The car of your dreams is finally yours, but it's not in your garage yet ' it's in a different state. To get it home safely and efficiently, one of the best options is to have it delivered by a licensed and insured transport company. However, before picking up the phone, there are several things to know about the process in order to have a good experience. Here is some advice from the people who know the business ' the shippers themselves.
The 'why' and 'how'
of car transporting
"We ship anything that is on wheels," said Sam Krynski, general manager of Autobahn Transport Services, "Everything from cycles to fire trucks to exotics. Everything." Autobahn Transport Services isn't alone in the wide range of vehicles it ships.
Whether a recently purchased Duesenberg or Yugo parts car, the need for a hauler is likely to arise at least once in a hobbyist's collecting experience.
"We have hauled your normal cars to exotic cars to pieces of junk," said Charlene Mahoney, director of operations for the transport company Thomas C. Sunday Inc. "We've even hauled cars with straps holding the parts on," she laughed.
For all of these types of vehicles, one thing is obvious: enclosed transportation is the way to go. Whether it is an exotic car or a parts car, making sure the car isn't tampered with or the wind doesn't tear trim and other parts off is important, and enclosed transportation is the best way to ensure the safety of the car and the items attached to it.
"A lot of people don't see the difference between open and enclosed transport," said George Davis, president of Minuteman Transport, LLC. "But a lot of things aren't covered by insurance on an open trailer. Cars arrive on a trailer with damage and it's not something the carrier is insured for, and the owner gets blind-sided."
The types of cars delivery companies carry are as varied as car owners' reasons for hauling cars. Many of Poff Transport's customers are shuttling their cars from their summer home to their winter home. A good share of transport business also comes from hobbyists who are relocating, and are taking their cars to their new homes. According to Krynski, many of the cars his business carries are recent purchases by auction winners, or were obtained by his clients in classified advertisements.
What's important to note in these new purchases is that the shipping company is not responsible for the purchase decision made by the car's new owner. Krynski said that, sometimes, people who have purchased a car they have never seen before refuse delivery of the car. This is not the responsibility of the delivery company, but the new owner. If a car gets shipped back, the owner is likely responsible for not only shipping the car to his home, but back to the seller. Someone has to pay.
Given the cost of fuel and the value of the service provided, transporting a car is a significant expense, and it's one to consider when purchasing a vehicle far from your home. Savvy car purchasers have worked this into what they'll pay for a car, if they hope to keep what they pay for the car in line with its value.
Currently, transport companies estimate coast-to-coast delivery of a car in an enclosed hauler at around $2,000, given the current cost of fuel. Nearly every transport company charges by the mile, so when pricing transportation costs, be prepared with the mileage between the two points the car will travel.
After the cost of food, fuel and hotels, the estimated transport company fees are not very different from those of a private individual trailering their own car. Plus, a car owner has the added comfort of insurance.
However, it's important to note that there may be other fees beyond mileage involved with a transport company. Car delivery companies usually charge extra if a car does not run, or if it doesn't have brakes. Industry professionals refer to these cars as "inop's." Be prepared to pay $100 or more to load a car that doesn't run, and another $200 if it doesn't have brakes.
"It can take two hours to load an inoperable vehicle versus 15 minutes to drive a car onto the hauler," said Davis. "I would just assume we never charge anyone [for inoperable vehicles]. It is dangerous for the driver to load and unload a car with no brakes. Once a car rolls over the hump in the [trailer] floor, the car gets its own mind."
When a car owner has a car without brakes loaded onto a trailer, it not only risks harm to the driver, it also poses a threat to the car being loaded. And since most haulers can carry five to six cars at a time, it also poses a threat to other cars on the trailer. So, for the added expense for a car without brakes, most haulers recommend investing that fee into repairing the car instead.
If the car is being shipped to or retrieved from an area with a large number of tolls, Mahoney explained that additional fees may apply.
Choosing a company
In the car delivery business, there are two types of companies: transport brokerage services and the transport companies themselves.
According to hauling companies, brokerage firms work as middlemen. Once contacted, brokerages usually request a deposit of several hundred dollars from the customer. Then they search for a transport company to haul the car at a given price. Once a transport company bites, the brokerage works with the car owner and transport company to move the car.
Of course, transport companies prefer to deal directly with the car owner. They say that, in working with the client, they can tell a car owner exactly where their car is at any moment, and a car owner has the chance to find out exactly who is hauling their car, what kind of equipment is being used to carry it and many other important pieces of information, though nothing is more important as the ability of the car's owner to verify that the carrier has insurance.
"People should ask what type of insurance [a transport company has] and the limit of insurance," said Tom Meunier, operations manager for Exotic Car Transport.
Also, experienced companies warn against using brokers or unlicensed or uninsured companies, because if a car is wrecked or damaged, a larger company has the insurance measures to settle a claim.
A Horseless Carriage transporter loads a vintage Ferrari. Even for cars needing restoration and parts cars, enclosed haulers are a better choice, as they protect cars from losing parts in transit and stop thieves from removing parts.
However, Krynski says it's very uncommon for damage to a car to occur in transit. When it does happen, most claims range from $20 to $500, and very rarely more than that.
"All of us in the shipping business are crazy about safety," Krynski said. But to prepare for unfortunate circumstances, a driver will assess the condition of a car before it is loaded onto the carrier and document any damage, even scratches and dings.
"I've seen people get upset because they think we are pointing out the flaws on their car," Krynski said. "We have to protect ourselves and you as the customer, as well. If I don't write this down, you will say, 'Holy smokes, this car is a piece of junk' [upon its arrival].
