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How to find an auto carrier

I am going to shed some light on how to safely find an auto carrier and get your car safely from point A to point B.  Cars can be an expensive piece of property or a rare collectible and the last thing you want to have happen after you pay the shipping bill is to have your car damaged or stolen because you did business with an auto transporter that provides substandard service. In this article I’ll break down the whole car moving process and give you the necessary information to do the background research to help you find a trusted auto carrier.

Lets begin by understanding the nuts and bolts of moving a car. Cars can be shipped in a few ways, by Auto Transport Brokers or by direct freight from an auto carrier. A carrier is the direct transporter or the business that provides and owns the ship that transports the vehicle. Some carriers handle all auto transportation door to door and handle the paperwork and invoicing. Since carriers are the shipping company themselves, they charge a standard fixed fee. However, often auto carriers hire or contract Auto Transport Brokers to find customers and handle the customs paperwork and negotiate fees. The benefit of a broker is that he can shop around for a cheaper price among several carriers. A broker makes his money by taking a percentage or a flat fee of the total shipment price which can be any where between $50 to $300 or more depending on the type of car. When a standard flat fee is taken, that is usually the non-refundable portion of your deposit when you begin the process.

Automobile shipping quotes are not everything

Finding a shipping company to move your car or personal property is not just about getting the cheapest quote.  You need to know ahead what kind of services you will require, services like door to door service or if you would like to reduce your cost, the transporter may dive your vehicle during different points of the  move or transport it by truck or train. You may even choose to deliver your vehicle yourself to the port of departure and collect it at the port of destination. Your price will all depend on what options you decide on. Also keep in mind your vehicle will have to go through customs inspection prior to deportation and its easier to let your carrier or broker handle it.

Check if the auto carrier is a registered business

There are shipping regulations for car carriers and brokers. Regulations are created to protect consumers from fraud, damage or theft.  Unfortunately many customers do not bother to ask for regulations and documentation of their shipment beforehand and it is not always given to you upfront.  You need to be sure you have all of your paperwork before you ship your auto.  If not, you could end up unexpectedly paying for extra services not originally agreed upon or worse. I personally had a bad experience when I shipped from the port in Los Angeles with a delivery destination in Rotterdam.  My shipment was unexpectedly re-routed and delivered and held in the port in the United Kingdom.  I was asked to pay an additional fee of $350 by the port authority for a so called security check if I wanted to see my property arrive at it’s proper destination.  My broker did not send me the paperwork before my shipment left the port. He claimed that he only sends the invoice after the delivery has been made. I had not no documentation and because the delivery stopped short of its final destination, it was likely the broker pocketed the savings. I could not review my contract or invoice to verify if the $350 security check was legitimate or not.  You see, a broker’s job is simply to book clients and process paperwork. Brokers are not liable for anything further once your car is loaded upon a ship, truck or train. This is why you need to have every detail of your transport and fees in writing. If it is not in writing do not pay for it.

If you are using the internet in any way to find auto carriers to transport your car abroad, make sure they are a legitimate business. If  you live in the US or Canada, start with the Better Business Bureau and find out if the company submitting a quote is on the list of untrustworthy businesses or has pending complaints against them. In the United States you can contact FMCSA known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for consumer advisory and for information about safe auto transporters and consumer rights for automobile transport.  If you live in Australia you can check with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. All Australian business are required to register with this service in order to conduct business in Australia. For UK residents check with Companies House to find out if the business is properly registered in the UK.

Check qualifications of auto carriers and brokers.

The internet is the most popular way to find an auto transporter, but I want to be clear in that it does not necessarily mean you run a higher risk of getting scammed. The internet is a great place to find carriers or brokers and there are plenty of good auto carriers and transport brokers advertising online.  Not all brokers are scammers and not all carriers will damage your property. However, check under the hood and take a look at both brokers and auto carriers make sure they have MC docket number and USDOT docket number on the paperwork and displayed on their website.  All carriers in the United States must register with the FMCSA and display this on their transport documents. If they do not have this displayed do not do business with them. On occasion you can run across some companies and brokers operating illegally without the proper licenses and in the worse case running a fraudulent business.

The two types of insurance commonly carried are liability and marine. Liability insurance is mainly for misplaced, lost or stolen cargo and Marine insurance covers actual loss or damage done to the property in transport. Another precaution is to ask your carrier or broker if they belong to any associations but don’t take their word for granted, ask for their membership or license number. If they fail to do so you might want to do business with a company that is able to comply or post their credentials publicly. Here are some of the required regulations and certifications an auto carrier must provide you with before you move your vehicle.


For US residents:

  • Brokers must have a Brokers Authority Certification approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA
  • Transport brokers must carry $10,000 surety bond as of October 1, 2013 a $75,000 bond. This bond covers any cost occurred due to an error on the broker part.
  • Carriers who contract out parts of their services to other carriers are required to notify the customer of what role each transporter plays at each stage of the job. Get this in writing.
  • Transport companies must also have proof of liability insurance and a Motor Carrier Identification Report.
  • Good brokers should have an International Freight Forwarders Diploma FIATA– the most recognized diploma internationally.

For Australian residents:

  • Look for membership in CBFCA Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia. This organization is a federally structured organization dedicated to a code of ethics governing the integrity of individuals, businesses or firms.
  • Good brokers may have International Freight Forwarders Diploma FIATA– the most recognized diploma internationally.

For United Kingdom:

For Canadian residents:


For more information and useful resources on exporting your car abroad check out the links below.

US resident importing and exporting vehicles

 Exporting vehicles from the United States

Taking vehicles out of the UK for more than 12 months

Importing and exporting from Australia

HM Review and Customs


Regulated by the CBP U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection Agency

Australia is regulated by ACCC Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

About Mark Koen

Mark is one of the editors for 2moveabroad.com. He is an expat immigrant living in the US with a passion for traveling and kayaking ant location hes never been before. After graduating from college with a degree Supply Chain Management he began working as a freight broker. Mark started his own logistics company and has work in dozens countries and offers 15 years of experience in logistics and foreign relocation.

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