All About Auto Transport E-Book


This short book was put together to give you, the consumer, a better understanding of how the Auto Transport Industry functions. I started transporting cars in 1979, and I’ve been involved in many different aspects of the business since then. I’ve driven all over the United States and I’ve experienced many common problems and misunderstandings first-hand.
My goal is to relieve you of some of your apprehensions about purchasing a vehicle on the Internet and then transporting that vehicle to wherever you need it to be. By increasing your knowledge and understanding of how this industry works, I hope to help you avoid time-consuming pitfalls and costly mistakes.


So, you have a car and you want to move it. Where do you begin? You have several choices here. You may look in the Yellow Pages, search the Internet, or follow up on a referral from a friend or neighbor who’s had some experience in moving a car. Regardless of how you start, there are some things you should know.


In your efforts to have your car moved, you will find yourself working with one or more of the following:


Brokers act as agents or intermediaries between you and Transporters. Brokers charge fees (commissions) for their services. Brokers do not own the equipment to transport your vehicle.


Transporters are companies that own or lease the equipment to transport your vehicle. Transporters actually move your vehicle from Point A to Point B.


Broker/Transporters are companies that have both a) the authority to broker your shipping needs via land, sea, and air and b) the equipment to move your vehicle. Broker/Transporters may handle all of the details of your move themselves or they may work with other companies that own the needed equipment.

Knowing which of the above you are dealing with and what capabilities each one has can save you time, money, and frustration, so let’s look more closely at each one.


Brokers are required by law to register with The Department of Transportation (DOT) for a license to Broker cars. In order to file with the DOT, Brokers must show proof of a $10,000.00 bond, arranged through either an insurance company or a bank. Although the DOT keeps this information on file, some Brokers have cashed in their Bonds during hard times but continued to conduct Business as usual without any action taken by an unsuspecting DOT. 

It may be wise to check the status of a Broker’s license and bond before choosing to work with him. Brokers handle transporting cars all over the world. They are generally knowledgeable about which Transporters are reliable, dependable, and have the fewest claims against them. Some Brokers are experienced in moving cars by train and shipping them over-seas. A few have experience in moving vehicles by air. Brokers collect their fees in a variety of ways. When Brokers contract with you, they may charge either a flat fee or a percentage for their services. Arrangements and charges vary greatly.

For example, a Broker may charge you $1100 for moving a car. The Broker may earn as little as $25 or as much as $300 for the move, with the Transporter receiving the rest for delivery. This will depend on the arrangement that the Broker is able to make with the Transporter. The standard agreement is about $150 per car for the Broker and $950 for the Transporter. There are many reputable Brokers but there are also some real deceitful characters out there. 

This is a very competitive business and some Brokers will tell you just about anything in order to get their fee. Some Brokers may attempt to get two commissions for themselves – one from you, and another from the Transporter. Some Brokers may ask you for a “Non-Refundable Deposit” and then quote you a very low, “irresistible” amount to move your car – only to let you know later that no one will move your car for such a cheap price.

Methods of payment also vary considerably. Some Brokers may take their fee from you by credit card, money transfer, or check and ask you to pay the balance of the contracted amount to the Transporter upon delivery. Others require payment of the complete contracted amount up front before any movement of your car begins. Others will bill you after the move is complete.

Although every conceivable arrangement is in use, remember this: transporters prefer cash. In general, you’ll find that your move will go faster and smoother when this arrangement is used. Transporters haul your car not Brokers. However, reputable Brokers are useful because they have valuable connections within the industry for transportation by train, ship, air, and truck, and they can direct you to reliable Transporters.

Air Transporter - "SuperTransporter"

Air Transporters haul cars, trucks, heavy equipment, all different types of equipment and even live stock.


"Wilhelmsen Lines":

Over Sea's Carrier, Hauls 6,000 Cars per trip from Japan / Korea to the U.S.A.


"Enclosed Auto Train"


There are thousands of Transporters throughout the United States. In order for a Transporter to be able to conduct business legally, he must have a Certificate of Authority from the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington DC or from a local government office to operate and conduct Interstate Commerce. Also, in order to cross state lines, the Transporter must either be licensed or have purchased permits in every State that he operates in.

In order to receive his Certificate of Authority, the Transporter gives the DOT proof that he owns or leases the necessary equipment for moving vehicles, as well as a Certificate of Liability Insurance which will cover the value of his cargo in case of damage due to his own neglect. Before receiving his “Authority” from the DOT, the Transporter’s equipment will have been inspected for safety and given a DOT number that must be prominently displayed on his vehicle cab. 

