How Long Does It Take to Ship a Car?: Auto Transport Tips

How long does it take to ship a car? If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes a car to get from one state to another, this is where you’ll find out. The most important consideration after auto transport cost is how long does it take to ship a car?

Delivery time is critical if you need your car to start a new job or meet family responsibilities. You want a definite delivery date. But can you get one?

The transport method, season, and travel route all affect the transportation timeline. Be wary of transport companies that guarantee specific pickup and delivery dates. There are too many variables to promise an exact delivery time.

But what if your car must be in a certain place at a certain time?

No worries. If you understand the process you can plan ahead to move a car on your schedule.

How to ship a car across to a new city.

Keep reading for details on different shipping methods and time frames.

ship a car
Image credit to Pexels

Types of Auto Transport

First, let’s review the different types of auto transport services. Each choice influences the transportation time.

Here are five options for shipping a car to a new city.

Drive The Car Yourself

  • Ready for a road trip? The best choice, if you’re moving a short distance is to drive the car yourself. It’s cheap and you’ll always know where your car is.
  • Of course, if you’re moving to another state or the opposite coast, this is harder.
  • Will you transport your car separate from your furnishings or tow them behind you? If you hire movers to transport your belongings it may be easier to drive the car yourself.

Hire a Professional Driver

  • If you don’t want to load your car onto an open-air trailer, consider hiring a professional driver. Some commercial transportation companies offer professional driver services. The company insurance covers the driver.
  • You can ride along with a professional driver. Pack your personal belongings in your trunk. You don’t have to drive, but you and your car arrive together. Professional driver services handle insurance for the driver and the trip.

Hire a Freelance Driver

  • Yes, it’s a thing. You can hire a freelance driver to move your auto. Freelance drivers are college students, travelers, and retirees. These drivers offer a reasonable fee. Be sure to choose based on a referral or recommendation.
  • You can negotiate the timeline when you hire a professional or freelance driver.

Ship Your Car on the Auto Train

  • Amtrak’s Auto Train is an option if you’re moving along the East Coast. The train travels from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, FL.
  • Cars, motorcycles, and SUVs are welcome on the train. Pack your vehicle with your belongings, then load it onto the auto train. You must travel with your car as a passenger on the train.

Professional Auto Transport Company

  • Hiring a professional auto transporter is a popular choice. You don’t have to drive the car yourself. You also don’t put miles on your car.
  • Professional auto transport moves the car on an open-air trailer or in an enclosed truck. The size of your car, travel distance, and other factors determine the cost.
  • Shipping in an enclosed truck is more expensive than an open-air trailer.
  • But, it protects your car from the elements and potential damage. That may be worth the cost if the car travels across the desert in summer or in severe winter weather.
  • Always check that the company has a license and insurance. It’s wise to study online reviews. Can your car dealership give you a referral? Visit the Better Business Bureau website.
  • Now that you know your transport options, let’s talk timeline.

How Long Does It Take To Ship a Car?

Once you place a transport order it takes a few days to ship a car. Commercial transporters call it the pickup window. Transit time begins after the transport company has possession of the auto.

Delivery estimates use normal drive time. Factoring in the variables listed below, delivery can take between two days and a month.

Let’s take a closer look at the delivery variables.


  • Where is the car now and where is it going?
  • If the car is shipping to or from a major city it’s easier to pick up and deliver. That’s because commercial transport vehicles and drivers are nearby.
  • It takes extra time and effort to send a team to pick up or deliver an auto in a remote or rural location. The added mileage and effort adds to the cost and delivery time.
  • If you’re in a rural area you can meet the trucker in or near a metro area to reduce the cost and speed up shipping.
  • The same goes for delivery.

Transportation Distance

  • How far is the car transport?
  • The transit time increases with mileage. Moving a car a few hundred miles takes a few days. Transporting a car from Maine to California can take one or two weeks.

Time of Year

  • Commercial auto transport companies are busiest from late Spring to early Fall. There are more trucks moving across the United States during the warm months.
  • If you ship a car at the height of summer vacation travel, it may move faster. More trucks on the road mean they’re available for pickups and deliveries.
  • It may take longer to transport a car during the winter when fewer trucks make deliveries.


  • Snow, sleet, rain, high winds, tropical storms, and more along the route can delay delivery.
  • Good weather and light traffic can mean your vehicle arrives early. It’s important to plan for the chance your car delivers ahead of schedule.

Travel Route

  • Another factor in delivery time is the travel route. Are you moving a car along major highways and interstates? It’s faster than transporting a vehicle on less traveled roads.
  • Door-to-door delivery means your car goes to the desired location. But, it may take longer if the route is rural or remote.

Expedited Shipping

  • What if there’s no leeway on the date you must ship or receive your car? It’s more expensive, but expedited shipping is available. Talk to the auto transport company to arrange a guaranteed date for pickup or delivery.

Final Tips for Choosing Auto Transport Services

  1. Need a professional auto transport company for yourself or an important customer? Weigh all the options outlined here. Don’t base the decision on cost alone.
  2. Partner with a licensed, insured transporter. There may be exclusions in cargo insurance. It’s important to have your own car insurance, too.
  3. Request a quote and ask how long does it take to ship a car. Then you can plan delivery to fit your budget and schedule.
  4. Compare reviews and recommendations. Choose the company that delivers great service along with the vehicle.

What Affects the Time Required to Ship a Car?

Due to unanticipated delays caused by atypical routes or the time required to pick up the vehicle, the total shipping time by the provider of car transport services may be extended. The factors influencing time are:

  • Stops at different locations: Nobody enjoys them, yet they do occur. When it does occur, carriers can often repair the problem quickly, resulting in just a little delay.
  • Highway Conditions: Your vehicle may need to traverse a major route that is undergoing construction; thus, you should anticipate a delay.
  • Traffic: As previously indicated, traffic is unavoidable. So are weather conditions, particularly if drivers must drive more cautiously to prevent collisions and maintain the safety of their cars.
  • Locations for Pickup and Return: Where will the car be delivered and picked up? If both sites are in neighborhoods that are difficult to maneuver, or if they are in rural regions where the driver must be off the major highway, the shipping time of a vehicle may be affected.
  • Truck Failures and Mechanical Problems: A car carrier may carry several vehicles to multiple delivery locations.
  • Route Length: Obviously, the longer the journey, the longer it will take to transport a vehicle.
Jasper has been an enthusiast of the automotive and IT industries since the age of 16. He independently writes on the auto industry's recent happenings.