Auto Transport vs. Car Towing. What’s Better?

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Tow or Ship a Car From State to State?

Hi readers! A lot of our customers ask us about towing services, that’s why we focused on creating this article to explain the difference between a car shipping and a car towing for a long distance.

Quick links:

1.Auto Transport vs. Tow Dolly.

2.Long distance towing companies near me.

3.Ways of vehicle towing. How your car can be towed?

4.What is state to state vehicle towing and how much does it cost?

5.What are the most popular shipping routes?

6.Actual Carriers Not Brokers.

7.What is the snowbird season and why does it affect the price?

8. FAQs.

car shipping vs. towing

Shipping vs Towing a vehicle from state to state

Shipping the vehicle cross country may be very time consuming and tricky. Besides planning your move, buying tickets, packing clothes and household items you will also have to check dozens of companies, their prices, licenses, and the details of shipping for each company since they vary a lot. If you are short of time you can avoid all this by getting your quote online and we will send you the total rate to ship your vehicle door to door within your specific time frame.

When deciding on whether to drive your vehicle, ship it on a trailer or rent a tow dolly you will probably think about the price first of all. Of course, driving is the cheapest option, though if you need to transport the car from coast to coast it will be more expensive since you will have to spend money on a hotel. Besides the price, there are other key differences that may change your decision. Let’s take a look at the most important three.

Towing vihicles from state to state

– Differences in how a tow dolly and carrier transportation work:

A tow dolly is a kind of trailer that has only two wheels and can lift only the front wheels of the car. In most cases, a tow dolly is suitable for all kinds of vehicles, though there are certain weight restrictions that may vary from state to state.

Carrier transportation is done when the car is entirely loaded on the trailer. This way all kinds of inoperable cars, as well as trucks and modified vehicles, can be moved cross country. Though tow dolly is the best solution if you have an emergency and need immediate help.

cheap long-distance car towing

– Safety and effortlessness:

Safety on the road is very important and it may be difficult to tow the car all by yourself especially during winter in northern states when the roads can be slippery and the weather condition is not predictable at all.

Putting your car on a tow dolly can also be a challenge especially if you have a rear-wheel drive. You have to make sure that the wheels are fully secured and sometimes you may even need some extra help with that.

When shipping the vehicle on a trailer all you have to do is to meet the driver at the pickup location, give him the keys to the vehicle and then receive it at the delivery location.  And of course, while the car is transported on the trailer, you do not have to worry about its safety or wear and tear; the driver is professional, fully insured and the car will not be driven or shuffled around – it stays on one trailer all the way to the delivery location.

your car will be safely delivered

– Time frame:

Although a tow truck can be hired very fast, it goes slower than a car hauler. So if you are planning to use a tow dolly for a big distance, make sure you have an extra day since you will have to maintain a slower speed than the average one.  It is highly recommended in order to prevent trailer sway or any other road accidents and to ensure your safety.

cross country car towing

Shipping the car on the trailer will most likely cost you more but will save you a lot of time since you can stay a little longer at your pickup location and pack your things or come to the delivery location earlier, unpack, and start your work, etc. Besides that, carriers can go a bit faster than vehicles with tow dollies and if you have team drivers transporting your vehicle it will be an expedited delivery since the drivers take turns every few hours and therefore make fewer stops. In such cases, the vehicle can be delivered two times faster than usual (for example, it will take only 4-5 days instead of the usual 8-9 to ship the vehicle coast to coast).

ship or tow car for a long dictance

To sum up, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of renting a tow dolly and having the vehicle shipped on the car hauler.

pros and cons ow towing and car shipping

Tow dolly


– The best solution if your car broke down and you need emergency car towing

– Cheaper for towing on short distances

– You can pack your car with as many items as possible with no extra fees applied

Car hauler


– Any type of vehicles can be transported (from sedan to heavy equipment)

– Faster delivery

– No wear and tear

– The vehicle is fully insured during transportation.


– More expensive for long distances (i.e. from coast to coast)

– Car is exposed to wear and tear

– Time consuming: you have to stop a lot during your trip

– Only small or mid sized vehicles can be towed 


– More expensive

– Usually you can put inside the vehicle no more than 100 lbs for free

So what is better? Tow dolly or car hauler shipping? 

As you can see above tow dolly is more suitable for short distances and emergency cases while car hauler shipping is more convenient for shipping cross country or if your vehicle is oversized or modified.

moving car for a long distance

Towing companies near me

There are lots of towing companies all across our country. Some of them are local; some of them have offices in each state or large city.     

