Explore perennial auto transport facts, learn some best shipping practices, and consider the future of automotives with our expert team.

More vehicle owners are turning to auto transport companies to ship their vehicles. If you’re one of them and need to learn more about the process fast, we can explain how auto transport works in under two minutes.

For those with more time, this guide will teach you how the auto transport process works for various vehicle types and how to prepare your vehicle for transport domestically and abroad.
We’ll also explore how data insights empower auto transport
and share our extensive insider knowledge on finding the most cost-effective and reliable auto shipping companies.

Vehicle Shipping Insights

The information gathered from data analytics reveals actionable data by capturing metrics such as how many cars are waiting to be shipped in the U.S., in what regions, and which transport types are in demand. Analytics also show in which areas customers are pleased or where they’re suffering through substandard auto transport.

Mercury Auto Transport has set up a pricing and payment system that charges customers and suppliers only after they’ve approved the carrier and supplies comprehensive insight on vehicle transport. We have also developed a new analytical tool people can access to instantly search for carriers in their area and stay connected to market rates.

This is a remarkable improvement on common auto broker practice, which takes a customer deposit and then leaves them in the dark about how auto shipping works. This lack of information can leave customers open to issues such as unreachable expectations and fraud.

Brokers and transport suppliers will also benefit from our data dashboard by using our analytics to spot customer patterns and get ready for peak shipping seasons. The more the industry knows about pricing, supply, and demand – not to mention customer pain points – the better operations it can provide and the greater productivity and profits it can enjoy.

How the Car Shipping Process Works

Choosing the type of vehicle carrier you want and finding a reputable auto transport company are the first two steps in getting your vehicle picked up and delivered. Preparing your vehicle for transport and choosing the type of delivery you want comes next.

There are the four main shipping methods. Each has pros and cons regarding how well they’ll protect a vehicle, how much they cost, and how quickly you can expect delivery. Here’s what you can generally expect with each transport type:ased on factors like safety record and insurance status.

Enclosed Auto Shipping

Typically used to ship three or four cars in enclosed cargo space, this type of shipping protects vehicles
from the elements, on-road debris, and human interference. These advantages make enclosed shipping more expensive, generally costing in the $1000 to $3000 range.

The price is variable based on factors like vehicle size, distance, delivery type, and drop-off location, all of which affect shipping quotes. The price structure of different shippers is another variable. A further important consideration is that enclosed auto shipping can take longer – sometimes significantly so – than open transport.

Flatbed Auto Shipping

This type of shipping is typically used for large and heavy vehicles that are driven onto the trailer on ramps. Flatbed drivers have extensive experience with hefty cargo and take great care on the road. This specialization and the less common need for flatbeds make this one of the more expensive shipping methods.

Open Auto Shipping

Open shipping is more readily available, which can speed up delivery time. Multiple cars are loaded onto an auto carrier without the level of protection from cosmetic damage offered by enclosed transport. However, the potential for risk with open transport is typically minor.

Some open transport providers won’t offer door-to-door pickup, requiring customers to drive their vehicle to, and pick it up from, the carrier’s terminals. The same price variables apply to open shipping as enclosed, with the average cost ranging between $500 to $2000.

Shipping by Rail

Shipping by train is the most cost-effective way to move vehicles. It requires more from the customer, who will need to drop off and pick up their vehicle at the train station. This can be a logistical headache for car dealers, but some companies will pick vehicles up from the drop-off station and deliver them to customers.

By-rail shipping has extended delivery times of up to two weeks or more and costs around 78 cents per mile for every 1000 miles, making distance the main factor in the final quote. Open or enclosed rail shipping options also allow for further budgetary planning.

Using an auto broker to arrange vehicle shipping can save time and money and create a safer experience. Brokers usually work across a wide area and are connected with many carrier companies. This lets them offer a list of pre-approved and reputable auto shippers so you can compare quotes and find the best deal. Brokers typically need the following information:

  • Your vehicle(s) make, model, and year
  • Its operating status
  • Desired type of transport (open or enclosed)
  • Pickup location and drop-off destination
  • Delivery date

Inspecting your vehicle before and after shipping is vital to clear it of any valuables, find any mechanical issues, and make a visual record for comparison on delivery. You’ll also have to decide between door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal shipping. Each has its pros and cons of expense, time requirements, and vehicle safety.

Customers should know what makes a good auto carrier beyond their broker’s suggestions. Read our tips on selecting reputable carriers based on factors like safety record and insurance status.

Shipping Different Types of Vehicles Explained

Auto transport isn’t a “one size fits all” business. The individual customer’s needs must be considered in terms of budget, desired delivery schedule, and the type of vehicle they’re moving. Sometimes there are multiple options, while at others, only one type of shipping will suit the vehicle.

Regular Vehicles

A “regular” vehicle generally means any model that doesn’t fall into the luxury, classic/collectible, or antique classes. This doesn’t mean they don’t require careful shipping, though. The best way to arrange for regular vehicles (and every other kind) is through an auto broker. Open transport is the most common method of shipping regular cars.

Luxury Vehicles

These more considerable financial investments are best suited to enclosed shipping. Some luxury vehicle owners prefer to drive their car to the shipping company, while others may hire professional drivers experienced in that model to make the delivery.


Flatbed transport can be ideal for RVs, as can the tow-away option that uses special trucks and equipment for loading and transport. There’s the drive-away option for RVs, which requires calling professional RV transporters with experienced drivers.

