While planning out your move, one aspect that may get you thinking is how to transport your car. If you’re hiring a professional moving company, you might be able to use their auto transport services, if available. But if you’re planning a DIY move, you’ll probably have to figure out a way of transporting your car.

Out of the available alternatives, shipping or towing your car, are the most popular choices. But the choice that you make between shipping your car or towing it behind your moving truck, would be dependent on a few factors including the cost and the safety aspects. To help you make an informed decision, we have here a comparison of the two options, based on a couple of factors.

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Shipping vs Towing Your Car: What’s The Difference?

For you to make a choice, it is important that you know the major difference between shipping and towing your car.

Shipping a car basically means transporting your car on a carrier. You could either ship your car by train or approach an auto transport company to do the job for you. Many auto transport companies offer a variety of services for transporting your car. These include using an open or an enclosed carrier, and getting your car picked-up and dropped off at your location (door-to-door), or from a designated terminal close-by (terminal-to-terminal). Out of these, an open carrier with a terminal pick-up is the most cost-effective option.

Towing a car, on the other hand, would require you to either rent a tow dolly or a vehicle trailer to attach the car to your moving truck. A major difference between the two is that a tow dolly is like a two wheel trailer that will only lift the front two wheels of your car. The rear wheels shall remain on the ground when using a tow dolly. With a vehicle trailer, all four wheels of your car will be rested on the trailer.

Another difference between the two is the weight capacities that they can hold. While a tow dolly may only be able to support around 3,000 – 4,000 lbs of weight, a trailer could easily support around 5,200 lbs. Depending on the weight of your vehicle, you will have to either use a tow dolly or a vehicle trailer, if you plan on towing your car behind the moving truck.

Also See: Top Enclosed Car Shipping Companies | How To Install A Tow Hitch On A Car Or Truck?

Shipping vs Towing Your Car: Costs and Prices

Your budget could be an important factor in determining your choice between shipping or towing your car. Before we get to the details, know that shipping your car is going to be expensive over towing your car, in most cases. But there are different factors that determine the total costs in both cases. Here’s what they could be in either case:

Shipping Your Car

On an average, you can expect your costs to be somewhere between $400 – $1,600, when shipping your car through an auto transport company. If you’re planning to ship your car by a train, then these costs could be between $380 – $900, on average. Either way, there are a few clear factors that would determine your total shipping costs. These include:

  • The size, condition, and make of your car – large or heavy vehicles may cost more.
  • The distance between the pick-up and drop-off location – per mile rates could be a little lower for longer distances.
  • The route taken by your carrier.
  • Time of your move – peak seasons like summers and spring will definitely have higher costs.
  • The type of service you choose – open or enclosed carrier and door-to-door or terminal-to-terminal pick-up.

Along with these factors, the insurance that you choose, could also be an added expense. Even if you already have insurance for your car, you may choose to purchase additional coverage if you have a high value or a classic car.

See Also: Best Classic Car Transport Companies | How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car

Towing Your Car

As compared to shipping, towing your car is definitely a more affordable option. You will either need to rent a tow dolly or a vehicle trailer to attach your car to the moving truck. While a tow dolly would cost between $90 to $500, a vehicle trailer would cost between $120 – $950, depending on your total distance. Since most moving companies may not allow you to tow your own trailer behind their truck, renting a tow dolly or a vehicle trailer from them would be necessary.

Apart from the dolly or trailer rental costs, you also have to factor in the fuel and gas costs for your total towing expense. Your gas mileage will significantly decrease when pulling a vehicle behind the moving truck, resulting in higher fuel usage and consequently, higher fuel costs. To give you a price perspective, your total cost of towing a car with a dolly behind your moving truck will be around $300 – $750, for an average distance of 500 miles. You can expect the costs to be near double, when using a vehicle trailer to tow your car.

Overall, shipping costs will most probably be higher than tow dolly costs, especially for short distances. However, the total cost of shipping your car might just be a little lower if you consider using a vehicle trailer to tow your car.

Shipping vs Towing Your Car: Which Is Safer?

Shipping your car is going to be a clear winner when it comes to choosing the safer option. Whether you use an open or an enclosed carrier, your car will still remain safe for the most part, as it will be lifted off the ground at all times. This significantly reduces the chances of wear and tear of your vehicle.

But when it comes to towing your vehicle, there are different aspects controlling the safety of your vehicle. Firstly, if you’re using a tow dolly, then two of your car wheels will always be on the ground, exposing them to mileage as well as the normal wear and tear. A few other aspects that affect the safety of your car when towing include:

  • Maneuverability: Managing a large moving truck can be challenging on its own, especially in narrow lanes or tight streets. And, on top of it, if you also have a car towed behind the truck, you can only imagine how it would be to park or back up. To add to it, the increased weight of your car will automatically reduce the speed of your moving truck, as well as make it difficult to apply brakes all of a sudden.
  • Fishtailing: If your truck is moving at a high speed, there are high chances of your dolly or trailer swaying, and that phenomenon is referred to as fishtailing. Basically, because of the combined heavy weight of your car as well as the moving truck, they might be prone to swaying more easily, increasing the potential risk for you as well as others on the road around you.
  • Road Debris: We’ve already mentioned the wear and tear that your car can face when using a tow dolly, but in addition to that, your vehicle will also be easily exposed to trash, rocks or any other debris tossed by other vehicles around you. Now, this could be the case when you use an open air carrier for auto transport as well, but the extent of damage could be way lesser.

