Preparing Your Vehicle for Open Car Shipping

If you’ve decided to ship your vehicle using open car transport, taking time to properly prepare your car, truck, or motorcycle for the journey ahead is essential to ensure a smooth, damage-free shipping experience. While open auto carriers offer flexibility and value, vehicles are more exposed to potential road debris and weather without an enclosed metal container.

The good news is that following some basic preparation tips will drastically reduce risks so you can feel confident during transport. We’ll walk through exactly what open car shipping entails, steps for optimally prepping different types of vehicles, legal/insurance considerations, and a final checklist before the truck arrives. Proper planning prevents poor performance – let’s get started!

Understanding Open Car Shipping

Open car shipping involves transporting vehicles on an uncovered trailer or carrier. This flexible, affordable transport method allows drivers to haul multiple vehicles of different types efficiently using two main trailer setups:

  • Single-level trailers carrying cars or small vehicles stacked in a row. The bottom vehicle rides directly on the trailer bed.
  • Double-deck trailers with an upper level for additional capacity are commonly used to carry SUVs, large trucks, or vans on the bottom deck with smaller cars above.

Benefits of open carrier transport

While enclosed trailers with four walls and a roof provide maximum protection, open auto transport greatly reduces costs and environmental impact for individually owned vehicles that don’t demand pristine conditions. Here’s how:

  • Cost Savings: Open auto transport typically costs 20-30% less than enclosed transport. For regular cars and trucks that don’t require pristine conditions, open carriers offer huge cost savings.
  • Availability & Convenience:  These carriers are far more plentiful than enclosed trailers, especially for more common vehicle types and popular routes. This allows greater flexibility in pickup times and faster overall transit.
  • Minimal Environmental Impact:  Open trailers are lighter weight and more fuel efficient compared to large enclosed containers. This reduces carbon emissions, waste, and environmental impact.
  • Ease of Loading: Most open trailers are either low profile or have built-in ramps, making self-loading of vehicles easier compared to enclosed carriers that may require lifting equipment. This also speeds up overall loading and unloading.
  • Customization & Accessibility: The variety of open trailer configurations, such as single/double-decker and removable tops, allows transporters to accommodate vehicles of all types. Disassembly of large vehicle parts is also easier if required.
  • Damage Mitigation: Options While open shipping poses higher weathering and debris risks, options like protective covers, wrap film, and padded trailer beds help safeguard vehicle conditions during transit at reasonable costs.

Essential Tips for Preparing Your Vehicle

You are already familiar with what open carrier shipping is and how beneficial this type of transport service can be. Next, we will explain how you can ensure a safe transport service by following some simple and actionable steps to prepare your vehicle:

#1. Cleaning and Documenting the Vehicle’s Condition

 Thoroughly wash your car, motorcycle, or other vehicle prior to transport to remove dirt and grime buildup. This will prevent loose debris from rubbing against the paint or body panels during transit. Carefully photograph any existing dents, chips, or scratches from all angles under good lighting. Documenting these flaws beforehand protects against any mistaken damage claims later.

#2. Removing Personal Items and Accessories 

Take out all possessions like phone chargers, toll transponders, garage door openers, and radar detectors. Remove third-party stereo faceplates and navigation systems if possible. Thieves can easily swipe small gadgets off open carriers. Give the interior a final sweep to ensure no personal effects get lost or stolen. For motorcycles, remove saddle bags, bike covers, or other detachable accessories that could flap around on the highway.

#3. Checking Fluid Levels and Tire Pressure

Top off vital automotive fluids like motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant, and windshield wiper reserves. Replace air filters if needed. Use a pressure gauge to inflate tires to the PSI rating stamped on the sides, including spare tires. Proper inflation prevents dangerous blowouts at highway speeds. These steps reduce breakdown risks en route.

#4. Securing Loose Parts 

Use bungee cords, netting, and fasteners to firmly secure any loose trim pieces, bumpers, mirrors, spoilers, racks, tailgates, hood ornaments, spare tires, etc. Road vibration can otherwise shake components right off the vehicle. For convertible tops, fasten or remove the canvas roof segment if possible to prevent wind damage. Use padding, foam blocks, or ties to stabilize the chassis on lowered-performance vehicles.

#5. Additional Preparation for Luxury & Classic Cars

 For valuable vintage, exotic, or high-end vehicles, take extra precautions, like covering the entire vehicle in a breathable sheet or wrapping it with protective film. Use microfiber cloths on paintwork regionally during the securing process. Disconnect and protect battery terminal cables to prevent battery acid leaks during transport. Remove or fasten hood ornaments securely. Although open shipping saves money, these investments deserve extra protection for peace of mind.

Here are some key legal and insurance considerations when shipping your vehicle on an open carrier:

Understanding Insurance Coverage 

Auto transport companies are required to carry cargo insurance policies on the vehicles in their custody to cover incidents like accidents, vandalism, or theft. However, damage from environmental causes like hail, storms, or road debris often falls under comprehensive coverage, which is the client’s car insurance responsibility. Review your provider’s transportation damage definitions so you know where transporter liability ends, and personal insurance begins. For high-value cars, consider adding contingent cargo insurance as an extra safeguard.