The amount of insurance that the Transporter carries varies depending upon his load. The minimum insurance must cover the value of the entire load of vehicles at any one time. The exact amount of that minimum will vary, depending on the capacity of the equipment used. Most Transporters carry a pretty standard $250,000 of cargo hauled on a 10-car unit. However, a higher coverage of $1,000,000 or more may be required, depending on the total value of the cargo. For example, ten Mercedes or Lamborghini’s are worth much more than $250,000! 

You should be aware of the amount and status of your Transporter’s insurance when shipping your vehicle. The Federal Government requires insurance companies to notify the DOT if transporters insurance is cancelled or if it lapses due to non-payment. The Certificate of Authority can then be suspended. It can also be suspended by individual states for non-payment of road use and taxes. Knowing the status of the Transporter’s “Authority,” insurance, as well as the amount of cargo being hauled, can help you choose the best carrier for your vehicle.

All of this information can be reviewed on line at: this website will give you the insurance company’s name, address, and telephone number. 

The Certificate of Authority for hauling cars given to the Transporter company by the DOT enables the Transporter company to contract for any and all business that it can find as long as it uses only its own equipment to complete that business. The Transporter can acquire business in any way that it wants to, including advertising, word-of-mouth, and sub-contracting. It can use as many as 1 to 50 to 100 or more trucks and contract for as much business as it can handle as long as it hauls all of its own business on its own equipment.

What you cannot do as a Transporter, is contract to haul your car and then subcontract that arrangement to another Transport Company. That is called brokering, and brokering is illegal, unless you possess a Broker’s License as discussed above. Some Transporters do broker out, or sub-contract, some of their transportation contracts, making a fee or commission on the transaction without the effort of actually hauling any cargo. 

However, should a car being transported under these conditions be damaged, it may be difficult and time-consuming to assign liability and collect payment for damages. As there is very little regulation or enforcement of the laws governing Brokers and Transporters, it’s important that the consumer make an informed choice.

There are many different types of equipment that Transporters use to get your vehicle from place to place. The most common are the Open Trailers that most people are accustomed to seeing traveling down the road. They carry anywhere from 1 to 12 or 13 cars at various angles and positions.

"Open Car Carrier "Stinger" hauls 10-12 cars

Smaller trailers with 2 to 3 cars pulled by a pick-up or other small truck are called “Hotshots”. They generally haul shorter distances and may carry specialty vehicles or larger, damaged, or salvaged vehicles that won’t fit on larger transports. Hotshots are also sometimes used for classics or exceptionally valuable vehicles that are best hauled without vehicles above or below them.

"Hot-Shot" hauls 1-2 cars

There are other types of carriers used, like “Flat-Beds”, or “Drop-Deck” Trailers. They usually haul things like Ambulance’s and larger Trucks, Military Vehicles, or 20 passenger vans, etc…

"Flat-Bed" Trailer hauls 1-3 vehicles

Hauls 1-3 Vehicles, "Drop Deck" Trailer

Delavan Lowboy 48

There are generally two types of car carriers. One type is called a Stinger, and the other type is called a High-Mount Fifth-Wheel Trailer. Federal regulations vary between types of truck/trailer combinations. High-Mount Fifth-Wheel Truck/Trailer combinations are governed by different length and overhang regulations.

"High-Mount Fifth-Wheel Tractor"

The “Fifth-Wheel” refers to the round connecting plate which the Trailer attaches to and which locks the Trailer to the Tractor. As you will note, the Fifth-Wheel plate is located above the rear tires just behind the cab. You will also note that it is elevated off the ground by about 4 feet. There are “High-Mount” Fifth Wheel Trailers that can haul up to 9 cars in an enclosed or open carrier application.

Delavan Industries High Mount 5th Wheel - 48'

The only type of car carrier recognized as a car carrier by the DOT is the Stinger. There are High-Sided Stingers, and Quick Load, Low-Sided Stingers. Stingers have the Fifth-Wheel connecting plate located between the cab and the Trailer, about 6-8 inches off of the ground. High-Sided “Stingers” have high sides and offer more versatility when it comes to loading and unloading, or moving cars around.

Delavan Industries 48' - 4 Car High Rail

As you can see, the Trailer is connected to the Tractor on the Fifth-Wheel plate just behind the rear wheels of the Tractor about 6-8 inches from the ground.

