How To Prepare Your Car For Shipping?

How To Prepare Your Car For Shipping?

Whether you’re journeying on a cross-country move, purchasing a vehicle from a distant location, or simply needing a simple enclosed car shipping, the process can be overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the steps, share essential tips, and help you make informed decisions.

Choosing how the vehicle will be transported is the first step, and then deciding who will handle the transportation. Once you’ve made the decision to ship your car to its new location and have secured a car shipping company, the next step is to properly prepare your vehicle for shipping. 

Things You Need to Prepare Your Car for Shipping

In this section, we will provide you with an overview of the key considerations and preparations necessary for shipping your car. From gathering necessary documents and washing your vehicle to documenting existing damage and removing personal items, we will guide you through each step of car shipping preparation

Gather Your Vehicle’s Documents

How To Prepare Your Car For Shipping

Gathering your vehicle’s documents is the first step in preparing for car shipping. It involves collecting all the necessary paperwork required by the auto transport company. The required documents may vary depending on the transport company and the specific circumstances of your shipment, but some common documents include 

vehicle’s registration, proof of insurance, and any additional documentation requested by the transport company.

Additionally, the auto transport company may request other specific paperwork, such as a notarized letter of authorization if someone other than the registered owner will be handling the shipment or special permits if your vehicle falls under any specific category or requirements.

Having these documents ready ensures a smooth and organized process. It allows the transport company to verify the ownership and legal status of the vehicle, ensuring compliance with all necessary regulations and requirements. 

Wash Your Vehicle 

Wash Your Vehicle 

Giving your car a thorough wash, both on the exterior and interior is an important step in preparing your vehicle for shipping.

Washing the exterior of your vehicle removes dirt, dust, and grime that may have accumulated over time. This improves the overall appearance of your car and allows for a clearer visual inspection of the exterior surface. By removing dirt and debris, you provide a clean canvas for identifying any scratches, dents, or imperfections that may already be present.

Cleaning the interior of your car is equally important. Vacuum the floors and seats to remove any dirt, debris, or loose items. Wipe down surfaces, including the dashboard, center console, and door panels, to ensure a neat and organized interior. By removing personal items and clutter, you create a safer environment during transportation.

Document Damage

Document Damage

You must thoroughly inspect your vehicle and make a detailed record of any pre-existing damage it may have, including scratches, dents, or other visible marks. This documentation plays a vital role in protecting your interests and ensuring a smooth shipping process. By noting the existing damages, you establish a reference point that allows you to differentiate between pre-existing and new damages that may occur during transit. 

In the unfortunate event of any additional damages, having this documentation will help facilitate insurance claims or address any disputes. It provides peace of mind, ensuring that you have a comprehensive record of your vehicle’s condition before it embarks on its journey.

Take Pictures of Your Vehicle 

Take Pictures of Your Vehicle 

Taking clear and detailed photographs of your car from multiple angles is essential when preparing it for shipping. These images serve as visual evidence of your vehicle’s condition before it embarks on its journey and can be a valuable resource if any issues arise during transit. By capturing comprehensive photos, you create a visual record that allows for easy comparison in case of any damage claims. 

These images provide a clear representation of your vehicle’s exterior and can support your case if there are discrepancies or disputes regarding its condition upon delivery. Ensuring you have well-documented photographs offers peace of mind and strengthens your position throughout the car shipping process.

Take a Photo of the Odometer

Take a Photo of the Odometer

It is important to snap a photo of your car’s odometer reading before transporting it to document the mileage accurately. This simple step is important evidence of your vehicle’s mileage at the time of shipment. By capturing an image of the odometer reading, you have a clear and indisputable record of the exact mileage prior to transit. 

This documentation can be beneficial in cases where there are concerns about excessive mileage accumulation during the shipping process. By having a photo of the odometer reading, you can confidently address any discrepancies and ensure that the vehicle’s mileage is accurately accounted for throughout the entire transportation journey.

Remove Personal Items

Transporting your vehicle without any personal items inside is highly recommended for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to ensure the safety of your belongings by keeping them separate from the shipping process, reducing the risk of theft or damage. Secondly, it prevents any loose items from shifting during transit, which could potentially cause harm to the interior of the car. 

Lastly, removing personal items simplifies the inspection process and allows for a more accurate assessment of the vehicle’s condition before and after transportation. By following this guideline, you can have peace of mind knowing that your car is properly prepared for shipping without any personal items inside.

