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Buying A Car Online? What You Need To Know About Shipping a Car Before You Complete the Sale

Subscribe May 24, 2018
Car shipping process

It was bound to happen. It just made sense. Everything else was being sold online so some savvy businessperson decided to take car buying to the Internet. It was a great idea that has caught on like wildfire! There have been countless people who've experienced the joy of buying a car on eBay Motors or other used auto sites and then thought, "Oh heck! How am I going to get this thing home?"

But, just as with most other online shopping, having your purchase shipped means adding an additional fee. This translates into hiring an auto transport company. Before choosing the first company that presents itself, let's review some things you'll need to be aware of in order to ensure a successful transaction.

Coordinating With Your Seller When Buying a Car Online

All auto transport companies have criteria that must be met before they will agree to ship your vehicle. This is for the driver's safety as well as the safety of your car. Since the seller must prepare the car for shipping, you'll want to check with him/her prior to making your purchase to verify that they are willing and able to comply with the auto transport company's specifications. Used car dealers will find this a normal part of the procedure. Individuals, however, may not be aware of all the steps that need to be taken before shipping a car. You should especially be aware of this potential problem when buying a car on eBay or other online site, which might have good-intentioned, but naive sellers.

For instance, the vehicle must be operational. If you've purchased - for instance - a classic car that you intend to fix up, you'll need to let the auto transport company know ahead of time. Height and ground-clearance limits must be met. The battery must be secure in a mounting bracket. The car must be clean and will be required to have no more than a 1/2 tank of gas. There are other stipulations you'll need to clear with the seller also. Check with the auto transport company you get a quote from for details.

Open or Enclosed Carrier; Hard Tie of Soft Tie?

You'll usually have an option of open or enclosed carrier. Open carrier is exposed to the elements during transport. Your vehicle will typically be chained down (hard tie) and the suspension compressed to reduce the up and down movement. This helps protect your car as well as steady the driver's load. Certain vehicles don't have the proper tie down points provided by the manufacture, so these vehicles would be required to utilize soft tie straps in lieu of chains. This type of shipping uses wheel straps to stabilize the cars.

Enclosed service is offered for several reasons; a discriminating buyer; year, make and model of vehicle; or just added protection from weather and road debris. This is the preferred option for those buying high-end or classic cars and the vehicles are soft tied to the transport.

How You Can Lower The Costs of Shipping a Car

Obviously, you want your vehicle taken care of during transport, but you also want the best value possible. So how do you reach a happy medium? There are a few areas where you can help reduce car shipping costs. For instance, picking your vehicle up at a central terminal is less expensive than having it delivered directly to your door.

Ask about options when you request a quote to determine where you can trim costs if necessary. It is also important to recognize the confusing messaging on the internet regarding auto transport. Many of the companies promise multiple “free quotes”, when in fact they are simply selling the rate requests to brokers. The brokers then resell the transportation need to carriers, whom you ultimately have a relationship. This can create confusion and concern when you invest thousands of dollars on a vehicle to transport. Be sure to understand the nature of the transaction; ultimately a carrier has to transport your vehicle!

The used car business is booming thanks to online auctions and the availability of auto transport companies. The two working together make it possible to purchase a used car from virtually anywhere in the country. But before buying a car online, make sure your seller knows all the preparation involved with shipping a car and will assist you by complying with any necessary specifications set for by the transporter. Once you have his/her assurance, your post-sale experience should be a snap!


No issues to report, service was dependable and reliable. Our car was available before the scheduled date! Very much appreciated!
T. Rosenthal


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