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How to Transport a Classic Car | Shipping Your Car

Posted on 2019-12-16

How to Transport a Classic Car

If you need to transport your classic car, you're probably concerned about how you can get it from point A to point B without it getting damaged. After all, you've probably put a significant amount of time and money into your car. Trusting someone else with the safety of your car can be difficult, so it's critical to be as knowledgeable as possible when looking to hire a transporter.

Below, you'll find a classic car transport guide that's filled with shipping tips for vintage cars. From your consultation with a broker to the final dropoff, these transportation tips for collector cars will help you ship your car safely and efficiently.

how to transport a classic car

What's Different About Transporting Classic Cars?

Transporting classic cars is a much more involved process than shipping other cars. While you might feel comfortable sending a modern car across the country in an open trailer, you're going to want more protection for your classic car. You'll also want to work with a transporter who has experience with collector cars.

Additionally, classic car auto transportation is a complex process that differs from other cargo transportation services like those involving trains, boats or planes. Unlike these services, auto transport is not regularly scheduled, which makes the shipping process more complex.

When you place an order with a transportation professional, the dispatcher will coordinate the routes that the driver needs to take to deliver all of the cars. As your vehicle will probably not be the only vehicle being transported, it's likely to take longer. Often, there will be multiple pickup points and drop-off locations for the truck to take into account.

the difference with transporting a classic car

The time of year and the location of your vehicle will both play into how long it will take to transport your car. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. As the time it takes to transport the car can range so widely, you'll need your broker to do more research on the transporters available to you than you would for more standard shipments, especially if you need your car shipped quickly.

Understanding the Difference Between a Carrier and Broker for Your Transportation Options

the differences between a carrier and broker

Before you select a transportation option for your carrying needs, you'll want to know the difference between a carrier and a broker. The following describes the difference between the two so you can go into selecting a car transportation company fully informed:


Carriers are the companies that actually transport your classic car from one location to another. These companies range in size from single owner-operators to organizations that employ hundreds of drivers and trucks. No matter how large of a company they are, a carrier will own their vehicles and transportation equipment, with vehicle transport carriers typically driving a double-deck truck that can have multiple vehicles loaded onto it. 

Individual carriers will also often have set routes that they are comfortable with or restrict themselves too. Typically, they limit their number of routes so that they can properly gauge how long it will take to get from one location to another.   

what is an auto transport carrier

Reputable carriers make sure that their drivers have the proper credentials and experience for all of the stages of transport. An experienced driver will know how to load your vehicle, transport it and unload it from the truck in the safest way possible. Additionally, carriers will have to carry cargo insurance, so that they can reimburse you if any unforeseen accidents occur.

In short, carriers are the people who are responsible for the transportation of your car, and, as such, are vital to the transportation process. 


Unlike carriers that transport classic cars, brokers are responsible for connecting clients with the best carriers in the industry. When you bring your classic vehicle to a broker, they will evaluate the needs of your order, find the best possible transportation solution and connect you with a transportation company.

what are brokers for auto transport

Brokers will accomplish all this by negotiating with carriers to get the lowest rate for customers and finding carriers that can meet your needs to a T. After negotiating a contract at a fair rate, they will facilitate communication between carriers and customers so that both parties are always on the same page. The expertise and value that reputable brokers provide customers more than makes up for the fee they'll collect. Some of the primary services of a broker include:


  • Accessing a nationwide database of carriers to find the one that fits your company's needs and budget
  • Negotiating contracts with carriers and explaining the terms to customers
  • Arranging for same-day pickup of your classic car
  • Tracking your classic car while it's in transit and keeping you updated
  • Ensuring that carriers are properly insured and licensed


Should You Go Straight to a Carrier or Work with a Broker?

work with a carrier or a broker

While it might seem better to work directly with a carrier, as you'll have direct contact with the company that will be transporting your vehicle, it can actually be quite a headache. Going straight to a carrier will often mean that you have far less flexibility when it comes to getting your car delivered quickly, as well as what the method of transportation will be.

