Why You Shouldn’t Put Personal Items in Your Car During Shipping

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If you’re like many of us, the thought has crossed your mind: “I’m already shipping my car cross country, why not make use of that empty back seat or trunk space to move some of my stuff?” Maybe you’re a college student headed to a new city, a family relocating, or perhaps you’ve just sold your cherished convertible to an out-of-state enthusiast. Whatever the reason, before you start loading up your car with personal items, there are some things you ought to consider. This article breaks down the why’s and why-not’s of stuffing your car before shipping, ensuring you’re well-informed about the potential pitfalls of shipping a car with items inside.

The misconception of free cargo space
Potential dangers to your belongings
Threats to your vehicle’s integrity
Carrier restrictions and guidelines

The Misconception of Free Cargo Space

misconception of free cargo space

When we’re packing up for a big state-to-state moving or simply shipping your car coast to coast, every inch of space becomes prime real estate. As Americans, we’ve been raised on the belief that maximizing utility is just good sense. So, it’s not surprising that an empty trunk or back seat seems like a missed opportunity. I mean, if you’re already paying for the car to be moved, why can not you ship a car with stuff in it, right? But here’s where a lot of folks get tripped up.

Think about it like this: just because your backyard has the space doesn’t mean it’s suitable for a full-sized basketball court. In the same vein, while your car might have the physical space, shipping a car with items inside isn’t always the smartest move. The apparent “free cargo space” in your car isn’t really free; it comes with hidden costs and potential risks.

Now, I get the appeal. We’ve all been there, trying to save a buck where we can. It’s tempting to view your car’s interior as bonus moving space, especially when faced with the costs and hassles of long-distance moves. But before you start stashing away your personal items, remember: car transport services are designed for vehicles, not household goods. There’s a reason movers and car shippers operate separately.

By the end of this piece, you’ll see why, sometimes, what seems like a savvy shortcut can steer you right into the lane of unexpected trouble. Whether it’s the potential for damaged goods, added fees, or issues with the law, the “free” space in your car during shipping can end up costing you more than you bargained for.

Potential Dangers to Your Belongings

Ah, the open road! It’s full of twists, turns, bumps, and unexpected jolts. Now, imagine your cherished belongings — maybe that vintage record collection, your grandma’s porcelain vase, or even just a stack of your favorite books — jostling around in the back seat or trunk as your car is transported across states. It’s a tad unsettling, right?

The truth is, when you’re shipping a car cross country with belongings, you’re rolling the dice with your personal treasures. Let’s break down some of the risks:

potential dangers to your belongings when shipping a car with items inside
Bumpy Ride, Bumpy Consequences: Our roads, as vast and diverse as our great nation, aren’t always smooth sailing. Potholes, abrupt stops, or tight turns can make your belongings inside shift or even fly about. That can mean scratched vinyl, cracked vases, or torn pages. Heartbreaking, especially when it’s something irreplaceable.
Window Shopping for Thieves: Leaving items in clear view is like laying out a welcome mat for theft. Even in a closed container, there’s a good chance that someone might spot your stuff during stops or transfers. Remember, it’s not just the destination; your car will pass through multiple states and various environments, some of which might not be the safest spots to showcase your valuables.
Climate Woes: Shipping your car cross country means your belongings inside will be exposed to varying climates. That New York winter cold and Arizona summer heat don’t play nice with sensitive items. Electronics, certain antiques, and other sensitive goods might not appreciate those temperature swings.
Insurance Blind Spots: Here’s a kicker most folks don’t realize — the majority of car transport insurances focus squarely on the vehicle. Your personal belongings? They’re on their own. So if something goes south, you might be out of pocket and out of luck.

Before you think of your car as a makeshift moving van, pause and consider the genuine risks involved. It might seem like a convenient solution, but the potential dangers to your belongings could leave you with regrets and more than a couple of “I wish I hadn’t” moments.

Threats to Your Vehicle’s Integrity

When it comes to our cars, they’re more than just metal, rubber, and glass. For many of us, they’re an extension of our personalities and lifestyles — a companion on the open road, as American as apple pie. So, while it might seem harmless to pack it full of personal items when shipping, you’ve got to think twice about the possible threats to your car’s integrity.

threats to your vehicle integrity
Surprising Weight Issues: At first glance, that box of books or collection of shoes might not seem like much. But when you’re shipping a car with items inside, every pound counts. Those little additions can add up, stressing the vehicle’s suspension system or even risking potential damage to the undercarriage. We’re not just talking about filling up the trunk; even the backseat stash can become a problem.
The Unseen Dance of Items: Ever take a sharp turn and hear something in your backseat tumble? Now, imagine that on the scale of a cross-country trip. Even if you think you’ve packed things securely, the reality of shipping a car cross country with belongings is that those items can — and often do — shift, slide, or tumble. This not only poses a risk to the items themselves but can also lead to scuffs, dents, or damage to the car’s interior.
Window Pressure: Those scenic views your windows offer? They’re not storage-friendly. Stacking items against windows or even just placing undue pressure on them, especially from the inside, can sometimes lead to unexpected cracks or even breaks. Remember, your car might be on the top rack, exposed to the elements, which further puts stress on those windows.
Complicating the Inspection: A crucial step when shipping is the pre-shipment inspection. This is where your car’s current state is documented to ensure any potential post-shipment issues are clearly identified. Now, can you pack your car when you ship it? Technically, yes. But doing so can make this inspection harder, potentially obscuring damage or making it difficult to prove any new dings or dents post-shipment.

