How to Ship a Car You Bought Online

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How to Ship a Car You Bought Online

Most people these days have caught on to the deals they can receive on cars, trucks, and other vehicles by shopping online. Whether looking for a brand new car, a used replacement, or a rare make and/or model, the days of physical dealerships holding all the proverbial cards has passed. Nowadays, the best prices on cars can be found on the Internet, there's just one small catch: shipping.

One of the biggest snags that car buyers run into when dealing with online purchases is figuring out how to ship a car bought online. While there are three major options for obtaining the car, shipping it, flying out to get it, or driving with someone else, it is the first of these choices that presents the most obstacles to potential buyers and sometimes makes them hesitant to shop online for cars. However, shipping a car you bought online can be done. There are clear steps that a buyer needs to take, however, to do so successfully.

Other Ways to Get a Car You Bought Online

The first step in shipping a car you bought online is taking the time to carefully evaluate all the options available rather than just assuming that the only choice is shipping. In many cases, shipping a car should be a last resort, not the first option. And, while there are clearly cases, such as when the car is overseas, when shipping is the only choice, it is still a huge expense and a complicated process. Therefore, before moving on with shipping a car, carefully weigh it against the other options.

Driving to Pick Up a Car

The easiest way to retrieve a car bought online is through driving over with someone else and just picking up the car. This is clearly the best option for those with a ride and whose new cars are within a reasonable radius, say a few hundred miles. Buyers who purchased their cars through a dealer can arrange to meet at the dealership and get all of the paperwork completed within one day.

Flying to Pick Up a Car

It is the option of flying to pick up a car that is the one most people weigh against shipping the car. Before moving on in the process of shipping, take the time to review the positives and negatives of shipping vs. flying to pick up a car and carefully consider which is more valuable.

Getting the Car




Allows buyer to meet with the dealer in person; able to personally inspect the car before committing to purchase; gives buyer some control over when he/she will receive the car

Subject to the whims of the airline industry; must get additional transportation from the airport to the dealership; last-minute airfare can be expensive


No need to take time off of work to travel; less time wasted waiting for planes, paperwork, etc.; convenient delivery straight to your door

Can be very expensive; may have to wait to receive car, even after paying the dealership; getting quotes and comparing costs can take up a lot of time

Like most decisions, this one really comes down to the individual circumstances of the sale and the ability of the buyer to do either. What it illustrates, however, is that the first step of evaluation needs to include looking at both of these options to determine which is truly the better deal.

Looking into Shipping Costs

Once a buyer has determined that he or she needs to ship the car through a careful evaluation of each of the other options for getting that car, the next step is evaluating shipping costs. There are four different ways to do this.

Use a Broker to Find a Slot for Your Car

Many people simply do not have the time or energy to work with multiple shipping companies in order to ship a car they bought online. For these people, the best method to use is working through a broker or transport dealer.

The only way to ship a car is on a large transport truck which has the capacity to hold multiple cars at once. However, these trucks will only roll once they are filled. Therefore, buyers who are looking for a quick turnaround may want to work through a transport dealer to find a truck that has an open slot. Sometimes these dealers can negotiate a cheaper price; however, they will need to be paid as well which can increase the total cost of shipping.

Be Your Own Broker

Buyers who are interested in eliminating the middleman when shipping their car can become brokers themselves through calling multiple shipping companies and asking about their prices and policies. There are two major downsides to this method. First, it is time-consuming. Second, individuals without relationships with transport companies will seldom qualify for good shipping deals. Rather, the best prices will probably come along with the widest windows of shipment. Some companies require buyers to wait as long as 18-21 days for the delivery of their car as the shipping truck moves through multiple major hubs across the country.

Find a Car with a Shipping Option

Another option available to customers who buy their car online is to only work with websites and sellers who include shipping as part of the details of their sale. This is most often associated with eBay Motors where many dealerships allow buyers to check out shipping rates and options prior to the purchase of their car. In these cases, the shipping charges may be an added cost, but the arrangements are made through the dealership and therefore far less of a hassle to the buyer.

eBay's Benefits

Users who buy a car on eBay may have the option of including shipping along with their purchase. Many dealers who advertise on eBay Motors include shipping estimates or help along with the listings of their cars. This will obviously vary from car to car and dealer to dealer, however, which means that users will need to pay attention to the listings page on any vehicle they consider purchasing from eBay. eBay also offers advice on shipping cars purchased through the website.

Searching eBay for Shipping

Finally, eBay users have another choice for shipping cars bought online, regardless of whether the car was bought on eBay or elsewhere. This option comes from auto transport companies and dealers who actually offer their services for purchase through eBay. Interested users can sign in to their eBay account and then search for "auto transport" in the main search bar. From there, several options will pop up that give users the choice from several different transport agencies located across the country.

Tips for Shipping a Car You Bought Online

In addition to the several options available for pricing the shipping costs for a car bought online, there are some additional measures buyers can take to ensure a speedy, successful, and stress-free shipping experience. Mostly, this involves knowing the secrets of the auto transport industry and taking care to protect your purchase.

Location Is Everything

Since most auto transporters travel on regular routes, hitting major highways and the cities they connect, the location of both the car purchase and its ultimate destination will impact the price of shipping. Therefore, if it is possible to pick up the car nearby in a major city, buyers can save big on shipping costs. Alternately, the difference in shipping from a small town auto dealership as compared to a city-based dealership may offset any price differentials on the car itself.

Bigger Isn't Always Better

Another key factor in determining the price of auto shipment is the size, and subsequent weight, of the car. If debating between two sizes of car, remember that the smaller, lighter weight one will cost less to ship and likely save on gas as well.

It's the Season, or Not

The volume of traffic on the roads, demand for auto shipment, and relative workload of the truckers will all affect the total price of transport. Generally, trucks are emptier in the winter months, leaving room for a discount. Also, "snowbirds" who live in southern states during the winter and northern states during the summer routinely ship their cars in March/April (north) and September/October (south). Those traveling in the opposite direction may be able to snag a discount as the transporters need to fill up for their return trips.

Consider Your Car

The more money paid for the car, the more particular buyers should be about its method of transport. Brand new and luxury autos should be shipped in closed carriers whereas older, less expensive models can travel in the less-expensive open air version.

Also, make sure to cover the asset that just purchased. Look for auto shipping companies who offer insurance on the vehicles they transport. Alternately, make sure that your personal auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage which will include any damage sustained to a vehicle during shipment.


Nowadays, the appeal of shopping for cars online is great. With physical dealerships unable to keep up with the steep competition of online dealers and websites like eBay Motors, customers are actually finding it hard not to buy cars online. However, the problem with this method of shopping is that there is no guarantee that the car you bought online will be close enough to pick up. So, buyers need to know how to ship these cars.

The first step to shipping a car you bought online is making sure that shipping is really the best option. Buyers can fly to pick up the car and there are distinct benefits and drawbacks to this option. After determining that shipping is, in fact, necessary, there are four main options. This includes using a shipping broker, being your own broker, buying a car with a shipping option, or using eBay to find an auto transport company. Each of these methods can work well and the choice largely depends on individual circumstances.

Finally, regardless of the shipment method a buyer ultimately chooses, there are some important tips to keep in mind. This includes knowing the secrets of the auto shipment industry such as location, size, and season in order to get a better shipping price. It also involves protecting the car from any potential damage. Using the tips and the methods outlined in this guide can help anyone easily and effectively ship a car bought online.

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