5 Things to Do Before Moving Your Car Cross-Country

Follow these five tips to meet your car safely at your new home across the country.

The following is a guest post by Mark Gittelman, car expert, who currently writes for CARFAX and About.com

Our car is a part of the family. We call her Christine. If you love your car the way I love mine, then I’m sure you can sympathize with the stress involved with waving goodbye and shipping her off on a carrier. When it was time to move across the country, we had to think of her just like one of the prized valuables we packed safely in boxes. Christine made it across, with some lessons learned along the way. Follow these five tips to meet your car safely on the other side, too.

Do Your Research

Car transport companies can vary in price, estimated delivery times, insurance coverage and quality of service. Compare companies to see which service meets your top criteria. For example, do you want a covered carrier or an open carrier? Read customer reviews for your top options in order to make an informed decision.

Clean the Car

Despite the age of my vehicle it’s in very good condition. We wash and vacuum Christine several times a month. Unfortunately, the days leading up to the shipping departure date became extremely hectic. I justified not cleaning the car with the rationalization that she would be exposed to extreme conditions during transport and would need a good bath when reaching the final destination.

As a retired dealership technician, I can tell you, if you treat your car well and keep it in new condition, others involved in its service or transportation are more likely to show it some respect. If you treat it like a trashcan, then others will think it’s OK to do the same. However, this isn’t the only reason to keep it clean.

Before the movers load the automobile onto the truck they complete a condition report. Scrapes, scratches, dents and dings are all documented. In addition, the transport driver will often make notes about the overall cleanliness of the exterior and interior. The driver is already in a hurry, and when he sees a dirty car he may rush through the condition report.

Make Sure Documentation is Thorough

Although we completed a comprehensive inspection to document any damage before transport, to my surprise the driver didn’t include the odometer reading. I asked him to add the current mileage to the report and he agreed. While logging the current mileage is important to ensure there’s no joyriding, a moderate increase should still be expected upon arrival due to loading, unloading, storage, and parking.
When Christine arrived in Florida I didn’t immediately see any problems. However, after washing her a few days later I did notice chips on the edge of the driver side front door. They certainly weren’t there before transport, but the minor nature of the damage probably wouldn’t have been worth pursuing even if I could have proven it was caused during transport. If you’re concerned about damage during shipping, take a series of high quality digital photographs before departure. Turn on the time stamp function and concentrate on areas likely to suffer damage during transport. Doors, side view mirrors and the bumper covers are vulnerable body parts. This way you’ll be able to provide before and after pictures if problems arise.

Be Aware of Packing Limitations

Many transportation companies have strict rules about how to pack the inside of the car with personal belongings. In fact, many companies will not allow you to pack any personal items whatsoever in the car, so be prepared with an alternative shipping method for those items. Read the company’s policies carefully. If you are able to include cargo in the car, make sure to leave valuables and expensive items out of it. And in the age of rampant identity theft, you’ll also want to refrain from packing any legal papers or documents that might contain Social Security numbers. It’s a good Idea to ship paperwork like tax returns, banking documents and credit card bills separately through UPS or FedEx. Don’t forget to remove any parking passes or automatic toll paying transmitters like easy-pass from the vehicle.
It’s also important that any packed items don’t interfere with driving the vehicle. Make sure the transportation professional can access the driver’s seat and easily see out of the windows. Pack small items in appropriately sized boxes so they don’t fly all over the interior during the bumpy ride.

Understand the Insurance Side of the Transport Operation

All automotive transportation companies are required to carry insurance, but the level of coverage can vary. This is often a geographical issue as different states will have different minimum requirements. Ask questions about the businesses coverage and policies. For example, when we transported Christine, the contract stated that absolutely no type of glass damage was covered. A stone flying up from the road and striking the windshield is a possibility, and I find that many companies do not cover this type of incident.

Another thing that can vary between companies is deductibles applied to any covered damage to your automobile. Contact your own insurance company and find out what’s covered under your personal policy. Some low-priced bargain plans will not cover any damage during transport. Others might reimburse the deductible or pay for items not covered under the transportation company’s insurance policy. Fortunately, incurred damage is rare and most people will enjoy a trouble-free experience. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know what the rules are if an unlikely incident occurs.

Thankfully, when we met Christine on the other side, she survived the journey in pretty good condition. We were ready to drive her around and introduce her to her new home.


About the Author: Mark Gittelman writes for CARFAX about his love of his own car and also helps others through their car ownership with his 30 years of experience as a mechanic.

Christian is the Senior Manager of Brand Media for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. In this role, he oversees social media for the brand as well as media planning for all national advertising campaigns. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, building LEGO sets and binging TV's latest hits. He currently resides in Miami, FL.

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  1. Tobias Armstrong
    June 28, 2016

    I’d never really thought about the details of moving a car across the country. I’ve helped my brother move his across the country several times, but I usually let him deal with the logistics of it all. Documentation is kind of a given, but I wasn’t aware that some transport companies actually have packing limitations. All of this is really good information for someone like me who is moving later this month. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Corsia Logistics
    October 27, 2017

    Shipping a car is not as difficult as many would expect. Great tips here. We always strive to first help our customers understand the process and then prepare and book. Research is the most important part. Take your time and research your options.


    Corsia Logistics


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