Stinger 5th Wheel Plate

There are also Low-Sided “Stingers”, or “Quick-Loaders”, which hold up to 10-12 cars and are generally, but not always, used for auction and new cars.

Delavan industries 3-car 2878 Quick loader

Some Trailers are enclosed with soft or metal sides. The Soft Side generally has a canvas tarp attached to the sides of the Trailer. Enclosed trailers generally haul far fewer cars. Their rates are higher because the cars they haul are less exposed to the elements than in open trailers and therefore better protected.

"Soft-Sided" Trailer hauls 1-5 cars

Delavan Industries Enclosed Trailer - 8 SUVS

This is a Metal-Sided Enclosed Trailer. Some enclosed trailers will have canvas sides with a metal roof.

Protect your Classic - "Enclosed Trailer"

Understanding the different kinds of equipment Transporter Companies use as well as the benefits and limitations of that equipment will help you make choices that best meet your needs and expectations. While it is truly the operator of that equipment who will determine the ultimate success of your move, your choices will also influence the safety of your vehicle during transport. You will want to consider expense, distance, weather conditions and related activities, as well as the size and value of your car, and the ease with which a trailer can be loaded and unloaded.

Open trailers are the most common form of Transport and the least expensive. However, there are inherent risks with open trailers that should be kept in mind. Without siding to protect it, your car is subject to possible damage from rain, hail, snow, sleet, ice, sun, and wind. 

The possibility of damage also exists from anything on the road, such as road debris, salt and sand, tar, asphalt, road base, gravel, new paving material or rocks. These materials are easily thrown up by passing vehicles or by wind and can cause damage such as paint chips, cracked or broken windshields, lights and windows, and, in some circumstances, dents. Should you choose an open trailer, a Transporter Company cannot do much to prevent these incidents.

These risks are usually addressed in your contract, leaving the Transporter Company with very limited liability. Before choosing an open trailer because it’s the least expensive transport for your vehicle, be sure to consider the time of year and any weather-related activities (repaving, snow traction materials), as well as your origin and destination. Enclosed trailers offer protection from the elements but can be twice as expensive as open trailers. As there are fewer enclosed trailers than open trailers, you may also find that it takes longer to find available transport. 

However, the cost and the wait are probably worthwhile if you’re transporting a more expensive car. For larger vehicles, such as trucks with camper shells, you may find that a flat-bed trailer is the best choice.

The other thing to consider when choosing a carrier is the ease with which cars can be moved on and off for loading and reloading. High-Side “Stingers” offer the most versatility, as it isn’t necessary to unload several cars to get to the one you want. Every time your car is moved, its risk of being damaged increases. While some drivers never have damages, others are more susceptible, depending on their training and experience. 

Some people hope to minimize this risk by requesting a certain spot on the trailer for their car. The position of your car on the trailer will be determined by the size and weight of your car. Loading cars on a trailer is a game of pounds and inches as safety regulations for traveling Interstate Highways govern height, length, and how much weight can be distributed onto each axel.


Broker/Transporter companies have the best of both worlds: not only do they broker cars – they also haul them. As a rule, most Broker/ Transporters have been in the industry for some time and have developed a reputation that allows them to keep their equipment full and moving. 

If you have the opportunity to deal with a Broker/Transporter who not only negotiates the moving of your car but also carries out the actual moving, you can eliminate the middleman. Communication is easier as the Broker/Transporter has a direct connection with his own transport equipment. 

However, often Broker/Transporters are so busy that they need to subcontract with other Transporter companies in order to fulfill their contracts with car owners in a timely manner. Customers should rest assured that most successful Brokers and Broker/Transporters have built very good working relationships with reliable and honest Transporters. 


Now that you know whom you’ll be working with, how do you find them? You may choose to look in your Yellow Pages or search the Internet where you’ll find different websites that provide you with many Brokers and Transporters. You should understand that the amount that Brokers and Transporters spend to be associated with websites determines who, and how many, will be visible to you. You will not see ALL of the Transport Companies available.

It is your responsibility to find a Broker or Transporter to transport your car. To find the best option for you, you will want to get prices and quotes from several companies. Remember that, even when all of the conditions outlined above have been considered, the cheapest price is not always the best way to go. You generally get what you pay for, so be careful of exceptionally low quotes! 

