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Enclosed Vs. Open Car Transport

While open car shipping is cheaper, enclosed car transport is a much safer option for vehicles.

From our #1 rated provider,


03/25/2024 04:09 PM

When booking transport services, your shipping company will ask you to choose between open car shipping and enclosed car shipping–but which is the best option for your needs? Our team will go through the differences in cost and what to expect when looking at open vs. enclosed transport services.

The best car shipping companies offer both open and enclosed car shipping options. To find out which company is best for your needs, we recommend that you get a free, no-obligation shipping quote from a few different providers.

The Gist:

  • Open car transport is a great option for those looking for the cheapest way to ship their car.
  • Enclosed car transport is the ideal choice for luxury and classic car owners needing to transport their vehicles safely.
  • Enclosed car shipping is almost double the cost of open air shipping.

What Is The Difference Between Open And Enclosed Car Shipping?

Open auto transport, also referred to as open car shipping or open carrier transport, is the most commonly used method for vehicle transport. With this method, car haulers transport vehicles on an open trailer, usually loaded with several other cars. Depending on the size, weight, and current shipping demands, multi-car open carrier trailers can accommodate eight to 10 vehicles at once.

When comparing open vs. enclosed car transport, open transport is much more affordable, as more cars can be transported at the same time and it offers less protection against the elements.

Enclosed auto transport is a method used to ship vehicles in an enclosed trailer. This transport type, often used by owners of rare and classic cars, offers extra protection from road debris and weather elements. However, enclosed transport isn’t the best option for cheap car shipping, as only two to three cars can be shipped at once. Additionally, enclosed car shipping serves a smaller consumer base, so there’s less flexibility in scheduling.

Pros And Cons Of Open Vs. Enclosed Car Transport

Each car shipping method has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to weigh all options when booking transport.

Is Open Car Shipping Worth It?

Here are some pros and cons of open car shipping:

Pros Most affordable method of car shipping Flexible scheduling Driver can regularly inspect vehicles for damage
Cons No protection from road debris or bad weather Less secure Inclement weather can cause sudden delivery delays

Is Enclosed Car Shipping Worth It?

Below are some pros and cons of enclosed car shipping:

Pros Safest way to ship a car Higher insurance policy limits Best for high-end vehicles and exotic cars
Cons More expensive than open shipping Ships fewer cars at a time Less fuel efficient

Average Cost Of Open Vs. Enclosed Car Transport

Based on quotes we received, the average cost to ship via open transport ranges from $500 to $3,100. Shipping via enclosed trailer usually doubles the cost of a transport, with quotes we received showing a range of $1,400 to $2,100. 

Our research team reached out to the top car shipping companies to compare pricing on open and enclosed transport. Below are quotes for an operable 2019 Hyundai Elantra traveling from Rapid City, South Dakota to Atlanta, Georgia–a distance of 1,504 miles:

A-1 Auto Transport$1,156N/A
Easy Auto Ship$1,447$1,947
Montway Auto Transport$1,409$1,849
Nexus Auto Transport$1,225$1,825
RoadRunner Auto Transport$1,185$1,837
SGT Auto Transport$1,295$3,660

What Affects Open Vs. Enclosed Transport Prices

Regardless of the transport method you choose, there are a number of factors that affect car shipping costs:

  • Type of vehicle, make, and model: New cars and larger cars typically cost more to ship.
  • Shipping distance: Long-distance shipping costs less per mile but more overall.
  • Operable vs. inoperable vehicle: Cars that aren’t driveable require more labor to load onto the carrier.
  • Shipment type: Door-to-door shipping is generally more expensive than terminal-to-terminal shipping.
  • Season: Car shipping demand usually increases during January and the summer months.

Best Companies For Enclosed And Open Car Transport

We researched some of the top auto transport companies for open vs. enclosed transport and rated them based on reputation, cost, services, and customer reviews. Here’s how they rank:

Top Car Shipping CompaniesOur Overall
Montway Auto Transport4.
Sherpa Auto Transport4.
SGT Auto Transport4.
Nexus Auto Transport4.

Montway Auto Transport: Best Reputation

We awarded Montway Auto Transport the designation of Best Reputation in the country. The car shipping broker provides both open and enclosed transport at affordable prices by working with over 15,000 carriers nationwide. Montway ships to all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as international destinations.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives the auto transport broker an A+ rating. Customers rate Montway as highly reputable, giving the company an average of 4.6 stars out of 5.0.

Discover more in our full Montway Auto Transport review.

Montway Auto Transport Best Reputation
BBB Rating : A+ Phone : 844-601-0286 Coverage : 50 states
Pros & Cons
Pros Strong reputation, customer satisfaction, and industry ratings Carrier vetting Large network of 30,000+ carriers Offers expedited delivery Competitive pricing Cons No real-time tracking or mobile-app; must contact company for tracking info No guaranteed pricing $249 cancellation fee No specialty shipping services for recreational vehicles (RVs), boats, trailers, or other watercraft Intrusive Pop-up Ads

Montway Auto Transport is a reputable auto transport broker offering several car shipping services and cheap car shipping rates. We named it the Best Reputation car shipping company for 2024.

Sherpa Auto Transport: Best For Locked-In Rates

Our research team finds Sherpa Auto Transport to be the Best for Locked-In Rates. The transport broker locks in its pricing, meaning the price quote is the final price you’ll pay. 

