How Do They Ship My Car if I Bought It Online?

shopping for an exotic vehicle


There are several ways a car can be delivered in today’s bustling online marketplace. Learn more about how it happens and how you can make sure delivery goes smoothly.

Key Takeaways

  • Online car purchases are on the rise
  • There are best practices to ensure online car shipping goes smoothly
  • Many dealers are stepping up to offer local home delivery
  • Longer distances usually mean shipping is up to the buyer
  • Shipping a car will be either dealer-driven or via open, enclosed, or flatbed truck


The number of Americans buying their next car online has boomed in recent years. Some cyber sellers have seen online used sales increase 36% from 2020. It’s a situation driven by consumers’ growing love of technology, the rise of platforms like AutoTrader and Carvana, and the ongoing COVID-19 chaos. That last reason has also contributed to the growth of contactless car shipping.

Buyers who’ve purchased a new or used vehicle online know it’s going to take more than a mail truck to get it home. How can you be sure something that big and valuable will be shipped safely and securely? Our guide will take you through three online shipping scenarios and what buyers can do to make sure delivery goes smoothly.

1. The Local Delivery

The simplest and quickest shipping scenario is when the vehicle you bought online is already close by. Many dealers will now bring the car directly to the buyer’s door. Home vehicle deliveries rose 35% between March and September of 2020; a figure literally driven by fierce competition between sellers because of the pandemic.

This pro-sales, pro-customer environment means online dealers are likely to deliver even when there’s no formal policy favoring it, so we recommend asking. Companies like Carvana offer the buy online home-delivery experience, which can be cost-free or refundable on certain vehicles. AutoTrader offers the same, while adds a badge to online car ads that offer the service.

Local delivery will take one of two forms: Dealership staff will personally drive the vehicle to the customer’s location, or the vehicle will be loaded onto a flatbed truck. In both cases, delivery teams should observe COVID-19 precautions like vehicle disinfection and social distancing.

2. In-State and Out-Of-State Delivery

Taking care of all shipping arrangements for home delivery is traditionally the turf of big luxury brands, especially when it comes to longer distances. Most online car purchases don’t fall into that category (many don’t even involve dealerships and are person-to-person) which means longer shipping in- and out-of-state is most often left up to the buyer. 

This means you’ll have to observe some best practices for a successful delivery. The top two steps are knowing how to find the right auto transport company and being able to tell the difference between an auto carrier and an auto broker.

In- and out-of-state delivery will involve the car being transported either by open, enclosed, or flatbed transport. Our previous blog goes into more detail on how each of these has pros and cons when it comes to pricing, security, and wait times. 

Some online buyers may feel that in- or out-of-state pickup is something they can handle all by themselves. They view this as a cost-cutting exercise and maybe even a fun journey, but there are hidden expenses and risks involved with traveling to pick up a car in-person and driving it back that should make online buyers think twice about skipping professional shipping. You’re liable to pay more in the long run to do it yourself.

3. Cross-Country Delivery

This is the big one: Shipping an online car purchased from someone on the opposite coast can mean a trip of 2,500 to 3,500 miles. This is where hiring a seasoned auto transport team to handle shipping really pays off.

Brokers and their approved carriers know the best ways to optimize your shipment for fast, safe, and affordable delivery. They also know the best routes to get cars quickly to buyers. Also, you won’t have to pay for gas, snacks, rest stops, or accidents. All of those are typical expenses on an extended road trip, and they can soon dispel the myth of personally handled shipping being the cheaper option.

Cross-country delivery offers the same auto transport options we mentioned above (open, enclosed, and flatbed), but enclosed transport is the best way to go when your online purchase is going long-distance. Closed transport trucks protect cars against the elements, cushion against accidents, guard against theft, and shield them against on-road debris.

These three online shipping scenarios cover the nuts and bolts of how an internet buy gets to you. There are a few other shipping tips that can help you get the most out of your online car shopping experience.

A 6-Point Checklist for Easier Online Car Shipping

Online buying takes relatively little time compared to the weeks buyers may have to wait to get their car. Remember the following tips to make things move more smoothly:

1. Try to work with local dealerships when it comes to shipping times. There are several staff members who have to sign off on home delivery and at least two have to make the drive. Arranging to have your online purchase shipped outside of peak busy times for the dealer will increase the chances of the car coming right to your door.

2. Carriers must be insured. In some instances, the buyer may be asked to take out shipping insurance for their online purchase. This is a very good idea that helps protect your investment.

3. Don’t be too quick to choose a shipping method based on price alone. Cheaper can be costly in the long run, while expensive teams may not be worth the cash. Let an auto broker do the deep dive on potential vendors, so you don’t have to.

4. Buying online during the low season for shippers (typically winter) can be both quicker and cheaper. This differs based on location, so consult a broker to find more ways to avoid peak shipping times.

5. Always obtain a copy of the vehicle’s service history, an inspection report, and lots of photos or video of the car’s interior and exterior. Online buying is essentially sight unseen, so be sure it’s what you want before shipping starts.

6. Not all shipping services bring the car directly to you. Online buyers may have to pick it up at a designated drop-off point.

Mercury Auto Transport is a nationwide, full-service auto shipping company that connects buyers with 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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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.