Shipping Your Vehicle Smoothly
Most people have never shipped a vehicle before. In this guide we will outline the basic steps you need to follow to ship your vehicle. These steps are used by 95% of companies on the Internet that ship cars, as most are brokers just like us.
- Do not put your information in a multi-quote website. You will receive unfavorable emails and phones calls from 20+ different companies. Go with one reputable site (i.e. check to see if they're licensed) and then enter all your information correctly to receive the most accurate rate from a real person. Most quotes generated automatically are not legitimate or accurate for operable standard passenger vehicles. Their focus is to present such a low price that you give them an upfront non-refundable deposit, however, there's little or no chance your car will ever move and certainly not at the low-priced quote.
- Do not automatically go with the lowest price. Many companies lure unsuspecting customers with the lowest bid as they are motivated to secure your upfront, non-refundable deposit. They then need to locate a carrier to physically move your vehicle. If the carrier does not accept the low price (and generally they do not) then your vehicle will not be moved. A lot of companies low-ball customers into using their company with little to no regard for the actual transport of the vehicle. Once again, they simply want your non-refundable up-front deposit. See: NBC News, "Where's My Car?" by Bob Sullivan
- Do not double-book with multiple companies. This will hinder your transport. When two companies are trying to move the same vehicle, most drivers will 'pass' on that vehicle and go to another. Companies the quote the lowest price, are often not able to find transport for your vehicle. All brokers use the same carriers. And they usually only move the highest paying bids.
- Check customer service records. Good customer service scores determine how well the company communicates with its customers, and if there is good communication between customers and the company, then it is less likely that problems will occur during shipping.
- Make a decision about which company to use and book your transport. Make sure to have a confirmation in writing (via fax, email, etc.) Read everything a company sends you before signing it. Be aware that if you place a reservation via Internet, your e-signature is binding once you click send or submit.
- All transport companies use the same load board. Your transport company will place your order on the national load board for the drivers to view. There are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles listed on the load board on a daily basis, depending on the time of year and the supply and demand of vehicles in your route. When a carrier is ready for their next trip, the drivers will calculate which orders work best for their routes and timetables, then the carrier will claim the order by calling the broker company that you booked with. At SPLP Auto Transport our dispatchers will verify that the carrier who claims your auto shipping order is reputable, has legal DOT authority, and has current cargo insurance to protect you in case the vehicle is damaged during transport. The dispatcher will then call you and tell you that a truck has claimed your order and will give you the estimated pickup and delivery dates. The carrier will also contact you to set up your vehicle estimated pickup and delivery dates. Sterling Productions, LP unlike most brokers will follow the transport of your vehicle every step of the way, keeping in constant contact with you and the carrier.
- Prepare your vehicle for transport. Remove all personal or valuable items from inside the vehicle, inspecting it and photographing it prior to shipping. Auto carriers also prefer that you have less than a quarter tank of fuel because it greatly decreases the weight they carry and the less weight they haul the better the fuel economy while driving from point to point. The less it costs them the less it will continue to cost you. It is a good idea to wash vehicles before the inspection report at pick up. This ensures the car’s condition is readily recognized before transit. It's also a good idea to disable any alarm system before transport.
- Make sure the carrier inspects your vehicle. At pick-up, the driver should inspect the car for any existing damage. They will footnote the damage on a vehicle condition report. They will ask you to sign it and will hand you a copy of the report for your records. Keep this with you until the car is delivered.
- Inspect the car at delivery. Ensure there are no additional dings, dents or scratches. This is your only opportunity to claim damage, so please take your time. If any damage is claimed, make sure the carrier signs the condition report and make sure you retain a copy for your records. Make sure that inspections of your vehicle are completed, at the time of pickup and at the delivery of your vehicle.
- Pay the carrier their fee when they deliver your vehicle and not at the time of picking up the vehicle unless this has been prearranged.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP: A CREDIT CARD WILL BE REQUIRED UP FRONT, HOWEVER STERLING PRODUCTIONS, LP WILL ONLY CHARGE A DEPOSIT OR FEE AFTER THE VEHICLE HAS BEEN PICKED UP BY THE CARRIER AND NOT BEFORE. DO NOT PAY A DEPOSIT WHEN JUST PLACING YOUR AUTO SHIPPING ORDER WITH ANY BROKER!