Probably one of the most popular companies is U-haul. It is a moving equipment and storage rental company which is based in Phoenix. Besides tow dollies they also offer cargo and utility trailers with a built-in lockable latch so you can be sure items are properly locked. U-haul tow dollies are available for rent both behind a company moving truck and behind your own tow capable vehicle.

uhaul towing

Another company offering tow dolly services is Tow-MateUSA which is a family owned business located in Edgar, WI. This company designed a special flatbed product that can fit onto all major brands of Tow Dollies. It’s also easy to attach and detach it from a Tow Dolly.

tow mate

A Roadside Service is less famous but definitely not a less developed company. It has a lot of shops in main cities of the US and besides renting tow dollies, they can also offer bus and heavy equipment towing.

In addition to the above mentioned big companies, there are also local towing companies that have been in business for years and provide rather good service. Among such companies are 24 Hour Emergency Towing, Roadside Assistance, and True Towing.

Ways of vehicle towing

-Tow dolly or two-wheel towing

This way of towing is the cheapest way to move your vehicle but since the rear wheels of your car rest on the ground when towed it will cause wear and tear on the back two wheels. 

In addition to that, the pedometer is linked to the driveshaft and the front two wheels, and this will clock up extra mileage. 

Two-wheel towing is more effective when towing front-wheel drive, but in case you are planning to tow a four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, you may disconnect the driveshaft to avoid the additional miles.

cross country two-wheel towing

-Flatbed towing

Nowadays flatbed is the safest way to tow a vehicle. A flatbed truck has a tilted bed that can be inclined to the ground level in order to place the vehicle on it. Once the car is tied down on the deck, the chances of suffering from any damages will decrease a lot in comparison to cases when using skates or dollies. Flatbed towing is perfect for cars with 4-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. Also, it’s the preferred method for shipping the vehicles for long-distance travels and for towing exotic low road clearance, since the truck can have a covered body to protect a car from the weather condition. 

lond distance sport car towing

– Heavy towing

Even a big and heavy semi truck with a fully loaded trailer can be towed, though for this you need a huge tow-truck. Usually this service is used in case the truck breaks down and must be transported to the nearest car service. The cost of heavy towing is really big, and depends on lots of parameters such as the height, weight and length.

heavy towing cross country

What is state to state vehicle towing and how much does it cost?

State to state vehicle towing is a service provided by the company to transport various types of vehicles anywhere within the 50 states. When shipping vehicles drivers usually travel up to 500 miles a day and transportation anywhere within the mainland takes 1-9 days after pickup. Some drivers work in teams and offer expedited delivery (they travel up to 800 miles a day), but their cost is usually higher.

avarage car shipping time

  • Five to 14 days for shipping from the West Coast to the East Coast
  • Three to eight days for shipping from the East Coast to the Midwest
  • Three to eight days for shipping from the West Coast to the Midwest
  • Three to eight days for shipping from North to South

You can check the price for shipping your vehicle following this link, and the quote you will receive from our company is always the total price. All taxes, fees, and insurance are included. The drivers we work with are very professional and fully insured and we offer you a door to door delivery service unless your street is too narrow for a big trailer, it is a dead-end or a cul-de-sac. In this case, you can provide us with any other address that would work for you or choose a local supermarket with a big parking lot.

The cost for towing the vehicle depends on different factors such as mileage, size of the vehicle, carrier availability, time of the year, and whether you need to move an operable or an inoperable vehicle. Below you can see the average price for moving the vehicles within the mainland. 

cost to ship and cost to tow a car

What are the most popular shipping routes and how are they identified?

The most popular routes are usually the routes between two densely populated areas (for example, Florida and New York, Texas and California or Florida and California).

Usually, popular routes are between the East and West coast as well as from northern to southern states. Below you can see the map of the states which are popular among drivers. Shipping the car anywhere between the pink states is easier and there are more drivers going these routes. States colored in purple are not that popular but shipping there is not an issue since they are situated between the pink states and the drivers are going through them every few days. States colored in green are not popular among drivers because there may be only 4-5 cars going from these states within a month.

popular states to tow a car to

Actual Carriers Not Brokers

When it comes to moving somewhere and shipping your vehicle, it may be easy to get lost in the wide range of companies you receive quotes from after submitting a request on a website. So, how to choose the best one and make sure you have an experienced professional driver who will take care of your car? You may probably want to deal with the carrier directly to make sure everything is set up. But is it that easy to find an actual car carrier?

across counrty car shipping hauler

Having your vehicle shipped with an actual carrier company means it owns the truck and hires a driver. Some carrier companies are small and family owned which means that they handle everything from dispatch and accounting to driving and they do not have enough staff for advertising and customer support except for calling and negotiating the pickup or delivery time.

save time use car shipping

If you try to find a carrier company, you may spend a lot of time and still get nothing, especially if you are planning to move the car for a long distance since most carrier companies go only certain routes or areas in the US. It may be easier to find a carrier by yourself if you need to have your car shipped within one state, but to find a carrier that travels every corner of the US on a daily basis is logistically impossible especially if they need to have their truck going through your route within the exact time frame.

