Open vs. Enclosed Car Shipping


Are you planning to move to a new state? If you are moving long distance, you may want to have your vehicle shipped rather than drive it by yourself. Generally, there are two main shipping methods to choose from - open and enclosed. Below, there is some helpful information to aid you in making an educated choice. Which car shipping option is best for you, considering your particular budget and your vehicle?

What is the difference between Open and Enclosed Auto Shipping?

Both open and enclosed car shipping are performed via a truck.

With open transport, your car is usually transported on a long, two-level trailer. Open transport is suitable for any type of vehicle, especially for standard models or used cars.

With the enclosed transport, your car is shipped via a car carrier with a fully enclosed trailer. This shipping method offers much higher security and protection. Enclosed transport is usually required from owners who wish to move a new car, a vintage car, or a collectible.


Pros and Cons of Open Car Shipping

Pros: Shipping via an open transport method is much faster and economical than enclosed transport. It is easier to book this type of transport, as it is more common. There are more open-air car carriers servicing the American customer. The bottom line is that you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to pick-up and delivery dates.

Shipping your car via an open car carrier is less expensive, as 7 to 10 vehicles can be loaded onto a two-tier trailer and shipped simultaneously. An open-air trailer generally weighs less than an enclosed trailer, so fuel costs are lower.

Cons: The open transport trailer is open-air which means your vehicle is exposed to current weather conditions. Your car receives a minimum level protection from road debris while in transit. Nevertheless, it may arrive dirty, as cars shipped via an open trailer are not individually covered.

You could possibly request a “top load” for open car carriers, so your car will be loaded on the upper deck. That way your car will be protected from road debris and potential leakage from vehicles that are loaded on the second deck. Keep in mind that this request may incur additional fee.

Types of Open-air Carriers

There are three main types of open car shipping carriers are:

  • Two-level, multi-car carriers – those are the most widespread.
  • Single-level, multi-car carrier – these carriers are usually used when transporting super cars or luxury vehicles, or when expedited service is requested.
  • A dually truck – single-vehicle car carrier that is used to transport cars over a short distance, or when expedited shipping is required.

Open vs. Enclosed Car Shipping: Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Enclosed Car Shipping

Pros: When your vehicle is shipped via an enclosed trailer, it is protected from the weather elements and road debris. Enclosed car carriers offer better security and protection in transit. Drivers who operate enclosed car carriers are generally more experienced in handling high-end vehicles.

Some auto transport companies who are specialized in providing a white glove service can offer a greater level of insurance, even a single-car carrier. They will support you through the process by being available around the clock and with instant updates. This option guarantees you that the driver will pay full attention to your special requests.

Cons: Enclosed car carriers can move fewer cars simultaneously. That makes the enclosed shipping more expensive compared to using an open carrier. Enclosed carriers are heavier and generally are not that fuel-efficient. Fuel costs are higher with this shipping method. Typically, enclosed car shipping is pricier than the open-air method.

Types of Enclosed Carriers

As far as trailer structure is concerned, there are soft-sided and hard-sided trailers. Enclosed car shipping is a method where multi-car trailers, two-car trailers, or one-car trailers are used.

  • Multi-car enclosed trailers can confidently accommodate seven cars. This is usually the least expensive option if you are considering the enclosed auto shipping.
  • Two and one-car trailers cost more. They are often used for high-end, antique, or rare vehicles, or for expedite jobs.

What Other Factors Affect the Cost of Shipping a Car?

Choosing enclosed auto transport over open auto transport (and vice versa) will affect your final bill. Nevertheless, there are other factors that greatly prevail your auto shipping cost. Generally, your final bill is calculated based on the following factors:


The route distance will affect your final shipping price. Although the rate per mile is lower for longer routes, short distance moves can still cost almost as much as long distance.


If you live in a rural area, shipping your car can be a challenging process. There is limited availability when you are shipping to a remote area. Also, pick-up and delivery may take more time.

Vehicle make, condition and model: Smaller cars that weigh less are easier and cheaper to ship than larger and heavier ones. If there are any further modifications to your vehicle that will probably affect your quote as well. Furthermore, if your vehicle is in inoperable condition, a forklift may be required to load your car to the trailer.

In order to make the right choice and decide which auto transport method will be best for you, consider the level of protection you need. If it is an antique or collector’s car, you will want to use a fully-enclosed trailer. The biggest advantage of enclosed auto shipping is that the cars are protected from weather elements such as rain, hail and snow. An enclosed car shipping carrier offers the highest level of protection.

If you have a common model car or motorcycle, then a car carrier with an open-air trailer should fit your needs just fine. As it is recommended, try to get at least three quotes for car shipping services, so you can compare rates and services. Look for licensed and insured auto transport companies near you. Do not skip the research part and do not be afraid to ask questions to potential auto transporters.


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