How Should I Get My Classic Car Ready to Ship or Transport from an Auction?

classic car in trailer for transportation

So you’ve just won the car of your dreams on a classic car auction online. Congratulations! The beauty of the internet is that you can find nearly any car for sale that you want … getting it home is the hard part. (Unless you’re planning a big road trip, that is.) Now it’s time to figure out how to get your new treasure back to your garage safe and sound.

Or maybe you’re on the other side of the transaction - someone has just bought your classic car and needs you to get it to their front door. You don’t want to see the car you’ve spent so long taking care of get damaged before it meets its new owner (and you also don’t want to deal with the liability) so either way, finding the right shipping option is imperative.

How should you plan to transport your new pride and joy home from these collector car auctions? There are plenty of things to consider, depending on what kind of car you’ve purchased, where you live, the car’s current quality and potentially even questions of international transfer.

We can help, though. Let’s get that car into its new garage safely and quickly!

Choosing a classic car transporter or shipping company

Putting your new purchase immediately in the hands of something else can be nerve wracking, so choosing a top tier transport is perhaps your first important decision to make in the next chapter of your new car’s life.

We’re going to assume that this isn’t rolling out of a barn somewhere, and it’s not a salvage or a full rebuild. Most cars are going to need more than just a flatbed, so here’s what we’d recommend looking for.

First, experience in moving classic cars is a must - there are a variety of national transportation services that focus on high-end vehicles that you can choose from. You’ll need more than just basic company insurance for your car while it’s in transit, and you’ll need to make sure you’re insured yourself for other things that the shipping company’s policy might not cover. (We can help with that part.)

You should also be able to choose a door-to-door delivery instead of picking up your ride wherever the truck happens to get near you.

Often times you’ll have to wait for an enclosed truck to get a full load of vehicles, but if you need an expedited delivery you can often find it (for an additional fee, naturally). You should be able to contact the vehicle at any time to check in on your ride, and the best options out there will also include GPS info so you can track the delivery throughout the route.

If you want to be extra sure of your decision, you can also check out the safety rating of a company at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER search page.

We’d also recommend picking the brains of your fellow classic car enthusiasts at our online Hagerty forum/community.

Prepping your new car for shipping

If you’re seeing your new car in person for the first time right before it hits the truck, you have an opportunity to get to know it much better immediately by prepping your new classic for it’s trip. First and foremost, make sure the exterior is washed and the interior is cleaned - you’ll get to know every ding in the finish and every scuff on the dashboard ASAP.

You’re probably paying based on weight, so try to save a few bucks you should make sure there’s not a full tank of gas, and if your car has an alarm make sure it’s disabled (we’d recommend pulling the battery entirely, but since the car may need to be started and driven off the truck upon arrival, that’s usually not an option).

Make sure the tires are properly inflated, check for leaks and don’t forget to take photos of the entire car (just to be safe, you’ll have something to compare any damage against at the end of the drive).

If everything appears to be in good shape, don’t forget to lock her up - you don’t know what truck stops and rest areas your car will be stopping in, so better safe than sorry.

Open shipping vs enclosed

You’d think this one might be simple - if your car is a bit dinged up or getting a full resto job, an open flatbed shipping truck should usually be fine. That’s not always the case, though. (For short distances, you could even get away with a simple tow.)

For a more pristine ride, yes, enclosed shipping is the way to go. If you’re transporting a car that you would worry about a ding to the finish or a chip in the windshield, a trailer is a no-brainer. It’ll keep your car dry while driving through storms, protected from hail, stones, even birds. If your car has low ground clearance, it might not make it onto an open trailer (at least not without a little damage), so again, opt for enclosed.

An enclosed option not only protects perfect cars, but you might want to consider it for vehicles that may have additional parts that are shipping along with the main vehicle. If your new car is a bit rough around the edges but also has an engine and transmission that are coming separately, you don’t want those just sitting on an open flatbed.

One more factor to take into consideration: Open shipping can be quicker and more affordable. If you’re worried about time or want to save a few bucks now that you’ve bought your car and you’re going to put some work into the exterior regardless of its quality, it’s something to consider.

What to know about International or Intercontinental Shipping for your Classic Car

Intrastate or Interstate shipping of your car is a breeze compared to getting it over international borders - or waters. The three usual ways to get a classic car shipped between continents is via a shipping container, air freight or the easiest option: simply driving it onto a specialized ship, securing it and driving it off at its destination.

If you need your car across the world right now, air shipping is the only way to go, but if you can wait we’d suggest the ocean container route. This way you know your vehicle is sealed up when it gets on board, and you can also ship additional items like car parts, extra wheels or tires, or even additional pieces of wardrobe or luggage for wherever you’re going to be driving.

Of course, your insurance should be up to date (we can help!) and your shipping company should also have supplemental insurance available for any unforeseen issues. Oftentimes there are import duties and taxes to be paid, as well as paperwork to be handled - your shipping company should be able to make sure everything is squared away for the specific destination but expect to provide copies of the title, your registration and identification, proof of insurance and possibly even power of attorney paperwork. You’ll also need to think about what kind of license plates or registrations you’ll need to fulfill in your destination country.

And don’t forget that unless you’re living near a port city where the vehicle will be departing for its cruise, you’ll need to do all of the above … and also transport your car via a truck to get it to the ship.

In spite of all these hurdles, if you’re moving overseas for a few years it’s often cheaper to ship your car and have it with you instead of storing it for extended periods of time. Run the numbers before you call your storage service.