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Understanding Open Car Shipping – Basics and Benefits

Relocating a personal vehicle across long distances poses logistical challenges. Should you have your vehicle professionally transported or drive it yourself? If opting for transport, open carriers provide an affordable option for most everyday vehicles. However, the open design raises questions around security and vehicle exposure compared to enclosed trailers.

This comprehensive guide explains key aspects of coordinating open auto transport to ease concerns. We outline how open shipping works, which provider qualifications matter most, critical vehicle preparation, built-in safety mechanisms, and advantages over amateur delivery. Our goal is to enable informed consumer choices when arranging cost-effective vehicle relocation.

If you are uncertain whether an open auto carrier sufficiently protects vehicles in transit, continue reading. The following sections illuminate how both rigorous equipment protocols and extensive driver vetting provide accountability between origin and destination. We also detail best practices on safeguarding your vehicle properly pre-shipment to prevent post-transit disputes.

What is Open Car Shipping?

Open car transport/shipping refers to transporting vehicles on an uncovered, open-air trailer or carrier. This multi-vehicle equipment securely stacks autos of varying sizes using installed racks and chain/strap tie-downs. Open carriers are the industry standard for most private vehicle transport thanks to their convenience and cost-efficiency moving multiple units per haul.

Open shipping safely accommodates everyday vehicles like sedans, trucks, vans, and SUVs. Specialty transports like high-end sports cars, exotics, antique vehicles, and motorcycles often require enclosed trailers for weather protection and added security. But the majority of regular road cars ship hassle-free aboard open carriers.

Advantages of Open Car Shipping

There are many clear benefits making open shipping the go-to for vehicle transport:

  • Cost Savings: Carrying 6-10 vehicles per load, open carriers minimize costs through economies of scale. Savings get passed to clients through reduced transport rates. Enclosed shipping runs nearly twice as much.
  • Accessibility: thousands of open carrier units crisscross states daily, making arranging transport to or from nearly any region a simple, speedy process. No specialty equipment required. 
  • Efficiency: loading multiple vehicles with shared tie-down apparatus reduces handling time and mileage expenses. Cargo capacity also utilizes return trips better.
  • Door-to-Door Service: unlike enclosed trailers requiring loading/unloading at terminals, open carriers can deliver vehicles directly to driveways or parking spots through lift gates. No secondary pickup needed.
  • Insurance Coverage:  reputable open transport companies are fully insured protecting vehicles in case of damages or accidents. Most also offer supplementary protection for high-value vehicles too.

How Open Car Shipping Works

Coordinating open transport for a personal vehicle follows a standard sequence ensuring delivery goes smoothly:

  • Get Free Quote: provide details like vehicle make/model, origin/destination cities, and desired pick-up/delivery dates. Transport broker returns cost estimate.
  • Select Carrier & Confirm Details:  choose from carriers presented and provide supplementary info for accurate pricing (ex. inoperable vehicle, modifications). Formal quote with terms provided.
  • Schedule Pickup:  get vehicle release form to provide carrier access. Confirm terminal delivery or arrange home pickup if offered based on route specifics.
  • Prep Vehicle: disable alarms, check fluid levels, photograph condition, and remove personal items prior to shipping. Fuel level varies by state and carrier.
  • Load Transport: on pickup day, vehicle gets secured via wheel straps and chain tie-downs onto transport rack. Driver photographs and verifies condition.
  • Ship Vehicle: transport departs with vehicles aboard. GPS tracking capabilities provide real-time location monitoring during transit for most providers.
  • Receive Delivery: customer or representative signs off on delivery upon transport arrival. Driver unloads using lift gate if necessary. Condition verified.
  • Payment & Documentation:  finalize invoice payment once vehicle received in contracted condition. Digital delivery verification/release submitted.

While occasionally delayed by mechanical issues or weather, most open car shipping deliveries through reputable carriers take 5-10 days coast-to-coast.

Choosing the Right Open Shipping Company

Selecting the transport provider that will safely convey your vehicle is a crucial decision – the wrong carrier could mean anything from delays to damage disputes. Carefully vet potential companies on these key indicators:

Operating Authority

Interstate commerce laws require open shipping brokers and carriers obtain Motor Carrier (MC) authority licensing from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This governance helps ensure participants meet liability insurance minimums and other baseline standards. Confirm companies quote an active MC number – legally operating outfits readily provide credentials. Attempting to coordinate transport through unlicensed entities risks losing recourse options if issues arise.

