What’s the Difference Between Auto Transport Brokers and Car Carriers?

cars with question marks


Auto transport brokers are not the ones shipping your car, but they can help make sure you find the best car carrier to get it there safe and sound.

Let’s clear up some common confusion regarding auto transport brokers and car carriers. When we strip it right down to basics, the car carrier moves the vehicle from A to B and the broker is the customer’s ally in getting the right service, at the right time, and at the right price.

Together, each entity plays an important role in creating a successful auto transportation experience. Let’s spotlight precisely which services both parties provide to help make your next transport project a great one.

In this blog, you’ll learn:

  • The role of the car carrier
  • What an auto transport broker does
  • The characteristics both parties share
  • How the distinction between broker and carrier can blur


The role of the car carrier

Car carrier companies – also called auto transporters or auto haulers – can vary greatly in size from a single vehicle up to a fleet. They’re responsible for safely loading your vehicle for transport, taking it to its destination, and unloading it carefully at the other side. They’re also responsible for ensuring that weight, height, and other vehicle restrictions are strictly adhered to at all times.

The principal benefit of a car carrier is their expert knowledge of the routes they specialize in. This can be a great help in getting your vehicle to its drop off as efficiently as possible. The best carriers directly translate their route familiarity into quote and time schedules customers can have faith in, with some offering guaranteed quotes with prices that stay fixed.

Acts of God do occur, however, and carriers may fall afoul of factors beyond their control that lead to transportation problems and delays. It’s also a carrier’s job to keep the customer in the communication loop, but the demands of the road may find a driver literally has their hands too full to provide regular updates.

There can be another communication problem where carriers are concerned: There are a large number of auto transport brokers in America and, consequently, many carriers don’t deal with the public and prefer to go through a broker to reach new customers. This can make carriers difficult to reach without a broker’s assistance.

What an auto transport broker does

Brokers don’t transport vehicles themselves, but they help you locate the people who do. Perhaps the biggest perk of working with an auto transport broker is speed. This doesn’t mean that your vehicle will reach its destination faster than regulations and safety allow, but it does mean that finding the right carrier for the job becomes a great deal quicker.

Auto transport brokers do the financial work for the customer by finding carriers who fit their budget. Contacting a carrier directly will only get you a single quote; working with a broker will quickly provide multiple quotes to compare. The wide network of carriers available to a broker is often national, which is a good safeguard against the failure of any one candidate, even after a job has been undertaken.

Looking into the track record and insurance position of potential car carriers can be a time-consuming task, but this is another burden the broker takes care of. The best brokers will go beyond merely financial matters and present carriers who provide a reliable service that’s both licensed and certified. 

Great brokers are also effective middlemen between customer and carrier, liaising between the two to ensure ongoing communication.

The characteristics both parties share

Brokers and carriers are required to be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation. This means that good carriers and brokers both adhere to a strict set of operational rules and regulations. 

The two also typically operate a door-to-door (also called curb-to-curb) transportation model. This involves taking possession of your vehicle at your home, place of business, dealership, storage unit, or parking lot. The vehicle is then kept in the same trailer for the journey to a drop-off point. Due to the sheer scale of many delivery trailers, the drop off point may be a secondary location that is as close to the desired destination as possible.

Some brokers and carriers may work under the terminal-to-terminal model. Though this is often more expensive, it gives the customer more control over when they can drop off and pick up the vehicle.

How the distinction between broker and carrier can blur

Some auto transport companies have elements of both broker and carrier. For example, a fully licensed broker may also have vehicles of their own. This gives them the ability to transport without recourse to a carrier. Conversely, some carriers co-operate with other ones. which allows them to outsource delivery if their own vehicles are unavailable. This can see such a company licensed as a carrier and broker at the same time.

We recommend running a company’s name through the U.S. Department of Transport’s SAFER system if you’re unsure how to classify them. It’s free, and a quick search will reveal if that entity is registered as a carrier, a broker, or a hybrid of the two. SAFER also provides other valuable insights for customers, like a carrier’s safety and inspection records.