In choosing which company to contract with, you will want to consider the company’s reputation as well as the cost. This can be a time-consuming process. A search through the Department of Transportation (DOT) site can be helpful – they can answer a lot of questions you may have about a company. The Better Business Bureau may also be able to give references.

You need to know whether you are dealing with a Broker, Transporter, or Transporter/Broker, and you will probably not be told unless you ask. This can be a time consuming process. Most people believe that the company whom they contract with initially is the same company that will haul their car. 

As you now know, this is often not the case. Only when you are dealing with the Transporter directly – not the Transporter/Broker – can you be sure that the company you contract with initially is the company that will haul your car. However, some companies may misrepresent themselves in order to get the Broker’s fee or commission. They may contract with a Broker to haul a car at a specified price, and then contract with another Transporter to haul the car and collect a second Broker fee. This is called Double Brokering and is illegal.

Commodity Transporters sometimes try to pass themselves off as auto transporters. They will put your car into a truck with a half load of whatever product they may be hauling (e.g., meat). This is also illegal. Be sure you know what your carrier is licensed for and what kind of carrier your car will be transported in. A search through the DOT site can be helpful. It can answer a lot of questions you may have about a company. You may also check with the Better Business Bureau for references.

Once you’ve decided on and contacted a company to organize the moving of your car, the company will fax or send you a contract and ask for a deposit. When the company has your signed contract and deposit, it will post the details of your move on a central dispatch website. 

Most transport companies have dispatchers who look through these postings to find loads for their Trucks. Once a transport company has requested and been assigned your car, you will be contacted and given a window of time in which you can expect to be contacted by a Transporter to pick up your car. You must understand that the time during which your car will be picked up and transported is not guaranteed, as many things can happen. Weather, mechanical problems, and logistical problems can all delay schedules. 

Whenever a driver is in your area unloading and reloading, he is dependant on the coordination of 10-20 people in order to complete his pick ups and deliveries on schedule. When one or more car owners deviate from the plan, it has a chain reaction that affects the remainder of the schedule. It’s important that someone be available to be responsible for releasing or receiving your car during the time period given to you. Should there be a hold-up earlier on in the proposed schedule, your scheduled pick up time period may also change.

If no one can be available to be responsible for your car, you may be able to arrange for a Terminal or Tow Company to pick up and store your car or deliver your car for you for an additional fee. Whenever possible, make these arrangements directly with the Transporter that is actually shipping your vehicle in order to avoid any confusion.

"Tow Truck" - Can wench oversized Cars, and Wrecked Vehicles


Before releasing your car to the Transporter, be sure that the following have been completed:

· Be sure that your car is empty unless agreed upon before with driver or broker. This is a game of pounds and inches for your driver. Should you overload your car, your car’s weight may prohibit the driver from carrying a full load, or cause him to be over the road legal weight limits. The driver will either charge you more money, or refuse to haul your car. 

· Have 1/4 tank, or less, fuel in the car.

· Have your car cleaned so that when the walk through is done any defects on the car can be ascertained and logged onto a contract.

· Disconnect the antenna.

· Check for any leaking fluids and have them repaired before the move. Any fluids or oils that might drop onto another car below and damage it will be your liability.

· Make sure the battery is in good working order and the car starts easily. Should your car fail to start while on the carrier, you’ll be charged an extra fee.

· Secure any lose items, such as convertible top, bras, racks, or exhaust systems etc. The Transporter will not be responsible for any add-ons not attached by the factory.

· Shut off or disengage all car alarms.

· Be sure that your car’s condition is accurately reflected in your contract. Should a driver arrive and discover that the condition of the car is not what was originally stated (e.g., not running, loose parts, missing parts) he may not transport your car.

Door-to-door service is a popular misconception. The size of most car carriers (about 14′ feet high and 85′ feet long) makes it difficult to maneuver them through residential neighborhoods. There is also a possibility of damage from overhanging tree branches to cars on the top rack and drivers cannot afford the possible liability. 

It may be necessary to find a large parking lot close to your home or place of origin / destination where the driver can load or unload your car. The driver may be able to shuttle you back to your house but remember to arrange this prior to pick-up. Brokers may guarantee door-to-door service, but this will probably cost extra. If it’s not practical for the transport carrier to drive to your door, a terminal or tow service will deliver or pick up your car and make it available for the driver. 

This insures your pick-up/delivery will be on time, and can relieve many concerns you may have. Last minute changes usually cost time and money, so be as honest as possible about conditions in your neighborhood when initially arranging for pick-up or delivery.

