually are. The real value is in the details. Rock bottom prices typically have additional fees you may not have budgeted for. Always choose a car shipper that sticks by their quote. Our Honest Pricing guarantee, for example, means the price we quote is the price you’ll pay.

Rock bottom prices typically have additional fees you may not have budgeted for. Always choose a car shipper that sticks by their quote.

7: Prepping your car for domestic shipping

Okay. It’s go time. You have your quote, picked your shipper, and today is the day you’re scheduled to load on the transporter. But before handing over your vehicle, make sure you keep a spare set of keys. The shipper will need one, but that should never be your only set. 

Next, make sure your vehicle has a quarter tank of gas. That way your shipper can drive it on and off the truck and move it as needed at its destination.

Third, no automotive shipping company should permit the transportation of personal goods inside a car. Make sure to remove any and all personal items before it ships. When shipping any vehicle domestically, you cannot insure anything inside the vehicle that isn’t attached to it. Shipping companies can even be fined up to $10,000 by the Department of Transportation if caught hauling personal belongings inside a car.

Lastly, inspect your vehicle thoroughly and make a written log of any minor nicks, scratches, and damage. You’ll have the opportunity to reinspect your vehicle upon delivery, too. Your car should arrive in the condition it left.

Request a quote to get moving



Personal items in the car


Spare set of keys


Percentage of gas in the tank


International car shipping

It’s time to set sail for new shores. The rest of Your Honest Guide shares the stuff you need to know before shipping your car across an ocean or to another country. To reserse back to domestic inland shipping, click here.

8: Securing an international shipping quote

Like inland freight, international car shipping quotes are based on several variables. Your vehicle’s make and model, its current location, the ports you’re shipping between, the country you’re importing too, and the way you ship the car are all critical factors. These inputs determine the additional taxes, charges, and tariffs that can be added to your service fees. 

Taking the time to secure several quotes, asking for advice from a knowledgeable freight forwarder, and ultimately working with an auto shipper you trust will ensure you get the service and price available.

9: Accelerate transit times by planning ahead

The time it takes to ship a car largely depends on the countries you’re exporting to and importing from. Shipping a car from Miami to the Bahamas will be faster than shipping one from Baltimore to Bahrain. You can’t ship a car faster than the boat can travel from port to port. And every operation must also factor in loading, unloading, and departure times. 

When it comes to international car shipping, speed is powered by the upfront logistical legwork. For the fastest transit times, reach out to our freight forwarder as far in advance as possible. Giving them plenty of time to work out the details will ensure a smooth and swift shipment.

There are two ways to ship your vehicle internationally to wherever you need it to go.

10: Can you ship a car to another country if you don’t live near the coast?

Yes. If you live in Kansas you can still ship a car to Kenya if you want. All you need to do is coordinate domestic shipping from your home to the port. The best advice in this situation is to choose an auto shipping company that can safely collect your car from anywhere in the United States, ship it to any country, and coordinate delivery to its final destination.

11: Choosing the right freight forwarder

A freight forwarder is the technical term for a company that is legally certified to import and export goods, like your vehicle and other commodities, overseas. With the amount and variety of regulations, port charges, and trade tariffs that apply to importing and exporting cars, you should always choose a freight forwarder with specific expertise in vehicle transportation.

What’s more, your freight forwarder should carry maritime insurance and hold a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) accreditation. These are needed to actually place your consignment on a ship and serve as the logistics experts for your cargo.

Any reputable company will be able to show you their licenses which are registered with the Federal Maritime Commission. You can find the entire list of NVOCC companies, including Dalo Shipping, here

Lastly, the top freight forwarders negotiate space protection agreements with ports, warehouses, and shipping companies. These arrangements mean they will always have room for your vehicle on major shipping routes. If you want to skip the line and ship your vehicle fast, ask your shipper if they have an agreement like this in place. It could save you weeks in delays.

12: How are cars shipped internationally?

There are two ways to ship your vehicle internationally to wherever you need it to go. RORO, which stands for roll-on roll-off, uses giant car ferries to transport vehicles across oceans. With this option, your car is driven onto the vessel under its own power, strapped down, shipped, and driven off at its destination port.

Container shipping meanwhile, securely packs one or more cars into a standard ISO shipping container before a crane places it on an oceangoing ship. When it reaches port, the container is removed and your vehicle continues its journey by ground.

13: Deciding between RORO and container shipping

RORO is your best option if price and speed are your main concern. It’s typically the cheapest and usually the fastest option. With fewer commodities to wait on and manage, most car ferries set sail and arrive on schedule. Container shipping tends to be more expensive, and, if you’re shipping a vehicle in a shared container (known as a less than container load shipment) your car might not leave the dock until the remaining space is filled.

With RORO, your vehicle must be able to roll on and off the ferry under its own power. And vehicles are not fully inspected at departure and arrival, meaning your vehicle will only be insured for total loss and not damage.   

The biggest advantage of container shipping is the ability to haul personal items. If you purchased a sole-use container—meaning you lease all the space it in—you can often ship other items along with the car. This makes container shipping a preferred option for people emigrating to a new country.

Your freight forwarder should carry maritime insurance and hold an NVOCC accreditation.

14: Does your car need a passport?

Not exactly. But there is a lot of paperwork involved in shipping a car overseas. While an experienced freight forwarder will be able to take care of the details, it’s smart to know the basics so you can double-check everything is in order. Generally speaking, this paperwork falls into the following three categories.

Shipping stuff

Forms for the imported and exported cargo.

Ownership stuff

Documents that prove the car belongs to you.

Car stuff

Details a shipper needs to know about the vehicle.

Every country has its own import rules. And they can change from year to year. What you read online may be out of date by the time you’re trying to import your car.

15: Keeping taxes and tariffs in your rearview

When you export a car from the United States you’re also importing it into another one. That means international car shipping includes paying taxes, port charges, import duties, and customs fees, as well as adhering to the laws and regulations of each country and port. Ghana, for example, determines import duty by engine size and seating capacity. In Kuwait, cars more than five years old cannot be imported into the county.

Every country has its own import rules. And these rules can change from year to year. What you read online may be out of date by the time you’re trying to import your car. Any shipper worth their salt should be happy to share their insights and breakdown these regulations for you. The best way to avoid unexpected fees is to know all the costs before you ship your car.

16: Hitting the open roads of a new country

Taking your car for a spin for the first time in a new country always feels great. Before that happens, however, you’ll have to navigate the laws of car ownership and registration. If you’re relocating permanently, you’ll probably have to register the car and apply for a new license. If you’re planning a shorter stay, your existing registration may be fine. In Europe, for instance, you can drive a car on U.S. state plates for up to six months without re-registering the vehicle assuming you intend to ship the car back before the six months expires. Either way, an expert car shipper should be able to provide some guidance.

17: Request a quote today

Whether you’re requesting your first quote or shipping your hundredth car, it’s always a good idea to gather offers from multiple auto shippers. You can start with us. We’ll take care of the whole voyage from docket to delivery. Fill out the form below, or call us at, +1 703-975-6007. Our doors are always open. You can contact us any time.

Request A Quote.

With our honest pricing model, you’ll never pay more than the price we quote. That’s a promise.

Request Your Free Quote.