The average per-mile cost for RV shipping is roughly $3.32 for a journey of fewer than 100 miles. Less than 1000 miles sees an average of around $1.05 per mile. As always, the price variables mentioned above will apply.


Flatbed trailers attached to cabs are the only overland way to haul trucks. This will cost around $800 to $2000, though this figure is dependent on price variables. Specialists must handle these jobs.

The critical factor in selecting the right carrier type for your vehicle is choosing a company with experience in transporting that class, such as a vendor skilled in moving luxury or classic cars. Their expertise may cost extra, but it will help prevent costly repairs caused by inexperienced handling.

An Overview of International Car Shipping

International car shipping applies if you’re moving a vehicle over the border to Canada or Mexico or even going much further afield. International transport adds overseas and by-air options to auto shipping that, like overland options, have their pros and cons. There are also vital matters like paperwork and auto coverage to consider.

Here are the three international shipping methods:



Standing for Roll On/Roll Off, RORO requires the vehicle owner to drive their car to a dock where it will be driven onto a ship and driven off at the destination. This is the cheapest of the three but also the riskiest, as it offers no special protection in transit.


Shipping container

This supplies a container that typically holds around six other vehicles and allows the transport cost to be split between multiple customers. Containers guard your car more effectively from transport damage, debris, and contact with other vehicles.


Air freight

The fastest delivery choice supplies the safest mode of transport. It’s also the most expensive, costing between $5,000 and $40,000. Air transport can cut a trip down to hours that would otherwise take days or even weeks; however, your vehicle will still need time to clear customs.

How Long Does It Take for Your Car to Be Shipped?

Most customers can expect a 2- to 3-day timeframe, with shipping companies usually able to cover 500 miles a day. These are general figures because due to factors beyond their control, such as inclement weather or road accidents that can affect traffic flow, auto shippers can’t give customers guaranteed delivery times.

Things like mechanical difficulties or a delivery issue with another vehicle being transported with yours can also impact delivery time. Terminal-to-terminal shipping gives a little more certainty around delivery times since shippers don’t have to negotiate residential or city streets for door-to-door drop-off.

You may also nominate a trusted person over 18 years old to take delivery of the vehicle if your schedule doesn’t allow you to be present. This is simple to do and can help speed up the process. You may also have more control over shipping time if a carrier offers expedited service. This is more expensive, but you’ll find they’re better able to supply guarantees on pick-up dates.

7 Reasons It’s Better to Ship a Vehicle Rather than Drive It

The expense of car shipping is put into perspective when customers realize how much money and trouble they can save by skipping self-drive:


Shipping spares your odometer

You may want to limit your car’s mileage, which is impossible when driving long distances. Extended drives will also subject your vehicle to wear and tear that you may need to pay to have fixed.


You avoid accumulative road costs

Cars and drivers need fuel and rest. Think ahead about how much you’ll have to spend on food, drink, and accommodations along the route while gassing up regularly.


Personal and professional schedules are less affected

Road trips could mean taking time off work or rearranging personal plans.


You’ll avoid driving distractions

Long drives are challenging for people with families and/or pets who may inadvertently provide dangerous distractions.


Weather won’t be a worry

Inclement weather causes delays and can endanger you and your passengers. Car shipping means you won’t be subjected to hazardous conditions or be forced to modify your vehicle with items like wheel chains, special fuels, or specific tires.


Your classic or exotic car will be safer

Most people shipping these types of vehicles will opt for the enclosed shipping option. Auto carriers can give special care to these fragile and expensive vehicles that aren’t necessarily up to the demands of a long-haul drive.


Other cost-effective steps

You could get a discount from some shippers if you meet them halfway through the process. For example, if you or a designated representative can meet the shipper and help with loading the car, or if you’re standing by to have your vehicle picked up at short notice if a shipping spot opens at the last minute, many shippers will be more willing to negotiate the price.

Hiring an auto transport company could save you money in many areas, from protecting your property to preventing personal injury. The cost of repairing or replacing a vehicle or perhaps even dealing with medical expenses due to injury sustained while driving on a long road trip are much less desirable than paying a one-time fee to shipping professionals!

Are Electric Cars All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

Global sales and investor interest in electric vehicles (EVs) continue to rise; however, they’re not perfect for every home. A key factor in electrics’ favor is their increasing travel distance, diminishing the public perception of plug-ins as short-range vehicles.

For example, the Kia Niro EV debuted as one of the more affordable EVs capable (under certain conditions) of just over 236 miles before requiring a recharge. That maximum range will only increase across the various manufacturers in the future.

EVs beat gas-powered competitors for fuel economy, with some models offering thousands of dollars in fuel savings over time as well as no more faulty drive belts, grimy air filters, or oil changes. Ongoing government initiatives are also driving America toward becoming an EV nation.

Now for the negatives. Electrics often carry a hefty upfront expense that’s comparable to luxury vehicles. An electric car could take an hour to charge, and that’s at one of the high-speed charging outlets. Finding a recharge station along any route may prove a chore in the short term as this technology evolves, and recharging at home could take up to 10 hours.

Multi-person households must think twice before making an electric their sole vehicle. For the near future, at least, it seems that owning a gas-powered car for quick trips and an EV for longer drives is one solution. Buying a plug-in hybrid is another.

Connect with Mercury Auto Transport

Our dedicated team makes every aspect of the shipping process transparent, from pricing to final pickup, and we never surprise our customers with added or hidden costs, surcharges, or cancellation fees. Call us toll-free at 800-553-1828 or email info@mercuryautotransport.com 
to ask any auto transport questions or request a quote!