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5 Camouflaged Costs in Auto Transportation Quotes

5 Camouflaged Costs in Auto Transportation Quotes

David Stone
Updated November 24, 2021 by David Stone

Table of Contents

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    Auto transport quotes can be expensive enough without any costly surprises creeping in. Learn which expenses may be hard to see during your next query.

    Key Takeaways

    • Pickup and drop off methods impact price
    • Vehicle weight can influence logistics and your final quote
    • Time of year can spike transport expenses
    • Choice of shipping truck can make a big difference
    • Shaky insurance clarity can lead to confusion and added costs

    Every car owner braces themselves for a big bill when moving their vehicle using a shipping company. One of the main reasons for this apprehension is a lack of knowledge about the vehicle transportation process. When you learn how it works and understand where the fees come from, you’ll have the knowledge to take control of the process and dispel those cost concerns.

    Grasping the basics and appreciating which shipping factors may be unique to your situation are two great skills. However, there may still be hidden costs waiting to sting you when you least expect it. This guide will root out where some of those fees may lurk with five tips that will let you feel confident that your car will get from point A to B at a fair price.

    1. The pickup and drop off

    This part of the service falls into one of two columns: Either the carrier company will do both or the customer will. There is an obvious charge if the carrier does it and a less obvious one if the pick-up or drop-off locations are in remote or hard to reach areas.

    Picking it up by yourself will incur gas expenses, which vary depending on how far away the carrier’s terminals are. Use of these terminals will also incur a temporary holding cost at both ends of the transport journey. Customers must make sure to enquire how much the necessary pick-up and drop-off locations will add to their final auto transport quote.

    2. The car’s weight

    Your car’s size is a typically obvious cost factor because the bigger it is, the more room it takes up on the transport. Many drivers forget to factor in the weight. The heavier a vehicle is, the more fuel it takes for the carrier to get it to the drop-off point. Provide your chosen carrier with as much vehicle data as you can (make, model, year, etc.) to avoid a potentially heavy hidden expense. 

    There are a couple of cost-cutting tricks car owners can use to reduce vehicle weight, the first of which is not sending your car on its journey with a full fuel tank. A quarter- to half-full tank can be enough to account for pick-up, drop-off, or picking up from drop-off. Owners should also ensure the car isn’t loaded up with any items that aren’t strictly required for its safe operation.

    A worst-case cost scenario is if overstuffed and overweight cars cause a carrier to exceed the maximum at any weigh stations along the way. Tickets, fees, delays, or route alterations are all possibilities, which will only cost time for the carrier and probably add financial costs for you.

    3. Sneaky seasonal add-ons

    Which time of year is the most cost-effective for car shipping? Half the year is pretty much guaranteed to drive up your quote. Winter (December, January, and February) can add extra cost to your auto transport quote for two reasons: First, it’s a more hazardous drive for carriers, and cold conditions can cause frequent (and costly) route delays. Second, there is typically less demand in winter, which means carriers have to inflate prices to make ends meet.

    This leads some drivers to assume that shipping in the summer must be cheaper. June, July, and August are actually peak season for car shipping; a fact that sees the law of supply and demand come into effect as vehicle shipments increase with only a limited number of carriers to meet them. 

    The sweet spots for a lower auto transport quote are usually spring (March, April, and May) and autumn (September, October, and November). Demand in these seasons is often still high enough to merit stable carrier prices. Weather is clement enough to allow smooth running and not yet cruel enough to cause winter-level price hikes. Ultimately, it must be stressed that seasons are no guarantee of higher or lower prices, so ask your carrier if they make the calendar a cost factor.

    4. Open vs. enclosed shipping

    Not all car shipping methods are made equal. Enclosed shipping can add a significant amount to your auto transport quote due to the added level of safety and protection your vehicle gains from things like the elements, road debris, and thieves.

    Enclosed carriers also usually carry fewer vehicles than open ones, which can further hike the price. Open carriers are cheaper at the final quote, but they can lead to the hidden expense of auto repair or even replacement due to exposure to the aforementioned risks (if there’s no insurance in place, that is).

    5. Auto transport insurance

    Good carriers will make this part of their quote and let customers know that they’ve added it and what it will guard against. Average carriers won’t let you know exactly what their insurance provides for and if their coverage is primary or secondary to yours.

    Having a frank insurance discussion before you commit to a carrier helps you know how protected you are against vehicle damage during open, or indeed any form of, auto transport. Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to get into the nitty-gritty of costs with a carrier. This is where auto brokers can be an invaluable ally by taking care of that side of things for you.

    How auto brokers can help with hidden costs

    Auto brokers are separate entities from auto carriers (here’s how to know the difference). Partnering with a broker is an excellent way to break down your auto transport quote, so every charge is clear. Transparency is the key benefit customers gain because brokers are only interested in recommending carriers who they’re familiar with and who know their routes and rates equally well.

    Mercury Auto Transport is a nationwide, full-service auto shipping company that connects buyers with reliable vehicle carriers anywhere in the country. Our process is transparent and trustworthy, and we’re always working to get you the best deal. Call us today for a quote!


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    First, we post your vehicle through our network, including all National Dispatch Boards for Auto Transport. This is where all licensed auto transport carriers can see your vehicle is available for shipping.


    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.


    Not until you approve your carrier and final logistics is your deposit due. Your deposit is included in your quote and goes toward the total price. The remaining balance is due at time of delivery. Nothing gets done without your approval.


    Your driver will contact you prior to your pickup and delivery dates to schedule a time for loading and unloading. Once your vehicle reaches its destination, you do a final inspection of your vehicle and pay the driver the remaining balance. You and the driver both sign the Bill of Lading and each keep a copy.