Overall, shipping your car will definitely give you more safety assurance for your vehicle. To assure maximum safety of your car, using an enclosed auto carrier is definitely going to be your best shot, if you are ready to pay those higher prices.

Also Read: Is Your Car Safe During Auto Transport?

Shipping vs Towing Your Car: What Is More Convenient?

Moving in itself is a hectic process, and trying to figure out a way for transporting your car, only adds to your stress. But when you approach an auto transport company to ship your car, it will definitely take some stress off your shoulders. That’s because these companies have the expertise and know how to professionally deal with the process from start to end. Just keep your car prepared for shipping and hand over the keys to your auto transport agent. They will get the car transported to your preferred location as per your convenience.

At first glance, towing your car behind the moving truck may seem like an easy and effective process. But a deeper look at it will make you realize that there are quite a few underlying tasks which need to be taken care of. For instance, you will have to first install a tow hitch on your vehicle and ensure proper coupling. Along with that, you need to double check the locking of your dolly or trailer to your moving truck.

Lastly, loading your car onto the dolly or trailer and securing it with tie-down straps or hooks will be a necessary step. A little carelessness in following any of these steps or violating the regulations of your rental company, could result in serious consequences including losing out on your vehicle’s warranty as well as insurance policy.

All of these factors combined, only indicate the convenience that shipping a car offers over towing your car behind a moving truck.

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Things To Keep In Mind While Shipping Your Car

If you’ve decided to ship your car via a car carrier, all you would need to do is hand over your car and keys to the driver of the carrier and they will take it ahead from there. Make sure to follow these few steps for preparing your car for the shipping process.

  1. Remove any additional accessories or personal items that you may have kept in your car. Even though a few companies allow you to store up to 100 lbs of items in your car, it is best if you avoid keeping anything of value inside your car while in transit.
  2. Keep all the necessary documents like your car insurance and ID proofs handy, as you might need them during the process.
  3. Conduct a maintenance check of your vehicle to ensure that all essential systems like your car’s engine, tires, steering wheel, and the doors and windows are in working condition. This is necessary for safely loading and unloading your car from the carrier.
  4. Before you hand over your car, it is best that you take photo proofs as well as maintain an inspection report with you. In most cases, the auto transport carrier will also be doing the same to clarify the claims, if any, after the delivery of your vehicle.

Shipping your car will help in alleviating some of the moving stress off your shoulders, especially when you’re moving long distance or across the country. You could read our article on How Do I Transport your Car Cross Country to know more about this.

Things To Keep In Mind While Towing Your Car

Towing a car may seem like a more economical option for some people, but it could also be a tricky process. Even when you’re towing your car behind your moving truck, you will first have to prepare your car for the process.

But before that, the question that arises will be – is your vehicle suitable for towing? In most cases, only small or mid sized vehicles can be towed. The weight of your vehicle may also be another deciding factor for the feasibility of towing. To add to it, your vehicle will also be exposed to more wear and tear, as it will majorly be pulled along in the open.

On a positive note, you know that the car will be reaching you with your other belongings, when you tow it behind your moving truck. So, there won’t be a separate schedule that you’ll need to plan for that. However, you may have to account for an extra day or at least a few additional hours when towing your car, as it reduces the overall speed of your moving truck. There will be certain speed restrictions that your moving truck may have to follow when you tow a car behind it.


Is Shipping A Car Worth It?

Though a little expensive, shipping a car could definitely be worth it for you, if your vehicle’s safety is your top priority. With a couple of good auto transport companies offering both open and enclosed carrier shipping services, you can safely get your vehicle transported from one location to the other. However, if you’re moving a short distance and are a little tight on budget, towing your car or driving it on your own, could also be some other alternatives.

Is It Easier To Tow A Car From The Front Or Back?

Towing a car from the front is not only easier but also could be your only option with most car designs. You should also ensure that your car is prepared and well strapped before a tow. We suggest that you reach out to a professional or a mechanic to assist you, if you aren’t confident about the towing process.

What Is The Best Way To Tow A Car Long Distance?

Using the services of an auto transport company would most likely be the best way for you to tow a car long distance. Along with being a safe option for your car, it also gives you the option of transporting multiple vehicles together. You could also consider using a car trailer as the other alternative, but it may not be as economical when you consider others costs like food, accommodation and additional gas, if needed.

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Bonus: 5 Best Trailer Hitch Installers

Conclusion: Which Option Should You Choose?

If you ask us, shipping your car will almost always be a better bet when you want to transport your car with all safety. However, it may end up being heavy on your pockets when compared to towing your car behind a moving truck. From another perspective, if you’re moving a short distance, towing your car to the truck could be a good option, as it might save you both time, and money.

But for a longer, cross country move, that may not be a feasible option and shipping your car could be your only choice. We suggest that you do get some quotes from auto transport companies as well as thoroughly research the towing options, before finalizing your choice. If you’re looking for some good car shipping companies, you can also check out our suggestions for the Best Car Shipping Companies.