Automotive and Vehicle Transport Tips

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What if my vehicle is damaged in shipping?

If Your Vehicle is Damaged

When you receive your vehicle, whether you're at a shipping terminal or at your house, you and the driver should go over it carefully to check for any damage. If you have notes and photos from the pre-loading inspection, these may be helpful in determining whether a specific scratch or ding is old or new.

In particular, check the undercarriage, and be sure the vehicle runs (if it ran before you shipped it).

If you find any damage which you believe occurred during the shipping process, note it on your inspection report, obtain the driver's signature, and report it to the company.

What questions should I ask when hiring a vehicle shipper?

Questions to Ask a Vehicle Shipper

Before you ship a motorcycle, car, or large freight ite, ask your shipper the following:

-- What does your insurance cover?

-- What percentage of your deliveries are on-time?

-- Where will my vehicle be picked up and delivered?

-- Will you charge an "oversize fee" for my SUV, truck, or minivan?

-- What methods of payment do you accept?

-- How long will it take to get my vehicle to its destination?

-- Do I need to be present at pickup and/or delivery?

-- Do you have a DOT license?

-- Are your drivers bonded?

-- Can I ship personal or household goods loaded into the vehicle?

-- What happens if my vehicle is damaged on arrival?

How can I ship my boat?

Shipping a Boat

The legal height for transporting on U.S. highways is 13 feet, 6 inches. Many boats will, of course, have no trouble meeting this standard even on a trailer, but larger ones will need to be partially disassembled to pass under bridges and through tunnels.

If you ship a boat with your own cradle or trailer, be very sure the boat will be held securely. You will be responsible if the cradle or trailer fails. Wooden boats may do best in a custom cradle.

If your boat is being shipped on an open trailer or truck, consider having it shrink-wrapped for protection against weather damage and road dirt.

When shipping a dinghy with your larger boat, do not leave it on davits. Instead, protect it with padding to avoid damage to both vessels. Finally, pad every point which touches the deck or rails.

How do I ship my car?

Shipping a Car

The easiest way to get your car from one place to another is, of course, to drive it. However, shipping a car using a vehicle shipping company to your next destination might be easier.

There are many companies that will ship your car, usually aboard a large truck. If you are moving your entire household, it may be a good idea to start by asking your moving company if they will also transport your car (some will).

Auto shippers vary in their services and prices, so it's an excellent idea to get several quotes before making your choice.

What special considerations are there in shipping an antique vehicle?

Shipping an Antique Vehicle

If your vehicle is an antique, you'll certainly want it shipped in an enclosed vehicle to avoid road damage to the finish. Look for a hauler that has experience with antique vehicles -- some companies specialize in this work -- and ask questions about tracking your car during transit.

If your vehicle is not in running condition, the hauler will have to make special arrangements to get it in and out of the truck.

Ask your hauler what equipment will be used and how your vehicle will be stored aboard the truck. A hydraulic liftgate may be a safer way to get it aboard than driving it up a ramp.

What do I need to know to ship a vehicle to another country?

International Vehicle Shipping

Before making the decision to take your car with you overseas, investigate the laws of the receiving country. Some places may require you to make modifications to your vehicle, or may charge extra for insurance on vehicles imported from abroad.

Most vehicles can be easily shipped aboard cargo containers or roll-on-roll-off ("ro-ro") vessels, which allow vehicles to be loaded without cranes. The cost of your shipment will depend in part on the size of your vehicle, so be sure the measurements you report to the shipping company are accurate when requesting a quote.

In dealing with foreign ports, your shipping company should be able to help you with required paperwork. The receiving port may have documentation and loading fees, and in some situations you may have to pay an import tax.

How can I relocate my fleet of business vehicles?

Fleet Relocation

Moving a large group of vehicles from one place to another can be done either by truck, or by hiring drivers to bring the vehicles to their destination. A reputable auto shipping company can handle the trucking, but you may save money by going through a drivers-for-hire organization.

If your business is using a relocation consultant, this person should be able to help you select the best option for moving your fleet.

You will also save money if you are willing to be flexible in the delivery times of the vehicles. If you need them all moved in, say, a single weekend, be prepared to pay a premium for deadline service.