If you decide to work with a broker, you get the peace of mind knowing that they have searched around and found the best transportation solution for your needs. You get the added benefits of choosing the method of transportation (enclosed, open, etc.) as well as a speedy delivery of your car. Brokers are able to take the work of finding the right transport option for a car off the plate of the consumer. They are the experts in finding the right transport option.

By selecting a broker over a carrier, your company will reap several benefits. Some of these benefits include:


  • Flexibility. When you go straight to a carrier, it's unlikely that they will be able to adjust their routes to the needs of your vintage car. In contrast, a broker will search for carriers that can either be flexible with their routes or already offer the route that you need to use to get your car from one point to another as fast as possible.
  • Speedy service. Brokers are masters at finding quality carriers quickly. A reputable carrier will have a network of transportation companies that they trust, and that can transport your classic car at a moment's notice. If you don't want to spend your time searching for carriers yourself or need to move your car somewhere fast, working with a broker is the best decision you could make.
  • Wide range of options. A problem with going to carriers yourself is that it takes time and effort to find ones that meet your needs and budget. A lot of times, the long search process will only result in customers having one or two classic car transporters to choose from. Brokers give individuals more choice, as they know the industry well and can pull together a list of carriers for a customer to compare.
  • Best value. Though brokers take a fee, they'll often save you money in the long run. They will not only find the best rates for you, but they'll also work with companies that have a solid track record of safety. This means that you will get a much more favorable contract and will not have to spend time after transportation trying to get any damages covered by the carrier's insurance. 


Questions to Ask a Broker

ask questions to an auto transport broker

Before you work with a company, there are several questions that you should ask to make sure that you're getting a complete picture of the broker. Ask questions such as the following before you sign a contract with a transporter:


  • How much does classic car delivery cost? The first thing you're likely to ask a company about is the cost. When a company quotes you a price, you should also ask if distance, fuel and door-to-door services, among other factors, are included in that quote. Brokerages can connect you with the carriers that are most cost-effective.
  • Does the auto transporter specialize in vintage or classic cars? Some auto transporters will not have experience with classic cars. As vintage cars need expert handling, the broker should connect you with companies who specialize in collector cars.
  • What's the company's U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number? All auto transporters should have a USDOT number. Federal regulations state that they must have the number for interstate commerce, while half of the states in the United States also require commercial vehicles to have a USDOT number.
  • What's the company's deposit policy? Many auto transport companies require a deposit before they transport your collector car. You'll need to ask whether or not they will refund the deposit. Getting this information from a broker could help you decide between two evenly matched companies if one offers a refund and the other does not.
  • How does the company's payment policy work? With this question, you'll be able to understand if they will take multiple payments or if they require one lump sum. You'll also learn if they accept cash, credit cards, checks or other kinds of payment options.
  • What type of insurance does the transporter have? Ensuring that your car will be covered in case of an accident during the transporting process is crucial to protecting your vehicle. A classic car transporter should have extensive car insurance. If they do not have insurance, a red flag should go up.
  • Where will the dropoff and pickup of cars occur? As the trucks carriers used to transport cars can sometimes be fairly large and unable to reach certain areas, you'll want clarification from the broker about where the carrier will need your car to be so that they can pick it up. You may need to bring it to them or meet them in a location so that they can pick up your car.
  • When will your car arrive? It's important to know the timeline for your car's pickup and arrival. These timelines can be fairly wide-ranging, so it's a good idea to get a clear timeline in writing from the autotransporter.

Choose the Right Broker

As you look for a broker, you should consider Autobahn USA. At Volo Auto, we trust Autobahn with all of our vintage car transportation needs, and we wouldn't recommend any other broker. In their time working with us, we've known them to get our vehicles into our customers' hands in the best possible condition and time. They have built a reputation for quality service in the industry and have been our transporter of choice since 1999. 

choosing the right auto transport broker

In fact, if you were ever to buy a car from Volo Auto, your car will be delivered to you by Autobahn. Their experienced drivers, multiple transportation options and affordability are unparalleled in the industry, making them the broker that we trust for all our transportation needs. Learn more about our classic car transportation services if you're interested in Autobahn USA and the services they provide for us. 