Secure or Remove Accessories

Secure or Remove Accessories

Before shipping your vehicle, it is important to consider the removable accessories it may have, such as bike racks, spoilers, or antennas. To reduce the risk of damage during transportation, it is advisable to secure or remove these accessories. While auto transport companies take precautions to ensure the safe handling of vehicles, removing or securing accessories adds an extra layer of protection. 

Accessories that protrude from the vehicle can be vulnerable to damage from contact with other vehicles or objects during transit. By either securing them firmly in place or removing them altogether, you minimize the risk of potential harm to the accessories themselves and the vehicle’s exterior. This proactive step helps safeguard your vehicle and its accessories, ensuring a smooth and damage-free shipping experience.

Perform Any Necessary Maintenance

Perform Any Necessary Maintenance

Before shipping your vehicle, it is crucial to ensure that it is in proper working condition by scheduling any necessary maintenance or repairs. Taking the time to check key components such as tire pressure, battery, brakes, and other essential systems can help prevent any potential issues during transit. 

Properly inflated tires and a well-functioning battery ensure that your vehicle can be easily loaded and unloaded without any complications. Additionally, having reliable brakes and other essential components in good working order ensures the safety and smooth operation of your vehicle throughout the transportation process. 

By addressing any maintenance or repair needs beforehand, you minimize the risk of unexpected breakdowns or complications and can confidently ship your car, knowing it is in optimal condition.

Empty Your Gas Tank

Empty Your Gas Tank

When preparing your vehicle for shipping, you must keep your gas tank at a quarter full or less. This recommendation serves two important purposes. Firstly, reducing the fuel level helps to minimize the weight of the vehicle, which can contribute to more efficient transportation and potentially lower shipping costs. 

Secondly, maintaining a lower fuel level helps to mitigate potential hazards during transit. A fuller gas tank increases the risk of fuel leakage or fumes, which could pose safety concerns. By adhering to this guideline, you not only contribute to a smoother shipping process but also prioritize safety for both your vehicle and the transportation team.

Have Insurance on Your Vehicle

Have Insurance on Your Vehicle

Before shipping your car, it is essential to verify that your car insurance coverage is up to date and includes specific coverage for vehicle transportation. While most auto transport companies provide their own insurance coverage, it is crucial to have your own policy in place as well. 

Confirming that your insurance policy includes coverage for transportation adds an additional layer of protection and assurance during transit. In the unlikely event of any damage or unforeseen circumstances, having appropriate insurance coverage ensures that you are financially protected. By taking the time to review and update your insurance policy, you can rest assured knowing that your vehicle is safeguarded throughout the shipping process.

Lock Up, But Leave the Keys

Lock Up, But Leave the Keys

When preparing your car for shipping, it is important to lock your vehicle securely to protect it during transit. However, it is equally crucial to remember to provide the keys to the auto transport company. They will need access to your vehicle for loading and unloading purposes. By securely locking your car, you ensure that it is well-protected during transportation, minimizing the risk of theft or unauthorized access. 

Providing the keys to the transport company allows them to efficiently handle the logistics of moving your vehicle. It is recommended to hand over the keys directly to the authorized personnel and obtain a receipt or confirmation for added peace of mind. By striking the right balance between security and accessibility, you can ensure a smooth and secure car shipping experience.

Sign the Bill of Lading

Sign the Bill of Lading

When the carrier arrives to pick up your vehicle for shipping, carefully review and sign the bill of lading. The bill of lading is a legal document that serves as a detailed record of the condition of your car at the time of pickup. It includes important information such as the vehicle’s current state, existing damages, and other relevant details about the transportation agreement. 

By reviewing and signing the bill of lading, you acknowledge the accuracy of the documented information, providing a clear reference point for assessing any potential changes or damages upon delivery. This step ensures transparency and accountability throughout the shipping process and serves as a valuable document in case of any disputes or claims that may arise.

By following these essential steps, you can ensure that your car is well-prepared for shipping, minimizing potential risks and maximizing the chances of a safe and successful transportation experience.

Final Thoughts

Whether it is a short distance or shipping a car across the country; both types require careful preparation and attention to detail to ensure a smooth and successful transportation experience. By following the necessary steps to prepare your car for shipping, you can mitigate potential risks, safeguard your valuable asset, and increase the likelihood of a safe and damage-free delivery. 

Remember to communicate effectively with the auto transport company, review and sign the necessary paperwork, and trust in the expertise of professionals who specialize in shipping cars. With thorough preparation and a reliable transport company, you can have peace of mind knowing that your car will reach its destination securely and efficiently.