Necessary Documentation and Checks

 Legally confirming ownership and registration status is crucial when shipping vehicles interstate. Make sure the title and current registration documentation match the shipper and receiver names on the bill of lading. Verify state requirements for license plates and inspections during transitions. For financed vehicles, contact your lender to request a written letter of permission to transport if stipulated in the original terms. Performing due diligence with these legal vehicle ownership checks prevents complications down the road. Here is a list of the most important legal documents required when shipping a personal vehicle:

  • Vehicle Title / Registration: The official title proves legal ownership and facilitates registration transfer between states if relocating. Ensure your name matches the shipping paperwork.
  • Valid Driver’s License: Standard ID verifying you can legally operate the shipped vehicle. Matches the title owner in most cases.
  • Insurance Documents: Current proof of active liability coverage meeting minimum requirements in origin and destination states. Prevents legal fines.
  • Safety Inspection Certificate: If recently completed, this inspection report will be required to renew registration in the destination state.
  • Lien holder Permission Letter: For financed vehicles still under loan terms, written consent from the lender may be required to transport out of the area depending on the original agreement.
  • Bill of Lading Contract: This key paperwork certifies delivery of your vehicle to the transport company as the legal custodian and defines terms like pickup/drop-off timing, costs, liability policies, and shipment tracking access.
  • Condition / Inspection Reports: Documents detailing any interior or exterior damage present before shipping. Critical for resolving insurance claims if damage disputes arise later.

What Do You And The Shipper Needs To Consider?

On the transporter side, fully licensed and bonded auto-hauling companies rigorously comply with transport regulations like weight limits, commercial driver guidelines, and safety protocols. Responsible carriers also document condition reports before loading and notify clients promptly of any transit incidents.

As the client, following the preparation tips covered earlier, plus maintaining clear communication with your transport coordinator, greatly assists the smoother pickup, transport, and delivery process. Taking accountability upfront ensures legal compliance and mitigates problems through transparent collaboration. Both parties working together in good faith makes the shipping process seamless.

Comprehensive Checklist for Vehicle Preparation

 Right before the carrier arrives to load your car or motorcycle, conduct a thorough 360-degree final inspection using the checklist below:

Exterior Checklist:

  • Wash and hand dry the vehicle to remove dirt, grime,
  • Ensure existing exterior damage is photographed
  • Check all lighting – headlights, brake lights, turn signals
  • Secure any loose trim pieces like mirrors, door handles, and bumpers using ties
  • Make sure tires are inflated to proper PSI, including spare
  • Top off the windshield wiper and other fluid reservoirs
  • Fasten convertible roof parts and secure them to frame
  • Use padding or foam blocks to stabilize the lowered chassis

Interior Checklist:

  • Remove all personal items and accessories
  • Check all compartments like glove box, trunk, pockets
  • Protect front seats and console with sheet coverage
  • Disconnect battery cables (especially for classic vehicles)
  • Confirm that the car alarm and any anti-theft systems are turned off
  • Attach VIN info sheet and gate code card if required

Shipping Paperwork:

  • Gather valid title, registration, and applicable DMV docs
  • Confirm active insurance policy coverage documents
  • Include lender permission letter if financed
  • Review and sign the final Bill of Lading contract
  • Attach condition report w/ exterior damage details

By methodically walking around the vehicle and reviewing this list, clients help ensure nothing gets overlooked before transport while also actively preventing avoidable shipping damage.

Conclusion- Preparing for Success

As we’ve explored, properly preparing your vehicle for open auto transport requires attention to detail yet dramatically improves the shipping experience when done consistently. By cleaning, documenting, removing items, securing parts, and addressing tire pressure and fluids, vehicles meet the minimum standards for safe, incident-free transit. Additionally, examining insurance scope, title validity, lender notifications, and DMV regs satisfies legal compliance.

While enclosed trailers offer protection, open carriers provide value and customization options that fit most vehicle owners’ needs. By completing comprehensive checklists before and after the day of trailer loading, clients demonstrate shared responsibility with transporters. Building collaboration, communication, and accountability into the process results in seamless vehicle relocation that is free of preventable issues.

When you invest a little extra effort upfront, peace of mind follows! Adhering to these shipping preparation best practices ensures your car, motorcycle, or classic automobile safely reaches its destination intact.

Most Common Preparation Questions

How do I prepare my car for open car shipping?

Give the vehicle a complete detail wash, remove belongings & accessories internally, top off all fluids, check tire PSI, conduct a pre-transit inspection detailing existing damage, secure loose exterior parts like trim pieces or spoilers, and cover seats + console with sheets.

What are the essential steps when preparing a vehicle for transport? 

Clean inside/out, remove personal items, fasten/protect convertible roof parts, stabilize lowered vehicles, check bulb operation, photograph current dents/chips/scratches, verify registration/insurance paperwork compliance, and review + sign transport contract terms.

Are there specific requirements for luxury or classic cars using open shipping?

Yes – extra recommendations are disconnecting battery cables, covering paintwork when tying down, preventing cosmetic rubs/scratches, securing hood ornaments, and considering contingent cargo insurance for valuable rare vehicles for complete financial protection outside standard carrier policies.

How can I ensure my vehicle stays safe on an open carrier?

Safety begins with securing loose external/internal parts, inspecting tire PSI & fluid levels, verifying legal compliance paperwork, researching transport company reputation + reviews, communicating directly with drivers, and examining the final loading process + hauling approach. Fractional costs of wrap covers can mitigate risks.

Understand damage definitions in standard cargo insurance policies, which may exclude road debris or weather claims requiring comprehensive personal coverage instead. Confirm active personal liability limits meet state minimums origin/destination. Gather title, registration, and inspection docs proving ownership for transit legality. Notify lienholders if required and file necessary DMV paperwork when moving states.