Shipping a car to a different state is quite an undertaking. Whether you are selling a vehicle or embarking on a cross-country move, shipping an item of this size and type requires planning to avoid hiccups along the way. While reviewing the details and regulations involved in interstate shipping, it is easy to overlook important factors that may cause headaches later. A review of the top mistakes to avoid when shipping cars from state to state can help make your delivery as smooth as possible.

Not Checking the Reputability of the Shipping Company

One of the most common mistakes is failing to verify the credibility of the shipping company. Foremost, all reputable shipping companies should be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition, all companies that ship cars across state lines must possess a unique registration number with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This registration helps ensure that the company is compliant with federal oversight laws and safety regulations. You can request this number from the company and verify its accuracy with the government database. Similarly, you can request a copy of the shipping company’s insurance certificate to determine what coverage is applicable when shipping your car from state to state. If you decide that the coverage is insufficient for your needs, you may wish to obtain additional coverage under your own auto insurance policy.

Forgetting to Properly Prepare the Vehicle

It is important to properly prepare your vehicle before shipment. Consult with a mechanic for a complete check to ensure that your car is in good working condition for transport. For example, a mechanic can check your tire pressure levels and ensure that the brakes are working properly. You should also have the mechanic top off all engine fluids and confirm that nothing is leaking. In addition to working with a professional, there are other steps you can take to prepare the car for transport. Clean both the interior and exterior of the vehicle and remove any custom accessories or loose parts that can incur damage during shipment. Most companies also recommend turning off any alarms and making sure the gas tank is at least one-fourth of the way full. Ask your selected company about any additional requirements for the day of pickup.

Leaving Personal Belongings in the Car

In the hustle and bustle of getting your vehicle ready for shipment, it is easy to forget to remove personal belongings from the car. Before shipping your vehicle, be sure to double-check the glove compartment, trunk, seat pockets, and corners for personal items. These items can include purses, wallets, keys, money, or important documents. Remembering to retrieve your items is crucial since personal belongings are often irreplaceable or ineligible for insurance claim coverage. In addition, many states prohibit companies and individuals from using car shipments as transport vessels. The shipping company may determine that it cannot transport a car containing household items that weigh over 100 pounds, and the Department of Transport can also demand the removal of these items during any inspection. It is better to remove personal effects in advance to avoid items getting seized or going missing.

Providing Insufficient Supporting Documentation

Shipping cars from state to state also requires appropriate documentation. These documents typically include vehicle registration and proof of ownership. If you do not currently own the car, the company may require lien holder information or similar authorization for shipment. Other necessary documents can include a photo ID, proof of insurance, and a signed bill of lading. Gather these documents in advance to avoid complications or potential delays with your car transport.

Failing to Communicate With the Carrier

Due to the nature of the car transport industry, it is imperative to remain in close communication with the car shipment company of your choice. For example, the shipping company might request that either you or an authorized third party remain present for the day of pickup or delivery. You may also need to sign off on any inspections, and you can take advantage of the opportunity to ask any last-minute questions before shipment. Finally, make sure the shipment company has your best contact phone number or email address. This can help the company notify you in the event of an emergency as well as provide receipts or other documents for your records.


While shipping cars from state to state may seem like a complicated endeavor, there are steps you can take to make the process much easier. By planning in advance, you can avoid the pitfalls of interstate delivery and help your vehicle seamlessly reach its destination.