The Importance of Checking Your Insurance

Even if you select the best transporter on the market, accidents still can happen. To protect your vehicle and your wallet, you'll want to have insurance in place that adequately covers any damage to the vehicle that occurs during the transportation process.

Before you sign a deal with a carrier, check if their insurance covers damages. Request paper copies of the carrier's insurance information. With that information in hand, contact the transporter's insurance company to ask if the carrier's policy is still current and active.

check insurance before transporting classic car

While you look over the insurance contract, make sure to clear up any information that you're not sure about. Speak with the transportation provider and have them explain anything you need more explanation about. Knowing exactly what will be covered and what will not be covered by insurance can help you decide if the transporter is going to be acceptable or not. Insurance coverage may be the deciding factor between two companies.

Along with checking the insurance of transporters, you should also check to see what your personal car insurance covers. Besides the transporter covering damages, you'll also want to see if your insurance covers your vehicle while it's in transit. Often, an auto carrier is only responsible for damage that occurs due to their negligence and not because of acts of nature. As such, it's doubly important to have personal car insurance that covers transportation damage if you decide to transport the car on your own.

For your personal insurance, if you don't initially have coverage for the transport, you'll want to inquire about adding it. Many insurance companies will offer optional add-on coverage that covers transport, so you'll want to ask if they offer additional coverage. As a side note, some insurance providers will need documentation from the carrier in advance.

Tips for Choosing Your Transportation Option

After your broker has presented you with carriers that meet your needs, there are several factors you should consider as you choose a transportation option for your company. To help you make sense of the various carriers available to you, the following transportation tips for collector cars will help you narrow down the companies:

how to choose your broker

1. The Cost of Transporting the Classic Car

One of the first things you've probably wondered about when considering a carrier is how much it costs to transport a classic car.

You first need to know that you shouldn't just select a company based on the shipping price on its own. Most of the major car carriers will have similar expenses due to the cost of the equipment they use, which causes them to have fairly similar cost structures.

If a company is offering a much lower price than the rest of the competition, scrutinize them more thoroughly to see if they have any hidden costs. Also, make sure they have the proper equipment and training to transport your car safely.

Along with the base cost of hiring the carrier, you'll want to see if they are also going to charge you for the distance traveled, fuel costs and drop-off service. Some companies will even charge extra fees for non-running cars. Before you agree to any deal, see what extra fees will be applied to the transportation process.

2. Proper Equipment for Classic Car Transportation

As you select a carrier, it's important to confirm that they have the right equipment to keep your car secure and not damage it. For instance, the truck that takes your car across the country should have wheel nets and nylon straps. If the company uses chains or the wrong kinds of straps, the vehicle can become damaged. Improperly secured straps can even cause damage by putting a strain on the body or chassis of the car.

3. Open Versus Closed Transport

open vs closed car transport

One of the biggest decisions you'll have to make related to transporting your car is whether or not you want the car transported in a closed or open vehicle. Both of these transportation options come with benefits and drawbacks.

Open Transport

Open transport carriers use trailers that are not closed off to the elements. As open carriers don't have as complex of a loading process and don't offer as much protection, open transportation services are less expensive than enclosed transports. This affordability is great if you're on a budget, but it does have its negatives.

An open-air trailer will not protect your classic car against the elements. If it begins to rain, hail or snow while the vehicle is being transported, it will hit the car, possibly causing damage. Even more dangerous to your vintage car are road hazards. For example, dust, airborne debris, grime and rocks can get kicked up while driving, causing dents and other such surface-level damage.

Closed Transport

An enclosed car carrier or trailer is the premium option for classic car transportation as it offers the most protection from outside factors. When placed in a closed transport, your classic car won't be subject to the weather or other road hazards that could harm the vehicle. If you're taking the vehicle to a car show or some other place where you need to display it immediately, an enclosed carrier is a must to keep your car looking great.