"People have to understand our drivers aren't appraisers," he said. "When the driver gets there, he will inspect the vehicle visually. We write up a report on a bill of lading or inspection report and mark down visible imperfections. We will write d own nicks and scratches, and the shipper will sign for it. It protects the shipper and Autobahn."
Meunier also recommends car owners ask what type of equipment transporters use, especially for stabilizing the car in or on a trailer.
"We use nylon straps on the tires, but some companies, mostly open-car haulers, use chains," said Meunier. "If it's the right driver, chains are fine, but the negative is overtightening or overstressing [the car with chains while securing it], and that can do unbelievable things to cars."
Not all transport companies go to every corner of the earth, so delivery companies recommend stating where the car is and where it needs to go upon contacting them. Since the increased border restrictions following the Sept. 11 attacks, it's not more difficult for companies to enter Canada and Mexico from the United States, but it is more difficult for the drivers to return to the United States at the borders. Those transport companies that do take cars across the borders may charge extra fees due to the large time delays experienced at the borders. Transport companies that do not ship internationally may take a car to the border to aid delivery, or will help make other arrangements to complete the shipping of a car, including overseas container shipments.
For the best car delivery experience, haulers recommend several things to their clients, the most important being information.
Does a car run? Is it in the mud behind a barn? What city is it located? Can a hauler access the car? These are all things a transporter should be aware of before giving you a price. It may also affect a car owner's decision to hire a company. Cars that don't run may need a lift gate or winch for loading, and if a transport company does not have these items, it may not be able to load the vehicle.
By moving a car to an area that is easy for a large truck to access or by getting it running and stopping, a car owner can avoid any extra loading fees and trouble for the driver. It also speeds up the loading process if a car isn't buried in moving boxes or deep in a garage. If you know the transport company is coming, be prepared and have the car ready to go.
If a car is already in running condition, most transporters recommend making sure the battery is at full charge, all of the vehicle's parts are securely attached, the tires are full of air and there is gas in the tank. However, carriers prefer owners keep only three to four gallons of gas in a vehicle while it is in transit. If a car doesn't run, companies prefer the battery be disconnected and the gas tank remain empty.
When contacting a shipper to price the service, companies may also request the car's dimensions in order to ensure a vehicle will fit on the transporter before the driver arrives at the door.
"Some people get upset with us asking if the car runs or even what model a car is," said Mahoney. She explained such questions prepare the company to ship a car more efficiently and to prevent damage. Also, Mahoney said that when it comes to giving a car's dimensions, height is the most important dimension, and it's a fact that surprises many people.
Before picking up a car, a transport company may require proof of insurance and ownership from the car owner, as well as operating instructions.
Transport companies are able to haul cars at a reasonable price because they are carrying several cars. During the move, cars may need to be moved off and on the trailer, including yours, and there's no way to get around it. To prevent inadvertent damage to your car, include a list of operating procedures. Or, if it's a new purchase, ask the seller to include such directions for the driver. Attach them to the key ring, which should also identify your car by year, make, color and license plate. It's also wise to mention such special requirements to the transport vehicle's driver, said Krynski.
For car owners who do not want their cars driven or sharing space with other cars on a truck, there is one alternative, and it's an expensive one ' renting the whole truck. Due to the expense, Krynski said movie companies are the most common customers to choose this option, and it's usually only to make sure a car is delivered on an exact date.
"A lot of people think we're like FedEx, where the car gets picked up right away and it arrives at the other end two days later," said Davis. "It's just not that way."
Poff recommends giving at least two weeks' notice before scheduling a car to get picked up. And even if the company is able to give a pick-up date, transporters warn car owners that they should be flexible with the dates.
"The biggest mistake that people make is that when they book the [vehicle 's shipping], they expect their vehicle to get picked up on an exact date," Krynski said. "The only way to have a car picked up on a specific day is to buy the whole truck."
Because of potential hazardous weather and unexpected mechanical problems, delivery times are not an exact science. Since exact dates and times cannot be ensured, some drivers or delivery companies will stay in contact with the car's owner and give them 24 hours' notice on the pickup and drop-off times. Other companies will call with daily updates to tell an owner where the car is located that day. If this is important to you, ask if they offer such a service.
"We have a satellite tracking system that our customers can track their vehicles, and we give them the cell phone number of the driver so there is contact with the customer," said Meunier. Other companies may offer similar services, so be sure to ask what is available.
It may take two to three weeks for a car to arrive at your home, so be patient. Companies cannot and will not guarantee arrival dates. For car owners who are relocating, its important to make arrangements for a car's pickup from their previous home and its delivery to their new home.
Shipping a car is a process that shouldn't be taken lightly. But armed with the right knowledge by asking the right questions, it can be a safe and assuring experience.
Questions to ask a transporter
If a new purchase, will the seller work with the transporter to
load the car?
What type of hauler will my car be carried on?
What type of straps are used to secure car?
Are you licensed?
Are you insured?
What is the cost per mile?
What other fees are involved?
In my car's current state, are you equipped to load it?
Can you pick up my car from its
Can you drop it off at my home?
What am I required to give you upon pickup?
How should I prepare my car for pickup?
Through what methods, if any,
can I track my car's location?
Find a transporter
Autobahn Transportation Services
Dependable Auto Transport
Intercity Lines, Inc.
Minuteman Transport, LLC
New Paris, Ind.
Thomas C. Sunday, Inc.
New Kingstown, Pa.