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Tips to Prepare Your Car for Shipping in 2022: The Complete Guide

Shipping your car is an incredibly long process. First, you need to search for a transporter that meets your needs, then you must book with a reliable company. Next thing you need to do, between the date you have booked your vehicle and the date it will be dispatched, is to prepare your car for shipping.

Most people don’t realize that preparing your vehicle for shipping isn’t just driving it out of your garage and waiting for the car shipping company’s representative to show up. You need to take various steps to protect your vehicle and ensure the transportation goes seamlessly from start to finish.

Why Prepare Your Car for Shipping?

Why not just let the auto transporter ship your vehicle as is? Here’s why:

  • Reduce the risk of damage. When you take the necessary steps to protect your vehicle during transport, what you’re essentially doing is minimizing the risk of damage to its interior and exterior during shipping.

  • Prevent shipment delays. Auto transporters need proof that the vehicle is yours before shipping it from A to B. Gathering your vehicle’s documents well in advance of the shipping day would thus prevent unintended delays on the shipping day.

  • Save money and time. If you have taken out the time to inspect your car before it’s shipped and compare its original condition with that once it’s reached your new home, you can hold the company liable for any damages incurred during the journey.

How to Prepare Your Car for Shipping?

Here’s how you can prepare your vehicle for seamless shipping:

Gather your documents

Before shipping your car from A to B, auto transporters will need proof it’s yours. They might request you to provide documents proving your ownership of the vehicle. For this reason, it’s recommended to gather these documents before the shipping day:

  • Car registration information

  • Original vehicle title

  • Bill of sale or other proof of ownership

  • Copy of your driver’s license or passport

  • Proof of insurance

Is there a lien on your car? In that case, you may need to provide a letter from the lienholder stating that you’ve full permission to transport the vehicle. You may also need to attach at least three certified copies of the ‘Original Certificate of Title’ to the letter.

Wash your car

Washing your car before shipping is a crucial though oft-ignored step. Only when you have a sparkling clean car could you notice scratches, dents, and dings already on its exterior – necessary to compare your vehicle’s pre and post-shipping condition to identify damages sustained during transport.

Don’t forget to wipe down the car’s interior. Remove all your personal belongings and documents and clean out the rest of the clutter. This will ensure that you receive a fresh, clean car at delivery.

Document your car’s existing condition

Auto transporters require you to fill out a vehicle condition report before shipping. Everything you enter in the report will be used to claim (or deny) responsibility for any damage that occurred in transit. So make sure to fully document your car’s pre-existing condition.

Take pictures of your vehicle after you’ve thoroughly washed its exterior. Note down every dent, discoloration, scratch, and paint chip you see. (Now you know why washing your car is essential; without a shining exterior, you won’t be able to see minor signs of damage).

Remove personal items

If you’re moving homes and running out of boxes to pack your personal stuff in, you might be tempted to stash a few personal belongings in your car. Here’s why you shouldn’t do it.

Any item you stash away in your car won’t be insured against theft or damage during transit. And transportation companies have an extra incentive to ensure your car doesn’t contain any personal belongings. Failure to do so might result in them getting fined.

So make sure to remove all of your personal belongings while preparing your car for shipping. Pay special attention to items that are easily left behind. These include charging cables, sunglasses, water bottles, vehicle warranty book, insurance information, etc.

Make sure you don’t leave any toll tags on your car. If there’s a toll tag on your vehicle, you’ll be charged fees as your vehicle is being transported through tolls. This will put an unnecessary (and easily avoidable) burden on your car’s shipping cost.

Perform necessary car maintenance

Shipping an operable vehicle? There are a few general maintenance tasks you should carry out before the shipping day. By looking after your vehicle, you’d be making sure that it arrives in a ‘ready-to-drive’ condition at your new home.

Here are a few things you need to inspect before vehicle shipment:

  • Gas tank. Make sure to your gas tank is at or below ¼ tank. Extra gas means extra weight, which, in turn, means additional shipping costs. Only leave as much fuel in the tank as is necessary to drive your car on and off the transport truck.

  • Tire pressure. Your car’s tires should be properly inflated. Under-inflation might result in the car’s underbelly hitting the transport vehicle’s deck during transit. Over-inflation should also be avoided.

  • Battery charge. If you’re using a dry battery, turn on the ignition and start your vehicle to ensure the battery is in proper health. If you’re using a wet battery, check out its fluid levels to ensure everything is in working order.

  • Car fluids. Inspect the floor where your car is parked for signs of leakage. Then top off your vehicle’s fluids (oil, coolant, brake, washer, and power steering).

  • Mileage. Note down or take a picture of your car’s mileage before shipment. Then compare it with the odometer reading when your vehicle is shipped. There shouldn’t be a double-digit difference between the two readings.

  • Alarms. Disable alarms before handing over the keys to the transporter. The last thing your driver needs is transporting a vehicle whose alarm won’t go off (or an alarm whose location they cannot find).

Remove external accessories

Any external car accessories can be damaged during transit. It’s therefore essential that you remove all external car accessories before shipping your car. These items include:

  • Custom spoilers

  • Bike and/or ski racks

  • Rooftop luggage racks

  • Radar scanners, if any

If your car has retractable side mirrors, fold them in. If its antenna is detachable, you should remove it and put it in the vehicle’s trunk. Consult a professional if you believe you don’t have the expertise to remove the external accessories.

Arrange an extra set of keys

Assuming your car is in working order, the auto transporter will need to drive it on and off the shipping trailer. If you don’t have a spare set of keys, don’t wait for the shipping day to make one. Remember, it’s never a good idea to hand over your only set of keys to the transport driver.

But if your car isn’t in operable condition, inform the shipping company beforehand. This will give them the time to arrange the required equipment to load and unload your vehicle. Remember, most shipping companies charge extra to ship an inoperable car.

Have insurance on your car

The carrier’s cargo insurance will cover your vehicle if it suffers any damage due to the transporter’s negligence. However, if the damage is caused by natural events, such as hailstorms, lightning, tornadoes, etc., your insurance will have to carry the burden of repairs.

Check with your auto insurance to verify that they cover your car during auto transport. Most car insurance companies do, but it’s better to be on the safe side.


By following these simple tips on preparing your car for shipping, you could ensure that the entire transportation process goes safely and seamlessly.

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