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?
Closing In On An Enclosed Carrier? Here Are Some Tips
In between loading up newly sold classics at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, Jim Bergeron, theCustomer Service Coordinator for Intercity Lines, Inc., filled us in on shipping with enclosed carriers.
What are the biggest benefits a classic car owner gets by shipping in an enclosed carrier?
The biggest benefits with enclosed transport are: the vehicle is inside away from the elements, there’s greater security, a soft tie down system gives more peace of mind as there is no hardware near the car itself, and the carrier is very competent.
Enclosed carriers are known to have higher costs than open carriers—but what would you tell a classic car owner about the added value they get with enclosed?
There is greater security, no exposure to the elements, higher insurance liabilities, more competent drivers, better equipment, and the ability to ship additional parts.
How should classic car owners research reputable shipping companies?
We recommend independent websites like transportreviews.com or epinions.com; these websites allow people to report and review carriers of all sorts with experiences good and bad.
What vehicle info does the shipping company need to know beforehand?
We need to know the year, make, and model of the vehicle, and the pickup and delivery locations. We also need to know if the car is running or not, if it is stock or modified, and if it will ship with any additional parts.
What specific hauler features should owners look for to help avoid damage during loading/hauling/unloading?
Customers should look for lift gate loading, drip barriers in between decks (if it is a stacking trailer), nylon wheel saddles for tie down, plastic covers for the seat and floor mats, and a car cover once the vehicle is loaded.
What specific hauler practices should owners look for?
Owners should make sure the carrier does a detailed visual inspection of the vehicle before it is loaded, noting its mileage and VIN.
What are drivers/loaders trained to do to ensure the vehicle isn’t damaged?
Drivers are trained to carefully look over a car before it is loaded to note any scratch, ding, dent…anything and everything to acknowledge the condition of the car before it is loaded. The drivers are trained in proper tie down techniques, and know where to position cars to make the safest ride across the country.
Is dealing directly with a specialty hauler with its own drivers more preferable than working with a company that is a broker, who may farm out shipping to other trucks?
Dealing directly with the carrier allows customers to get direct answers regarding vehicle handling, timing, and most importantly, driver contact. Most reputable carriers do not require a deposit, whereas brokers normally charge a deposit. When you deal directly with the carrier they do not broker it out, so the customer knows exactly who is hauling the vehicle, and with what type of equipment. Intercity does not contract or broker any orders, we haul all cars we book with our drivers and our trucks.
When that 11-mile GNX sells at Scottsdale, will you put it in one of your trucks, and deliver it to our office?
Open to open carriers? Here are some tips
Over the years I’ve shipped vehicles from Minnesota to Jersey, New York to Florida, Florida to New York, Florida to Nebraska, and New York to Nebraska. All of those involved open carriers because one, I’m a cheap ass, and two, aside from my 10-second Turbo Buick, not one of those cars was worth more than ten grand. So if you’re leaning that way, here’s what I’ve learned shipping open:
If it’s neither perfect nor rare, open carriers save a ton of money. I always wanted to ship the Buick enclosed, to keep it unsullied from the elements and to avoid prying eyes. But enclosed was always too expensive for this writer’s budget. Thankfully, a combination of top-level placement on trucks, and good luck with responsible open carrier drivers, kept her safe. I had once paid around $600 for a 1,200-mile New York to Florida transport—around $600 less than an enclosed would have been.
If your vehicle’s chassis is weak, you might break something. I said kept her safe, not undamaged. As my Buick’s chassis has dealt with 600+ lb-ft of torque and sticky tires for years, it’s…a little tweaked. And those angled loading ramps have done a number on the front and rear bumper fillers, cracking original and replacement ones alike. That’s due to my car’s structural problems—not a carrier that uses ramps—but you should still keep it in mind.
You might break (or dent) something anyway. Vehicles on most open carriers aren’t secured as well, or as insulated from damage. My daily driver arrived once with a basketball-sized dent in the rear that was as deep as it was impressive. Dent fairies? We’ll never know. But in all of my other shipments, I got off with only very minor nicks and scratches – so there’s that.
Hold your carrier to top-level placement for the entire trip, even if it costs a bit more. I once negotiated a top-level placement, only to have the driver call me 200 miles out to ask if he could put the Buick on the lower level to speed things up with his other drop-offs. I agreed, only to be greeted by an oil- and trans fluid-covered G-body. Staying on the top level is key.
$#!+ happens, and pickup/delivery times and locations can change. This isn’t scientific fact, but this happens more when you’re dealing with a brokered open carrier (less $) than it does with a direct enclosed outfit (more $). I’ve had to take my cars to terminals for pickup on occasion, and I recently had to drive four hours east and wait an extra couple days for my daily driver to get to Nebraska. The carrier blew a trailer hydraulic hose, which slowed him down. But I was cool with that, as I had a couple rooms’ worth of stuff loaded into the back seat/trunk. Which brings us to another jewel of wisdom…
Don’t keep a couple rooms’ worth of stuff in the vehicle. Vlad from Jersey couldn’t have been cooler if he’d owned an Impala, but he still had to charge me $250 extra as I was moving and didn’t want to rent a truck. He could have charged nearly a grand more, easily doubling my cost. So clean out your vehicle before pickup!
Tip your driver. Think your commute sucks? Think drivers in your state are terrifying? Try driving thousands of miles in all types of weather, dodging idiot drivers in your semi which, by the way, has an extra 15-20 thousand pounds on its back. These guys and gals have a tough job and spend lots of time away from home—be sure to reward them for it.