What Type of Auto Transportation Should You Select For Your Vehicle?

While hiring a car shipping service to move your vehicle from one place to another seems simple, there’s more to it than meets the eye. There are many factors you must worry about to ensure the smooth transfer and safety of your car.

The problem escalates if you’re ordering your car from a different country: The further the vehicle is from its destination, the more complicated the process becomes. And that’s in addition to the risks and potential damages that may happen during the car shipping process, but which are entirely out of your control.

To narrow down the best car shipping experience for you, consider the top three types of auto transport:

Three Types of Auto Transport

There are different ways you can ship a car from one place to another. Here are the top three car shipping options:

Option #1: Open Air Transport

Also known as open auto transport, open-air transport means your vehicle will be shipped in an open carrier without a covering. In most cases, your car might even be outside of the trailer or shipping container.

The benefits of open-air transport are that it is very economical and practical. Not only is this option highly available in the auto transport industry, but you can also enjoy the most economical rates for this auto shipping service type.

The main disadvantage of open-air transport is its vulnerability to changing climate conditions. Because there’s no cover protecting your car, this type of transport is the most susceptible to the elements, including wind, rain, snow, or sleet. Sudden and passing weather conditions could cause damage to the exterior body of your vehicle.

However, much depends on the reliability of the carrier you book with. While open air transport poses the greatest potential risk for your car, you shouldn’t have any problems if you’re transporting your car a short distance (less than 500 miles), in good weather, and with a carrier known for delivering vehicles safely and on time.

Option #2: Enclosed Auto Transport

With enclosed auto transport, your vehicle will be shipped inside a container. Enclosed transportation offers the same level of security as other types such as rail, air, and sea transport.

This type of auto transport is the least efficient due to the weight of the enclosed unit. The heavier the load, the more gas the auto carrier consumes. As a result, enclosed auto transport costs tend to be higher than other options.

Nonetheless, enclosed car transport is ideal for longer distances because it provides a safe, climate-controlled environment for the car. It is also the preferred auto transport type for luxury and classic car owners and those who want to transport their vehicles during snow or an incoming rainstorm.

Option #3: Expedited Transport

Expedited auto transport is a way to move your car and get it to its destination quickly. This type of auto transport is ideal for people who need their vehicles to make it on time for a very important meeting, event, or other personal functions.

Expedited shipping typically takes place over long distances within the continental United States and Canada. Shipping times vary from three days to a week, depending on your start and ending locations.

Aside from the minimum wait of getting a car transport, the advantage of expedited transport is it only requires the keys and vehicle — there’s no need to fill out forms and contact their support team of the auto shipper. This door-to-door delivery service also picks up and drops off the car at a specified location.

Due to the urgency of your request and the door-to-door service, expedited transport is costlier than open air transport, especially if you want your car to be delivered quickly.

Common Questions About Choosing Auto Transportation for Your Vehicle

Now that you know the top auto transport types and their respective pros and cons, you may have additional questions:

How Much Should It Cost to Ship a Car?

The cost of shipping a car varies between each auto transport company, the size and type of vehicle being shipped, the pick-up location (some locations require onsite pickup), the distance between pick-ups and drop-offs, and other factors.

Below are the ballpark figures of different auto transport types:

  • Open Air Transport — $400-$1,700 between 300 to 2,000 kilometers, $120-$500 for shorter ranges.
  • Enclosed Transport — Approximately 40-60% more expensive than open-air transport, i.e., if open-air transport costs $500, enclosed transport may cost between $700-800.
  • Expedited Transport — There is no available data that shares the approximate costs of an enclosed transport, but it can be expensive if your requested shipping window is short.

Is It Cheaper to Ship a Car by Train or Truck?

Shipping a car by train is typically cheaper than by truck or freight. However, getting your vehicle to your destination via train takes much longer since the train won’t leave the station unless all available spots have been filled.

The average time for spots to be filled depends on various factors such as the season and the demand for transportation.  

