Open Auto Transport: How it Works and How Much It Costs

Lot’s of us faced with a need of auto transport services. Here we’ve described in detail the most popular vehicle shipping method — open auto transport. Check article & start compare shipping rates!

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1 1 Open Auto Transport: How it Works and How Much It Costs 1

Open auto transport might be the deal for you if you need a fast, easy, and reliable method of transporting your car from one state to another. Open car shipping is fast becoming a favorite among vehicle transporters and regular people who want to move their cars to another location.

One can attribute this to its delivery speed, security, and cost when compared to enclosed auto transport. This article will highlight the following points:

What is open auto transport?
How open auto transport works
What trailers participate in open vehicle transport?
What does open car shipping cost, and what affects the price?
What to know when you are getting open auto transport quotes
Bill of lading for open vehicle transport. Why is it important?

What is open auto transport, and how can you get yourself prepared to ship your vehicle to your desired location? Let’s see.

What Is Open Auto Transport?

Open Auto Transport

In this shipping method, shippers convey vehicles in open-air trailers, with no walls or covering.  But this method of transport exposes the vehicles to environmental factors that may cause damage to them.

How Open Auto Transport Works

Open auto Transport works by drawing up an agreement with a transport company to ship a vehicle to the designated location. The transport company will provide a Bill of Lading to the client to signify that they agree to ship the vehicle. 

After this, the company will arrange for a trailer that will transport the vehicle according to the agreement stated in the Bill of Lading and transport the vehicle accordingly. Upon arrival at its destination, the client will take custody of the car from the transport company.

How Open Auto Transport Works

Follow these steps to ship your car with open auto transport.

Get a quote from your preferred transport company.
Agree on when to hand your vehicle over.
Provide your vehicle on the agreed date.
Pick up your vehicle when it arrives at your desired location.

There are two ways to partake in open vehicle shipping:

The terminal-to-terminal auto transport
The door-to-door auto transport.

Terminal-to-Terminal Auto Transport

Terminal-to-Terminal Auto Transport

The terminal-to-terminal method of auto transport is a lifesaver for people who cannot be on-site when it’s time for the company to pick up or drop off the vehicles. It allows them to deliver their car at the stipulated terminal and pick it up at a different terminal when it has arrived at its destination. 

The downside to this method of auto transport is its dwindling demand in modern times. As such, auto shipping companies tend to delay shipping until they can get enough cars to fill up a trailer. 

As a result, the car would sit at the terminal after its arrival till the auto shipping company picks it up; increasing the expected wait for delivery. There is a chance of causing damage to the car while it waits at the terminal. Thus, people who want speedy deliveries do not typically go with this option.

Door-to-Door Auto Transport

Door-to-Door Auto Transport

The difference between door-to-door auto transport and terminal-to-terminal auto transport is that with the former, the auto transport company will pick up your car at a place nearest to your location and drop it off in the same manner, making it the faster method of car shipping.

One may wonder why cars are not picked up or dropped off at the shipper’s home, despite the fact that this means of auto transport is tagged “Door-to-door”. The reason is that car carriers are about 70 to 80 feet long and mostly wouldn’t fit in residential areas. So, they prefer to pick up at the nearest possible location.

What Trailers Are Used for Open Vehicle Transport?

There is a range of open auto transport trailers which would suit different cars when shipping. Let’s consider a list of some of the trailers and what kinds of cars they ship best.

The Single Vehicle Hotshot Trailer

Single Vehicle Hotshot Trailer

This service is best for transporting single cars across short distances. The single vehicle hotshot trailer comprises a dually truck (a truck with two wheels on both sides of its rear end) and an attached goose-neck trailer that is big enough to carry only one car.

The Single Level Multi-Car Carrier

Single Level Multi-Car Carrier

The single-level multi-car carrier hauls all types of autos, including pick-up trucks, SUVs, and small automobiles. It has a record of keeping cars safe from scratches that could cost a fortune to fix, which can be because it hauls only two cars at the same time.

It also has an advantage over the hotshot trailer and the multi-level carrier. Unlike these haulage options, the single-level multi-car carrier is big enough to haul larger automobiles while having the ability to navigate limited spaces.

The Multi-Level Multi-Car Carrier

Multi-Level Multi-Car Carrier

This carrier hauls vehicles on two levels, one above the other. This type of carrier is popular in the united states and can move more cars at once, unlike single-level carriers.

Carriers For Large Automobiles

Carriers For Large Automobiles

Flatbeds, Drop Decks, and RGNs are common examples of trailers that transport motorhomes, depending on the type.

Single and Multi-Axle trailers

Single and Multi-Axle trailers

Singe axle trailers, multi-axle trailers, and heavy haul trailers are heavyweight trailers whose design allows them to ship automobiles like boats, heavy-duty construction equipment, and multiple vehicles.

What Does Open Auto Transport Cost?

We can compare the cost of shipping vehicles by open transport from two points of view:

By the travel distance
By the size of the vehicle.

Below is the estimated cost of transporting vehicles, calculated by traveled distance:


<500 miles

500-1,000 miles

1,000-1,500 miles

1,500-2,000 miles

2,000-2,500 miles

>2500 miles

Average open Transport cost







Note: These prices are subject to different factors like the average size of vehicles that get shipped to these distances.