When your driver or tow company arrives, you will both go over the condition of your car/vehicle. The condition of your car- including ALL of the dents, and scratches and conditions of windshields, hub caps, wheels, etc – will be noted on a condition report or Bill of Lading, along with vin numbers, license plate numbers, and origin and/or delivery addresses. 

The Bill of Lading will also include a Disclaimers form. If you’re aware of the different types of carriers and their advantages and disadvantages, the Disclaimers will make sense to you. Damages due to road hazard or driver error will be the Transporter’s liability. Damage caused by your car to another due to something like leaking fluids will be your liability.

You will also want to discuss time and place of delivery with your driver. If possible, it’s a good idea to stay in touch with your driver during the trip to have a more exact idea of his progress. A lot of drivers are reluctant to give customers their cell phone numbers, because some customers insist on calling every day or every couple of hours. Remember that cell phones cost money and take time and concentration from your driver, and he has 10-20 customers to look after at any given time. Some Brokers insist that all communication go through them. 

However once the driver has your vehicle, he is the only one who controls the schedule. There is a tendency for Brokers and Dispatchers who have no accurate information to give you guesses or estimates that aren’t reasonable or realistic. Only the driver can give you accurate information, so arrange to be in touch with him if you can. 

When your car arrives, it’s your responsibility to examine it very closely. It will probably arrive dirty, unless it is in an enclosed trailer. If there is new damage, be sure to note it on the Bill of Lading or condition report before signing it. Your signature releases your Transporter from any further responsibility. Once you have signed off on the Bill of Lading, you have no further recourse for relief of damages. Your Broker is not liable for any damage. Their responsibility ended when they assigned your vehicle to a Transporter, although they may say, as a courtesy, track your car during transit. 


There are a variety of ways in which payment may be handled. If there is a balance due, cash on delivery (C.O.D.) is preferred. Some Brokers may insist on having a cashier’s check made out to them at the time of contract as they are not yet sure who will be transporting your car. Other Brokers may arrange for a cashier’s check made out to them to be given to the driver at the time of delivery. In that case, the driver will have to wait 30, 60, or even 90 days for the Broker to turn the check around in order to get paid for the move. 

This is hard for the driver because it makes it difficult for him to handle his expenses for the move. However, if the Broker arranges for the total fee, including his commission, to be paid to the driver at delivery, he trusts his own money to someone he may not know well. Some Transporters will accept cash only (C.O.D.) or cashier’s checks made out to them, as checks are becoming unreliable and waiting long periods of time to be paid doesn’t allow them to meet their expenses. Some Transporter’s will not accept any contract’s unless they are C.O.D.

Some customers have issues with paying someone other than the company who they contracted through in the beginning. When you sign a Bill of Lading or condition report, you have in fact made another contract with the Transporter. 

There have been instances when a driver has held a vehicle “Hostage”, waiting for a Broker to pay his debt to him. This causes a huge problem for the Driver and for you. It’s important to make firm arrangements for payment when the contract is being signed. If you contract with a Broker, my best advice at this point is to pay his commission to him at the time of contract. 

Then, be prepared to pay the driver cash at delivery. Credit Cards are used extensively in this business; however most drivers do not have that capability. It is best to discuss this matter with the driver at pick-up (origin) in order to avoid complications at delivery time. Some of this confusion will be avoided if you contract directly with the Transporter.


This process can be time consuming, tedious and confusing. Most websites only give information about a limited number of Brokers and Transporters. Transport Companies may not have the means to advertise to, or accept and receive postings and quotes from, a larger customer base. Most Brokers do not have the financial resources that allow them to work outside of their own area. You may not have access to companies that could quite possibly provide you with better or more convenient delivery times and financial choices. 

www.AllAboutAutoTransport.Com allows you to list your vehicle and have it immediately brought to the attention of ALL Brokers, Transporters, and Broker/Transporters nationwide. There are many Transporters, Brokers, and Broker/Transporters at your service, all with state of art technologies. Brokers, Transporters and Broker/Transporters ALL have the opportunity to offer quotes on transporting your vehicle. You can achieve all of this by a click of your mouse. You can be notified of quotes by Text Messaging, E-Mail, or have them stored in an Account Mail Box for you to view at your leisure. There are many options available to you that no one else on the Internet provides. We invite you to check out our Website at: www.AllAboutAutoTransport.Com 

Get a Quote