What Is the Best Way to Transport a Car Long Distance?

Your car needs all the care it can get when traveling thousands of miles, and you don’t know how the weather or variables beyond your control will play out. Enclosed auto transport gives you peace of mind knowing that your car is transported to your destination with the best safety measures in place so your car won’t be damaged during the journey. 

What Is the Cheaper Method of Moving Vehicles Internationally?

There are two ways to transport your vehicle overseas: standard ocean and air transport. Between the two, a marine shipping company is a cheaper option.

An ocean liner with capacity for an automobile might be available from between $1000 to $5000 depending on size, date of hire, and destination port. This is a bargain compared to a price tag between $5,000 to $40,000 that you might incur if you choose air transport.

Some considerations affect the price of marine companies because they reflect on their insurance premiums. These include (but are not limited to):

  • If insuring your car against war, damages, robbery, accident, or theft
  • Your speed requirements 
  • Any hazardous materials in the vehicle, such as flammable liquids

How Are Cars Transported Overseas?

Car transport overseas is more common than you’d think. Most of the second-hand car transports come from the US to different countries, with UAE, Nigeria, and Georgia being the top importers.

Graph of where used vehicles get exported to

Source: Statista

Shipping your cars from overseas to the US can be a complicated process. However, all it takes is help from a good auto transport company or auto transport broker to help you decide the best way to transport your car without going beyond your budget.

After transporting your car to the port and prepping it to observe shipping guidelines, the company will load it to the carrier which will be secured on deck to keep it steady as the ship navigates through rough waters.

Once the ship gets to the location, your car will undergo customs as it is moved to a secure location along with the other vehicles. After your car is cleared, you can ask the shipping company to bring the vehicle to the nearest available location. This is ideal if you’re not familiar with the roads where your car is delivered.

What Documents Do I Need to Ship a Car Overseas?

Several paperwork forms will need to be filled out or updated for a car shipment going overseas. The information you need to fill out or update on paperwork includes, but is not limited to:

  • Insurance Paperwork
  • Navigation Paperwork
  • Import Papers
  • Driver’s License Information
  • Passport Information
  • Vehicle Registration Information
  • VIN Number/ Vehicle Identification Number (you can usually find this information posted above the dashboard of your vehicle)
  • Shipping Company Information

Get as many of these documents and details ready before booking a ship from a car shipping company. If you don’t have these papers, an experienced company will guide you through securing them to make the transport possible.

How Do Auto Transport Companies Work?

Most car shipping companies work by arranging the pickup and delivery of your vehicle from one location to another. There are many benefits, such as saving time and gas. In return for service, auto transport companies will charge you based on the weight of your car and the distance it will be traveling.

How Do I Choose an Auto Transport Service?

The answer for picking among the best car shipping companies depends on various factors.

First, make sure that the car shipping company is registered by the DOT (Department of Transport) and DMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). The registration guarantees that the company offers car transport services and is not a company that merely collects leads.

Next, choose a company that is insured and bonded. They should provide you extensive insurance coverage to be liable for any damages that happen to your car during the transport.

Finally, go with an experienced company with good customer reviews. The reviews show that they are a proven car shipping company and you can trust them with your car.


Choosing the right auto transport option depends on quite a few factors like delivery date, service type, destination, and of course, the quality of the auto shipping company. Between the top three options, you can make an informed decision based on what car you have, how far the destination is, and more. However, choosing from different auto transport types is just one of the things car owners have to worry about when moving their car to a different location. 

You will also have to worry about finding the best auto transport company to help you get this complex job done without hassle. Guardian Auto Transport is a professional auto transport company that can help take care of the rest for you. Aside from offering the three auto transport types, Guardian has hundreds of 5-star reviews on Yelp, BBB, and Google.

To get started, get your Instant Quote now, and Guardian’s live booking agent will get back to you with options and quotes for transporting your car when and where you need it.