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Auto Transport Guide: How to Prepare a Car for Shipping Across the U.S.?

Auto Transport Preparation Guide

Shipping a vehicle from one place to another entails a series of planning and arrangements, from researching a reliable auto transport company and working out shipping deals to ensuring the car is well-prepared for the shipping journey. Indeed, when car owners plan to move their vehicles from one point to another, many arise regarding the process, especially for long shipping distances.

This guide will answer common questions people ask when relocating their vehicles. The following list outlines the topics this guide will address:

  1. Why do vehicle owners have to prepare their vehicles for shipping?
  2. How to prepare a car for shipping across the U.S.?
  3. Is it okay to keep personal items inside the car while it is shipped?
  4. Tips on shipping the car with personal items inside.

We will dive deep into each listed topic so our readers can learn about preparing a car for shipping.

How to prepare a car for shipping across the U.S.

After choosing a reliable auto shipping company and obtaining the best car hauling quote, some minor, yet substantial tasks remain to ensure the auto shipping process runs smoothly and properly. The next step is knowing how to prepare the vehicle before handing it to the auto-hauling company that will move it to its new destination.

In this section, we provide a step-by-step guide on preparing a car for shipment after addressing one frequently asked question: Why should you prepare a car in the first place?

Why do vehicle owners have to prepare their vehicles for shipping?

Preparing a vehicle for shipping is essential to the car shipping procedure since it allows the car’s owner to know the current condition of their vehicle and recognize any damage that might occur during shipment.

Therefore, these preparations are in the best interest of the car owner and the car hauler, as they help prevent risks of vehicle damage and possible theft, enable transporters to stay on schedule, and avoid delays caused by surprises on the day of the car pick-up.

All reputable auto transport companies, like Tempus Logix, recommend preparing a car before shipping.

Preparing the car for shipment

Having stressed the importance of getting the car ready before it is picked up for shipment, here is what to do to prepare a car for shipment:

Give it a good wash

Cleaning the car before shipping not only leaves a good impression on the carrier’s driver but can aid you in performing a detailed inspection of the car’s current condition.

While cleaning the vehicle, the owner can spot all the existing damages, scratches, dents, or paint chips. This way, they will be well familiar with its problems and will be able to recognize new damages that may have occurred in transit. So, make sure to wash the interior and exterior of the car.

Additionally, make notes of the damages found when cleaning the car so that no details are missed when the truck driver arrives to inspect it before loading it into the carrier.

Take pictures of the car before shipment

After cleaning the car, document all the scratches or other damages by taking several pictures of its current condition. Take photos from different angles that show the car in general and the damaged areas or parts, and most importantly, take a dedicated photo of the odometer.

The pictures should be high quality and clear to prove the car’s condition before shipment should any damage occur. Even though there is a low chance of the car getting damaged during shipment, pictures can be useful if needed. Sometimes, the auto shipping company takes pictures of the car before shipping as part of the vehicle’s condition report.

Take out all personal belongings and after-market accessories

Leaving personal items inside the car when transported will not help the owner in any way. These items, especially those not fixed or secured, will move around throughout the trip, potentially causing damage to the vehicle’s interior. In addition, visible personal stuff would attract the unwanted attention of thieves or could be lost during shipment. If such items are gone, there would be no compensation.

The carrier’s cargo insurance neither covers personal belongings inside the car nor the damage caused by these items. So, remove all unnecessary items inside the car, like charging cables, pens, old chapsticks, loose change, sunglasses, GPS devices, and any other items, no matter how small they are.

Consider also removing after-market accessories to protect them against damage, including removable skis, antennas, bike racks, luggage racks, rooftop boxes, custom spoilers, and folding the side view mirrors.

However, removing items doesn’t include a spare tire, an emergency kit, or a license plate. Keeping such items is acceptable, but ensure they are well packed and won’t move during transportation.

Prepare the required documents

The auto shipping company will ask the car owner to provide paperwork proving their ownership of the shipped vehicle. Therefore, preparing these documents in advance can prevent any delays.

Paperwork includes vehicle registration information, proof of insurance, proof of owning the vehicle, like the bill of sale, original vehicle title, and valid identification, like a driver’s license or passport. Remember to have these documents ready when the carrier’s driver asks for them.

Perform necessary maintenance

Check out mechanical issues like oil leaks, tire pressure, battery charge, radiator, fluids like oil and coolant, brakes, and power steering. It is advisable to visit the mechanic for a check-up.

If the mechanic finds any problems, let them do the necessary repairs before the pick-up date. If the damages can’t be fixed before the shipment date, report that to the auto shipping company. This way, they can figure out a way to ship it without problems.