The cost of shipping vehicles according to the size of the vehicles shows the following prices:

Type of vehicle

Average open transport quote







Note: Different auto transport companies ship vehicles at different prices regardless of vehicle type, size, and travel distance. You can compare different company quotes at

Factors That Affect Open Auto Transport Rates

Here is a breakdown of factors that can influence open car shipping rates.

Factors That Affect Open Auto Transport Rates
The Travel Distance
Travel distance affects how open auto transport quotes because the farther the carrier needs to travel, the more fuel, time, and energy it consumes during the journey. Understandably, this increase in fuel costs would result in a subsequent increase in the cost of open auto transport.
The Vehicle You Are Transporting
More expensive cars need more care and attention when traveling by open vehicle transport. As a result, the shipping of vintage cars and some sports cars tends to increase the auto transport quotes. 
Bigger cars like SUVs and minivans take up more space and effort when shipping. For this fact, people pay “overweight” shipping fees to compensate for the troubles the open vehicle transport company encountered while transporting the vehicle.
How Fast You Need to Transport the Vehicle
Typically, cargo companies transport cars within ten days. However, if you need to ship the vehicle earlier than that, you would pay extra fees to get the car on the trailer that would transport it to its destination as fast as possible.
The Season of the Year
Summer weather is often better for open auto transport because the roads are better, making it easier to move around, and resulting in cheaper fares. Winter, on the other hand, is a challenging time of the year, and road transport is especially more dangerous. 
Transport carriers would have to manoeuvre rain storms and snow-covered roads, posing a risk to the driver, and the vehicles being hauled. Thus, auto transport fares tend to go up during that time of the year.

What to Look For
When Getting Open Auto Transport Quotes

There are things you need to look out for in a company when you want to get quotes for their auto transport. Some of those things are:

Getting Open Auto Transport Quotes
The Company’s Insurance
It is necessary to clarify who takes responsibility for any loss that happens to vehicles while in transit, for insurance purposes. 
Some insurance companies only insure your automobile while it is on their carrier, and some people may not be comfortable with that.  So, endeavor to get the facts and agreement straight before choosing an auto transport company.
Pay Attention to Reviews
Reviews about  the company’s performance on third-party sites could give you a heavy insight into whether it is a good auto transport option. Pick a company with a 4.6 to 5-star rating, to avoid entrusting your automobile to a poor-performing company.
The Company’s Experience
The more experience a company has, the higher the chances that it can deliver. So, ensure you hand your vehicle to a company with at least, ten years of experience to guarantee your vehicle’s safety. 
The Company’s License
Licensing is a crucial part of auto transport, as every open vehicle shipping company is required to have a state-specific license before transporting goods to that state.
You should ensure that your preferred company has all the licenses they should have to ship your car to your desired destination without problems. Carry out a licensing search, before choosing a company to work with.

What Is A Bill of Lading

What Is An Auto Transport Bill of Lading

Bill of lading is a document given by the auto transport company to the owner of the vehicle to show that they accept the vehicle for shipment. It is an acknowledgment that the carrier has received the shipment.

Components of the Bill of Lading

Bills of lading contain the following details:

The name of the client
The shipment’s size
 The shipment’s weight
 The date of shipment
Information about the vehicle
Terms and conditions of the agreement

It also includes specific instructions that the shipper would like the carrier to follow when shipping the automobile.

Importance of the Bill of Lading

The bill of lading benefits both the shipper and the carrier company.

It is a receipt to prove the agreement between the auto transport company and the shipper.
It allows the owner to claim the shipment from customs.
It is proof of the importer’s identity and helps protect the company from fraud.
It allows the importer to hold the company responsible for any mixup or confusion with delivery.

Open Vehicle Transport
Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Do You Need to Ship Your Vehicle With Open Transport?

The average price for open carrier shipping is about $1080. To ship a vehicle from one country to another costs about $1200, and a shipping distance of fewer than 500 miles would cost about $630.

What Is the Cheapest Open Car Shipping Company?

Different companies offer unique pricing for open car shipping. To get the best shipping prices, it is recommended to carry out a search and compare quotes from different companies.

Can I Put Some Load in My Car Before Shipping It?

Yes, you can leave some things in the trunk of your car before handing them to the carrier; however, many auto transport companies advise against shipping household items and personal belongings with your car. This precaution serves to avoid theft or damage of such belongings.

What Is the Best Open Vehicle Shipping Company?

Montway Auto Transport, Sherpa Auto Transport, AmeriFreight, and Uship ranked high among preferred auto transport companies. These companies are said to have some expertise with open Auto transport, and they offer reasonable prices.

What Is the Difference Between Open Auto Transport and Enclosed Auto Transport?

The major difference between open and enclosed auto transport revolves around the type of carrier that transports the vehicles. Enclosed auto transport ships vehicles in enclosed carriers while open transport carriers have no covering. 
As a result, there is a greater level of vehicle protection in enclosed auto transport, making it more expensive than open auto transport.

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American Car Transporter
American Car Transporter
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing this post with us. Open auto Transport works by drawing up an agreement with a transport company to ship a vehicle to the designated location.


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