Car shipping is a complete a shit show

As part of our next cheap car challenge road trip, we decided to buy cars at home and have them shipped. The first part was easy and fun, the last part has been a god damn nightmare.


I’ve shipped cars before. All three of us have. The first road trip we worked with “Dependable Auto Shippers” who did terminal to terminal service for about $800 per car. It was quick, easy, and convenient.

The second trip we shipped the Land Rover from Salt Lake City to Tulsa. It cost a little more, closer to $900, but the shipment took all of 26 hours, which in insane. Overall, not bad.

Fast forward to two years later than everything has gone wrong. Join me on my journey of misery.

I started by looking up Dependable Auto Shippers and give them a swing at the shipment. Turns out they’ve been bought out by “CarsArrive” but they still offer terminal service. Cool.


I call, talk to a pleasant woman who takes my details and works me up a quote. Desipte telling her I was looking for terminal serivce, she gave me the full rundown, the tl;dr of which is it was about $1400 for door-to-door, $1500 for terminal to terminal, and $1700 for door-to-door with 2 hour pickup/delivery windows.

Oh dear.

But if I agree to the shipment right now she can take a whole $50 off! That’s like... almost 3%! Don’t worry, I don’t have to give them any money right now or anything, just agree to the shipment! (Noticeably absent from this sales pitch were the cancellation terms.)


I don’t like where this is going.

So next up was a different company that I’d found... somehow. The details weren’t clear on that but I had the tab open so... who is to say.


I call them but it just keeps ringing. As it is ringing, I get a call, which I ignore and leave a message. I check my voicemail and it was them. Ok sure whatever. I call back and voicemail again. At this point I just fill out the form online and get a quote for $1100 back in about 30 seconds.

Well... I say “quote” but it actually says “estimate” which has a pretty different meaning. Oddly the CarsArrive lady warned me about this as it is apparently common practice to give a low quote and then keep asking for more once it is more or less too late to find someone else.


Cool. Cool. Cool.

This is fine.

I email the sales guy back and mention I’m looking to do terminal service and what does that do to the price. Also I might have a 2nd car and am interested in what that does to the price. I didn’t hear back, but I did get more emails about terms, conditions, trying to bait me into buying, and one apologizing for all the emails.


Yes. An automated email apologizing for all the automated email.

This is real life. Not some sitcom.


Ok. Cool. This is fine.

Frustrated, I try uShip. I’ve had mixed experiences with them in the past, including a shipper threatening damage to my car, but I was beginning to worry that this was not going well.


I tried the published rates and they were... fine. Not good but fine. The lowest that was by a company that hadn’t previously threatened me was $1,200, but inflated to $1,300 once uShip took their cut from me. (I’m sure they’re double dipping here.)

Remembering I had good luck with the bidding process before, I went ahead and put up a listing, expecting to get some good bids.


I did not.

The first bid was for $1,600 (+$100 uShip fee), which is a full $400 more than that same company was offering as a “published rate”. Since then they’ve gradually been getting lower, but have now, less than 24 hours since posting, devolved to shippers “beating” each others’ bids by $1.


One dollar.

On a four-figure transaction.

Yeah that is going to make or break this deal. Good job guys.

They’re also sending innane questions like “when will this be ready for pickup?” and “are you going to have tools or parts in the car?” All of which is in the listing. I assume this is them trying to prove they’re.... not bots? By acting like bots? I literally have no idea what the point of this is other than creating a lot of email. And it does create a lot of email.


Yeah that all seems normal and customer friendly.

Keep in mind this listing has been live for like... 12 hours.


So yeah. This is all fine.

Seeing that this was... not fine... I called my friend who owns a local shop. He’d mentioned he might be able to get us cheap shipping. Turns out he... might be able to.


His take was “normal” shipping costs about $0.60/mile, but if we’re shipping 2 cars from the same place, the increase for the 2nd car should be minor. He is thinking he can get the whole thing done for about $1500 for both. The downside is they don’t offer terminal service.

Ok... what if I just ship it to the terminal? I called the terminal where we dropped off the first road trip cars and, sure enough, for $60 per car they’ll receive it and hold it for 5 days. After that, we have to pay an additional $15 per day.


Ok, sure. Let’s do it.

So that is where we’re at. He is going to post our shipment on “the board” today and see what happens.


Fingers crossed.

Sidenote: What the actual fuck? At this price it would be about the same money OR CHEAPER to pay someone $15/hour to drive the car there and pay for hotels, gas, hotels, and a flight back. How is this a business that can exist with rates like this?



My backup plan is just to drive the bastard there myself. The route looks pleasant and I like my car enough to do it.


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