As for tires and fluids, tires should be inflated properly to prevent possible damage during loading and unloading. On the other hand, fluids should be topped up to the right levels.

Adjust the gas tank

‘The lighter, the better’ is One key rule in the auto transport business. So, anything that will add unnecessary weight to the vehicle is better avoided. One way to reduce the vehicle’s weight is to fill a quarter of the gas tank, enough to drive the car on and off the trailer.

Extra fuel means additional weight, which ultimately adds up to the final shipping cost. After all, there is no point in filling up the gas tank if the car is only going to be transported on a shipping trailer.

Insurance check

Auto shipping companies provide freight insurance in case a vehicle gets damaged by the transporter. If the damage occurs due to natural causes, the auto shipping company won’t be responsible for covering that damage.

As for those who have vehicle insurance, they can contact their insurance providers to find out whether the insurance covers the car during transportation. If so, the car’s insurance coverage will pay for repairs uncovered by the auto transport company.

Alarm system and toll tags

Suppose the alarm goes off while the vehicle is in transit; one can imagine how inconvenient it would be for the driver to get to the vehicle in the carrier and disable it. That is why we advise double-checking that the alarms are disabled to ensure a hassle-free shipping process.

Some people also forget to check for toll tags, which could result in paying fees and expenses even if they are not driving the car. So, remove all toll tags and parking passes to avoid these situations.

Is it okay to keep personal items inside the car while it is shipped?

 When shipping a vehicle to a new destination, some people wonder whether packing personal items inside the car is allowed. The simple answer is yes, as shipping personal items inside the car is not illegal. Most auto shipping companies won’t refuse to ship a vehicle with personal belongings inside, and they will ship the personal items for free if they don’t weigh more than 100 lbs. However, if the load exceeds 100 pounds, additional fees will be issued to ship the items, or the carrier might refuse to ship the vehicle.

Some auto transport companies refuse shipping vehicles with personal items as they don’t want to bear responsibility in case of any incident. So, it all depends on each auto transport company’s policy. Those who need to keep some items inside the car during shipping should ask the auto transport company about their policy before leaving any personal items.

In addition, shipping items inside a car can be unsafe since they might cause damage to the interior of the car if not packed properly. They might also get lost or stolen, and the auto transport company won’t be responsible for the lost items as they are not covered by insurance.

The last thing to keep in mind is the weight of the packed items. If the car is overweight, the carrier might refuse to ship it as it will affect the total allowed freight weight of the trailer. As a result, the driver might avoid routes with weight stations, causing delivery delays, or will be fined for being overweight, which will be passed on to the customers.

To avoid these incidents, inform the auto transport company in advance about packing some personal items inside the car to determine their actual weight.

Tips when shipping personal items inside the car

As we have mentioned earlier, packing personal items inside the hauled car may lead to interior damages or having the items stolen. To eliminate these risks, here are some tips on packing personal items.

Pack personal items properly

Though it is not preferable to pack personal belongings inside the shipped vehicle, one might need to do so. In this case, put these items in a duffle bag or secure them inside a box with a secured lid. Place these items in the trunk for added security. This way, the items won’t move around and damage the car’s interior.

Don’t leave personal items visible

In order to keep personal stuff out of sight, one can either put them in the trunk or below the seat tops at the back of the car. Shipping a vehicle might take a couple of days or weeks, during which the driver can take breaks and leave the vehicle unattended.

So, if personal items can be seen through the car’s windows, they will attract thieves. To avoid this scenario, make sure the packed items are not visible, keeping them below the window line.

Keep personal items to a minimum

We have mentioned that auto transport companies that allow personal items will agree to ship 100 lbs of items inside the car for free, and any additional load will incur additional charges. So keeping personal items to a minimum is in the best interest of both the owner and the driver.

One last thing to note is that clients should notify the auto shipping company about packing personal items inside the car and the weight of these items.

Don’t ship valuables

Precious items, sensitive belongings, and sentimental stuff are not advised to be kept inside the car during transit. There will be no reimbursement or compensation for these items if lost or stolen. Although these issues are uncommon in auto hauling, they can happen, and no one wants to risk their valuables when they don’t have to.

It is better to ship delicate items, like clothes or light items, that are easy to move. Avoid packing fragile objects and illegal items. When in doubt, send pictures of the items you wish to pack to the auto transport company, and they will assess whether they are allowed or not.


With the tips and steps for preparing a car for shipment in mind, vehicle transport will be simpler and easier than ever. To make the process as hassle-free as possible, stay in touch with the customer agent of the auto shipping company and keep them informed of all the details regarding the vehicle’s conditions, so they can plan the car shipment safely and properly.

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