Broker companies do not have trucks. They serve as a bridge between the customers and carriers. They will have to find a carrier going your route within your time frame. 


The transportation market is constantly changing and is affected by several obstacles like weather conditions, protests, Covid-19, etc. And that is the reason why the price may change from what was quoted and what you may end up paying.

It may also happen this way if you are short of time and need to have your car moved as soon as possible. Brokers look for drivers in their own databases and also on a website called Central Dispatch. It’s a load board which carrier companies check to find the vehicles available on the route they are going.  If the price works for the driver, he calls the company and sets up the transportation. If the price is too low, the driver can make an offer to move the vehicle for a higher price or wait till the company reposts the vehicle for a higher rate. Frankly speaking, it is like an auction for a spot on the trailer.

The good broker will explain the situation and will try one’s best to negotiate the lowest price with the driver who may or may not agree to it. In both cases your shipping agent will update you with the changes and you will always have the last word. You may go with a carrier or wait for another one.

The choice of whether to go with a broker company or try to find an actual carrier is fully yours. Sometimes you may be short of time or your route may not be popular and you will decide to go with a broker. Anyway, we are here to help you and can answer all your questions.

What is the snowbird season and why does it affect the price?

Some routes are more popular among drivers during the snowbird season. It is called so because people want to avoid the low temperature during winter time and high temperature and humidity during summer. They usually prefer to spend winter in southern states (Florida, California, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona) and then move to northern states for summer (Seattle, Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts).

snowbird season car shipping

Snowbird season usually starts in October and goes estimated till the first week of November since some people prefer to stay up north for Thanksgiving. In spring (estimated late April) the move starts again but in the other direction – from southern states to northern states. 

When snowbird season comes, the price on the routes that are affected skyrocket. That happens because there are too many vehicles going one way and not enough drivers to move them all on time. People that can afford paying more, offer drivers higher rates to have their cars picked up first. Other vehicles should have competitive rates as well otherwise they will be lost in a long list of vehicles that need to be transported.


Why is the final price different from what I was quoted?

When the company offers you a price, it’s always based on the previous orders on the same route. For example, if you are shipping a crossover from CA to TX and were quoted $800 total, it means that we had similar vehicles transported on this route for that price. But unfortunately, prices are usually valid only within 2-3 weeks and during the snowbird season, the price may change more often since lots of people are moving. If one wants the car to be picked up on time the price should be competitive. Otherwise, the driver will prefer to move another vehicle for a higher rate.

How to get a cheap long distance car towing?

To get the best price to tow your car from one state to another you should make 7-10 days reservations; if you are a student or in the military asks for a discount it will help you save up to 50$ on a car towing. And to avoid extra payment because of some force majeure situations, schedule the pick up several days before the deadlines.

What should a consumer do if their vehicle arrives damaged?

When the driver delivers your car, make sure to check it thoroughly and if you notice any new damages put them down in The Bill of Lading (the driver will provide you with this paperwork). If the damage is not significant the driver may offer you to cover it from his own pocket. And in case it’s something serious, make 1-2 estimates in a local body shop and submit a request to the carrier insurance company and they will send you a check within a week or two.

Is there a discount for shipping multiple vehicles?

Our company does offer a discount for shipping multiple vehicles on the same route and at the same time. If you are planning to move multiple vehicles, it will also be easier to schedule a driver for you (even if the route is not popular), since the driver is more willing to go to one address and pick up a lot of vehicles there than go extra miles spending his time and money to pick up one car.

Can I ship my vehicle even if it isn’t running?

We can ship any kind of vehicle whether it’s running or not. But if the vehicle is considered inoperable, we will need to know what exactly is wrong with it (doesn’t start, wheels issues, doesn’t steer and so on) to understand whether it can be winched on the trailer or needs a forklift, because it will affect the price. You can check the total rate for shipping here.

Can I ship a modified or oversized vehicle?

We can ship oversized vehicles as well as vehicles with modifications. Before giving you an accurate price you will need to inform us about the modifications and the height of the vehicle on file. Depending on the height of the vehicle we will understand what kind of trailer we should send; either a flatbed or lowboy since they have different height restrictions.

Can I ship a car from an auto auction?

Our company can transport your car anywhere within the US. Our drivers are picking up cars from Copart, Manheim, IAAI, Odessa, and other auction companies almost every day. To pick up the vehicle from the auction, we need to have the following information:  pickup and delivery addresses, the name and phone number of the person at the delivery, the information about the vehicle (year, make and model, Buyer and Lot numbers, VIN code) and if it’s coming from Manheim we will need the gate pass.

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