Moving to Los Angeles after college had always been a dream of mine. Most recent grads backpack through Europe or move back in with their parents upon graduation, but not me. I had ferocious tunnel vision that was focused on just one destination; and that place was California. Among the mountain of tasks involved with moving across the country, shipping my car didn't immediately strike me as that crucial. Naturally, I didn't want to put that many miles on my 2010 Toyota Corolla so shipping it to California seemed like the logical choice. But I learned the hard way that shipping your car without doing proper research was one of the worst mistakes I've ever made. And my trusty Toyota paid the price it.
Get Lots & Lots Of Quotes. Then Get Some More.
Unfortunately, because car shipping isn't a very commonly used service, most shipping companies don't stick to competitive pricing. It's up to you to conduct sufficient research and compare pricing. I failed to start the process with this vital step and almost agreed to pay $2,500 package to a local vehicle shipping business. Luckily, a friend advised me that the average cost of shipping your car is around $1,000 to $1,500 and that I was being severely overcharged. Even though I was relieved that I didn't end up wasting my money, you'll see that my relief was short-lived.
If The Price Is Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is.
Heavy discounts are fine when you're purchasing a t-shirt but when it comes to shipping a major asset like your car, beware of unusually discounted pricing. More often than not, you'll get the service that you paid for; which won't be much service at all. I thought I'd hit the jackpot when I found an extremely affordable vehicle shipping company in a suburb of Minneapolis. However, there were many red flags that I wish I'd paid attention to. For an example, it was extremely hard to get a hold of a customer service rep at the company and when I finally did, it was a customer service contractor located in Dallas. If a company doesn't care enough to provide proper customer service, they won't care enough about your car.
If The Drop Off Looks Questionable, Don't Do It.
The day to drop off my precious Toyota had finally arrived. As I drove to the address provided to me, it felt like I was driving into the middle of nowhere. When I got to the location of the garage, it was deserted except for a man in oil stained overalls that identified himself as a rep for the shipping company. Immediately feeling uneasy, I asked the man if there was a manager on site I could speak to. There wasn't. Even though waves of doubt kept washing over me, it was too late to back out and find another company, especially because I needed my car in California by next week. So against my better judgment, I handed him the keys.
Take Lots Of Car Selfies
Fast forward a week and I finally descended upon my dream city. The first item on my agenda was to pick up my car and properly explore the city. I took a cab to the pick up location that was provided to me by the company and once again, it was almost 40 minutes outside of the city and in the middle of nowhere. After having me wait over 30 minutes at the pick up location, a company rep drove the car up to the front of the building. And I was shocked. My car was so dusty that it wasn't even silver anymore. As I walked up to my precious Toyota, I was also taken back to see that the side mirror was crooked, there was a small dent on the passenger door and a long scratch on the back bumper. "What happened to my car?!" I exclaimed to the rep. The rep looked genuinely confused and asked "What do you mean?" I pointed at the dent, crooked mirror and the scratch across the bumper. "These were not there when I dropped the car off" I retorted. She sighed and looked at me expectedly. "Did you take pictures of the car before you shipped it so that our liability team can review your claim?" (I found it interesting that they had a liability team but no customer service department, but I digress) And sadly, no, I hadn't. DO NOT forget to properly document and photograph your car before shipping it. If you don't have before and after pictures, you're out of luck.
The Hidden Fees Will Get You
After the stressful evaluation of my dusty and dented car, I walked back inside to pay the bill for a job, in my opinion, that was not well done. When the rep handed me the total, I had the same reaction that I had moments ago when I saw my car. "Wait, this is $200 more than what they quoted me!" The rep then proceeded to point out the extra fees and costs that added up to almost $200 more than the original quote. "These extra fees and costs were explained on the website, miss." she responded in a monotone voice. And guess who never went on the website to read the fine print? Me.
It's safe to say that I made a LOT of mistakes during the process of shipping my car across the country. Aside from the hassle and worry, I actually ended up spending just as much money as if I had gone with a regular priced company. Moving can be an extremely stressful time, so don't add on to that stress by being careless with the task of shipping your car. Do the research, get lots of quotes, assess the company and document the process. You'll be glad that you did.