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What everyone should know before choosing a vehicle transport service
Vehicle transport has gotten a bad name over the years. Mainly due to many
unscrupulous people opening up a vehicle transport business, practicing bad
business, and leaving the customer holding an empty bag, so to speak.
At All Auto Shipping, (AAS) we believe that an informed customer is a satisfied
customer. For this reason we are publishing this document so that you will be
informed BEFORE spending any money to have your vehicle moved. Hopefully this
will help you to choose a service that will perform to your expectations.
Terminal-to-Terminal or Door-to-Door Service?
If you spend any time at all looking at vehicle transport companies you will
find those who offer terminal-to-terminal and door-to-door service. Let’s take
a few moments to talk about these two levels of service and what they really
mean for auto transport:
Terminal to Terminal Vehicle Shipping
All of the biggest most established vehicle transport companies use the
terminal-to-terminal model to move vehicles. This is NOT good for you, it is
only good for them. Read on for an explanation.
The idea of the terminal-to-terminal model is that the trucks will not have to
drive to several different locations within a city picking up and dropping off
vehicles; thus the truck will save time, and the overall cost of car shipping is less.
It has been the experience of thousands of customers, that the
terminal-to-terminal cost of our competitors is not a very big savings, and the
problems associated in dealing with towing companies is not worth the trouble.
Terminal-to-terminal means, you take your vehicle to a terminal location. These
terminals are almost always a towing company that the transport service has a
relationship with. The terminal will act as a staging area for vehicles that
need to be moved. A vehicle transport will then come by the towing company
(terminal) and pick up your vehicle in the origination city. They will
transport it to the destination city where it will drop the vehicle off at
another towing company (terminal).
I do not know if you have ever been to a towing company in any major city, but
these are some scary locations. I have been in the business of moving vehicles
for years, and I have seen towing companies (terminals) in almost every major
city in the United States. From 1st hand experience, I can tell you that they
are always in the area’s of town where zoning and real estate values are most
favorable for trucking and towing companies (cheapest land prices and most
crime ridden and dangerous areas of town).
Every “Terminal” that I have seen has high chain link fences with barbed wire
around the top. Very few have actually paved their property, and almost all of
them have really mean dogs that run free around the vehicles. Between cars
being loaded and unloaded on gravel lots, dogs urinating on the cars, and cars
being left out in the open for weeks in the most dangerous areas of the nation,
it is a wonder that this practice still survives.
One of the most ridiculous features of the “Terminal-to-Terminal” service is
that you have to pay for the terminal portion of your move. That means that you
will pay between $50 and $100 extra for the towing company (terminal) to
process the vehicle and store it until the larger transport comes to move it,
or until you come to pick it up.
All companies that offer Terminal-to-Terminal service will treat the Door to
Door service as a premium. The door-to-door service is much like the
terminal-to-terminal service except a flat bed tow truck will deliver your
vehicle to the origin terminal and then take the vehicle from the destination
terminal to the destination address. That means that you have to pay extra to
have your car delivered from the terminal location to your front door. You will
be charged between $3 and $4 per mile for the flat bed service. This means that
you could pay hundreds more for door-to-door service than you would by using
At All Auto Shipping we offer TRUE door-to-door service on every move. The
transport truck will come to your home or as close to your home as possible,
load the vehicle right there where you can watch, then drive to the destination
address and unload the vehicle. Your valuable possession will not be left in
any unsafe area. With All Auto Shipping you have total control of where your
car will be
Open or Enclosed Service – Which is best?
Vehicle transports fall into 2 main categories; open carriers and enclosed
carriers. Lets take a good look at both types and why you should or should not
Although we offer enclosed moves, the main recommendation is to use open
carriers, unless there is a special reason that you want your vehicle to moved
enclosed. The vast majority of the vehicles that are moved are moved on open
transports. Open transports are safe and efficient. They allow the driver to be
more flexible in how the vehicles are configured on the load. This means that
open transports will hold more vehicles than an enclosed carrier. Most open
transports hold between 8 and 11 vehicles. Since you are splitting the cost of
the move with more vehicles, open transports are the most cost effective way to
move a vehicle. All vehicles manufactured over the past 20 years have been
designed to be transported on an open carrier with few exceptions.