What kind of inspection should I perform before shipping a vehicle?

The Importance of Inspecting

It would be nice to believe that your vehicle move will go smoothly and safely with no damage or problems. However, not all moves go this way.

In order to take up a damage claim with your shipper or insurer, you will need a record of what changed between the time you handed the vehicle over for shipping and the time it arrived at its destination.

Begin by cleaning the vehicle before shipping (so that you can see any existing damage easily). Document its condition with a camera and date the pictures; make notes of any existing scratches or dents.

When you pick up the vehicle, bring your camera and photograph it again. Go over your notes and make sure no new points of damage can be seen.

How should I prepare my boat for shipping?

Preparing Your Boat for Shipping

Drain fuel and water tanks to no more than 1/4 of their capacity before shipping. Depending on the size of your boat, you will need to take steps to reduce its height and width while in transit. These include disassembling masts and in some cases removing cockpits to prepare the shipper for a boat transport.

Stow and secure all loose items aboard the boat. Disconnect the battery and close and lock all ports, hatches and windows.

If your boat is to be delivered to a launch site, check the hull thoroughly for watertightness before launch, and be sure you have all required safety equipment. Whenever possible, step the mast and fit the rigging in the landing area before the boat enters the water.

How can I ship my motorcycle?

Shipping a Motorcycle

Because motorcycles are relatively small compared to other vehicles, it's often easier and simpler to hire a company to transport a motorcycle. While most trucking companies will accept motorcycles for shipment, it may be worthwhile to find one that specializes in such work.

Motorcycles are more vulnerable than other vehicles to road damage, so it's best to look for a hauler who uses an enclosed rather than an open truck. Experienced bike haulers will secure your bike on its own skid and cover it within the truck.

If you are shipping a bike as part of a household move, or want extra protection, look for a "pop-up" motorcycle crate. These cost about $400 and can be assembled by one person.

How can I save money on vehicle shipping?

Saving Money on Car Shipping

The easiest way to save on car shipping is to be flexible about times. Many shippers charge extra for deadline jobs, and reserve their lowest rates for those who can wait an extra couple of weeks to get their vehicles. This lets them combine shipments going to the same general area.

If your vehicle is older or less valuable, you may save by going with an open carrier rather than a closed one. This does subject your car to the possibility of road damage, and in the case of motorcycles is not advised for security reasons.

Finally, some companies charge more for door-to-door service, and less for delivering the vehicle to a terminal near your destination.

Are there special things I need to know to ship a vehicle from Hawaii?

Shipping from Hawaii

The auto-shipping business is a necessary part of relocating to or from Hawaii, since no roads go there. The state also has some stringent rules about vehicles leaving the island.

If you are shipping your vehicle from Hawaii, the owner must present present proof of ownership and current registration. If owner cannot be present, he or she must provide a notarized letter of authorization for the vehicle to be shipped.

In addition, vehicles leaving Hawaii must be cleaned to avoid ethe spread of agricultural pests. If you do not do so thoroughly before departure, the vehicle will have to be steam-cleaned on the mainland at the owner's expense.

Will my insurance cover a vehicle being shipped?

Insuring Your Vehicle Shipment

You have insurance for your vehicle. Your auto shipper has insurance. So you're covered, right? Maybe not.

Most reliable auto shipping companies have policies that cover damage during shipping. However, some policies only cover certain parts of the vehicle, or require a deductible. Ask to see your shipper's insurance certificate.

Check with your own insurer to see whether your own policy covers the vehicle during shipment. Find out whether your own insurance would be considered "primary" or "secondary" in the event of a damage claim -- it could make a big difference to your driving record and your deductible if something goes wrong.

When you receive the vehicle from the shipper, inspect it carefully, including the undercarriage, and start it to make sure it runs. If there is any damage, note it on the bill of lading before you sign for the vehicle.

When sending your vehicle by ship, be aware that most vessels' insurance only covers a total loss -- for instance, if the ship sinks. Your insurer can help you obtain full coverage for any damage during the voyage.

What's the difference between a broker and a direct shipper?

