Open Carrier Car Shipping: Everything You Should Know

Are you moving across the country? Maybe you bought a vehicle in another state and can’t figure out how to pick it up.

Figuring out vehicle logistics can add stress to already stressful situations. How can you get to your vehicle without being in two places at once?

Easy, you can book a car shipping company to get your car where it needs to go. The car carrier transport company can get your vehicle where it needs to be via open transport or enclosed transport.

Great solution, but how much will it cost? The answer depends on several different factors. Keep reading to discover more about the ins and outs of shipping a vehicle.

What is Open Carrier Shipping?

Open vehicle carriers transport multiple cars or trucks on an unenclosed trailer. This is also referred to as open carrier auto transport. With open carrier shipping, your car or truck will be trekking across the country on a trailer with 10 or more vehicles.

What is the Difference Between Open and Enclosed Transport?

Enclosed transport shipping refers to cars and trucks road-tripping in an enclosed carrier. These vehicles could also be sharing their trailer with others.

Car and truck owners may not want their vehicles exposed to weather and road elements during the ship trip. For this reason, they select a car carrier that shields their auto-baby from external forces that have the potential to cause harm; such as gravel, wind, and rain.

What are the Advantages of Open Auto Carrier Service?

Open car transport service is less expensive than enclosed carrier shipping. It’s also more efficient. Open auto carriers can fit more cars and trucks per trailer load.

Open transport is more popular than enclosed transport. This causes more competition among carriers. This often results in better rates for you as the competition increases.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Ship a Car?

The cheapest way to ship a car is to hire an open transport carrier. These haulers take an average of ten cars and trucks per trip. Dividing the associated costs with ten different clients means more savings for you.

Open transport doesn’t always mean savings, though. If your vehicle is on a single or double transport hauler, it will cost a lot more to ship.

How Does Car Shipping Work?

The logistics involved in shipping a car might feel overwhelming. Some car owners feel more comfortable working with a car carrier transport company themselves. Others would rather use a broker, someone who arranges details and communicates with the carrier on their behalf.

Step-1 Find a Broker

It’s important to research car shipping companies to find the one that’s best for you. Read more about spotting fraud and checking insurance below.

Some car carrier transport companies offer an online quote generator. Other times you’ll need to speak with a broker to get a cost estimate. Brokers usually gather your info, shop around for quotes, and contact you with the best options.

A car shipping broker will provide you with a cost estimate. This is subject to change but you’re usually not responsible for payment until you decide which carrier you’re using.

Brokers will probably ask you for your vehicle’s drivability status, pickup and drop-off site, desired dates, and your vehicle’s model, year, and make. They will also need to know if you’d like an open transport or enclosed transport carrier.

Step- 2 Pick a Carrier

Once you’ve gathered all the info you need, you can choose the open carrier car shipping option that’s best for you. At this time, you’ll get real numbers cost quote and may be asked for a down payment.

Step- 3 Inspect and Prep

Thoroughly inspect your car or truck for any existing damage. This includes chips, dents, and any other issues. Take pictures of your vehicle’s outside and interior.

Clear any personal items out of your car or truck. Make sure nothing heavy is left in the vehicle. Lighter loads sometimes cost less to haul.

Leave about 1/4 tank of gas in your vehicle for its journey.

Step- 4 Send It Off

If you’re using door-to-door service, the open transport carrier will come to you. If you’re using another site, you need to get your car or truck to the pickup terminal.

You and your driver will go through your car or truck’s existing condition. You will sign a document stating you agree to the condition of the car and the terms of the transport.

Step- 5 Wait

Depending on how far your car has to travel, you may be waiting a while. Demand, distance, and other factors can cause delays in car shipping. The transport company should be able to give you an idea of when your vehicle will arrive.

Some auto transport companies send text updates or GPS tracking info to vehicle owners.

Step- 6 Pick it Up

Pick up your vehicle at your door or the transport terminal. The first thing you should do is look it over for any new damage. After that, you will sign a bill of landing.

You may also be asked to pay any outstanding charges when you collect your vehicle.

What is the Bill of Landing and What Does it Have to Do With My Shipment?

A Bill of Landing (or BoL) is your receipt from the shipping company. It’s a legal document the car carrier transport company gives to the driver. A BoL details what the carrier is transporting and where it’s going.

The BoL must be signed by you or an authorized representative when your car or truck is delivered. It serves as proof that you, the driver, and the car shipping company agree on the terms of services rendered.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car Open Transport?

