What are Your Options for Auto Shipping?

auto shipping
Image Source: Inbox Movers

Also referred to as “vehicle logistics services,” automobile shipping is a critical part of the supply chain that moves vehicles across the country and around the world. Most people never think about how vehicles get to the auto dealership or auction house. However, without the services of automobile shippers, it would be impractical, if not impossible, to move multiple cars and trucks more than a few miles. Vehicle logistics services provide simple, safe and effective methods for vehicle manufacturers, new and preowned auto dealerships as well as individuals moving across the country or to other parts of the world to ship their vehicles.


The most common auto shipping method within a country is via open or closed truck carriers. Open carriers are more commonly used to move vehicles for both private parties and auto dealerships than closed carriers because of their cost effectiveness. This is due to open carrier trucks being lighter than enclosed trucks and therefore using less fuel. Open carriers have multi-deck trailers, holding at least two and sometimes three levels, that are able to carry between eight and 10 vehicles at one time, depending on the size and weight of the vehicles.

While these trucks are a reliable and affordable way to ship a vehicle, an open carrier does leave the vehicle exposed to the elements because they lack sides and roofs. As the name implies, closed carriers are completely enclosed semi-trailers and are usually the choice for more expensive vehicles like luxury cars, antique vehicles, and show automobiles. Because they only have one level, closed carriers are only able to transport two to four vehicles at one time. Closed carriers are also a common choice for people moving across the country and shipping other items with the vehicle.


There are some advantages to shipping automobiles by train, but the benefits are often geared more towards auto manufacturers and dealers than private vehicles. Like truck carriers, trains offer both open and closed shipping options with the same pros and cons. While trains can move more vehicles at one time than truck carriers, there are sometimes higher costs and more logistical concerns associated with moving vehicles by rail. The main problem with rail is not all areas are serviced by auto transport trains, and there is also the issue of moving the vehicles from the train depot to the final destination.

Additionally, while there are rail transport services specifically for private vehicles, most train transport space is allocated for commercial use. While there are services like Amtrak’s Auto Train that cater to shipping private vehicles, vehicle shipping service is only available on Amtrak routes.

Cargo Ship

Auto transport by cargo ship is the only practical method of exporting and importing automobiles between the countries where the vehicles are manufactured and where they will be sold. The two main types of cargo vessels used for moving vehicles overseas are container ships and RORO vessels. Container ships are essentially the high-seas version of a closed carrier, whereas RORO ships are the open carrier option.

Private vehicles are also transported via cargo ship in cases where people are moving overseas and want to take their automobiles with them. Having a vehicle transported by cargo ship is also typically the go-to option when someone buys a vehicle in a country other than where they live and need to get it home. Of course, once the autos arrive at the port of call, the vehicles still must be moved to the final destination. This is typically carried out by truck or train.


While there are multiple options for transporting cars and trucks, making the best shipping choice requires taking a number of factors into account. These factors include the number of vehicles being transported, the shipping agency’s policies and abilities, the place of origin and destination, the vehicle’s value and the personal preferences of the shipping and/or receiving parties. Whether you are contracting for a commercial enterprise or just need to move a private vehicle, you should carefully consider all of the options to find the best solution for your needs. Additionally, not all shippers are created equal, and you should perform adequate due diligence before entrusting even one car or truck to a shipper.