What is the Difference Between Open and Enclosed Car Shipping – A Detailed Comparison

September 28, 2023Car Shipping Essentials
Kate Holland

A true grunge and rock music fan born in Seattle, Kate has moved across the country and started writing about her experience.

If you ever found yourself wondering what is the difference between open and enclosed car shipping, it usually means that you’re either planning on buying a new vehicle or you’re about to relocate. So before you choose, you should dive into a detailed comparison to understand the nuances, pros, and cons of each method.

The difference between open and enclosed car transport lies in the type of carrier and protection level. Open car transport uses open trailers, exposing vehicles to external elements, but is generally more affordable and widely available. Enclosed car transport utilizes covered trailers, offering vehicles protection from weather and road debris, making it ideal for luxury or classic cars, albeit at a higher cost.

Why Is Important to Know What is the Difference Between Open and Enclosed Car Shipping?

Knowing the difference between open and enclosed car shipping is crucial for anyone considering transporting a vehicle from state to state. It determines how your vehicle will be handled, its protection level during transit, and the cost involved. Whether you’re relocating to a new home, buying a new car, or sending a classic to an exhibit, understanding these differences ensures you make an informed choice tailored to your vehicle’s needs and budget.

If you’re wondering why even consider transporting your vehicle, there are some interesting facts when it comes to classic car ownership, as published by Statista.

An infographic with statistics concerning classic vehicles in the US

Open Car Shipping – Pros and Cons

Before diving into the intricacies of open car transport, it’s essential to grasp the broader strokes. Open auto transport is the most recognizable form of the service, where vehicles are loaded onto large, open trailers. Let’s break down the major aspects and weigh the pros against the cons.


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Advantages Highlighted

When using open car transport, one undeniable benefit is the transparency it provides. The clear visibility of vehicles allows for straightforward and speedy inspections upon both pickup and delivery. This ensures that the vehicle’s condition is meticulously documented, providing a stress-free experience to owners who are anxious about the care and handling of their cars.

Open car transport is typically more budget-friendly than its enclosed counterpart. For many standard vehicles or those that don’t demand extra layers of protection, this method becomes the preferred choice. The economic advantages can’t be understated, especially when you’re looking for value-for-money solutions.

Being the most common form of auto transport, this method usually guarantees higher availability. Whether you’re making last-minute plans or not, finding an open carrier is often more straightforward. This widespread accessibility ensures that even if you’re on a tight schedule with your plans to move, there’s a good chance you’ll find a suitable slot.

The Flip Side

While open car transport’s visibility is an advantage for inspections, it does come with exposure to external elements. Vehicles transported this way are at the mercy of weather conditions, road debris, and dust. The possibility of cosmetic damages, though not extremely high, remains a valid concern, especially in winter.

While the cost-effective nature of open car transport is appealing, it’s essential to factor in the potential risks. Any damage, even if minor, during transit could lead to additional expenses, potentially offsetting the savings from opting for this method.

Open carriers might be available aplenty, but they’re also in high demand. Especially during peak seasons (this means mostly during summer and not winter), this demand can lead to minor delays or logistical challenges. So, while securing a spot might be easy, anticipating the exact timing and how long it would take can sometimes be a tad unpredictable.

usa auto transport truck
Open trailers are budget-friendly and more available but expose vehicles to the elements

Enclosed Car Shipping – Pros and Cons

For a careful vehicle owner, ensuring the utmost care during transportation is paramount. Enclosed auto transport, often chosen for its premium protective features, offers a sanctuary for vehicles during transit. But, like all choices, it comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. Dive in as we unravel the pros and cons of this elite transport method.

Advantages Highlighted

With enclosed car transport, vehicles are given VIP treatment. Tucked away inside a covered trailer, they’re shielded from the unpredictable whims of Mother Nature – be it rain, snow, or hail. Beyond just weather, your precious cargo is also protected from road debris, dust, and other potential hazards that could mar its finish.

