Auto Transport Broker VS Carrier Facts

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Learn about auto transport carrier – broker relationship. Check our complete guide below and make sure to call us if you have any questions.

We will begin by answering some commonly asked questions about the auto transport industry and the broker-carrier relationship. Read the full guide or scroll to find answers to the questions that interest you. If you have a question we have not addressed here check our FAQ page or call our team now.


  1. How does auto transport work?
  2. How much does auto transport cost?
  3. How long does it take to ship my car?
  4. What is an auto transport broker?
  5. What is a vehicle hauling carrier?
  6. What is the difference between a broker and a carrier?
  7. Why are there broker and carrier companies?
  8. How do I choose an auto transport company?


How does auto transport work?


Shipping a car is not as difficult as some might imagine. It takes some time to organize it, but it always happens faster when you are well informed.

This is how auto transport works:

  1. First you request a car shipping quote online or by phone.
  2. Second you schedule your shipment and choose first available pick-up date.
  3. Then you need to prepare your car for shipping and make sure you are available at the designated day and time to release the vehicle.
  4. At pick-up, as well as delivery you need to perform a vehicle inspection. Walk around car with the carrier and mark everything on the report.
  5. Lastly, at delivery sign the Bill of Lading, inspect your vehicle and pay anny remaining balance.

How much does auto transport cost?


The cost to ship a vehicle varies greatly based on a few elements. Just like with many other services or products, the cost is determined by a few major factors, and some minor such.


Major factors that affect the cost to ship a car are vehicle make and model, distance and location, type of carrier, vehicle condition and current market supply/demand situation.


It is very important that customers disclose vehicle make and model, the exact location for pick-up and delivery, and whether the vehicle is running or not. Then the other two important factors are type of car carrier – open or enclosed – and supply and demand situation.


To learn more about how auto transport costs are determined please refer to our complete guide here.


How long does it take to ship my car?


Shipping time depends on distance and location. However, total transit time is split into pick-up frame and delivery frame. For a carrier to pick-up a vehicle, customers usually need to allow one to five days. After pick-up delivery time depends mainly on the distance.


What is an auto transport broker? What do they do?


Brokers are the logistics management partner to every carrier and customer.


They provide a platform for communication, track current market conditions in order to quote the most realistic rates.


Brokers negotiate on customer’s behalf and make sure customer and carrier are on the same page during shipping.


Brokers have access to a database of carriers from around the country and can arrange for your car to be picked-up often the same day. This is one of the biggest advantages of using a broker / logistics management company.


Brokers are members of a strictly controlled system, licensed and bonded to contract with customers and carriers.


They carry a liability just like a carrier, however, a broker does not provide the insurance that covers your vehicle. They have surety bond that can bear claims from carriers. Customers’ vehicles are insured under the carrier’s cargo insurance, not the broker’s bond. The broker can provide you with the carrier’s certificate of insurance for verification at any time for your peace of mind.


Brokers manage the loads once they have contracted with a customer while carriers are responsible mainly for loading, unloading and driving.

Brokers do not perform the transport service themselves, but they find the best rated carrier that runs your route to transport your vehicle.


They will work with you on a rate to accommodate your budget and will manage the process from pick-up to delivery.


Contrary to popular believe, brokers stay in touch with the customer until they receive their vehicle at their delivery point. You can always call your broker to track your vehicle and ask questions.


For their work, every logistics management company – whether it is a small company of one or two brokers, or a big management entity –  charge a fee for the work they do.


Claims that brokers’ fees are non-refundable, no matter, what is not true. A broker will always refund your money if they have not been able to find a carrier.


When a broker has done their job to find a carrier, and after that the customer has decided to cancel the order only at that point of the shipping management the broker fee is not refundable.


What is a vehicle hauling carrier?


A vehicle hauling carrier is usually a double deck truck that can load up to ten automobiles at a time. It is driven by a professional CDL driver trained in loading, unloading and transporting vehicles.


The driver is usually an owner of the truck who decides on her/his routes.


The truck driver is the person responsible for picking up and delivering your vehicle.


A carrier can be a one-man company with one or two trucks, or a big auto transport company with many trucks.


Single owner operators make up about 80 percent of the whole fleet in the US.


With a few exceptions, most auto transport carriers only serve a limited number of routes. They do not divert too far from their designated routes because this would ultimately slower services to all customers and higher rates.


Some bigger carrier companies are registered brokers as well which gives them the opportunity to broker out your order to another carrier. This means that even when you think you are dealing with a carrier in some instances you go through a broker service.


Most auto transport carriers do not have an online presence and customers cannot find information about their performance and quality of services.


Dealing with a carrier company does not mean customers will pay less. A service costs what it costs. Whether that is time, equipment and effort to drive or to find and deal with customers, it all costs money.


What is the difference between brokers and carriers?


This is a commonly asked question when it comes to shipping any type of vehicle. We will not be stacking cards against neither carriers nor brokers. Our position is that a healthy functioning of the auto transport industry depends on both brokers and carriers.

Considering all we said about brokers and carriers we can summarize it here so you can see the differences.

A broker is a logistics management entity, a partner to its customers and carriers. The broker handles the management and offers its carriers loads. Brokers work as much as carriers, often spending 12 hours a day behind their desk. A carrier is a professional CDL driver trained in loading, unloading and transporting vehicles. The carriers accept loads from their brokers or shippers at a price they find reasonable. They know best the cost of moving a load and thus they define market prices. Carriers deliver vehicles to customers and their work day is usually 8 hours or regulated driving.

We would like to say that the main difference is that one is sitting behind a desk while the other is sitting behind the wheel. However, the stress and responsibility at the job is similar and equally shared. That applies to dispatchers as well.


When it comes to similarities, this is what you should know.


Both entities must register with the FMSCA and the DOT.

Both carriers and brokers contract with customers to transport their vehicles from point A to point B. A carrier company contracts that its own trucks will transport your vehicle while the broker company states they contract a carrier company to ship your car.

Both carriers and brokers cannot guarantee pick-up and delivery dates. It is not true that a carrier company can guarantee dates. In the auto transport industry dates are simply never guaranteed. Road, whether or truck condition can delay the transport service at any point in time during transit.

Guaranteed pick-up and delivery dates could be arranged only for a premium rate.

Both carriers and brokers offer door to door car shipping service. Yet neither of them can guarantee this type of service. If your area is restricted by narrow streets or residential rules and regulations a large truck may not be allowed to enter. In such case you will have to meet the truck driver at a nearby open area such as a parking lot.


Why are there broker and carrier companies?


Brokers and carriers are equally important for a fair and competitive industry.


In today’s market economy competition is important because it creates a system of checks and balances. Just like in many other industries, the engine of the auto transport industry is all small and midsize broker and carrier companies that work together on daily basis. This system of constant partnership keeps the prices competitive and does not allow monopolization of the market by large corporations.


How do I choose an auto transport company?


In the auto transport industry both carriers and brokers aim at offering the best possible service. They do their job and they get paid for it. This is how it works in every industry. The car shipping rates are dictated by many factors, not by the brokers or the carrier. Learn more about how much it costs to ship a car and then call us with more questions. Request a quote from us online or by phone and we will be happy to talk to you and give you a price.

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About the Author:

I am a co-owner and a marketing director at Corsia Logistics. I talk to people and help them get to know us. I am also the content curator of this blog. I have been involved with the auto transport industry for several years and I enjoy it very much. If you would like to contact me please do so via our contact us form or any social media channel. Thank you.
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