In Part III of our series, you learned the ins and outs of collector car insurance. This time around, we’ll be discussing vehicle shipping.
Shipping a vehicle can be exciting, stressful, or a combination of both. If you’re shipping your daily driver because of a major life change like a cross-country move, it’s mostly stressful. I mean really, who cares if your econobox gets a few dings in it? On the flipside, if you’re shipping a just-purchased, “new classic” EFI GM, you’re excited and can’t wait to get it home.
But regardless of the reason, you need to have a healthy respect for the sheer logistics of vehicle shipping: a transport company (preferably a reputable one) needs to load a nearly two-ton item onto a truck, secure it properly, transport it hundreds or thousands of miles safely, and unload it. Then, think about the huge number of shipping companies to choose from, and throw in wrinkles like a non-running or lowered vehicle. All things considered, if you’re a first-time shipper, it’s very easy to feel like you’re in over your head.
While vehicle shipping will never be a super pleasurable experience, GMHTP is here to make it less of a nail-biting PITA. Your author has personally shipped a half-dozen performance and daily driven vehicles. I’ve done the research, pulled the trigger, and learned some hard lessons so you don’t have to. So listen up!
How to Ship Your Vehicle The Right Way
The following information will walk you through the process of finding, screening, and choosing a company to transport your pride and joy. And as with anything, the earlier you start the process, the sooner you’ll be comfortable enough to book a transport. That’s important because car shows, big auctions, and summers in general, can be extremely busy for these companies; booking a transport way in advance can save you from higher prices and longer pickup and delivery times.
Choose an Open or an Enclosed Carrier
Anyone on a budget will need to answer one all-important question: does your ride need an enclosed carrier, or can you make do with an open carrier?
Advantages of using an open carrier include cheaper cost, and more open carriers on the road means they can often pick up your ride quicker. The disadvantages are that your vehicle is now completely exposed to rain, snow, hail, dust, insects, birds, and, depending on its placement on the truck, even leaking fluids from the vehicles above it. Also, open carriers almost always use ramps, which can damage lowered vehicles during loading and unloading.
The advantages of using an enclosed carrier include protection from the above-mentioned elements and airborne pests, and some trucks are even climate controlled. Also, your vehicle gets more of a “white glove” treatment: many have high-tech liftgates that stay level as they lift your vehicle up, so there’s less chance of damaging a delicate or lowered car. The vehicle is then strapped down to keep it stationary and safe while in transit. Protective covers are used to help prevent damage. And enclosed carrier drivers are usually more highly trained and experienced with transporting valuable vehicles safely.
Disadvantages? Cost is the big one, as enclosed carriers can charge from 25 percent more to twice as much, compared to open carriers. Also, as there are fewer enclosed carriers on the road, scheduling one can be more difficult and you may need to wait longer until the carrier has a full load.
If you’re still not sure which one to use, consider the value of the vehicle. If it’s worth less than $10,000, ship it open. If it’s worth more than that—or its personal value can’t be measured in dollars—seriously consider shipping enclosed.
Research the Companies
Knowledge is power, and now’s the time to crowd source some good transport company leads. First, search big automotive forums with a Google search, for example, “site:www.ls1tech.com transport your car,” to get members’ opinions on certain companies. Also check with your buddies, your mechanics, and anyone else in the hobby about their shipping experiences.
Next, visit transportreviews.com to get more leads, as well as detailed reviews of transport companies. Note that many carriers offer a small “rebate,” usually around $20-50, to customers who post “excellent” reviews on this site about their shipping experiences. FYI, there’s an option of searching for non-paid reviews, which can give you a more objective viewpoint of the companies.
Finally, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at www.safersys.org for transport company safety ratings, license and insurance information, and accident info.
Feel Them Out
After some thorough research, narrow your list down to 4-6 companies, and call each one to get a feel for them. If you get direct, friendly customer service, reassuring answers to your questions, and a good gut feeling, you’ve probably found a winner. If you get an unknowledgeable person giving vague responses, be wary.
One very important question to ask is if a transport company ships direct or uses brokers. While many owners prefer direct shipping, either method can be fine, depending on how a company handles it. If they’ll be brokering a shipment, make sure they will keep you in the loop while your baby is in transit. And beware of brokers trying to pass themselves off as direct-ship transporters.
To get a ballpark idea of what you’ll spend, fill out online quote forms or call each company separately. Be sure to keep your vehicle information exactly the same for each quote: if it’s stock or modified, whether or not the vehicle runs, exact pickup and delivery times, locations, etc.
Also, even though you’ve probably chosen the mode of transport already (open, for example), get quotes for an enclosed carrier too—you never know, one of the companies might be running a special.
It’s time to choose your transport company. If you’ve done your homework, you now have several reputable companies with great service and safety records to choose from. Now, you can choose the right shipper for your budget.
With quote in hand, contact your chosen transport company via phone. While speaking with a real live human, double check your quoted price, and make sure it won’t change even if the pickup date does. If you’ll be using an open carrier, now’s a good time to request top-level placement.
Verify the pick-up date (if they’ll pick it up at your place), or the drop-off date (if you’ll be taking it to the company’s shipping terminal), as well as the delivery date. Verify both addresses, and let the rep know any specifics of both the pick-up and delivery locations (like narrow roads) as it will aid the truck driver. If a terminal drop-off is chosen, ask when the vehicle will be loaded, and which secure location it will be kept at until it goes onto a truck.
Regarding insurance, have the rep fax or email over the company’s insurance documents—if you have any questions about coverage, contact your collector vehicle insurance agent for answers; they should be kept in the loop about the vehicle’s trip too. It’s important that you determine how any damage—or a complete vehicle loss—will be resolved by the shipper.
When all of the details are taken care of, brokers may ask for a fraction of the total shipping price as a deposit. However, most reputable direct transport companies will not ask for a deposit.
Prep Your Ride
The shipper will perform a pre-ship inspection with you, so make your ride ship-ready before pickup. Remove or retract the antenna, toss any hazardous items like gas cans out, remove your personal items, and disable the anti-theft and alarm systems. Then take lots of photos from all angles for your own records.
On shipping day, someone from the shipping company will do a walk-around with you, documenting the vehicle’s condition. Get any last-minute questions you have answered now. Ask for and document the driver’s CDL number and the truck license number. And once you sign off, it’s time to…
Give Up The Keys
You’ve worked hard to choose a good company; don’t make a scene and refuse to hand over your keys. Cut the cord already, jeez!
Check In During Transit
While some transport companies may have GPS truck monitoring that you can follow, you can just as easily call and talk to the driver directly; they’re usually also great about calling back to give you updates.
Most drivers are good about calling you a day or so out, so you can arrange for a delivery time.
When your baby arrives and is unloaded, thoroughly inspect the vehicle for any dents/dings/chips/etc. Especially check the doors for any new dings, and the underside for any damage. There should be no damage with an enclosed carrier, but there might be minor chips and some road grime on a vehicle that’s been on an open carrier. Once you’re satisfied, sign the paperwork to take delivery and you’re done! That wasn’t so bad, was it?