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Many vehicle owners find themselves confused when comparing quotes between different auto shipping companies. Rightly so! There are just so many moving parts when understanding auto shipping costs. Therefore, it is always a good idea to understand the cost factors involved in auto transport pricing. 

Forbes estimates the average shipping cost to range between $550 and $2,450 depending on various factors. This range is quite large, especially for vehicle owners who are looking for a balance between price and quality. In this article, we will explore in detail various factors that can affect the cost of auto transport pricing. 

Primary Factors That Affect Auto Shipping Cost

Car secured for shipping on an auto carrier.

While there is a huge list of factors that can impact the cost of auto shipping, some factors play a more direct role. Let’s have a closer look at these factors below. 

Vehicle Type

Most commonly, auto transport companies use a vehicle carrier to transport many vehicles together to save costs. Therefore, the type of vehicle you are shipping can also impact the auto transport pricing that you incur. For instance, a sedan has a smaller length and height compared to a SUV and therefore it is cheaper to transport. 

Similarly, costs for specialized vehicles such as vintage and sports cars may differ given their size, weight, and length. Also, it is common for operable vehicles to ship for less cost as they can be driven directly in the truck. However, for inoperable vehicles, the auto shipping cost may be higher requiring special machinery (such as cranes) to place them on the truck.


Like many other industries, the auto shipping industry also follows seasonal trends and demands. One common phenomenon is the ‘snowbird’ or ‘sunseeker’ effect where many people living in the north move to the south in the summers. Florida and Arizona are common destinations and prices can shoot higher due to high demand in the winter season. 

Similarly in the summer and spring season, many people are moving for vacations and relocating to ‘tourist’ spots. Many college students are also moving in this season creating additional demand and leading to higher costs. In short, if you are moving in a high-demand season due to the weather or vacations, prepare to pay extra for auto transport pricing. 

Pro-tip: You can save big if you plan to move and target the downward trends. For example, many companies may lower their prices if they have free space on their trucks due to seasonality!


Distance is another important factor that can impact auto shipping costs. The longer the travel route, the more gas is required which contributes to higher costs. Similarly, longer routes typically also incur higher labor and maintenance charges increasing the shipping cost as a result.  

For example, a shipment to neighboring states would typically cost less than a shipment from the East Coast to the West Coast. Most auto transport shipping companies will charge you on a per-mile basis, therefore the more miles traveled equals a higher shipping cost. At Planet Auto Transport, our service points are spread across the U.S. including New York, Dallas, San Francisco, and Boise. 


While many vehicle owners are unaware of this, ‘differential pricing’ is common in the auto shipping industry. Differential pricing means that a shipping company may charge you extra if you are opting for a route that is not common with the company. For example, moving to and from big cities such as Florida and California would be cheaper being a common route. Likewise, moving from Dallas to Philadelphia may incur additional costs not being as common with shipping companies. 

Pro Tip: To reduce costs incurred because of less popular locations, it is advisable to check pick-up points that are near your location. This way you can save money by choosing the most optimal pick-up point for your vehicle. 

Additional Factors That Impact Auto Transport Pricing

Several additional factors also impact auto transport pricing. These can include supplementary service and shipping options among others. It is important to comprehensively understand the cost factors relevant to shipping your vehicle. 

Supplementary service

As with many other services, the auto shipping company will charge you extra for supplementary service. This can include various add-on services such as expedited delivery and door-to-door delivery. Many vehicle users also prefer the top of the carrier to avoid their cars getting damaged from road rubble. This can incur an additional charge by many auto transport companies.

Shipping options

Many vehicle owners tend to be surprised about the different price tags many shipping options come with. A common example is the difference between enclosed shipping and open shipping. Open shipping refers to shipping on a car transporter with no protection from weather conditions and is often cheaper. On the contrary, enclosed shipping is more expensive as it includes cover for additional protection. 

Pro-tip: Unless you are transporting a vintage or sports car that has sentimental value, it is better to opt for open shipping and save some dollars!

Company Reputation

Brand image may also play a role in impacting the auto transport cost charged by the company. Many companies may charge extra based on their efficiency, experience, and reputation in the market. However, it is important to note that these companies are renowned for their quality and reliability. 

Pro-tip: Based on your preference, opt for a company that provides the right mix of quality and affordability to you. 

Car Shipping Cost Calculator 

When searching for a reliable auto transport company, the last thing you want is to get lost in the information provided on websites. For our customers, we have a convenient car shipping cost calculator that provides a quick quote for your delivery needs. You can simply input the to and from locations, the vehicle type and size, and voila, your quote is ready. It is that easy!

Wrapping It Up 

Understanding freight rates is essential for vehicle owners to make an informed decision about choosing a reliable auto transport company. As you now understand, several factors make up the auto shipping cost including distance, location, seasonality, and the type of vehicle. Moreover, there can be several secondary factors such as company reputation, shipping options, and supplementary services that may add to the cost. 

To benefit from a reliable transport company that also provides affordable services all across the U.S. and worldwide, visit our website now for a free quote. We are excited to serve you from our service points in Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and Boise with hassle-free transportation, years of experience, and efficient service!

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