Why Do Car Shipping Prices Change?

Why Do Car Shipping Prices Change?
Published on June 19, 2024

Shipping a car can be costly, but understanding why prices change can help you save money. Car shipping prices fluctuate due to various factors such as seasonal demand, fuel prices, distance, and transport methods. This guide explains the reasons behind these price changes and offers simple tips to reduce costs, like planning ahead, being flexible with dates, and choosing open transport. By knowing what affects car shipping prices and how to manage them, you can make better decisions and find more affordable options for transporting your vehicle.

Key Factors Affecting Car Shipping Costs

Car shipping prices can fluctuate significantly based on various factors. Understanding these variables can help you anticipate changes and better plan your vehicle transportation needs. Here are some of the key reasons why car shipping prices change:

Seasonal Demand

  • Peak Seasons: More people relocate during the summer and winter holidays, leading to higher demand for car shipping services. Increased demand often results in higher prices.
  • Off-Peak Seasons: Conversely, during the fall and early winter months, demand tends to be lower, which can lead to more competitive pricing.

Fuel Prices

  • Fuel costs are a significant part of auto transport companies’ operational expenses. When fuel prices rise, these costs are often passed on to the customer through higher shipping rates.
  • Conversely, when fuel prices drop, shipping costs may decrease as well.

Distance and Route

  • Distance: Longer distances typically result in higher shipping costs. However, the price per mile may decrease as the distance increases.
  • Route: Popular routes between major cities tend to be cheaper due to higher demand and more frequent transport options. Remote or less accessible locations may incur higher costs due to the difficulty of arranging transport.

Type of Vehicle

  • Larger and heavier vehicles, such as trucks, SUVs, and vans, require more space and resources to transport, leading to higher shipping costs compared to smaller cars.
  • Modifications or non-operational vehicles may also incur additional fees due to the need for specialized equipment or handling.

Transport Method

  • Open Transport: This is the most common and cost-effective method, where vehicles are shipped on open trailers. It is generally cheaper than enclosed transport.
  • Enclosed Transport: Offers additional protection from weather and road debris, making it more expensive. This is often chosen for luxury, classic, or high-value vehicles.

Delivery Timeframe

  • Standard Delivery: Offers a flexible timeframe for pickup and delivery, usually resulting in lower costs.
  • Expedited Shipping: Requires quicker delivery times, often leading to higher prices due to the need for prioritized scheduling.

Market Conditions

  • Supply and Demand: Fluctuations in the availability of carriers and the number of vehicles needing transport can impact prices. High demand and low carrier availability can drive prices up.
  • Economic Factors: Broader economic conditions, such as labor shortages or changes in regulatory requirements, can also affect shipping prices.

Geopolitical Events

  • Events such as natural disasters, political instability, or trade disruptions can affect fuel prices and route accessibility, leading to changes in shipping costs.

Advance Booking

  • Booking your transport well in advance can sometimes result in lower prices as it allows transport companies to plan their schedules better. Last-minute bookings often come with a premium due to the need for expedited arrangements.

Tips to Save on Car Shipping Costs

Shipping a car can be a significant expense, but there are several ways to keep costs down without compromising service quality. Here are some effective tips to help you save on car shipping costs:

Plan Ahead

Booking your car shipment well in advance can help you secure better rates. Last-minute shipments often have premium pricing as carriers charge more for expedited services.

Flexible Pickup and Delivery Dates

Flexibility with your pickup and delivery dates can lead to substantial savings. When you’re flexible, carriers can fit your shipment into their existing schedules, which often reduces costs. If you can be patient, you may find more affordable options.

Opt for Open Transport

While enclosed transport offers additional protection for your vehicle, it comes at a higher cost. Open transport is much cheaper and is a safe and reliable option for most cars. Opting for open transport is a smart way to save money unless your vehicle requires extra protection.

Choose Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping

Terminal-to-terminal shipping involves dropping off and picking up your vehicle at designated terminals. This option is typically cheaper than door-to-door service. However, it requires more effort to get the vehicle to and from the terminals.

Ship During Off-Peak Seasons

Car shipping demand fluctuates throughout the year, with peak seasons typically in the summer and early winter. Shipping during off-peak times can help you save money, as there is less demand and lower prices. Plan your shipment for the spring or fall to take advantage of lower rates.

Look for Discounts

Many car shipping companies offer discounts for various groups, such as military personnel, students, and seniors. Additionally, seasonal promotions and first-time customer discounts can help reduce your costs. Always ask about any available discounts when requesting a quote.

Following these tips can save on car shipping costs while ensuring your vehicle is transported safely and efficiently. Careful planning and informed decisions can significantly affect the overall expense of shipping your car.

Additional Factors That Influence Car Shipping Prices

Several other factors can influence car shipping prices. Here are some to consider:

Ship Multiple Vehicles Together

If you need to ship more than one vehicle, inquire about multi-car discounts. Shipping multiple vehicles at once can be more cost-effective than shipping them separately, making this a great option for families or businesses.

Reduce Vehicle Weight

Carriers often charge extra for vehicles that exceed a certain weight limit. Removing personal items from your vehicle can help you avoid these additional weight charges. Not only does this save money, but it also ensures that your items are not at risk during transport.

Choose a Reputable Company

While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest option, choosing a reputable company can save you from unexpected costs due to damages or delays. A reliable company will provide transparent pricing and quality service, ensuring your vehicle arrives safely and on time.


Car shipping prices are influenced by various factors, many of which are beyond the control of the customer and the transport company. Knowing these factors and planning accordingly can help you secure the best rates for your vehicle transport needs. Whether you are relocating, purchasing a vehicle, or attending a car show, understanding the dynamics of car shipping pricing can help you make informed decisions and manage your budget effectively.

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