Brokers vs. Shippers

When you look in the phone book or on the Internet for auto shipment or auto transporters, you may find some places advertising "five free quotes" or "auto shipping brokerage." These companies don't ship the vehicles themselves -- instead, they act as clearinghouses for the companies that actually do the trucking to transport auto. Working with a broker may help you get a better price or find a company you wouldn't otherwise know about.

On the other hand, many people prefer to work with a shipper, feeling that they want to be able to personally contact those responsible for their vehicles and make arrangements directly. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Some companies offer both services, so be sure you know which sort of company you're dealing with and what exactly is included in the service.

How should I prepare my RV for shipping?

Preparing Your RV for Shipping

Your RV serves a variety of purposes, but when you need to transport a RV, secure all doors and windows by taping or tying them down. This includes cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom.

Remove all hazardous substances, including gas and oil tanks and any kind of firearms or ammunition.

Remove all pictures and other hanging items on the walls, and remove any antennas atop the vehicle.

If the RV will be shipped in subfreezing temperatures (for instance, on a cold cargo ship in the North Atlantic), prepare it as you would for winter storage, with water drained from plumbing systems and antifreeze in place.

How should I prepare my motorcycle for shipping?

Preparing Your Motorcycle for Shipping

Before you ship your motorcycle you'll be asked to fold back mirrors or other protruding equipment prior to motorcycle shipping. However, in most cases you will not have to drain your gas tank or remove the battery.

Give the bike a good cleaning before it is shipped, and take photographs so you can document its condition before shipment.

Be sure your shipping company knows about any mechanical problems with the bike. Especially, notify them about any leaks that could damage other vehicles in the truck. If they know a bike is leaky, drivers will stow it in the bottom of the carrier to prevent such damage.

How should I prepare my car for shipping?

Preparing Your Car for Shipping

A day or two before the car is shipped, give it a good washing so that you can clearly see any damage. Document any existing scratches, dings, and rust spots (a digital camera may be helpful for this) so that you have a record of the condition in which you delivered the car to the shipper.

Empty the car of personal belongings. These may not be insured if lost in transit, and may become loose and damage the interior. Some shippers will allow you to transport a few lightweight objects in the trunk. Also, remove any third-party equipment like fog lights or spoilers. Most shippers ask that you leave the gas tank no more than one-quarter full. And be sure to deactivate the car alarm!

Can I hire someone to drive my car to its destination?

Having Your Car Driven

The cheapest way to find a driver for your car is to advertise at local colleges for someone who's headed toward your vehicle's destination at the next school break. This isn't the safest option -- you're trusting your vehicle to someone who may be young and inexperienced -- but the cost savings may be worth it to you, particularly with a less valuable vehicle.

Some professional auto transporting companies also offer drivers to transport cars, which costs less than hauling your car by truck. The drivers are screened and the company's insurance helps cover you against any problems. These companies depend on the availability of drivers -- often students or retirees -- and you will have to pay a premium for deadline service.

Is there a way to ship my RV?

Shipping a Recreational Vehicle

Unless your RV is very small, it will be difficult to ship by traditional car-carrier. However, there are hauling companies that will drive or trailer your vehicle to its destination. Use the same care in selecting an RV transporter that you would for any shipping job. Ask questions about insurance, DOT licensing, and damage claims, and seek references from past customers.

Some RVers enjoy taking their vehicles on vacations in Europe and elsewhere. Some RVers enjoy taking their vehicles on vacations in Europe and elsewhere. For a long stay (two months or more) this can be cheaper than renting a car and staying in hotels, even with the shipping cost. A professional freight forwarder can arrange shipment on a "ro-ro" (roll-on-roll-off) carrier, the same sort used to ship cars.

How can I ship my trailer?

Shipping a Trailer

Shipping a trailer can be as simple as having someone tow it to its destination. Be sure the towing vehicle is equipped with a compatible hitch with functioning electrical systems, and that it is powerful enough to handle the load.

Depending on the size of your trailer, you may also be able to send it in a freight shipment. If your trailer is new or particularly valuable, this may be worth the extra cost, which will certainly be higher than the cost of having it driven.

The freight shipment will be more expensive if you pack the trailer full of heavy goods. Depending on how much stuff is moving to the same place, you may wish to pack the trailer full, or remove all portable parts.

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Carma Spence-Pothitt