Open car auto transport is the most popular way to ship a car. It’s also the most economical. It can cost up to 60% more to ship a car closed transport than open transport.

Costs involved in open carrier car shipping depend on the type of vehicle, distance, route, and season.

1. Type of Vehicle

Larger vehicles take up more space on a car carrier. As a result, carriers aren’t able to fit as many on their open transport carriers. For this reason, large vehicles cost more to transport than smaller ones.

2. Distance

Most vehicle transport companies charge by the mile. Trips 200 miles or less cost an average of $2.92 per mile. This would add up to about $584.00 for a 200-mile trip.

Vehicles transported 1,000 or more miles have an average cost of $0.78 per mile. A 1,500 trip at this rate brings the total to about $1,170.00.

Clearly, the shorter trip is less expensive. However, the longer trip gives you more bang for your buck. The further you travel, the less you’ll pay per mile.

3. Season

Summer seasons through early winter are the most popular times for car shipping. With increased demand comes increased prices. During these months, you can expect to pay a little more for car shipping.

4. Pick Up Locations

Most car carrier transport companies have central pick-up locations. If vehicle owners can meet their car or truck at these locations, it saves time and money. This is called terminal-to-terminal shipping.

If you’d like your vehicle delivered to a specific address, like a home or office, it will cost more. This is called door-to-door shipping. Vehicle transport companies don’t always offer terminal-to-terminal shipping.

5. Vehicle Condition

Cars and trucks are usually driven onto a vehicle hauler before hitting the road. If a car or truck is not working, it takes extra effort to get it on the transport trailer. There are additional costs associated with loading inoperable cars and trucks on an open transport carrier.

6. Path Traveled

Larger metro areas are more likely to be on an open transport carrier’s route. Locations close to interstates and major cities are a little less expensive.

If you need car carrier transport to a more remote location, you’ll likely have to pay more for that service.

Is Open Car Shipping Safe?

There’s always some level of risk involved with car shipping. That being said, open transport shipping is generally a very safe process. In fact, fewer than 1 in 20 vehicles are damaged on open transport trips.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your open carrier car shipping experience is as safe as it can be.


The car carrier transport company you choose should be fully insured. You can ask the company if they are insured. Most car shipping companies carry $50,000 to $100,000 coverage in their liability insurance policies.

Most companies require vehicle owners to have insurance before booking an open transport. It’s a good idea to contact your auto insurance agent. An insurance agent will be able to help you

If you’re working with an auto transport broker, they may have supplemental insurance. However, brokers are not required to carry insurance as they’re arranging transport, not carrying it out.

When to Choose Enclosed

If you consider your vehicle a child or an extension of your person, open transport may not be for you. Usually, a good car wash will get off any results from open transport trips. Being on the open road may result in an occasional rock dent or small paint chip.

Car collectors or those with luxury rides often choose enclosed carrier transport. Those kept up at night by the thought of their vehicle strapped to an open transport hauler will rest easier knowing their vehicles are safe from the elements.

Watch for Fraud

There are great car carrier transport companies and some bad apples in the industry. Make sure the company you contact is legitimate and not trying to rip you off. Start by asking for the company’s USDOT number.

Do Some Research

Of course, not ALL things on the web are true. By going to the right sites, you can find out if the open car transport carrier you’re going to book is legit. You can also search reviews sites to see what other customers have to say about their experiences.

Check out some of these sites to help you research:

  • US DOT Dept of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Some online review sites like Google and Angie’s list can be helpful but aren’t 100% accurate


Contact several different car carrier transport companies. Ask some questions about rates, policies, and procedures for open transport options. If they’re all in the same ballpark of price and policy, it’s a good sign they’re the real deal.

Keep in mind, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Is one company much less expensive or making promises the other companies won’t? Do some major research before booking. 

What is the Best Car Transport Company?

The best car transport company depends on what you need. Vehicle owners looking for a safe option at a fair price will likely use an open transport option. For the best savings, choose a carrier hauling many other vehicles, not just yours.

There are many different car transport companies to choose from. Using a broker will help you decide which company is best for your open transport trip.

Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters sometimes use car shipping companies as a part of their schemes. Don’t fall victim to fraudulent claims. Shop around and look up each car carrier transport company by their USDOT number.

At Car Ship Guru we want to help you find the best company for your open auto transport. Check out our website to find which company is best for you.