Few aspects of moving are as tricky to figure out as how to ship a car. After all, an automobile is huge—so if you aren’t able to drive it to your new destination, how does it get there? Allow us to point you in the right direction, and outline how much it will all cost.

How much does it cost to ship a car?

That all depends on a few factors, according to Daniel Rua of United Auto Transport in West Palm Beach, FL. Consider the following:

  • How far you’re going: Short trips, like interstate, may cost a couple of hundred dollars, while cross-country can go over a thousand.
  • What kind of car you have: Smaller is cheaper; SUVs and trucks will cost you more to transport.
  • Whether you ship on an open or enclosed trailer: Because open trailers can carry more cars, it’s generally less expensive to ship your car on one, but if you have a fancy ride, you’ll want to pay the extra $300 to $400 to ship it in an enclosed trailer.
  • The ease of destination and pickup: You’ll pay more for door-to-door service, less if you’re willing to somehow hoof it to a company’s designated pickup spot.

For example, Rua estimates that it will cost around $350 to $400 to ship a Toyota Prius from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a relatively short haul. Longer trips, like from New York City to San Diego, will cost substantially more—around $1,250.

There are myriad websites and apps, such as MoveMyCar.com, that will connect you with brokers for quotes. Just type in the make and model of your car and the date you want it shipped, and within minutes you’ll have numerous calls and emails from shippers on the cost.

How long does it take to ship a car?

Not long ago, it used to take as long as a month to ship your car cross-country, according to major car-selling website Edmunds.com. But now, with the advent of a central dispatch service to which most shipping brokers are connected, your car can go coast to coast in about seven days.

How to ship a car so it arrives in one piece

Even though almost all auto shipping brokers use the same national dispatch service, there are differences in cost, quality, and degree of service, so you’ll want to take the following steps:

  1. Do your homework: Before committing to a car-moving company, check out its reputation on transportreviews.com. It’s like the Yelp for auto transporters and will alert you to any lemons you may want to avoid.
  2. Check insurance: Most companies have liability insurance that will cover your car for up to $100,000. If you have a fancy auto that’s worth more, you’ll want to ship it in an enclosed trailer, whose contents are typically insured up to $1 million. Just to be safe, it’s also a good idea to check your own auto insurance policy to see if it covers shipping as well. It’s no big deal if it doesn’t, but it’s always reassuring to be doubly protected.
  3. Empty your car: Just in case you were thinking you could pack your vehicle like a storage crate, know that if your car’s weight is substantially higher than what’s expected for your make and model, the shippers could charge extra or refuse to move it. And your contract will likely state that the shipping company is not responsible for valuables left in the car. So purge excess items, OK?
  4. Inspect your car before you send it off: Take several pictures of your auto and date them so if any damage occurs in transit, you can prove that it wasn’t there before. An honorable company will do a 21-point inspection before it loads the car on the trailer; make sure you go over it before you sign off.
  5. Inspect your car again once it arrives: If you find nicks, scratches, or malfunctions that weren’t there before, you’re on your own for repairs once you accept delivery and sign on the dotted line.

Other transport options

Your alternative to shipping through a professional transportation service is to hire an individual driver to take your car to your destination. This can be an option for snowbirds or for people who want to transport their pets, but it can get expensive. Glenn of Glenn’s Driving Service charges about $850 to take your car from New York to Florida. You’ll also have to shoulder the cost of the driver’s hotel and food en route, as well as the plane fare to get the driver back home. If you decide you want to go this route, you can find insured, vetted drivers on sites such as professionaldrivers.com.

And if you’re relocating for a new job, you should ask your employer about covering your car-moving expenses—ideally you should negotiate it right into your contract. It’s always easier (and cheaper) to let someone else handle it, and many human resource reps at large companies should be well-versed in the process.