While enclosed car transport might come with a higher price tag, it offers unparalleled peace of mind. For luxury, antique, or specialty vehicles, this method ensures they remain in pristine condition throughout their journey. It’s a premium service tailored for those who deem their cars priceless.

Enclosed car transport isn’t just about covering vehicles – it’s about catering to unique needs. Whether it’s a vintage car that needs a climate-controlled environment or a luxury sports car requiring special handling, enclosed transport offers tailored solutions that open carriers can’t match.

The Flip Side

Undoubtedly, the added protection of enclosed transport is beneficial. However, this comes at a cost. Enclosed car transport can be notably more expensive than open transport, and for those on a tight budget, it might not be the most economical choice.

While the premium services associated with enclosed transport justify the price for many, it can be prohibitive for others. If your vehicle doesn’t necessarily require the extra protection or special handling, the increased costs might outweigh the benefits.

Though enclosed carriers are designed to handle special requirements, they aren’t as widely available as open carriers. If you have specific needs, scheduling might require more advanced planning. Additionally, not all enclosed carriers might offer the specialized services you’re after, necessitating a more thorough search.

USA Auto Transport
Enclosed trailers are pricier but usually requested for more valuable vehicles or winter transport

Choosing the Right Option for Your Vehicle

Transporting a vehicle isn’t just a logistical challenge – it’s also about matching the right service with the type and value of your car. Whether you own a car for city driving or a luxury automobile, understanding the nuances of various transportation methods will ensure your vehicle is transported with optimal care and efficiency.

Considerations for Luxury and Classic Cars

Luxury and classic cars aren’t just modes of transportation – they’re often cherished possessions with significant monetary and sentimental value. Enclosed transport, with its heightened protection, becomes an attractive option for such vehicles. This method provides protection from the elements, road debris, and potential prying eyes. Special requirements, such as climate control for vintage cars susceptible to extreme temperatures or humidity, can also be addressed.

Everyday Vehicles and Open Transportation

For the everyday vehicle, which might not carry the high value or unique requirements of a classic or luxury car, open transport often strikes the right balance between cost and care. It’s a method that’s been tried and tested for years, handling the majority of auto transports across the country. While the exposure to the elements is a factor to consider, the convenience, availability, and cost-effectiveness of open transport make it a favored choice for the daily driver.

Assessing the Cost Difference

Cost is often a determining factor in the choice between open and enclosed transport. Open car transport, due to its widespread availability and less specialized equipment, typically comes at a lower price point. Enclosed transport, while offering increased protection and specialized services, often carries a premium cost.

Calculator with writing cost on display.
When choosing a preferred method, costs play a significant role

Understanding Insurance and Liability

Insurance, in this context, acts as a safeguard for your vehicle during its transit journey to another state. Liability, on the other hand, determines the extent of responsibility the carrier assumes in case of damages. While every carrier is mandated by law to offer minimum liability coverage, the specifics can vary, making it essential for car owners to inquire and understand the details before handing over their keys.

Insurance for Open Shipping

Open car transport is the most common method of transporting vehicles, and with it comes standard insurance coverage. Typically, this covers potential damage from road debris, minor accidents, and natural elements like weather conditions. However, the coverage might not always encompass cosmetic damages or those that aren’t easily visible.

Due to the exposure of vehicles in open transport, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect and document your vehicle’s condition before transit, ensuring any post-transit discrepancies can be easily identified and claimed. It’s an essential part of transport preparations.

Insurance for Enclosed Shipping

Enclosed car transport, being a premium service, often comes with enhanced insurance coverage. Given that vehicles are protected from most external threats, insurance typically covers damages from loading and unloading, unforeseen accidents inside the carrier, or structural failures of the carrier itself. It’s a more comprehensive insurance package, reflecting the premium nature of the service.

