Be Open About It

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  • Sites like and your favorite web forum will come in very handy. - 1
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a website called - 2
  • I requested a copy of their insurance be emailed to me. - 3
  • Prior to shipment, I took photos of the Buick from all angles. - 4
  • The conditions couldn’t have been worse for the pre-ship inspection. - 5
  • The police cruiser in the background is not an uncommon sight behind this Turbo Regal. - 6
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by Rick Jensen  More from Author

Shipping your vehicle on a budget.

When I think about all of the really nice classics out there, I know that there are many diamond-in-the-rough types too. Not everyone has a fully restored, high-dollar car–for those of you who do, congratulations. For those of you who don’t, my Buick muscle car will fit right in with yours.

I recently completed a move from NYC to the Tampa Bay area. Along with the never-ending laundry list of pre-move things to do, I had to figure out what to do with my Buick: trailer or ship? When I moved from Minnesota to Jersey years earlier, I trailered the car because the truck was small, there were no city streets, and I wasn’t as worried about theft. But this time, I’d be driving a 20-plus-foot truck through Queens and The Bronx, so a trailer behind that monster would have surely left lots of damaged sheetmetal and insurance claims. And there were several spots down the I-95 corridor that I’d hesitate leaving the trailer overnight at. Ultimately, I decided to transport the Buick.

There are many companies out there that specialize in enclosed vehicle transport, but after I’d submitted a few quotes I realized that the roughly $1,500 and up cost of those services didn’t jive with my budget. And the more I thought about it, the Buford really didn’t need an enclosed: it has a weak insurance repaint, a few dents, and lots of chips. And the rims were in style in the mid-80s, and not in the best of shape.

So I started looking into companies that used open carriers. Some research and a few phone calls later, and I had several well-regarded companies chosen. I visited their websites, filled out their quote pages, and sat back and waited. One day later, I had a winner: Reliable Car Carrier Ltd. out of the New York Metro area, which was only quoting $675 for a NYC to Tampa-area transport.

Of course, if you decide to ship on an open transport, you will have to prepare yourself for the possibility of a few paint chips, some road grime, and even some fluids from other vehicles leaking onto your ride if you have a lower-level placement. I was okay with a few chips, and since the company could keep the Buick on the top level for the majority of the trip, I decided to proceed.

As a first-time shipper, I had a ton of questions and more than a little apprehension about giving the keys to my first hotrod to complete strangers. The company that I went with was professional, patient, and understanding through all of my questions, requests for their insurance documents, and even my special requests for the car’s security as I dropped it off at their Brooklyn terminal myself as opposed to having them pick it up. By going into this already having done the research, I felt good enough to take the next step and discuss my needs with them. But it was their customer service and follow-ups that gave me the good gut feeling turn my keys over.

Below are a few tips that I learned during this process. While enclosed shipping will always be the gold standard, you can save a ton of money by shipping open–something to keep in mind before your next shipment.


No matter if you plan on shipping open to save a few bucks, or spending a few more for a cushy enclosed transport, these tips will help you navigate the sometimes confusing path of shipping a vehicle.

DETERMINE YOUR SHIPPING NEEDS: open or enclosed transport, company pick up or terminal drop-off, dealing directly with the transport company or using a broker, and shipping window are all important things to decide.

DO YOUR RESEARCH: Talk to your gearhead buddies, ask your mechanic and your bodyshop owner for suggestions, visit your favorite automotive web forums, check the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at for safety ratings and license/insurance information, and visit to weed out undesirable transport companies.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT: Call the recommended companies and see if you get direct, friendly customer service. Be wary if you get an unknowledgeable person giving vague responses. Now is a good time to determine if a transport company ships direct, or uses brokers. Either method can be fine, but the key is to find a reputable company that even if they will be brokering a shipment, will still stay–and keep you–in the loop while your baby is in transit. Watch out for brokers trying to pass themselves off as direct-ship transporters. 

GET SEVERAL QUOTES: Do this over the phone or online for your chosen mode of transport (open for example), and for comparison, a couple for an enclosed carrier. Be sure to keep your vehicle information exactly the same for each quote (modified or stock, vehicle runs or doesn’t run, exact pickup/delivery locations).

MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION: Price is always a concern, but using a quality transport company that will safely deliver your vehicle within a timeframe that works for you is more important. If you’ve done your homework, your choice should be easy.

FINALIZE THE DETAILS: Quote in hand, contact the chosen transport company. Double-check that your price won’t change, and verify lower or top-level placement. Verify the pick-up date (or if you’ll be taking it to a terminal, drop-off date) and delivery date at the new location. Verify both addresses, and let them know any specifics of both locations (narrow roads, etc.) as it will aid the truck driver. If you will be dropping off at a terminal, you’ll want to ask when the vehicle will be loaded, and which secure location it will be kept at until it goes onto a truck. Have them fax or email over their insurance documents and if you have any questions about coverage, contact an agent. It is important that you determine how any damage or a complete vehicle loss will be resolved by the shipper. Reputable transport companies will ask for a fraction of the total shipping price as a deposit at this time.

INSPECT/PREP VEHICLE: The shipper will perform a pre-ship inspection with you, but take the time before shipping to clean up your ride and take lots of photos from all angles for your own records. The company reps will tell you what you need to do to be sure your ride is ship-ready; some of those things are removing/retracting the antenna, removing any hazardous items like gas cans, taking any personal items out, and disabling the alarm system.

TRANSPORT INSPECTION: On shipping day, a representative from the shipping company will do a walk-around with you, noting the condition of the vehicle. Now is the time for any last-minute questions–don’t be afraid to ask! View and write down the driver’s CDL number and get the truck license number as well. Once you sign the sheet it’s time to…

LET GO OF THE KEYS: All of the work you’ve put into choosing a good company should make this step slightly less terrifying, but no promises.  

CHECK UP ON YOUR BABY: Some transport companies offer GPS updates on where your ride is, but most are happy to put you on hold and call the driver directly, or have the driver call you with updates.

TAKE DELIVERY: The driver should give you a ring when he or she is close, and you are soon reunited with your ride. Immediately inspect the entire vehicle for any dents/dings/chips/etc. There should be absolutely no damage with an enclosed shipment, but there might be a couple of minor chips and some road grime on a vehicle that’s been transported on an open carrier. Sign the paperwork and you’re done! Finally, remember that driving one of those carriers through America’s big cities and on its interstates isn’t an easy job, so be sure to tip your driver for a job well done.


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