Shipping your vehicle is more than just a logistical task; it’s entrusting a part of your life to professionals. And while it might seem like a smart use of space, stashing personal items in your car poses real threats to its integrity. So, next time you wonder, “can you ship a car with stuff in it?” think about the risks, not just the convenience. When you choose a reputable service like MoveWheels, we’ll clearly lay out these rules for you, ensuring a smooth and problem-free shipping experience.

Carrier Restrictions and Guidelines

So you’ve read the risks and you’re still tempted. You think, “Okay, maybe just a few things—nothing heavy or valuable, right?” Before you pull that trigger, hold on just a second. Even if you’re willing to roll those dice on safety, you could be stepping into a grey area of carrier rules and restrictions that could really muck up your plans.

Why You Shouldn’t Put Personal Items in Your Car During Shipping 1
What’s Allowed, What’s Not: First off, let’s set the record straight—most carriers have clear guidelines stating you can’t ship a car with items inside. Yeah, you heard that right. The fact is, carriers aren’t licensed to move household goods. They’re in the business of moving vehicles, period. Sure, some might turn a blind eye to a suitcase in the trunk, but that’s not the rule, it’s the exception.
Fine Print Equals Fines: It might not be front and center, but look closely and you’ll find these restrictions outlined in the shipping contract. And if you decide to pull a fast one, the carrier has every right to levy additional fees. Worse yet, they could refuse to ship your vehicle altogether until it’s emptied. Talk about a wrench in your moving plans!
Legal and Regulatory Hurdles: Carriers are regulated by multiple government agencies, including the Department of Transportation. When you’re shipping a car cross country with belongings, you could be putting your carrier in a tough spot legally. And trust me, you don’t want to be the cause of that sort of trouble.
The Weight of the Matter: When it comes to shipping cars, weight is a massive deal. Carriers need to abide by strict weight limits for safety and legal reasons. You might think a few boxes won’t tip the scale, but you’d be surprised. All those “minor” additions can add up to a weighty problem, leading to delays or even a canceled shipment.
Don’t Play Hide and Seek: Some folks think they can just tuck things away in hidden compartments or under seats. However, carriers have seen it all. Trying to sneak items past them could lead to an uncomfortable confrontation, and possibly, added fees.

While it may seem tempting to sneak in a few extra items while shipping your car, you’ve got to understand that carrier restrictions are in place for good reasons. They’re not just guidelines; they’re rules backed by laws and safety protocols that are designed to protect everyone involved — from the driver hauling your car to you, the car owner. Ignoring them might not just end in a slap on the wrist; it could lead to serious complications, delays, or even legal issues.

Navigating the world of auto transport is akin to cruising down America’s diverse highways—there are rules to follow, sights to appreciate, and pitfalls to avoid. As tempting as it might seem to use that vacant space in your car when shipping, the journey we’ve taken through this article showcases the reasons why it’s a route best left untraveled.

Whether it’s the wellbeing of your belongings, the integrity of your vehicle, or the intricate tapestry of carrier regulations, it’s clear: shipping a car with items inside is a gamble not worth the wager. When it’s time for your vehicle to hit the road (on the back of a carrier, that is), let it travel light and arrive just as you remember it. And for those looking for expert guidance on the voyage?

MoveWheels is here to steer you right.


If I do decide to ship some items in my car, how can I best secure them to minimize risks?

While it’s not recommended, if you choose to, ensure items are securely fastened, use padded materials to protect both the items and the car’s interior, and always avoid stacking items against windows or in the driver’s seat area.

What if the items I want to transport in my car are sentimental and not of high monetary value?

 The emotional value of an item can often exceed its monetary worth. Regardless of the item’s cost, risks remain the same. It’s best to transport sentimental items personally or through a specialized courier.

Are there any specific items that are a complete no-no when thinking of shipping inside my car?

Yes, perishables, hazardous materials, illegal items, or anything alive (like plants or pets) should never be transported inside a shipped car.

Can I ship my car with a full gas tank?

No, it’s recommended to have a quarter tank or less when shipping. This reduces the weight and potential hazards during transport.

Why can’t car transporters just get a license to transport household items?

Transporting household goods requires a different set of regulatory compliances, insurances, and expertise. Merging the two complicates the process and could compromise the quality of both services.

How can I ensure the transporter I choose is reputable and will handle my car properly?

Always check reviews and ratings on trusted platforms like FMCSA, Central Dispatch, and BBB. A carrier with positive reviews is likely to offer quality services that prioritize vehicle safety.

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