Finding a Car Transport Company for your Corvette
When you start looking for transport companies to get your newly acquired Corvette safely back home you’ll find you have plenty of choices. Enough in fact to make narrowing it down pretty confusing. As with most things you get what you pay for with transport services, so don’t make your decision based solely on price. You've spent countless hours searching hundreds of Corvettes for sale. When you finally find the perfect one, bringing it home should be an exciting experience. Don’t risk starting it off poorly by using a cheap transport company that ends up damaging your car.
A good way to find a reliable transport company is to check with local Corvette clubs or online Corvette forums. You’ll typically find several members who have used different companies and can give recommendations; either for or against. Classic car publications such as Hemmings Motor News or Corvette Monthly are also good sources, but there’s no substitute for personal recommendations.
Be sure to find out if the company you’re talking to actually owns the trucks or if they’re only a broker that contracts out to the lowest bidder. Usually you want to contract directly with the actual hauling company, not a broker. If there’s a problem you want the hauling company to be responsible directly to you, not a middle man (broker) that you may or may not be able to get in touch with.
Just like with Corvette financing, find at least 3-4 companies and then get quotes to compare. Many will have web sites where you can get online quotes, but don’t make a final decision until you’ve called and talked to a live person to confirm. There may be fine print or limitations that the online quote doesn’t make apparent. Be aware that quotes assume the car to be transported is in good running condition, so they can drive it on to the truck and rearrange all the cars they’re hauling as needed from stop to stop. A non-running car will cost you more to transport because it involves more time and equipment to winch the car on and off the trailer.
Most quality auto transporters will be roughly in the same price range. A quote that’s significantly less then the others is a red flag that you may not be happy with their service or timing. Don’t make your decision based on price alone. The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly applies to transport companies.
Types of Transport Trucks
When researching price you need to be aware of the different types of trucks in order to properly compare apples to apples. The style of truck you use can be dependent on the car you ship. You need to understand if your Corvette has special needs which would affect the shipping price.
- Open Trailers – Open transports will be the least expensive option, but also the least secure. You risk potential damage from road debris, weather and vandalism. These can also be tough on convertibles, especially if it’s a classic Corvette with an aging top. Open trailers would be a good choice for a project car or daily driver still needing a full restoration. A show car or freshly painted restoration really has no business on an open trailer. Most transport companies will quote an open trailer unless you ask specifically for enclosed, so keep this in mind when getting initial quotes.
- Enclosed Trailers – An enclosed transport will be a hard sided, fully enclosed box that your Corvette gets driven into. These trailers fit only 3-4 cars typically, as opposed to 8-10 on an open trailer. This makes an enclosed trailer the most expensive option, but for obvious reasons it’s also the most secure. You won’t have to worry about hail storms, rock chips, parking lot theft or gale force wind buffeting your recent purchase. Any high dollar car or recent restoration should be shipped using an enclosed trailer.
- Curtain Sided Trailers – Sometimes called “soft sided”, these are a hybrid between the open and fully enclosed trailer options. Typically these trailers are surrounded by flexible plastic or fiberglass panels. They aren’t quite as secure as a hard sided trailer, but do a good job protecting against weather and road debris.
In addition to the type of protection the trailer offers, you need to be aware of the loading style it uses; ramps or lift gate.
- Ramps – Ramps are the norm for open trailers and some curtain sided. As the name implies, they use metal ramps to drive your Corvette up onto the trailer. For some cars this is fine, but keep in mind that the loading angle can be steep. Corvettes with low ground clearance can be a problem. The same goes for front spoilers, ground effects, low exhaust outlets, etc. Also, high performance Corvettes with lopping cams and tons of torque may be tough to inch up the metal ramps without spinning the tires or jolting forward. And if you expect snow or ice at either the pick up or drop off location the metal ramps on an open trailer can become extra tricky to navigate.
