A cross-country move is exciting. You’ll make friends, have new experiences and dive into a whole new way of life in a new city. But not so fast: You have to get there first. And one of the big decisions you’ll have to make when moving across the country is whether to drive your car yourself or hire a shipping company to move it for you.
There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when making this decision from weather to safety to timing. And of course, there are shipping costs to think about. To make the right choice, take the following factors into account.
Getting your vehicle to your new home could be one of your biggest moving expenses. When deciding whether to drive or ship your car, the first step is to get a sense of how long the drive actually is. Use a mapping app to get a sense of the various routes you could take, the total distance, and a driving time estimate.
Understanding distance can help give you a sense of how much fuel you’d need to make the journey. Consider how many miles per gallon of gas your car usually gets. Divide the total distance by that number, and that can help you create a rough estimate of how much gas you might expect to purchase.
You may also want to factor in the average gas prices in the locations you’ll be driving through. The American Automobile Association (AAA) aggregates the average price for a gallon of gas in each state, and nationally.
Mapping can also give you a sense of what kind of conditions you can expect to be driving in. For the most part, you may expect to take major highways. But will your route take you across mountains or deserts? These regions might be tough on a vehicle, especially if it’s older and prone to overheating, for example.
The time of year you plan to move can make a big difference when it comes to driving conditions. Driving in balmy July weather can be very different from driving through wintry conditions in February, especially if your trip takes you across the northern part of the country where there is a chance of snowy or icy conditions.
Take geographical features, like mountains into consideration as well. For example, there may be snow in mountain passes far earlier than in places closer to sea level. So, though a cross country trip in October may be snow free in most parts of the country, you might encounter wintry conditions as you cross the Rocky Mountains.
If driving through adverse weather does not sound appealing to you, you may consider shipping your car instead.
Driving from coast to coast at a fairly reasonable clip could take as little as a few days up to a week. If you’re driving with someone else, you can switch off drivers and the trip may take less time.
If you’re driving solo, you may take extra time as you make stops to ensure you’re well rested enough to safely continue your journey. If you can’t afford to take the time off to drive your car yourself, shipping may make more sense.
When you drive across the country, you necessarily put yourself and any passengers at a certain amount of risk. Your car will experience more wear and tear on a long drive, and you face the possibility of breakdowns.
What’s more, you risk the possibility of theft while you’re on the road, whether of your vehicle itself or its contents.
There is also a chance that you could get into an accident while on the road. Shipping your car limits potential damage to your vehicle and shields you from personal safety hazards.
Cost to Ship a Car
The cost to ship a car across the country will depend on a number of factors, including the size and weight of the vehicle, the distance the vehicle will be shipped, and what kind of insurance you want to buy.
To a certain extent, price may depend on demand, which can fluctuate throughout the year. The more cars are being shipped along a certain route, the pricier it will be. While prices vary, September through November are generally the cheapest months to ship a car.
On average, it costs about $710 to ship a car. Again, price depends on the length of trip, but also on whether you choose an open transport or an enclosed transport. A cross-country trip in an open transport costs about $1,000 while a cross country trip in an enclosed transport is about $1,500.
You may also want to consider the option of shipping your car by train, which may be faster and cheaper than sending it on a truck. You may have to purchase a ticket and ride the same train that your car is on.
When considering shipping as an option, it’s also important to consider other potential costs associated with it. For example, you will have to purchase plane tickets for you and your family. If you drive your own car, you can pack it full of items you want to move with you. When you arrive in your destination if you need a car right away, you may have to rent one until your own vehicle arrives.
Cost to Drive a Car
In some cases, it may be cheaper to drive your car than it is to ship it. According to Move.org, it is, on average, about $180 cheaper to drive a car than to have it shipped.
However, you must factor in other costs such as food and lodging that will continue to add up the longer you are on the road. When you include these expenses, the estimated cost of driving across the country jumps up to about $1,200, putting in on par with the average cost of shipping. Of course, the longer the drive, the more it costs.
Driving a car just 1,000 miles versus shipping it over the same distance cost $470 and $1,100 respectively.
Lodging is one of the greatest expenses you will encounter while you’re on the road. The average cost of a hotel room was about $140 in 2020. The more nights you spend on the road, the more expensive driving your car yourself will become.
You can of course consider less expensive options, like staying in an Airbnb or visiting with friends along the way.
Making the Decision
As you tackle your moving checklist, the decision to to drive across the country or ship your car will depend on a lot of factors. In some respects it comes down to convenience. Do you have the time to ship your car? Will you need it right away? Do you want to risk driving in poor conditions? In other respects it comes down to cost.
For the most part, driving costs less than shipping. However, the longer the drive, the difference in cost between the two options starts to shrink.
If you decide to ship your car, do your research. Ask friends and family for recommendations and check out company reviews and reports from the Better Business Bureau. Contact multiple shipping companies to make sure you get the best rate.
No matter what you decide, moving is potentially a pricey proposition. If you need a little extra help covering the cost of the move, consider a relocation assistance loan. These loans are personal loans that can cover the cost of shipping your care and other moving related expenses.
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