This is NOT a guaranteed industry. This industry has many factors that may create delays; such as, waiting for earlier customers at pick up or deliver, weather, mechanical problems, and road constrictions for multi car carriers. Being thorough on your end helps eliminate issues you might have from the time of pick-up to the time of delivery of your vehicle. Having SPLP Auto Transport as your advocate only helps!
Don't Be a Victim. Be the King... Not the Prey!
Don't Get Taken For A Ride By The Many Transport Industry Fraudsters.
Here is what you need to look out for:
Less reputable auto transport brokers will tell you "we just happen to have a truck in your area" until they have your order, in reality they have NO IDEA where the trucks are. They are telling what you want to hear just to get your order and non-refundable deposit.
Less reputable auto transport brokers will tell you "your deposit guarantees a spot on the truck". In reality they have NO IDEA if a truck will take your vehicle.
DON'T PAY A DEPOSIT UNTIL THEY PROVIDE YOU WITH WRITTEN
PROOF THEY HAVE A TRANSPORTER CONFIRMED, AND THEY
GIVE YOU THE NAME AND PHONE NUMBER OF THE CARRIER
ALONG WITH A COPY OF THE TRANSPORT DISPATCH SHEET.
Let’s say you ask a less reputable auto transport broker for strict parameters for pick up or delivery dates, and they tell you that they can do it. They may even go so far as to say they guarantee it. Read their terms though and they always have an out. Guarantees are worthless. Exact dates in this industry can not be guaranteed.
Some quotes might come from companies who are both a broker and a carrier. A less reputable auto transport broker may lead you to believe that they will transport your vehicle on their truck, when in fact they will broker it to a different company all together. While there is nothing wrong with them brokering it, the issue is the fact that they mislead you into thinking they will be doing the transport themselves.
LESS REPUTABLE AUTO TRANSPORT BROKERS WILL QUOTE YOU A PRICE THAT IS FAR TOO LOW, and they tell you that it is the full price to ship. What they don’t tell you is that buried in their terms it says that they will charge you a broker fee IN ADDITION to the price quote. Or they DO NOT GUARANTEE THE FINAL PRICE. You may wind up paying $150, $250 $300 OR more than what you expected. READ THE TERMS, AND UNDERSTAND THEM BEFORE YOU SIGN.
Less reputable auto transport brokers will tell you that the quote is the full price, but once again, their terms allow them to raise the price without your knowledge or consent agreeing to the increase. Less reputable auto transport brokers terms will say “The customer agrees to have us add monies to the carriers pay in $50.00 increments, until the vehicle is accepted for transport by a carrier. This can be done up to a maximum of $250.00”. Less reputable auto transport brokers tell you that you have to agree to the increase, but they don’t have you sign a new contract or an amendment saying that you agree. When the transporter delivers your vehicle and demands more money than what you thought you were going to pay, they tell you that you did agree on the phone, even though they never asked if you want to raise the price. It's your word against theirs, and you lose. Always read the terms, and understand them before you sign.
The less reputable auto transport brokers ask you for your credit card information before you have signed their terms. They tell you it secures your spot on the transporter. Nothing is further from the truth! Once you have given them the information, you are on the hook for whatever their fees are! Don't give your information until you have read and signed the contract!
Don’t use a company that charges you an extra fee for using a credit card, or charges you a service fee if you cancel. The Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Merchant Agreement, precludes a merchant from charging you a fee for using your card. If they don't want to take your card for the EXACT amount, go somewhere else.
While every company has in their terms that you agree not to charge back on you credit card, some say they will charge you a fee if you do charge back. IT IS A VIOLATION of the Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Merchant Agreement for them to charge you. If they do charge you, turn them in and they will be fined a substantial amount.
DON’T PAY THE BROKER BY CHECK, ECHECK OR WIRE TRANSFER! When you use a credit card, you have recourse by disputing the charges if they don’t do what they have agreed to. If you pay by any other way, they have your money, and regardless of what happens, you will never get it back.
If the less reputable auto transport brokers only payment option is to use PayPal, STAY AWAY! The main reason they only use PayPal is because they cannot qualify for a merchant account. Either they had their merchant account canceled due to a high number of customers disputing charges, they have extremely poor credit, or they violated the Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover Merchant Agreement.