Experience Shipping Your Model

Open carriers specialize equipment and protocols catering to different vehicle categories. The flatbed trailers hauling a shipment of small sedans operate differently than those moving commercial vans and pickups. Seek transporters demonstrating deep specific experience transporting makes and models identical to your vehicle when possible. A long-standing specialty transporting heavy duty trucks likely handles an F-250 confidently compared to a primarily economy car carrier.

Reviews Reveal Performance

Company claims merely illustrate intended capabilities – only customer verified experiences showcase how carriers actually perform when put to the test. Review aggregator sites like TransportReviews transparently curate ratings and detailed reviews of specific auto transport companies from genuine past patrons. Analyze both overall scores based on extensive criteria and read individual commentary to reveal potential strengths or red flags. A favorable service record earns trust that your vehicle receives the same quality care.

Safety & Compliance Monitoring

Voluntarily undergoing federal safety audits through monitoring programs provides transparency into carrier incident histories meeting baseline DOT regulatory benchmarks. Firms publicly displaying a satisfying rating have passed stringent inspections of operational processes, driver fitness, vehicle integrity and other vital compliance metrics. This independent case-by-case confirmation offers added assurance your vehicle won’t get entrusted to a dangerously neglect vehicle or unqualified driver.

Customer Service Diligence

Open auto transport requires extensive coordination between company, vehicle owner and drivers across quotes, scheduling, preparation lists, inspections, real-time monitoring and delivery. Seek transporters with responsive service teams answering questions promptly and keeping clients updated on each shipping milestone. The carrier should make you feel involved and informed each step, not leave you guessing on status. Their priority on customer service mirrors priorities caring for your vehicle.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Open Shipping

Adequately preparing your car for the rigors of open road transport prevents cosmetic issues in transit and avoids unwanted shipping delays down the line. Follow these best practices:

Check Fluid Reservoirs

Transport exerts additional stress on mechanical systems already taxed by road vibrations and weather fluctuations. Top off reservoir fluid levels to maximize margins on substances like coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windshield wiper fluid and motor oil. Follow carrier guidance on ideal gas tank levels – some request cars ship near empty to reduce sloshing fuel weight.

Steam Clean Exterior

Thoroughly wash the vehicle body to remove embedded grime or chemical residues from daily driving. Use steam cleaning methods if possible. Road films and bug splatter easily grind paint finishes or seep into seams when dislodged by shipment shaking. Remove gunk before it damages your finish mid-route.

Inflate Tires Maximally

Check all tire pressure and inflate to maximum recommended PSI levels if low. Under-inflation risks blowouts when bearing amplified weight loads of other vehicles stacked aboard transport. Proper inflation prevents flats and wheel well rubbing too.

Disable Alarm Systems

Factory-installed or aftermarket alarm systems often accidentally trigger from normal transport motion and road vibration.CreateTemporarily disabling alarm systems prevents nuisance alerts annoying drivers mid-transit if possible. Just don’t forget to reactivate upon delivery!

Photograph Pre-Shipment Condition

Note any substantial exterior finish flaws like existing paint chips or body damage by photographing every vehicle side from multiple angles prior to release. Repeat upon arrival before signing off on delivery. Documenting inconsistencies early on safeguards against unfair damage liability claims down the line.

Remove Interior Valuables

Clear out loose gear inside too by taking toll tags, garage door openers, easily stolen electronics, spare keys and other removable personal effects with you rather than risking losses mid-transit. Lock any valuable add-ons staying behind like motorcycle ramps inside the trunk pre-departure. Follow all carrier preparation guidance to avoid disputes down the line. Immediately flag undisclosed damage concerns on initial inspection.

Safety and Security Measures in Open Car Shipping

Despite open trailer sides leaving vehicles seemingly exposed, extensive safeguards ensure safety and security from pick-up to delivery:

Heavy-Duty Restraints

All open carriers securely fasten vehicles in place across chassis tie-down points and wheel straps rated for substantial load forces. Tightened winch systems leave minimal play once snugged down. Daily multi-point inspections verify straps remain cinched with adequate integrity hauling vehicles interstate at speed over variable terrain.

Satellite Tracking Provides Oversight

Real-time GPS monitoring offers regular location pings documenting the entire shipping route and trip timing. This facilitates remote monitoring for added peace of mind. Alert managers catch and investigate potential extended rest stoppages or suspicious off-route detours jeopardizing cargo and convey such concerns to owners.

Contingent Cargo Liability

Reputable open carriers include baseline cargo insurance policies in their quotes assuming responsibility for damages possibly incurred during road transit. Unless clear negligence or refusal of recommendations on the vehicle owner’s part can be definitively proven, carriers remain liable for mechanical issues, crashes, weather exposure or environmental factors affecting vehicles until signed delivery.

