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Shipping a Car to Southern California

a vintage Ford Mustang

There's a bit more to it than just sticking the car on a flatbed.

But shipping a car to California isn’t as hard a task as you might think.

By The Editors

Thu, Apr 11, 2024 07:12 AM PST

Featured image by Kelly.

The state of California’s allure isn't just in its golden beaches, sprawling vineyards, and pioneering tech hubs; it's also the mecca for car enthusiasts of all kinds.. The state's renowned car culture, makes it a prime destination for owners of vintage and high-performance vehicles along with car lovers in general.

We can agree Soutern California isn't just a move - it's a transition to a new chapter in life. And often, this transition involves bringing along a rather big piece of your old home: your car.

Thankfully, shipping a car to California isn’t as hard a task as you might think. That being said, it's not just about the logistics involved; it's about making sure your vehicle arrives safely, affordably, and on time, of course. Whether you're moving for work, family, or simply a change of scenery, understanding the ins and outs of car shipping can save you dealing with problems down the line.

One you’re settled in Cali, events like Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the Los Angeles Auto Show, will be yearly attractions you won’t ever have to miss!

Getting Started

This shipper’s guide will navigate you through the process, from selecting a shipping company to preparing your car for its sun filled ride to the Golden State. So sit back and let’s get started.

Choosing a Car Shipping Company

When it comes to shipping your car, the very first step is selecting an auto transport company that is reputable and reliable, proven by third party reviews.  Not just the pretty ones you see on their site. Look for companies with positive reviews from outside sources, like Google and TrustPilot, for example.

A good auto shipper has transparent pricing and a history of delivering vehicles safely. It's also important  to decide between an open carrier—less expensive but exposes your car to the elements—and an enclosed carrier, which offers more protection but at a higher cost (Usually a service for high end or classic vehicles).

Let’s Look at some key elements to consider:

Experience and Expertise

Look for a company with extensive experience in shipping. They should be familiar with the specific needs and concerns associated with various kinds of vehicles, such as low ground clearance and sensitive finishes if you are shipping with an enclosed carrier..

Enclosed Transport

Always opt for enclosed transport if you have a high end vehicle like an exotic car or classic car. This offers the highest level of protection from dust, debris, weather, and prying eyes, ensuring your car arrives in pristine condition. We’ll talk more about Enclosed later on.

Insurance Coverage

Make sure the shipping company offers comprehensive insurance. For expensive vehicles, insurance  should cover what your car is worth and not have to tap into your insurance policy. Standard carrier policies may not cover the full value of an expensive vehicle if open car shipping is selected.

Reputation and Reviews

Research the company’s reputation. If you have  a niche vehicle that has a huge following, check within the car community you participate in.. Look for reviews and testimonials from other owners of vehicles like yours to gauge their satisfaction with the service.

How a company responds to reviews, especially negative ones, can tell you a lot about their customer service philosophy. Look for responses that are professional, respectful, and solution-oriented.

Understanding the Costs

The cost of shipping a car to California can vary widely based on several factors, including the distance, the type of transport, and the time of year. Generally, shipping from the East Coast might cost between $1,000 and $1,500 for open transport, while shipping from closer states will be cheaper. Always ask for quotes from multiple companies to ensure you're getting a fair price.

Looking for Enclosed? Expect to pay 40-60% more for the extra piece of mind. Shipping a classic or exotic car typically comes at a premium, reflecting the additional care, specialized equipment, and insurance requirements. While costs can vary widely based on distance, route, and service level. Obtaining quotes from several enclosed shipping services  will give you a better idea of the market rates and help you budget accordingly as well.

Understanding Enclosed Shipping

Enclosed shipping involves transporting a vehicle within a fully covered trailer, safeguarding it from external conditions. This method is particularly suited to classic cars for several reasons:

Protection from Weather and Debris

The enclosed structure of the trailer protects vehicles from rain, snow, dust, and road debris, which could potentially damage vintage paintwork or delicate parts.


Enclosed trailers offer a higher level of security, reducing the risk of theft or vandalism during stops or overnight parking. Truckers end their day at truck stops which is a prime location for this kind of activity.


Enclosed shipping keeps valuable vehicles out of sight, maintaining privacy and reducing the likelihood of unwanted attention and those prying eyes. Your bright yellow Viper would be quite the attention getter.

Preparing Your Car for Shipping

Preparation is key to ensuring your car arrives in the same condition it left. Clean your car inside and out, document any existing damage with photos, and remove personal items and accessories. Your gas tank should be no more than a quarter full to reduce weight, especially if you’ve added some extra items from home in the trunk. Remove toll transponders, forever actually as Southern California is the home of the Freeway. Tolls? We don’t need no stinkin’ tolls!

The Arrival

Once your car arrives in California, inspect it thoroughly for any damages that may have occurred during transit. If there are any issues, report them immediately to the shipping company to ensure you're compensated.

Embracing Southern California

With your car safely arrived, you're free to explore everything California has to offer. From the best beaches like that of Dockweiler State Beach, to the high desert of Willow Springs, having your car means you're not just a visitor—you're part of the vibrant culture and lifestyle that makes California unique.

Final Thoughts

Shipping a car to California is a significant step, but it doesn't have to be a stressful one if you are prepared. Although we can’t cover every nook and cranny, this guide should put you on the path to auto shipping zen.

Welcome to The Golden State, where your California dream starts with the open road.

This article was compiled by the editors of LACar.

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