Auto Transport Broker VS Carrier Facts

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Learn about the auto transport carrier – broker relationship. Review our guide and call us if you have any questions.

  1. What is an auto transport broker?
  2. What is a vehicle hauling carrier?
  3. What is the difference between a broker and a carrier?
  4. Why are there broker and carrier companies?
  5. How do I choose an auto transport company?

What is an auto transport broker?

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. 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 FMCSA and the DOT and get licensed.
  • Both carriers and brokers contract with customers to transport their vehicles. A carrier company contracts that its own trucks will transport your vehicle, while the broker company contracts with carriers 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 several factors, not by brokers or carriers alone. The most important is to work with a thrustworthy company. Brokers are licensed to manage logistics cargo  and contract with carriers to delivery that cargo. Reliable broker companies work for their customers to match them with an apporpriate carrier. Most auto transport carriers in the US are small 1-2 trucks companeis that only cover a limited number of routes. Customers often think they should work with carrier only, but for a customer to find a carrier that runs their desired route, has an open spot for their desired dates the chances are close to impossible. Most carriers do not have online presence and there is no way for a customer to find them. If you can find a carrier that matches your criateria you can certainly book with them. However, most carriers are visible only to brokers on national dispatch boards where a broker can check their license, insurance and safety ratings. A small number of large logistic companies are both a carrier and a broker, but they do not serve the whole country. Moreover, small carrier and broker companies keep the industry from monopolizaition such big companies could impose on the industry.


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About the Author:

I am the marketing director and the content curator. I believe in creating useful contnet for our customers and readers. I have been involved in the auto transport industry for several years and I enjoy it. 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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