Ready to choose your transport model now that you know the differences? Consult our previous blog before you do! You’ll find plenty of tips on what to look out for when selecting the right team for your needs.

Mercury Auto Transport finds quotes in minutes for open, enclosed, and flatbed auto transportation. We’ve arranged safe delivery for over 186,000 vehicles by road, rail, and air while working with the most trusted shipping partners in our industry. Email info@mercuryautotransport.com or call us free at (800) 553-1828 or for a quote.


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What Our Customrs Are Saying


We feel it’s important for you to know how we determined your quote. Quotes are based on what the market demands for cars to be moved at a given time. Each quote is compared with the current rates on the National Load Board before being sent to our customers and will be reviewed periodically through the process.

Other companies might offer you a lower price to obtain your business. This method is ineffective because if the car does not pay the correct amount of money, it will run the probability of not getting loaded or transported on time. You will not get this information from our competitors. Truck drivers always take the loads that pay the most first, leaving the loads that are mispriced to be moved last or not at all. We try very hard to avoid this with our customers by quoting a fair but realistic quote up front. Visit our How we determine your quote page for more information.

Understanding auto transport insurance is important and we think it’s valuable to explain how it works. As part of providing a great car transport service, it is our job to guarantee that the carrier we assign to pickup your vehicle is licensed and insured. Click here to check out our license.

When you go with Mercury to ship your vehicle, you can rest assured that the carrier assigned to move your car is fully insured and licensed with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier and Saftey Administration).

Your vehicle is covered by the carrier’s insurance policy that is doing the shipping. Depending on the type and size of the truck/trailer that is shipping your car, the insurance policy can cover from $100,000 to $1,000,000 of damage.

We have also provided a checklist to explain what you need to do at both pickup and delivery in case there are any issues so, you can file a claim and know that everything will be taken care of.

It is rare but, time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit and it is good to know that your carrier’s insurance will protect your auto shipment in that event.

To view a sample BOL (Bill of Lading) and learn what to do in case of accidental damage, please check out our Condition Report and Procedure checklist.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible.  

We feel it’s important for you to know how we determine your quote.

When you’re looking for a car shipping rate, you want to understand how auto transport works. Prices are based on seasonal market demands for cars to be moved at any given time. Each quote is prepared based on the season and the current national rates.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible. Not all brokers are created equal in this talent.

Mercury does a thorough background check with each carrier for every shipment. We verify their ratings, references, and in addition, we obtain a certified copy of their insurance certificate, directly from the government agency that it is on file with.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the carrier shipping your vehicle is the very best and that there are no surprises guaranteed.

Mercury Auto Transport is licensed, Bonded and Insured. Our FMSCA Motor Carrier Number is MC647319.

While we do our best match your auto shipping needs with the most responsible carriers with the best track records, from time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit, it is good to know that the insurance of the carrier we locate for you will protect your auto shipment in that event.

Shipping a vehicle can be stressful if you don’t know what to do.  This is why we believe it is paramount to have our highly trained agents be your main point of contact from start to finish.

They will go over everything you need to know so you can relax.  In the meanwhile, we prepared this checklist.  This includes everything from pickup to delivery and how to make sure your car is ready for pickup.

When it comes to car moving, we want you to be ahead of the game!  For any questions and further assistance our agents are standing by, (800) 553-1828.  Please read our checklist to prepare your vehicle to learn more.

There are several ways you can ship a car.  The options include enclosed trailer, open carrier transport, flatbed truck, door-to-door shipping services, and to or from a terminal as well.  The most popular of the options is a 7 to 10 car open carrier.  These large trucks can accommodate almost any size vehicle including carsSUVstrucksjeeps, and vans.

Open car transport, door to door is also the best way to get the cheapest auto transport rate possible.  To learn more and see what transport method is best for you, please fill out our free quote form and one of our representatives will respond to you within minutes.  You can also call us at (800) 553-1828.

We present offers from FMCSA Licensed and Insured Carriers. When you accept an offer, we send your service agreement that guarantees the price, door-to-door service, and 100% bumper-to-bumper insurance. There are never any hidden fees or charges, guaranteed.