The main downside to closed transports is their costs, which are higher than the costs for open transports. You'll need to weigh the cost versus the risk that you will be incurring. As you decide which option to choose, consider how far your classic car will be traveling, the value of your car and the potential road conditions.

When deciding between an open or enclosed carrier, consider whether your car is running or not. A non-running car may pose a problem for many open car carriers, as they will often not have the winches required to load the vehicle properly.

One of the most important exotic car transportation tips is to use an enclosed container. For high-value vehicles that you need to transport, it's best to go with an enclosed container to prevent damage to the vehicle. When you've invested a significant amount of money in an exotic car, you don't want a rock or piece of debris denting the car or cracking the windshield.

4. Stacking Versus Non-Stacking

Along with choosing an open versus enclosed carrier, you should also ask about whether or not the transporter has stackable or non-stackable trailers. A stackable trailer can be dangerous for classic cars, as vintage cars at the bottom of the stack can be harmed by cars over them. Oil may drip from cars above the bottom cars, leading to damage and stains.

To prevent this, you can ask your broker to find out if the car carriers they've found stack their cars or not. If the carriers don't, you won't have to worry about further damage. However, if they answer yes, you should ask if they have anything that will prevent oil from hitting your car. If they don't, you may want to look elsewhere.

5. Receive a Copy of the Contract

Before you sign a contract with an auto shipping company, you should make sure to review it thoroughly. If a company wants you to sign a contract immediately and doesn't let you take the time to conduct a comprehensive exam, be wary of their intentions. A trustworthy company will give you all the time you need to look over the contract and will be happy to provide you with a copy.

As you examine the contract, look for any hidden fees that they may not have mentioned. Additionally, ensure that everything they've discussed with you is in the contract, such as the price for transportation and other services.

How to Prepare Your Car for Transport

Before you send your car off for transportation, you'll need to take steps to ensure that everything is ready for an optimal transportation process.

The first step you'll need to take is to clean out the interior of your car. All personal belongings should be removed, including those in the trunk and the passenger compartment. This is important because carriers want your vehicle to be as light as possible. The weight of personal belongings, no matter how small, can add up, causing the costs of transportation to increase.

preparing your classic car for transport

Along with the cost and weight issues, personal items can become damaged as they shift around during the transportation process. Transporters are rarely liable for damage that happens to personal items. Along with loose personal items, to be extra careful, you can remove other valuable items from the car. Some vintage car owners will take out audio systems, removable emblems, navigation assistants and tech devices in their vehicle.

Besides removing personal items, you'll also want to take your car in for transportation with only a quarter of gas in your tank. This level of gas will keep the vehicle weight down. Additionally, the car will still have enough gas to unload and load your car, while also having enough gas to reach a gas station once the car arrives at its destination.

Along with the gas, have your battery sufficiently charged to avoid extra charges for your car not starting. If it doesn't start, the transportation company will need to use winches to load the vehicle, adding to the costs. In addition to the gas and batteries, you'll want your anti-freeze to be at adequate levels. As the vehicle is being transported, it may go through various climates, and an appropriate amount of anti-freeze will prevent a cracked engine block.

Some auto transport companies have strict guidelines when it comes to weight, so the company you choose may require you to keep the weight low. Whether or not it's required, it still best practice to remove any loose materials and not have your gas tank filled up all the way.

Besides lowering the weight, you should also get any nagging mechanical issues dealt with before you move your vintage car. For example, fluid leaks can damage your car or other vehicles during transport. Damaged tires can also be problematic for the loading and unloading process. To make sure your car can be easily driven onto the needed locations and loaded appropriately, ensure that the wheels are in good shape and filled with air.

Another helpful step you can take is to put together a list of instructions for the carrier to follow while moving your car. As a classic vehicle may have unique requirements and idiosyncrasies, it can be helpful to the transporter to know what your vehicle needs to run successfully. You can include information like fuel-cut off and battery switches, alarm instructions and other useful tips and tricks for the vehicle.