On an open transport the vehicle is secured to the truck by heavy chains that
are connected to the frame or specific areas on the vehicle that are designed
specifically for that purpose. Keep in mind that almost all new cars are
delivered from the factory to the dealership on open carriers. It is a
perfectly safe form of transport for your vehicle.
Enclosed transports come in 2 varieties; soft side enclosed, and hard side
hydraulic lift gate enclosed.
The soft side enclosed is an enclosed carrier with canvas sides. The soft side
enclosed offers some extra protection against the elements. However, wind,
dust, rain and snow still blow through the enclosed carrier. The big difference
between the soft side carrier and most open carriers is how the vehicle is
secured to the truck. Soft side enclosed use what is called the “soft tie
down.” This means that the tie down straps are placed over the tires and not to
the frame of the vehicle. For older vehicles that have heavy rust problems this
may be the way to go, but for almost all other vehicles, there are specific tie
down locations on the frame of the vehicle. Soft tie down may cause damage
because the vehicle will bounce up and down on it’s own suspension while in
transit and may bump and rub against the top of the trailer, or other vehicles.
A good driver will know how to keep this from happening, so it is not a major
On BMW, Mercedes and many other vehicles, the tie down locations are covered
with a hard rubber cover. Many of the bigger carriers will not put these
vehicles on an open carrier because of pure laziness. See the section below on
“Company Employed Drivers or Owner Operators” for a detailed explanation of why
this is a problem for them.
Hard side hydraulic lift gate enclosed carriers are the true enclosed carrier.
These are trucks that have a hydraulic lift gate on the back of the carrier.
They hold between 2 and 6 vehicles, depending on the type of vehicles. These
transports keep your vehicle totally covered and out of the elements during the
process of the move. Because they can only haul 2 to 6 vehicles, it is more
expensive than using a soft side enclosed carrier, or an open carrier.
Company Employed Drivers or Owner Operators?
The bigger vehicle transport companies will boast that they own their own trucks
and that their drivers work for them. You can expect to be told that your
vehicle will be safer in their hands because they have company-employed
drivers. Although this sounds good on the surface, let me explain why this is
not the best way to move your vehicle.
Currently in the United States there is an estimated shortage of 1 million
truck drivers. Being a truck driver right now is the most secure job in
America. The turn over in truck drivers in the car hauling industry is over
100% per year. This means that a company that owns it’s own trucks will replace
its’ entire driver pool more than once per year. Any truck driver can quit
their job one day and have another job the next day. What this means is that in
order to keep a driver, companies must cater to them and put up with
substandard performance, otherwise, they risk offending the drivers and losing
them to another company. For companies that own their own trucks and employ
their own drivers, you can expect a higher level of damage and poor
performance, because the company cannot hold the driver responsible for damage.
If the company attempts to charge the damage back to the driver, or take any
punitive action at all, the driver will simply walk out and have another job
the next day. This is a HUGE problem for the bigger carriers.
At All Auto Shipping we have chosen to work with owner operators. These are the
drivers that are resourceful enough to own their own truck. They have pride in
self-ownership and are motivated to deliver your vehicle to you in a safe and
timely manner. Owner operators have to provide their own insurance. If they
damage vehicles, they are responsible for payment, and they will see their
insurance premiums increase. Even the companies that own their own trucks and
hire owner operators to haul their overflow have to admit that the owner
operators have a better record when it comes to claims.
All of the bigger carriers hire owner operators to haul some of their vehicles.
A popular ploy is to tell you, the customer, that they own their own trucks and
hire their own drivers. What they do not tell you is that a large percentage of
the vehicles they haul are done so on “outside carriers” or owner operators.
The bottom line is that owner operators are the least expensive, quickest and
safest way to move a vehicle.
Transit times will vary depending on the distance that the vehicle needs to
travel, the price you are willing to pay, the weather, and the time of year.
Most reputable companies can move your vehicle between 10 and 14 days. Keep in
mind that there are a lot of companies out there that will tell you what you
want to hear in order to get your business.