Try to check the company’s negative reviews on third party sites. The complaints are always the same. When the company responds to the complaints, is it riddled with sarcasm and attacks on the customer? The less reputable auto transport brokers NEVER accept the blame.
DON’T EVER PAY THE FULL AMOUNT TO THE BROKER! If there is a problem, you will not get your money back! However, it is safe to pay the carrier the full balance once they have your vehicle loaded on the carrier. Don’t pay the deposit/broker fee/admin fee until they have assigned your vehicle to a carrier. If they tell you they have a carrier, get the name and phone number of the Transport Company and they give a copy of the transport dispatch sheet. If they won't give you the name and phone number, a copy of the transport dispatch sheet, cancel your order. Why, because they don’t have a carrier, but they can then charge your credit card, and they are just trying to buy more time.
Frequently Asked Auto Transport Questions
What is involved in the auto transport process? We understand that transporting a vehicle can seem foreign and overwhelming. Below is an overview on how our company operates so you know what you can expect during the transport process.
- What factors go into a transportation quote?
With the information that you provide us (where you are transporting your vehicle from/to, year and make / model of your vehicle, desired pick-up / delivery date, etc.), we compare verified prices of what vehicles like yours have transported for in the recent past on your route so we can provide you with the most accurate estimated transport quote. We will ask you up front if you prefer an open or enclosed carrier.
- What kind of carrier will transport my car?
Most carriers are 6-10 car haulers similar to the ones you see along the road that deliver new cars to dealerships. Open carriers are subject to weather and road conditions whereas enclosed carriers are not. We recommend shipping via an enclosed carrier if you are shipping a custom/classic car, but the choice is always yours. Shipping via an enclosed carrier will incur an additional fee.
- How long will it take to transport my car?
It usually takes 3 – 5 days for the car to be accepted by a carrier. Once the car is picked up, transit time depends on where your vehicle is being shipping from and to. For instance, transit time from coast to coast may be 7-10 days, whereas transporting a vehicle from the Midwest to the west coast may take 3-5 days.
- Can I ship an inoperable vehicle?
Yes. However, in order for us to do so, the vehicle must roll, brake and steer. An additional fee will be charged depending on the loading difficulty.
- How does my quote request turn into an order?
Besides the information that you provided for your quote, we will get any other important requirements regarding your transportation before we start to look for a carrier. You will send an email acceptance of quote and approval to move forward with transporting your car along with a credit card on file. Note: We WILL NOT charge your deposit until your car has been signed and agreed to by a carrier at the agreed to price.
- How much choice does a carrier have on which orders they haul?
We post your order on a website called Central Dispatch, which acts as a marketplace to connect licensed & bonded transport brokers and carriers. EVERY auto transport broker and EVERY carrier in the industry use this single website, and all members have to be a licensed/bonded broker or carrier to join. Higher bid orders get more and higher quality carrier interest.
- Which carriers are best?
Once we post your order, carriers can see your route information on Central Dispatch and will contact us if they are interested in transporting your vehicle at the price listed. We then review the carriers to make sure they are exception in all safety and satisfaction measurements. Only the best carriers win our bids.
- How does an order become a contract?
Once we locate a carrier to ship your vehicle--verifying their insurance, making sure everything is up-to-date, etc.--and after your approval, we dispatch the order to them. Once we contract with a carrier, we will send you a copy of the accepted Dispatch Form and a copy of your deposit. The balance due is due the carrier upon delivery via or cash or certified funds payable to the carrier.
- How does the vehicle pick up process go?
The carrier should call you at least 24 hours before they want to pick up your vehicle to arrange a convenient time to pick up your vehicle. They should call again a couple hours before the actual pick-up time that you previously arranged to let you know when they will arrive. When the driver arrives at your pick up location, they will inspect your vehicle, note any existing damage and will present you (or the person you have designated) with the Bill of Lading form to sign.
- How is the delivery made and finalized?
The driver will contact you or the person you designated approximately 24 hours prior to delivering your vehicle to its final destination. They should call again within a couple of hours before arriving. The receiving party will inspect the vehicle, sign the Bill of Lading and pay any remaining funds due to the driver via cash or certified funds payable to the carrier.