Checklist for Car Preparation

checklist for car preparation

As you prepare your car for shipment, you can use the checklist guide below to make sure you have covered all of your bases:


  • Personal belonging removal: Take any personal belongings out of the vehicle to avoid damage during transport. The jack and spare tire can be left in the vehicle, however.
  • Coverings removal: Along with personal belongings, you should remove the car, grill and tire covers from the vehicle.
  • Custom product removals: If you have any aftermarket products, remove them to avoid damage. These products can include fog lights, luggage racks, spoilers, ground lighting and non-standard radio features.
  • Tire inflation: Obviously, you don't want to drop your car off with a flat tire. To make sure that nothing happens to the wheels while the car in the transporter's care, ensure that your tires are properly inflated.
  • Mechanical repairs: Before you let your car be loaded up, you'll want to repair any leaks or other minor mechanical issues. If there is a repair you can't make prior to loading, you'll want to let the transporter know, especially if it interferes with how the vehicle handles.
  • Battery placement and charge: To be safe, it's best to have your battery fully charged when you drop the vehicle off, so that you can be confident that it will run if needed during transportation. Additionally, ensure that the battery is in the mounting bracket securely.
  • Fluid levels: When you drop your car off for transportation, it's best to have all of the fluids filled.
  • Gas level: Unlike your vehicle's fluid levels, your gas tank should not be all the way full. Instead, you'll want to have your gas tank somewhere between a fourth and a half tank full.
  • Convertible tops: If your vehicle is a convertible, it's important to have the top secured. Try to get it as tight as possible to avoid any accidents that can occur on the road.
  • Alarms: You'll want to have any alarm systems on your vehicle disabled, disconnected or turned off depending on how your vehicle operates.
  • Side view mirrors: When your vehicle is moved onto a carrier's truck, you'll want to have the sidecar mirrors folded down. This practice will prevent damage to a vulnerable part of your car.
  • Antenna removal: Along with folding mirrors, it's a good idea to remove or retract the antenna fully. Like the mirror, the antenna is a vulnerable part of your vehicle, and as such, precautions should be taken to ensure that it's not harmed.

Document the Condition of the Vehicle

One of the most important steps you can take is to ensure that you are covered in case of an accident that occurs during the shipping process. While there are many honest companies who will own up to any mistakes they make, you'll still want to cover your bases. After all, it can be difficult to get payment for damage if you don't have proof that your car wasn't damaged before the transportation process occurred.

To protect your vehicle and yourself, you'll want to make sure that when you drop off your car, the company lets you complete a pre-shipping inspection. In this procedure, you or someone you trust will inspect the vehicle, reporting any pre-existing damage and logging the current state of the car. After completing the inspection, you can even get the company to sign off on it to strengthen your claim.

complete a pre-shipping inspection for transport

Many companies will also have the driver of the truck check the vehicle to look for damage, so they aren't liable for damages that occurred before the transportation process. In their inspection, they'll look for damage, marks or scratches. You can compare your inspection with theirs, with both of you vouching for the accuracy of your inspections. Along with inspection documents, you'll want to take pictures of the car pre-shipment for further proof.

Once the car arrives at its destination, complete another inspection before the driver leaves and get the driver to sign off on it, if possible. Often, the driver will complete their own examination, as well. Along with the documentation, take another picture of the vehicle, whether or not you can see any damage. With this documentation, you'll have evidence on your side if you need to make a claim.

Get Your Dream Car From Volo

If you're interested in adding a new vintage car to your collection, consider a car from the Volo Auto Museum. At Volo, we have a vast collection of classic vehicles that any collector would be proud to own. If you're not located near the store, it's no problem. We work with a reliable auto transportation service provider that will deliver your car to you.

As a museum and classic car dealership, Volo is dedicated to quality customer service and hand-picked vehicles. For more details and information, contact us today to speak to one of our friendly representatives.

get your dream car from Volo

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