Tips for Safely Preparing Car for Shipping

Preparing your car for shipping involves taking certain precautions to ensure its safety during transportation. Here are some tips to help you safely prepare your car for shipping:

Research and choose a reputable car shipping company

Look for a reliable and experienced car shipping company with positive customer reviews and a solid track record. Verify their licensing and insurance credentials to ensure they are legitimate.

Check for leaks and mechanical issues

Perform a thorough inspection of your vehicle to identify any leaks or mechanical problems. Fixing any leaks beforehand will prevent damage to other vehicles being transported alongside yours. Ensure that the tires are properly inflated as well.

Disable alarm systems

If your car has an alarm system, deactivate or disable it to avoid unnecessary disruptions during transit. Provide clear instructions to the car shipping company regarding the alarm system and its requirements.

Secure convertible tops and loose parts 

If you have a convertible, make sure the top is secured according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additionally, check for any loose parts, such as side mirrors or antennas, and secure them appropriately to avoid damage during transport.

Maintain fuel level

Keep your car’s fuel level between 1/8 and 1/4 of the tank’s capacity. This amount is sufficient for loading, unloading, and any required driving during transportation while minimizing the overall weight of the vehicle.

Disable toll tags and remove parking passes

Deactivate any toll tags or remove them temporarily to avoid unnecessary charges during transit. Likewise, remove any parking passes or permits from your car.

Provide spare keys

Prepare an extra set of keys for your car, including the ignition, doors, trunk, and any other compartments. Provide these spare keys to the car shipping company while retaining a copy for yourself.

By following these tips, you can help ensure the safe transportation of your car during shipping. Remember to communicate openly with the car shipping company, ask questions, and address any concerns you may have before handing over your vehicle.


1) How far in advance should I start preparing my car for shipping?

It’s recommended to start preparing your car for shipping at least a week before the scheduled pickup date. This will allow you enough time to complete all the necessary preparations.

2) Should I wash my car before shipping it?

Yes, it’s important to thoroughly wash your car, both inside and out, before shipping it. A clean car makes it easier to inspect for any existing damage and ensures a better overall shipping experience.

3) Do I need to remove all personal items from my car?

Yes, it’s highly advised to remove all personal belongings from your car before shipping. Carriers typically have restrictions on transporting personal items, and their presence can increase the risk of theft or damage during transit.

4) Can I leave a small amount of fuel in the tank?

It’s recommended to keep your car’s fuel level between 1/8 and 1/4 of the tank’s capacity. This amount is sufficient for loading, unloading, and any required driving during transportation while minimizing the overall weight of the vehicle.

5) Should I disable the alarm system?

If your car has an alarm system, it’s best to deactivate or disable it before shipping. Provide clear instructions to the car shipping company regarding the alarm system and its requirements.

6) How should I document the condition of my car before shipping?

Take detailed photographs of your car from various angles, focusing on any existing scratches, dents, or other visible damage. Note these details in a written report as well. This documentation will serve as evidence in case of any disputes regarding damage during transit.

7) Can I ship a car with aftermarket accessories or modifications?

Yes, you can ship a car with aftermarket accessories or modifications. However, it’s recommended to secure or remove any external accessories that can be easily detached or might be damaged during transit, such as spoilers, roof racks, or antennas.

8) Should I provide spare keys to the shipping company?

Yes, it’s a good idea to provide an extra set of keys to the shipping company. This includes the ignition, doors, trunk, and any other compartments. Retain a copy for yourself as well.

9) What insurance coverage should I have for my car during shipping?

It’s important to review the insurance coverage provided by the car shipping company. Inquire about their liability in case of any damage during transportation. If necessary, consider purchasing additional insurance to ensure adequate coverage.

10) How should I choose a reputable car shipping company?

Do thorough research to find a reputable and experienced car shipping company. Look for positive customer reviews, check their licensing and insurance credentials, and ensure they have a good track record. It’s also helpful to obtain quotes from multiple companies to compare services and pricing.

About the Author: Brad Marinov

Brad serves as the Consumer Logistics Operations Director at RCG Logistics, boasting a rich tenure of over a decade in the field. His profound knowledge extends across all facets of car transportation, underscoring his expertise in the domain. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Brad prioritizes the delivery of exceptional customer service. This commitment is underscored by his adeptness in offering valuable industry insights, coordinating operations, and employing efficient management practices. As a result, he consistently delivers a seamless car transportation experience for each valued client.


Posted by
Brad Marinov
Post Date

Recent Posts

Car Shipping Quote

Pick Up From*

Deliver To*

Help Center

Recent Blogs