How to transport a car across country: step-by-step guide

transport a car

This guide outlines all the steps you need to take to transport a car across the country.

Shipping a car across the country can be a hard task, but with proper planning and knowledge, it can be a smooth and hassle-free process. Whether you’re moving to a new state or buying a vehicle from a distant location, understanding the steps involved when you need to transport a car can save you time, money, and stress.

Steps to transport a car

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of shipping a car across the country, covering everything from choosing a reputable auto transport company to preparing your vehicle for transportation.

Research and Select a Reliable Auto Transport Company

Finding a reliable auto transport company is crucial for a successful car shipping experience. Here are some steps to help you choose the right one to transport a car:

Conduct thorough research

Start by researching different auto transport companies online. Look for reviews, ratings, and testimonials from previous customers. Consider companies that have a good track record and positive feedback.

Compare quotes and services

Request quotes from multiple companies and compare their prices and services. Be cautious of unusually low prices, as they may indicate hidden fees or poor service quality. Look for a balance between affordability and reliability to transport a car in good shape.

For a convenient and quick way to compare car shipping prices, you can also utilize online platforms that provide instant quotes. Platforms such as Road Runner car shipping instant quote typically require you to input details about the pickup and delivery locations, vehicle type, and preferred shipping method. However, ensure that you still research the reputation and credibility of the companies behind the instant quotes to make an informed decision.

Check for licensing and insurance

Ensure that the company you choose to transport a car is properly licensed and insured. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates and licenses auto transport companies in the United States. Verify the company’s credentials before making a final decision.

 Understand Insurance Coverage and Liability

Review insurance options

Before you transport a car, it’s important to understand the car insurance coverage provided by the auto transport company. Most reputable companies offer basic insurance that protects against damages caused during transportation. However, it’s advisable to check if additional coverage options are available for added peace of mind.

Consider personal insurance

If you have comprehensive auto insurance, check with your insurance provider to see if it covers your vehicle during transportation. Understanding your personal insurance coverage can help you make an informed decision about whether to opt for additional coverage from the auto transport company.

Document pre-existing damages

As mentioned earlier, it’s crucial before you transport a car to document any pre-existing damages to your vehicle before shipping it. This documentation will be essential for insurance claims in case of any unforeseen incidents during transportation. Take clear photographs and make detailed notes of any scratches, dents, or other existing damages.

Receive and Inspect Your Vehicle

Conduct a thorough inspection

Upon delivery of your vehicle, carefully inspect it for any damages or issues that may have occurred during transportation. Compare the condition of the vehicle with the documentation you prepared before shipping. If you notice any new damages, take photographs and inform the auto transport company immediately.

Note damages on the delivery receipt

If you identify any new damages after you transport a car, note them on the delivery receipt provided by the driver. Be as detailed as possible, including the location and nature of the damages. This will be crucial for filing an insurance claim, if necessary, and resolving any disputes about responsibility.

Contact the auto transport company promptly

If you encounter any issues or concerns regarding the condition of your vehicle upon delivery, contact the auto transport company promptly to report the problem. Most reputable companies have procedures in place to handle claims and work toward a resolution.

Consider Additional Services and Special Requirements

Explore additional services

Auto transport companies may offer additional services to enhance your car shipping experience. These services can include expedited shipping for faster delivery, door-to-door service for added convenience, or even vehicle tracking to keep you updated on the progress of your shipment. Evaluate your needs and budget to determine if any additional services are worth considering when you need to transport a car.

Special requirements for non-running vehicles

If you need to ship a non-running vehicle, inform the auto transport company in advance if you want to transport a car that is not running. Special equipment may be required to load and unload the car onto the carrier. Be prepared for potential extra costs associated with the transportation of non-running vehicles.

Check for regional regulations and restrictions

Different states or regions may have specific regulations or restrictions regarding car transportation. Research and familiarize yourself with any requirements, such as emissions standards or permits, to ensure compliance and avoid any legal issues during transportation.

Leave the Appropriate Amount of Fuel

Keep the tank quarter full

When preparing your car for shipping, it’s recommended to keep the fuel tank at around a quarter full. This provides enough fuel for loading and unloading purposes without adding excessive weight to the vehicle during transportation. Additionally, it reduces the risk of fuel leakage or spills while you transport a car.

Check the auto transport company’s fuel requirements

While a quarter tank is generally the standard recommendation, it’s essential to confirm the specific fuel requirements with the auto transport company you choose. Some companies may have different fuel level requirements, so clarify this to avoid any misunderstandings or penalties.

Empty any auxiliary fuel tanks

If your vehicle has any auxiliary fuel tanks, such as those used for towing or recreational purposes, ensure they are empty before you transport a car. Auto transport companies typically require all additional fuel tanks to be drained to prevent potential hazards during transportation.

Provide Necessary Documentation

Gather essential documents

Before shipping your car, gather all necessary documents and keep them readily accessible. These may include the vehicle’s registration, insurance papers, and any applicable permits or licenses.

Having these documents on hand will facilitate the process and ensure smooth interactions with the auto transport company and authorities if required.

Make copies of important paperwork

It’s advisable to make copies of all essential documents related to your vehicle before you transport a car. Keep the originals in a safe place and carry the copies with you during transportation. In case of any unforeseen circumstances or delays, having duplicate copies can help resolve potential issues more efficiently.

Review the auto transport company’s requirements

Auto transport companies may have specific documentation requirements for shipping a car across the country. Review their guidelines and verify if any additional paperwork or forms need to be completed before the scheduled pickup. Adhering to these requirements will help streamline the process and avoid any delays or complications.


Shipping a car across the country involves considering additional services, special requirements, fuel levels, and necessary documentation. By exploring available services, understanding fuel guidelines, and gathering the required paperwork, you can ensure a smooth and organized car shipping experience.

Remember to communicate with the auto transport company to address any specific needs or concerns. With the right preparation and attention to detail, your vehicle will safely reach its destination, allowing you to focus on your new journey ahead.