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Car transport RatesHow are Car Shipping Rates determined?

When speaking to someone who is new to auto transport, car shipping rates are usually the most complicated thing for them to understand. If you don’t really care what goes into your rate and just want the actual number, we get it…you’re busy. There’s a quote form on every page, including our home page.

The determination of a real and accurate car transport cost involves many different factors. Although an answer to this question can be loaded with information, the most common variables to determine your car shipping rate include:

Vehicle Type

Route (Point A to B)

 Gasoline/Diesel Cost


Car Shipping Rate variable: Vehicle type

We’re going to try and keep this explanation simple, that’s why we’re discussing a vehicle type rather than the specific year/make/model of the car you’re shipping.

A general rate can be given using your vehicle type and route. A coupe, sedan, SUV, or pickup truck will each take up a different amount of space on a car transporter, and therefore will each have a separate cost to ship.

Each of these vehicle types also has some variance in weight, which is also a determining factor in your car shipping rate.

When planning a load correctly, an auto transport broker & carrier must get together and determine how many vehicles can safely fit on the car trailer and still be below the maximum payload limit of 47,500 lbs.

Car Shipping Rate variable: Route

The route that the auto transporter must travel in order to ship your vehicle will also play a big part in determining your car transport cost. Certain routes have higher fixed costs like rates for tolls. Others have higher variable costs which include ease of travel, traffic, and diesel prices.

Other variables include:

Ease of Travel

Routes that are easy to travel on come with lower car transport costs. If you think about it, doesn’t it make sense that it’s much cheaper to travel through a state like Florida versus a state like Colorado? In Florida you have flat terrain; in Colorado there are winding roads which put more stress on an engine pulling a load, which requires more fuel and slows travel time. This is why car transport cost from Orlando to West Palm Beach is usually half as much as shipping a car from Denver to Breckenridge.


Encountering traffic in your travels is inevitable; but high traffic areas are usually avoidable. For a car carrier, driving through unavoidable high traffic areas cost them time. When you have a deadline, and a limited number of days in a month to make your quota, time is money. Combined with other factors, this is usually why car shipping rates for even short distances in major metropolitan areas are higher than other areas.

Diesel prices

This is a major variable cost for any auto transporter. Again, major metropolitan areas like New York City and Los Angeles, CA usually carry higher fuel prices. These are factored in to your car transport cost. At minimum, a carrier must make enough money on a transport load to break even; with fuel cost being a major consideration.

Seasonal Car Shipping Rates

In some parts of the country there is a very high variance in the cost of a car transport that comes with changing seasons. A commonly known season is the Snowbird season, where residents of the Northeast and Midwest travel to the Southern part of the country to avoid frigid temperatures and snow. These Snowbird seasons have two cycles at different times of the year. During these times prices on certain routes can sometimes increase as much a 40% beyond normal car transport cost. The reason for this sudden increase in car shipping rates is caused by simple supply and demand. Remember, you are essentially paying for space on a truck. A supply and demand curve shows that when demand for something goes up (transports) and the supply remains the same (limited space on a car trailer, and a limited number of trailers) then the price will increase. It’s simple economics.


Car Transport Rate Variable : Service Type

One of the final major factors in determining how much it will cost to transport a car is the service type you choose. The is a difference between the cost of an open auto transport, and an enclosed auto transport. Choose which service type fits your situation and read up on the subject in more detail if you’d like.

In short, enclosed carrier rates are more expensive than open carriers. Why?

Cargo is more valuable, so insurance more insurance coverage is needed. More insurance leads to higher premiums. More valuable cargo requires more detailed maintenance on equipment, and for this maintenance to be done more often.

It seems like all transport questions can be thought of as loaded questions. Literally hours of content can be written on each subject. That’s part of what makes car shipping so unique, and why it’s so important to work with an experienced shipper.