However, as always, specifics can vary between carriers. Even with the heightened protection, you should still ensure a detailed inspection and documentation of your vehicle’s pre-transit condition.

Additional Coverage Options

For those who seek an extra layer of protection or have vehicles with exceptionally high value, looking into additional coverage options is a wise move. Many insurance companies and carriers offer supplementary packages or gap insurance that can cover beyond the basic liability offered.

Preparing Your Car for Shipping

Transporting a vehicle isn’t just about booking a service and awaiting its arrival at the destination. It demands meticulous preparation to ensure the process runs smoothly and the vehicle remains protected. From cleaning your car for a clear pre-shipment inspection to removing personal items and documenting its condition, there’s much to consider. This preparation minimizes the risk of misunderstandings, unexpected fees, or potential damage.

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Enclosed Auto Transport

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Preparations for Open Shipping

When opting for open transport, your vehicle will be exposed to the elements and external conditions. Here’s how to get it ready:

  • Clean your car – A sparkling exterior aids in identifying pre-existing dings or scratches.
  • Secure loose parts – Detach or secure elements like antennas, roof racks, or spoilers to ensure they don’t get damaged or lost during transit.
  • Empty the tank – Aim for about 1/4 full, as this reduces weight but leaves enough fuel for necessary maneuvers.

Preparations for Enclosed Shipping

Enclosed transport offers a heightened level of protection, but it comes with its own set of preparation guidelines. Given the contained environment, any leaks or unnecessary alarms can pose challenges. Thoroughly clean your vehicle to enable a detailed pre-transportation inspection. Ensure there aren’t any fluid leaks that might tarnish the car or the trailer’s interior. Also, it’s crucial to disable or provide instructions for any car alarms, as they can cause unwarranted disruptions during the journey.

If you want to learn a hack that will help you clean your faded headlights, watch the video below.

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Hire the Best Car Shipping Company and Have Your Vehicle Transported Without Stress

When it comes to shipping cars in the USA, it’s essential to choose a service that aligns with your needs and ensures the safety of your prized possession. Whether you’re looking for the convenience of door-to-door auto transport or the cost-effectiveness of terminal-to-terminal car shipping, the key is partnering with a reputable transport company.

USA Auto Transport stands as a beacon of reliability and efficiency in the industry. By choosing the best, you ensure peace of mind and a seamless journey for your vehicle. Don’t compromise on quality or trustreach out to USA Auto Transport today and let us handle the intricacies of your car’s transportation.


Is Open Car Shipping Safe for My Vehicle?

Yes, open car transport is widely used and considered safe for most vehicles. However, your vehicle will be exposed to the elements and potential road debris.

How Much More Does Enclosed Transport Typically Cost?

Enclosed car transport usually costs 30-50% more than open one, though prices can vary based on several factors.

Can I Pack Personal Items in My Car During Transit?

Most carriers discourage or have weight limits on personal items in the car due to safety and insurance concerns. Always check with your chosen company.

What Are the Insurance Requirements for Open vs. Enclosed Shipping?

Both methods require carriers to have liability insurance, but enclosed transportation often offers higher coverage due to the increased value of vehicles transported this way.

How Long Does It Take to Ship a Car Using Open or Enclosed Methods?

The duration is generally similar for both methods, but factors like distance, route, and demand can influence timing. Typically, coast-to-coast in the US takes 7-10 days.

How Do I Prepare My Classic Car for Enclosed Shipping?

Clean the car thoroughly, check for fluid leaks, disable alarms, and document its condition with photos. For extra-sensitive classic cars, consider requesting a climate-controlled unit.

Are There Specific Companies That Specialize in Open or Enclosed Transport?

Yes, some companies specialize in one or the other, while many offer both services. Research and reviews can guide you to specialists.

How Do I Decide Which Shipping Method Is Best for My Car?

Consider your car’s value, the cost difference between methods, your peace of mind, and any specific requirements your vehicle might have.

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