Should I drive my car across country or ship it?

Ship car or drive across country?More about Ethan Greenfield

Moving across country is a great adventure that will give you a lot of excitement and unforgettable memories (even if not only good ones). It will teach you important life lessons, will put you on an emotional rollercoaster, and will challenge you in every way possible. What’s more, it will take you all the way from your current city to your new, far-off home. And here comes the question: how are you going to get there? Is it better to fly or drive to your new home? And how to get your car across the country – ship it or drive it?

To find the answers to these questions, you need to consider the pros and cons of all the available options and choose the one that best suits your time, budget, and personal preferences. When it comes to shipping car cross country vs. driving, your decision will be influenced by the actual distance to your new home, the time you have to perform your move, the cost to transport your car (as compared to the cost to drive across country), and the level of convenience you desire.

So, in order to make the right choice for you, be sure to take the following factors into account when wondering whether to drive or ship car across country:

Driving distance

The first thing to do when trying to solve the “driving cross country vs. shipping car” dilemma is to figure out the total driving distance – not the straight line distance between your current city and your new one, but the actual road distance between the two. When you find out the exact mileage you’ll have to travel, make sure you take a closer look at the route specifics as well – topography, road conditions, typical traffic patterns, roadside amenities, etc.

Once you know how far you’ll need to drive and what driving conditions to expect, you’ll be able to estimate how long it will take you to get to your new city and how much fuel you’re going to need (considering the miles per gallon that your car gets). The numbers you get are very likely to determine your choice.

Time considerations

So, how long does it take to drive across the country? A road trip across the states may take from a couple of days to about a week (if you’re moving from coast to coast or driving cross country alone (you will have to stop more frequently in order to safely make the trip when you can’t rotate shifts with another driver)).

It may or may not be possible for you and your spouse/partner to take so much time off from work (or for your children to be out of school for so long). And even if you (and all your family members) have the time for a road trip, you may prefer to spend it setting up your new home and exploring your new surroundings rather than travelling.

So, if you have limited time off, have any urgent commitments shortly after the move, or just don’t like the idea of spending several days on the road, shipping your car across the country and flying to your new home is your best option.

On the other hand, if you have plenty of free time, enjoy driving, and want to see as much of the country as possible, a road trip to your new home may feel like a vacation and family bonding time – just the thing you need to overcome the moving stress and get off to a good start in your new life.

Cost efficiency

If time allows a road trip, it will be the financial factor that you’ll want to consider next.  So, is it cheaper to ship a car or drive across country?

Driving is generally considered to be the most economical way to transport a car across country, but this may not always be the case – when calculating the cost to drive across country, you need to factor in not only the fuel costs but also the costs of road tolls and parking fees, meals and lodgings, vehicle maintenance, etc. You can bring some snacks with you, but when driving such a long distance, you’ll likely have to spend the night(s) somewhere and dine at restaurants or purchase ready-made meals along the way – so unless you’re planning to stay with friends or relatives, road food and hotel stays will add a few extra bucks to the total cost of your move. The wear and tear on your car also has to be taken into account (after all, your cross country trip will put an extra thousand miles – or a few thousand miles – on your vehicle), not to mention that you may get a flat tire, have an accident, or require towing along the way – all of which will result in further expenses.

The cost to ship a car across country will depend on the size and weight of your vehicle, the kind of insurance you want, and the rates of the auto shipping company you choose to transport your car. The amount you pay to have your vehicle shipped across country, however, won’t be your only expense – if you aren’t driving, you’ll need to fly (or take a train) to your final destination. So, you’ll have to pay for plane (or train) tickets (for you and every member of your family who would have otherwise all traveled in the car) and for transportation to and from the airport (train station). You may also need to rent a car for the time until your own vehicle is delivered. Besides, you won’t be able to take many personal items with you, so your chosen cross-country movers will have more stuff to relocate and your moving costs will be higher (long distance moving costs are based on the weight of the shipment).

Good to know: When looking for the cheapest way to ship your car across country, you may want to consider other options than using auto shipping companies:

  • Shipping by rail – For larger distances, train transport is a bit cheaper than traditional truck transport (you may be able to save about $100 when shipping a car from coast to coast). If you want to ship car by train across country, though, you need to know that it may be somewhat difficult to find an open slot on a specific day as train transport is primarily intended for auto dealers moving dozens of vehicles at once;
  • Hiring a driver – There are people who drive cars across country for money, so you can hire someone to take your vehicle to your new home for you. You can use a professional driving service, hire a student who needs the extra cash (this is an especially good option during the summer break when students look for a free way to get cross-country themselves), etc. You can even have some personal belongings transported in the car that way. Yet, this is a very risky method to move your car across country, so consider hiring someone you know personally and make sure your motor vehicle insurance covers any accidents or thefts when someone else is driving.

You can find some more detailed information on how to ship a car across country here.


The safety of your vehicle is another important thing to consider when wondering whether to drive or ship car across country.

There is no doubt that driving a long distance will put a lot of strain on your vehicle – it is not only the wear and tear from the extra mileage, but also the effects of the weather (extremely high or extremely low temperatures, heavy snowfall, thunderstorms, icy roads, etc.) you need to worry about. What is even more important though is that your car will be susceptible to a number of threats and security issues – from car failures to road accidents, from traffic jams to auto thefts, etc. Such troubles and mishaps can add up quickly and not only become very expensive, but also completely ruin your moving experience or even result in personal safety hazards.

Shipping a car across country can save it from tear and wear, accidents, and unfavorable weather conditions. Professional car shippers have the right equipment for the job and are used to dealing with every possible contingency – they’ve undergone specialized training, obtained their CDL certification, and gained extensive experience in managing all kinds of situations that can occur on the open road.  The pros have tens of thousands of miles of driving experience and know the safest routes to ship a car. What’s more, all professional car shipping companies provide adequate insurance.

Good to know: Most auto shipping companies put cars on open-air trailers where they can be easily affected by bad weather and other dangers on the road. If you want your vehicle to be better protected from the elements, you can have it shipped in an enclosed truck for an extra charge. Although the cost is about 50 percent higher, it might be worth it if you’re transporting a high-end vehicle or if you’re moving in the middle of the winter.


Last but not least, you will certainly want to choose the car transportation method that will be most beneficial for you and your family.

When shipping a car across country, you’ll have to prepare your vehicle for transportation and be present for pre-shipment inspection. And that’s it – the auto shippers will take care of everything else. You won’t need to worry about road conditions, traffic issues, parking problems, hotel stays, breakdowns in the middle of nowhere, etc. You won’t have to take extra time off from work and spend days on end behind the wheel – you will arrive at your destination quickly and without any effort on your part and will have the time and energy to unpack, arrange your new home, explore your new surroundings, etc. Your vehicle will be delivered to your door (or to a terminal in your new city).

Driving to your new home will ensure maximum comfort for your children and pets (you will be able to stop frequently, play games in the car, etc.), will give you the chance to visit nearby historical sites and places of interests, and will help reduce the moving stress and turn your relocation endeavor into an exciting adventure. You will also be able to take all your essentials and valuables with you (as well as any non-allowables you want to bring along) and reduce the final cost of your move. Just be sure to get your vehicle serviced before the trip.

Both options have their own advantages and disadvantages – you need to weigh them carefully and choose the one that better suits your particular situation. Of course, if you have more vehicles than licensed drivers in your family, shipping may be the only viable solution.

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