How to avoid car shipping scams?
For a smooth vehicle shipping experience, invest some time to understand how to ship a car the right way – learn what entities are involved in the process, understand the auto transport price equation, read the terms and conditions, call and ask questions. Learn how auto transport works – the more you know the better experience you will have.
Learn about the auto transport company
First things first, understand who you are dealing with. In your search for an auto transporter you will come across the following entities: lead providing and auction websites, carriers and brokers.
Lead provider websites
Lead providers make you believe they are either a carrier or broker when in reality they are none. They collect your information and then sell it to multiple other companies.
So, whenever you see a promise of multiple car shipping quotes from one single company, think twice before you leave your contact information on their website. There is a big chance you’ll be contacted, and maybe even hounded, by multiple companies trying to sell their services.
This will be annoying and in most cases these are not reliable five star rated companies.
Such websites foster underbidding wars between companies driving auto transport rates to unrealistically low values. Booking at a “too-good-to-be-true” price means you will have to wait weeks before your vehicle gets picked up or you will receive a call asking for more money in order to move your car.
Most carriers are mom and pop businesses that will physically transport your vehicle. They would rather be on the road making money, moving cars. Hence, many carriers don’t even have an online presence and can not learn anything about them – neither reputation nor safety ratings. They work with brokers to fill their empty spots on the trailer.
Many brokers are both a carrier and a broker. Most brokers, however, don’t have their own fleet, but their license allows them access to all carriers in the country. However, reliable brokers work with select group of carriers with high safety ratings.
They do all the legwork to find the right carrier and accommodate your particular situation. They will check the carrier’s ratings, will make sure it has proper insurance and all the necessary equipment, should your car’s condition require it.
Reliable, established brokers work for you and for the carrier. They make sure the price you receive is fair, as well as the carrier’s rate. This is called offering current, realistic and fair market prices to both the provider and the end consumer.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to help you better grasp the difference between brokers and carriers, and their roles in the auto transport industry.
Whether you decide to work with a broker or carrier, make sure you select a reputable company. Gather all the information you can about your potential auto transport company – name, address, phone numbers, USDOT license information and insurance policy. Consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and see if the car shipper’s license is active.
Ask the company rep for referrals. A business referral is always a good source of legitimacy. You can go further and read online reviews, but take them with a grain of salt. Don’t dismay if you find some complaints and negative reviews – it is normal for a business to receive some negative feedback.
Understand your auto transport rate
It’s important to understand what affects the cost to ship a vehicle. In general, the cost to ship a car depends on several factors:
- distance and location
- car’s make, model and modifications
- car’s condition – running or not
- type of carrier – open or enclosed carrier
- current supply and demand situation
The car shipping business is competitive, so it’s only normal to get some quotes spread acorss the price spectrum. But here’s why you shouldn’t settle for the lowest price. Both brokers and carriers use the same third-party database, which shows vehicles that are awaiting shipment, what customers are willing to pay to ship their cars, and what’s been paid for the same route in the past. So, after checking the database, carriers pick the higher paying vehicles first.
The current supply and demand on any given route is extremely imporant – so is paying the current market price, if you want your vehicle transport fast.
In other words, you as a customer compete with other customers for your car’s spot on the carrier. And when the demand is high, prices increase, and better-paying vehicles usually ship first. Carriers prefer loads that pay a realistic price.
Anything lower than the current market rate means that you will have to wait longer for a carrier to pick-up your vehicle. Unfortunately, certain dishonest companies take advantage of this situation and use it to make money off their unsuspecting customers.
Read your auto transport contract
In vehicle shipping, there is not any paper contract that you sign officially. Similar to many other services and products you buy online, your confirmation and the company’s terms and conditions represent the contract. The confirmation email will walk you through the process, and the terms and conditions will go into the details of service.
The Bill of Lading is another important document you shouldn’t ignore. It’s not only a receipt but also a pick up and delivery inspection report. Don’t skip the inspection regardless of time of the day and weather conditions. It’s important that you don’t skip this step. If you fail to document the damages, you won’t be able to claim compensation later.
Talk to a representative
Despite all of your research and all you have found out online, call and talk to a person. Pick up the phone and dial the number on the company’s website; ask all of your car shipping questions. Try to find out all about the company and how shipping a car works, ask the person on the phone to walk you through the terms and conditions of service.
In most cases, you will be able to trust your instincts and learn a lot from a phone call. If you feel that you can trust the company, after you have talked to an agent, it means they have really answered all of your questions and made you feel at ease. The next step, however, would be to go online and read customer reviews.
Follow through with this steps and you will save yourself a headache and some money because you will know how to avoid a car shipping scam. Your car is a big investment and it’s important to be able to trust your car moving company.