Car Transport Scheduling

Car Shipments: Pick-Up Windows

Why Car Shipments Have Pick-Up Windows

If you’re in the process of planning a car shipment, you may have heard the companies mention windows of time when picking up your vehicle. Ever wondered what exactly these windows mean? Or why you can’t get your vehicle picked up any day you’re ready?

Unlike package delivery vans like the major postal services, car carriers may not be in your area every day. If you live in a more rural area, you probably don’t see much for carrier traffic. Even if you live in or near a large metro, there most likely won’t be a car carrier in your city every day that is going the specific direction your shipment is, especially if you have a specific day for pick-up. Maybe your vehicle has special requirements or has been modified. Each car shipment has different factors that can make for a quick or slightly longer pick-up.

Average car shipments

The average car shipment has an estimated pick-up window of 3 business days. So what makes it average? First, the type of vehicle you’re shipping. These are usually a mid-size sedan or small to mid-size SUV without any modifications to the vehicle. Examples of these would be a Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, or Kia Sportage. A second factor is the area of the delivery and pick-up locations. These would be major metros or just outside of a major metro, and/or along a well-traveled interstate route. For example, a city or town just off of Interstate 80 is easier to pick-up from than a metro located an hour off the interstate. The same goes for metros and towns- it’s easier to pick-up from an area in or near Sacramento, CA than it is in Milwaukee, WI. Average car shipments also have schedules that are fairly flexible or open, without too many special requests such as having too many restrictions on when the vehicle can be picked up or delivered.

Special car shipments

Special car shipments usually have an approximated pick-up window of 5 business days. There are a few factors that can make your transport a special car shipment. When a customer has too many special scheduling requests, this can make it difficult to schedule with a driver. A carrier whose trailer holds 10 cars has to coordinate 10 different schedules. If one of those 10 has a lot of restrictions for their pick-up schedule, it can be almost impossible for drivers to accommodate. Special requests include needing delivery or pick-up on a specific day or very restricted time frame with no flexibility and 24-hour notice prior to a pick-up. Drivers usually don’t schedule their loads until they are in or near an area. They also base their next pick-ups off where their route is headed and how many spots they have left. If you are not his first vehicle to load, he will base his next pick-ups on the routes of others already on the truck. Another factor is that you might be in a major metro, but it’s not near a major interstate or well-traveled route. Take for instance New Orleans, LA. What makes it a special car shipment location? If you look at a US roadmap, you’ll see New Orleans is south of the major interstate that connects the west coast to the east coast. It’s a few hours south in fact. In terms of car shipping, it’s actually not considered a major metro, as it’s not large enough to generate much of its own car transport traffic. Buffalo, NY is another perfect example of this. Located right on the border of Canada, it’s not a well-traveled route. From a west coast to east coast view, it’s a few hours north of the major route. The same would be from south to north. The opposite would be true for three places in Montana: Billings, Bozeman, Butte. Although you might think of Montana as completely out of the way, these three are actually located on the major route between Seattle and the east coast on Interstate 90. Since they are right on that major route, their pick-up windows can be closer to the 3-day window if the shipment is headed to the east coast near New York City or west towards Seattle.

Map of car shipment routes.


Extreme circumstance car shipments

Although rare, there are the occasional car shipments that would be classified as an extreme circumstance. These can have a pick-up window of over 5 business days. An example of a vehicle that is an extreme circumstance would be a Crew Cab Dually Truck with a lift kit and oversized tires. Basically, a step or two down from a monster truck. Not only does the lift kit change the height of the vehicle, but the oversized tires also alter the width. These types of vehicles sometimes require a carrier other than a normal car transporter. Locations that are considered extreme circumstance are long distances from any major metro or interstate. A great example is Eureka, CA. It’s located 270 miles outside of the closest major metro and separated from the nearest interstate by a mountain range. Traverse City MI is 250 miles outside of its nearest metro, Detroit. It’s also not on or near any well-traveled routes.

Lifted dually truck is considered an oversize vehicle shipment.


Consider the time of year

Just like traveling or real estate, car shipping has different seasons that play into both the costs and schedules. During the fall, it can be harder to get a shipment to most of the southern US, due to the number of people that winter in warmer climates. It all comes down to supply and demand – having enough carriers with enough spots to fill the demand of an area. The same situation can happen when college students start heading to or from school. Or during the summertime when a majority of people relocate to new homes.

When desperate times call for desperate measures

So what can do you do if you have a small window of time, HUGE SUV, and difficult pick-up location? Here are a few ideas:

  • See if a friend or family member can help you out.
  • Utilize your realtor, landlord, or other trusted person.
  • Change your pick-up location from your home to a nearby major metro or place closer to a major interstate route.

If none of these ideas are possible, there is one last option, but it comes with a fee. Many brokers and carriers have partnered with local car shipping affiliates, such as terminals, to help their customers in tight scheduling situations. Using a local car shipping affiliate is an upgrade, just like shipping your UPS or FedEx package overnight is. Affiliates offer services such as:

  • Ability to meet very precise pick-up or delivery time schedules.
  • Vehicle Inspection at drop off.
  • Fenced and gated secure storage.
  • Professional hauling equipment (for true door to door car shipments).
  • Car wash prior to delivery (fees applicable).

Seem like a lot of information to remember? It is and these factors, on top of others, make it difficult to guarantee certain days for pick up. It’s also why it’s important to hire the right broker or carrier for your car shipment. Scheduling a vehicle to be transported takes someone with experience. Make sure you are working with someone that knows how to anticipate traffic for all areas of the country. When you get ready to schedule your car shipment, ask how often they keep you informed and have patience as they work hard to get yours scheduled.

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