Sherpa Auto Transport provides both open transport and enclosed car shipping to the lower 48 states. The BBB rates the shipping company with an A+ and customer reviews give Sherpa an average rating of 4.9 stars out of 5.0.

For more details about locked-in pricing, read our complete Sherpa Auto Transport review.

Sherpa Auto Transport
BBB Rating : A+ Phone : 888-202-7706 Coverage : 49 states
Pros & Cons
Pros Locked-in shipping rates through the Price Lock Promise Vetted network of reliable and friendly carriers Strong customer service ratings on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Offers a Clean Car Guarantee Cons Slightly higher prices than competitors Does not provide terminal-to-terminal shipping

Sherpa Auto Transport has many strengths, from excellent customer service to the added security of the Price Lock Promise.

SGT Auto Transport: Best Price-Match Guarantee

We found SGT Auto Transport to have the Best Price-Match Guarantee. If a shipping competitor gives a cheaper shipping quote, SGT will match that price. The shipping company provides open and enclosed shipping to all states except Alaska. It receives a B rating with accreditation from the BBB.

Check out our full SGT Auto Transport review to learn more.

SGT Auto Transport Best Price-Match Guarantee
BBB Rating : B Phone : 864-635-4879 Coverage : 49 states
Pros & Cons
Pros Available in 49 states Offers price matching Has an option for a guaranteed pickup date Cons Doesn’t offer real-time tracking No terminal-to-terminal shipping option

We give SGT Auto Transport an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. This shipping broker has an outstanding reputation and offers affordable options for car transport services. Price matching, express shipping, and guaranteed pickups are other great features of SGT Auto Transport.

Nexus Auto Transport: Best Insurance Coverage

Nexus Auto Transport got a near perfect score for the Services category and has the award for Best Insurance Coverage. The shipping provider showcases its versatility by offering open and enclosed shipping, door-to-door and terminal-to-terminal shipping, as well as expedited shipping. Nexus has an A+ rating and accreditation by the BBB and an average customer review rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.0. 

For more information on their wide range of shipping services, check out our Nexus Auto Transport review.

AmeriFreight: Best Shipping Service Options

AmeriFreight works with a wide network of fully vetted car carriers providing open and enclosed auto transport to all 50 states. AmeriFreight is our choice for Best Shipping Service Options, as it offers discounted pricing to members of the military, students, first responders, and more.

The company holds an A+ rating from the BBB and nearly 500 customers on the organization’s reviews section give AmeriFreight an average of 4.8 out of 5.0 stars.

Read more in our full AmeriFreight review.

AmeriFreight Best for Discounts
BBB Rating : A+ Phone : 855-460-6609 Coverage : 50 states
Pros & Cons
Pros Affordable rates and several discount opportunities available Thorough carrier vetting process Excellent reviews on BBB; A+ rating and accreditation Offers a guaranteed price option Delivers coast to coast Cons No real-time GPS tracking or mobile app Charges extra for insurance No locked-in rates No international shipping

AmeriFreight is a leading car shipping broker that partners with over 10,000 car carriers to deliver a wide range of auto transport services. The company also works with government agencies, vehicle manufacturers, and retailers to deliver outsourced logistics services and shipping on a large scale.

Enclosed Vs. Open Car Shipping: Our Take

We reviewed and compared open and enclosed car transport to identify the best options for you. Enclosed shipping is much less common, but provides more protection for high-value vehicles. Open shipping offers less protection, but offers more availability and cheaper prices. Compare quotes from several providers to find the shipping provider that suits your needs best.

Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping: FAQ

Below are some frequently asked questions about open vs. enclosed car shipping.

Is open auto transport safe?

Yes, open auto transport is generally safe. Your car will be exposed to weather conditions and road debris like dirt, rocks, and bugs, but the open-air carriers are built to offer protection to vehicles. Reliable auto transport carriers are insured to cover the cost of any damage incurred along the way.

Is enclosed auto transport worth it?

Enclosed car shipping is more expensive than open transport. In general, you can expect to pay about 40 to 60 percent more if you ship via enclosed trailer. However, if you want to protect your vehicle from road hazards and weather, the extra cost may be worth it. Furthermore, enclosed car carriers usually have higher insurance limits to cover any damage to your vehicle during shipment.

Should I ship my car via open or enclosed transport?

If you’re looking for the most affordable way to ship your car, open car transport might be your best choice. If you own a classic or luxury vehicle that needs more protection, you may want to look into enclosed auto transport options to preserve your car and peace of mind.

How We Rate Auto Shippers

Our review process aims to deliver consistent and unbiased assessments of car shipping companies. While there are multiple qualities that make an auto transport provider successful, our review team focuses on those we believe are the most important for consumers:

  • Cost: Cost can be difficult to compare between providers because so many factors impact auto shipping rates. To determine our cost score, we perform a secret shopper analysis for a variety of vehicles and routes.
  • Services: Our team of experts looks at the types of services available, as well as insurance coverage and the ability to guarantee pickup and drop-off dates. Ratings also take into account whether the transport company is a broker or a carrier.
  • Reputation: It’s important that a car shipping provider is able to deliver your vehicle in a safe and timely manner. Companies with a strong rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) score well in this category. Established providers with a long history of reliable service also receive positive marks.
  • Customer Experience: We comb through consumer reviews on sites like the BBB to learn about customer experiences. Car transport companies with a low volume of complaints score well in this area.