Vetted, Licensed Drivers Only

Extensively trained drivers undergo far more qualifications than your average commuter to operate specialized heavy haul equipment. Open carriers closely scrutinize driving histories, requiring clean records without major traffic violations. Successfully completing certified cargo securement, load balancing and specialty vehicle handling courses also minimizes incident risks from predictable hazards.

Monitored Operator Hours

Avoiding impaired function from accumulated driver fatigue represents a transportation sector priority. Mandated electronic logbooks transparently track commercial operator duty cycles. Requiring regular off-duty rest periods prevents impaired focus or delayed reaction times – keeping transport vehicles, cargo and fellow motorists safe.

Rigorous Inspections Guarantee Readiness

Qualified federal inspectors govern cyclical maintenance and repair checks under DOT Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance standards. This governance confirms properly inflated tires, functional brakes, ample tread depth, secure structures and replaced straps across transport fleet vehicles before clearing equipment for ongoing interstate operation. No detail gets overlooked that could compromise safe conveyance.

Comparing Open vs. Enclosed Shipping

Open and enclosed car shipping formats both transport vehicles safely to their destinations using professional carriers. But there are notable differences:

Feature Open Shipping Enclosed Shipping
Multiple vehicles hauled (6-10 typical Yes No
Only ships single vehicle No Yes
Exposed to weather/road debris Yes No
Fully covered capsule protects contents No Yes
Moderately-priced Yes No
Roughly twice the cost of open No Yes
Accommodates most standard vehicles Yes Yes
Specialty transport for high value, delicate vehicle No Yes
Industry-standard protection via chains, straps Yes No
Climate controlled, sealed interio No Yes

 In the majority of cases, open shipping provides adequate safety, security, and transport preparations for regular vehicles at much lower rates. Enclosed trailers focus on providing premium white-glove services focused purely on the vehicles themselves. Determine priorities between cost, vehicle type, delivery format, and supplemental protection to decide which option fits best.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Still, have some questions? These commonly asked items help summarize key open transport particulars:

What is open car shipping, and how does it differ from enclosed shipping?

Open shipping refers to transporting vehicles stacked on open-air trailers versus enclosed in capsules. Open carriers are cheaper, can take 6-10 cars, and deliver to doorways. Enclosed models carry one pricy vehicle fully protected but with terminal drop-offs.

What are the benefits of choosing open-car shipping?  

Major perks are lower-cost transport thanks to carrying multiple vehicles on one trailer, expansive carrier availability for accessible coordination, and direct home delivery, reducing logistics.

How do I prepare my car for open shipping?

Top off all fluids, clean interior and exterior, turn off alarms, remove loose items and toll passes, check tire pressure, and photograph condition thoroughly prior to release. Fuel level varies by carrier – ask when booking.

What should I look for in an open car shipping company?

See the MC authority number proving legal operation, examine safety ratings and customer reviews, confirm experience shipping your vehicle type specifically, and expect regular shipment status updates with GPS tracking data access.   

How does the open car shipping process work?

Get quotes, select a carrier, sign release and schedule shipping, prepare as recommended, complete vehicle inspection during loading, monitor real-time tracking throughout transit, meet for home delivery upon arrival, and finalize payment.

What safety measures are in place for open-car shipping? 

Durably strapped and chained tie-downs across chassis contact points, regular multi-point inspections, electronic driver duty logs to restrict consecutive road hours, plus contingent cargo insurance, all protect vehicles.  

Is open car shipping suitable for all types of vehicles?

Most everyday sedans, coupes, trucks, vans, and SUVs ship worry-free on open carriers. For high-end sports cars, exotics, custom vehicles, or two-wheeled transports, enclosed shipping is strongly recommended.

How does weather affect open-car shipping?

Sudden storms or accumulating road spray could lead to minor finish damage on open trailers versus fully enclosed capsules. But robust protective measures minimize most exposure risks to regular vehicles in most conditions.   

What are the cost factors involved in open-car shipping?

Transit distance, home versus terminal delivery, multi-car consolidation savings, peak seasonal demand upsweeps, and supplemental insurance options for high-value vehicles primarily dictate variable pricing. Fuel surcharges may apply currently as well.  

Can I track my vehicle during open car shipping?

Yes, real-time GPS monitoring provides regular location pings for most modern carriers. This allows remote tracking of the entire shipping route’s progress from origin to destination for added peace of mind.