- Lift Gate – The more expensive fully enclosed trailers will typically have a lift gate instead of ramps. This is by far the better way to load up a car, and may be the only way for some low to the ground cars. A lift gate is a platform that lowers to the ground, you drive the car onto it, and then it’s raised hydraulically to the level of the trailer floor. Basically it’s a car elevator. There are no steep angles or slipping ramps to consider.
Door-to-Door vs Terminal-to-Terminal
Another decision that will affect cost is whether you chose door-to-door transport or terminal-to-terminal. It’s certainly more convenient for you if the truck picks up at the seller’s house and drops off at yours, but also more expensive. Expect $400 or more of a premium for door-to-door service.
If using door-to-door then think about the road conditions the truck will encounter, both at pickup up and drop off locations. Are there physical limitations that would impede the truck’s access? Remember these are big, long rigs; typically 75’ or longer. Steep or long driveways, dead ends with no turn around, dirt roads or overhead restrictions like low trees or bridges can cause problems on pickup day. If the driver sees that he can’t get to either the pickup or drop off locations he’ll have to make alternate arrangements, like meeting you at a nearby parking lot. This will be at best an inconvenience to you and at worst an additional cost and delay.
Terminal-to-Terminal - You may be able to save considerably if you can arrange for the car to be taken to the transport facility and then pick it up and the corresponding facility nearest you. If these transport hubs (terminals) are close to both you and the seller, then this can be a good option and save some money. This is something you should discuss with the seller during the bidding process to see how much extra effort they’ll be willing to put in to sell the car.
Timing and Schedule
It’s important to understand that you can’t call for a transport to pick your car up next Tues and then drop it at your door 2 days later. Transport companies don’t work that way. In order to make money they need full trucks. They have to coordinate picking up and dropping off several cars to and from several different cities spread out all over the country. They consolidate where possible of course, but they still can not make deliveries in tight time frames. Expect your pickup window to be several days or even weeks. Drop off will be the same way. It could happen within days of the pickup, but more likely it will be a week or more, even if the car is only travelling 2 states away.
What this means, in addition to you not getting your car immediately, is that you probably will have to arrange temporary storage at the seller’s location. From the date you and the seller exchange money and title it could be a week or more before the transport company can be there to pick up. Of course you should have the car insured at this point (more on that later) but the bigger problem is actually storing the car. If you have a good feeling about the seller and he has the ability, you can have him keep the car until the transport arrives. But understand that as soon as you pay for it the car is yours. Anything that happens to it while waiting for pickup is technically your responsibility. Even with that being the case, many sellers won’t want to even take the chance of liability and will want the car gone as soon as they sell it.
If the seller won’t store the car for you (or you don’t feel comfortable having them do so) then you’ll need to find storage elsewhere. Check with a local storage facility. They should either have a storage room large enough for a car or parking spaces specifically set up to store cars. The value of your new Corvette will dictate which option you use. Keep in mind that even though the storage lot may be fenced, parking outside still leaves your car vulnerable. Also, someone needs to be at the location to meet the transport driver and sign off on the bill of lading.
Another storage option may be terminal yard controlled by the transport company. If you can arrange for the car to get to their yard, then you can check it in there and leave it until the truck arrives for pickup. There’s likely to be an extra charge for this, but it may be offset by the fact that their truck doesn’t have to pickup at the seller’s house. Door to door deliveries are more costly.
What is a Bill of Lading?
The BOL is the contract between you and the transport company. It describes to you and the transport driver the specifics of shipping your car. It includes costs, identifies the car to be shipped (including VIN and mileage), notes damage and general condition of the car (Condition Report), sets pickup and drop off locations and dates (specific or ranges) as well as any special conditions. Basically it identifies the package (your car) and tells the driver what to do with it.