The truth about transit times is that they are flexible and can manipulated
based on how much you are willing to pay. There are literally 1000’s of vehicle
transport tucks on the road, and millions of cars being hauled every year. If
you need a car moved from one side of the country to the other within 5 days,
it can easily be done if you are willing to pay extra to get a driver to pick
it up immediately. On the other hand, if you are not in a hurry, you can save
money by waiting until there is a truck that needs a car, and happens to be
going in the direction of your move.
The prices that All Auto Shipping will quote you are for a move with an
estimated transit time of 10 to 12 days. Talk to your Vehicle Transport
Specialist if you need a quote for faster transit times and we will be happy to
You can choose to pay the entire cost of the move up front with a credit card,
or you can pay a small deposit up front and the remainder when the vehicle is
picked up at the origin address or dropped off at the destination address
I have always preferred the COD method of payment because the truck driver
receives payment for his services when the car is delivered. The driver is more
motivated to get your vehicle to you quickly and without any damage. It is also
impossible for the vehicle transport company to get behind on payments to the
owner operators. There are times when COD payment is not possible or
convenient. In these cases, you are more than welcome to pay for the move at
the time of booking with a major credit card.
Beware of companies that will require a deposit and have a policy that your
deposit is not refundable. Many unscrupulous vehicle transport companies will
give you a low price quote, a low transit time and make all kinds of promises
to you in order to get your deposit. When they are unable to move your vehicle,
you are forced to find another vehicle hauler and you lose your deposit. At All
Auto Shipping, we will gladly refund your deposit if we are not able to have
your vehicle picked up within 15 days of booking. Although this is not a
regular occurrence, it does happen occasionally.
Some of the bigger vehicle transport companies advertise that they have real
time satellite tracking of your vehicle while in transit. This statement is
only partially true. As I mentioned in the section covering company employed or
owner operator drivers, all of the bigger carriers use owner operators to move
some of their vehicles. The vehicles carried on outside carriers are not
tracked real time because they do not have the company owned satellite-tracking
equipment on the trucks. For the trucks that do have the satellite tracking,
there are often problems with the system, and results are inconsistent.
What you are really concerned with is being able to know approximately where
your vehicle is in the process. At All Auto Shipping, you can contact your
Vehicle Relocation Specialist at any time and he or she will get in touch with
the driver and give you a realistic update.
How Damages are Handled
There are several scenarios on how damage is handled depending on the carrier
and their particular policy. There are a few things that you need to be aware
of before choosing a vehicle transport company.
The department of transportation requires all vehicle transports to cover
$50,000 in coverage for your vehicle. The DOT also allows vehicle transport
companies to offer “Valuation Coverage” which is like insurance, but
technically it is not because there are specific rules and regulations that are
required before a company can sell “insurance.”
When a company offers “Valuation Coverage” you MUST purchase the coverage in
order to be protected against damage greater than $250. Companies offering
valuation coverage will state on their Bill of Lading that they are not
responsible for any damage over $250 to your vehicle, regardless of the reason,
unless you purchase their valuation coverage. When you sign the Bill of Lading
you are agreeing that the maximum amount they are required to pay is $250 and
usually there is a $100 deductible which, really means that you will get $150
if they wreck your vehicle. All of this is perfectly legal according to the US
Department of Transportation.
To make matters worse, many of these same companies will instruct their sales
staff to tell you that by going with a smaller vehicle transport company you
will be without insurance coverage for damage. This is simply not true and you
would be wise to hang up the phone at that point because if they will not tell
you the truth about that, they are most likely misleading you in other areas.
In the case with reputable vehicle transport companies who are using owner
operators to move vehicles, handling claims is fairly easy. All Auto Shipping
requires all our drivers to supply us with a copy of their insurance
information. We keep this information on file. In the rare and unfortunate
event that there is damage to your vehicle, you must note the damage at the
time of delivery on the Bill of Lading and file a claim to the owner operator’s
company within 24 hours of delivery. The owner operator’s insurance company
will then process the claim. You can contact us at any time if you need help
contacting the owner operator’s insurance company. We are happy to help.
Hopefully this document has been helpful for you. I have tried to be as up
front and comprehensive as I could be. I sincerely hope that you will consider
All Auto Shipping for your vehicle move.