- Is the price you quoted me guaranteed?
No, it is impossible for any auto transport broker to guarantee a price, so please be wary of this if another company tells you otherwise. The price quotes we provide are only our estimate of what we think it will take to ship your vehicle based on what vehicles have shipped for in the past. We try to make the quote as accurate as possible to ensure your vehicle gets transported, but market rates fluctuate. If your order is priced too low, carriers will not be interested in transporting your vehicle, and you could risk not getting your vehicle transported altogether. The price we agree upon will not change without your approval. If a carrier should request for more we will not dispatch your vehicle to them without your approval. You are in control.
- What is included in the price I am quoted?
The quote we provide you essentially includes all costs associated with shipping your vehicle. This consists of the broker fee (the ‘deposit’), the carrier fee (the driver), taxes and insurance.
- When do I have to pay?
Unlike most auto transport companies, we do not charge an upfront deposit for taking your order. You do not pay a dime until we actually locate a carrier to transport your vehicle. When the dispatch is accepted and signed by the carrier and the carrier accepts the contract that is when we require our fee. At that time, you will be charged the deposit, and the remaining balance will be due to the driver in cash or certified funds once your vehicle is delivered to the final destination.
- Are my pick-up and delivery dates guaranteed?
No, so do not be fooled by other transport brokers who may tell you otherwise. Any dates given are estimates. The actual pick-up/delivery dates could change due to weather conditions, unexpected traffic and a variety of other factors. However, we will be in contact with you at all times to keep you informed. Once we dispatch your vehicle, we put you in direct contact with the driver so that you can discuss the pick-up/delivery times and know where your vehicle is at every step of the process.
- Is my vehicle insured?
Yes. Part of the deposit you pay to our office is to verify the carrier/driver is covered by adequate insurance that is up-to-date. All of the carriers/drivers we contract are fully insured, usually up to $1,000,000 of liability insurance.
- Do you offer door-to-door service?
Yes. This means that the carrier will pick up the vehicle and drop it off as close to your desired addresses as possible. Carriers need room to maneuver around, so if access to your home is restricted by narrow streets, tight turns, etc., the driver may contact you to request that you meet at an alternate destination close by.
- Can somebody other than me release/receive my vehicle?
Yes. The carrier will contact whomever you like, whether it is you, a family member/friend, a car dealership, etc. Somebody just has to be present at both your pick-up and delivery location to sign the Bill of Landing.
- What is the Bill of Lading Form?
Once you (or your designated person at the origin) and carrier driver inspects your vehicle at the origin, they will give you the Bill of Lading form to sign. This is a similar form that you fill out when you rent a car. You and the driver walk around the vehicle and make any notations of previous damage that is on the vehicle to insure that your vehicle arrives to the destination in the same condition as it left. This form contains the driver’s inspection notes as well as the releasing party’s contact information so the carrier can notify them of any updates, transport delays, etc. Familiarize yourself with this form, and be sure to read the conditions of the form carefully.
Once your vehicle is delivered to the destination, the carrier will present you (or your designated contact) with the original Bill of Lading form. It is extremely important that you or your designated contact inspect the vehicle and note any damage on the Bill of Lading. In order for the carrier’s insurance company to process a damage claim, any and all damage must be noted on the Bill of Lading and the form has to be signed by both parties. Just a note, even though vehicle damage rarely happens, most carriers like to have the choice to settle vehicle damage out of pocket to avoid it going to the insurance company. It is advised to first contact the carrier and if you don’t have any resolve then please contact us so we can contact the carrier for you.
- Can I put personal items in my car?
No. The carrier insurance does not cover any lost or damaged household goods during transit so it is not advisable to have any valuable goods in your vehicle. Please also be aware that the broker or the carrier is not responsible for any personal items lost or damaged in transit.
- How should I prepare my vehicle for transport?
Deactivate any anti-theft devices, and remove any personal items/household goods from the vehicle. Secure or remove any loose parts, wide mirrors, or custom items. Lower or remove the antenna, if possible. Make sure the radiator has adequate anti-freeze to protect your vehicle from cold weather. The battery should be secure, and the fluid levels should be low enough to accommodate expansion. Leave only about a ¼ – ½ tank of gas in the vehicle, as a full tank of gasoline can add costly weight to the transport truck.