Insurance During Transport
Always, ALWAYS have insurance on your newly purchased Corvette starting from the minute you make payment. This applies in all cases, even if the seller is just across town. It’s even more critical if you’ll be transporting it across the country. It might surprise you that most transport companies carry insurance only to cover driver negligence. This means if a rock cracks your windshield or a freak hail storm hits or even if your car is vandalized in a parking lot, it’s not covered. That’s why you need your own insurance in place as soon as you own the car. And remember, this may include days or weeks before you actually take possession. As soon as the title is signed over to you, the responsibility is now yours. Even if the seller offers to keep the car in their garage until the transport truck arrives, his insurance won’t cover it.
So arrange to have your new Corvette covered by your own insurance with a quick phone call. As soon as you’ve won the auction call your insurance company and have them set up a policy, but not activate it yet. This way you can give them all the info they need ahead of time. Then, days or weeks later when you actually close the deal you simply need to make a quick call to your insurance company and have them activate the new policy. When talking to your insurance agent explain that you’ll be transporting the car to your location. They may recommend specific coverage for just the short time the transport company has possession of your new car. Cost on this type of coverage should be negligible.
By doing some legwork ahead of time you’ll only have to make a 5 minute phone call to sleep well at night while your new Corvette is traveling across the country.
While on the subject of insurance provided by the transport company, you should read their policy carefully. Some will limit their liability, even if they are at fault for the damage. Try to avoid such a limit, but if you can’t avoid it at least be sure the maximum amount is more then the purchase price of the car. It’s also important to understand what procedures they require you follow should there be a problem. They may have deadlines for reporting damage or special requirements for giving them notice (ie. certified mail). Of course you hope to never have to use this information, but it’s important to not be surprised by some limitation should damage occur.
Ideally you would be there personally to supervise both the pickup and drop off. However, often this just isn’t feasible. Either way, someone (possibly the seller) will need to meet the transport driver when the car is picked up. The driver will do a walk around and make note of any existing damage to the car. This will be recorded on the Bill of Lading. Upon delivery they’re repeat this check to verify nothing has happened during transport. The car should be recently washed to make the inspection easier. Any items that might be potentially damaged (like antennas) should be removed or completely retracted.
Often the sale of a classic Corvette will include some extra parts. Maybe they’re parts needed to finish a restoration or factory original parts (like carburetors or wheels) that need to be kept should the car be returned back to original condition. Keep in mind that most transport companies will not want to hassle with these, arguing that it’s illegal to transport loose items inside a car being hauled. Certainly they won’t be responsible for them. If you can’t get them home any other way at least package them up securely and stow them in the trunk with tie downs so they don’t move around and aren’t visible.
It will be an exciting moment when that big lumbering truck finally pulls in front of your house with your new Corvette on it. But don’t get so excited that you neglect a few house keeping items. Once the car is unloaded do a thorough walk-around looking for any damage. The transport driver should be doing the same thing. He did a similar inspection at the pickup location and will need to verify that no new damage has occurred during transport. Once off the truck, start the car up and drive to the end of the block and back. It’s rare that any mechanical damage would occur, but if your car was ramp loaded the driver could have smoked the clutch or tweaked the suspension. Of course it’s critical that you know the condition of the car as it left the seller’s house. If you bought your Corvette sight unseen then you can only rely on the seller’s photographs (or hopefully video) to compare any problem areas.
Hopefully your inspection won’t reveal anything, but if it does you need to let the driver know immediately and in writing. You also need to document the damage (and the rest of the car while you’re at it) with photos and/or video. Again, do this in the presence of the transport driver so there will be no discrepancy later. Getting a shot or two with the driver and truck in the frame won’t hurt either.
In summary, remember that price should not be your sole, or even primary consideration when selecting a transport company. Getting your new toy delivered may not be cheap, but remember the cost in the context of your purchase. A Corvette is not an inexpensive vehicle and corners shouldn’t be cut in protecting your new investment. You now have the knowledge to be selective and informed when hiring a transport company. By understanding the process and planning ahead your new Corvette should have an uneventful journey and then be safely tucked away in your garage.