Preparation Steps You Need to Take Before You Ship a Car across Country

How Do I Ship My Car Across the Country? - Car Talk

Shipping your car across the country is a task that requires careful preparation to ensure that your vehicle arrives at its destination in the same condition it left. 

Properly preparing your car for shipping not only safeguards the vehicle but also helps in smoothing out the transportation process. 

Here’s a detailed guide with essential tips on how to prep your car before entrusting it to a shipping service.

Clean Your Car Inside and Out

Start by thoroughly cleaning your car, both inside and outside. A clean exterior makes it easier to identify any existing dents, scratches, or damage during the inspection process before shipping. Cleaning the interior is equally important to remove any personal items and to avoid any potential damage during transit.

Document and Photograph Your Car

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Once your car is clean, document its condition. Take detailed photographs from various angles, focusing on any existing damage. These photos will serve as evidence of your car’s condition before shipping and can be useful if any dispute arises about damage during transport. Discover more info here

Remove Personal Belongings and Accessories

Remove all personal items and loose accessories from your car. Personal belongings are not typically covered by the transporter’s insurance. This includes items like air fresheners, GPS devices, and removable stereo systems. Also, detach any custom add-ons like spoilers or antennas that can be damaged easily.

Perform Basic Maintenance

Ensure your car is in good working condition before shipping. Check and top up all fluids, ensure the battery is charged, and verify that the tires are properly inflated. This maintenance ensures that the car can be driven onto and off the carrier without any issues.

Leave Only a Quarter Tank of Gas

A full tank of gas adds unnecessary weight to the transport. Reduce the fuel level to about a quarter of the tank. This is sufficient to load and unload the vehicle, as well as reduce the overall weight of the load. Read more on this page

Check for Leaks

Leaks in your vehicle, be it oil, coolant, transmission fluid, or brake fluid, can lead to significant damage if left unaddressed. During transportation, the effects of these leaks can exacerbate, potentially causing harm not just to your vehicle, but also to other vehicles being transported.

You should also be aware that fluid leaks pose a safety risk. For example, an oil leak can lead to engine damage or even a fire hazard in extreme cases. In the confined space of a transport truck, the risks associated with leaks are amplified.

Oh, and many car shipping companies have strict regulations against transporting vehicles with leaks. This is to prevent damage to their equipment and other vehicles. A car with a significant leak might be refused service until the issue is resolved.

Lock the Car

After the inspection and loading process, there’s no need for the car to be opened until it reaches its destination. Lock your car to prevent theft or the opening of doors during transit.

Disable the Alarm

If your car has an alarm system, make sure it is disabled before shipping. Alarms can go off during transit, causing unnecessary hassle and battery drain.

Note Special Instructions for the Driver

If your car has any peculiarities, like a tricky ignition or a hidden switch, inform the transport driver. This information is vital for the safe handling of your vehicle during loading and unloading.

Check Insurance Coverage

Make sure you understand the insurance coverage provided by the shipping company. Know what is covered and what isn’t, and consider getting additional insurance if needed for extra peace of mind.

Prepare Important Documents

Have all necessary documents ready. This might include your registration and proof of insurance. While these documents might not be needed for the transport itself, having them in order is a good practice.

Remove Toll Tags and Parking Passes

Remove or deactivate any toll tags or parking passes to prevent charges as the transport carrier moves across different states or toll roads.

Conduct a Final Inspection with the Carrier

Before you start the process of shipping car across country, conduct a final inspection with the carrier. This will ensure that both parties agree on the vehicle’s condition before transport.

Keep a Set of Spare Keys

Always retain a spare set of keys for your vehicle. The transport driver will need a set, but having a spare is a precautionary measure in case of loss during transit.


Preparing your car for cross-country shipping might seem daunting, but it’s a crucial step in ensuring the safe and smooth transportation of your vehicle. By following these tips, you can rest assured that your car is ready for its journey, minimizing the risk of damage and complications. Remember, a little preparation goes a long way in ensuring a hassle-free car shipping experience.

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