Shipping Your Car Vs. Driving It Yourself: How to Choose

If you’re moving across the country or even just heading south for the winter, you may be considering shipping your car. “Is it worth it?” you’re thinking. Let’s do the math so you can figure it out.

Start by getting a quote from one or more reliable auto transport companies. You may find that quotes you receive differ slightly. That’s because of variables in routes, time of year, the type of transport you prefer (open or closed carrier), and other factors. Once you have a quote and a company you feel comfortable with, you’re ready to start making comparisons.

The Costs of Mileage

The current cost of gas in the United States is about $2.25 a gallon. Let’s say you’re shipping your car from Los Angeles to Houston, a total of 1,546. If you know how many miles per gallon your car gets, you can crunch the numbers and see what the drive will cost. If your car gets the national average of 25 mpg, that means the drive will require 62 gallons of gasoline. At $2.25, that’s $139.50.

But it’s not that simple. That $2.25 cost of gasoline may be the national average, but the current average in California is $3.27. So you can’t count on the low cost for your average drive.

In addition, putting all those miles on your car lowers its value. It also uses up oil, transmission fluid and other vital fluids, and it hastens the time until you need new brakes or tires. That’s why the IRS calculates more than just the cost of gasoline when figuring out mileage deductions. In fact, the IRS currently considers 58 cents per mile to be a fair deduction, one that takes into account all those other long-term effects on your car. Using that calculation, the actual cost of driving your car from Los Angeles to Houston leaps to $896.68.

Don’t Forget the Other Costs

If you’re driving more than 1,500 miles, you’re going to have to take some breaks. You can expect to spend 22 to 26 hours behind the wheel on that drive, which means you’ll need to stop for a couple of overnight stays in hotels. If you plan your costs well, you might be able to keep those costs in the $300 range. You’ll have to eat on the road as well, and the eight or nine meals you consume are likely to total around $120 or more.

And then there’s the value of your time. Do you have to take unpaid days to make the drive? What are you losing in salary or wages? Or, if you’re a freelancer, how much money are you not earning because you’re on the road? Maybe you have vacation days available — but is that really how you want to spend them?

Consider as well: What happens if you run into weather or traffic, and you don’t make it to your destination in time? What if your car breaks down on the road? Can you afford the extra time and expense? Do you have meetings or appointments you need to get to in your new city? What happens if you miss them?

The Bottom Line

If your cross-country move is a relatively short one (say, from West Virginia to North Carolina), driving might be the right answer. If you crunch the numbers and realize that calling an auto transport company is going to make your move easier and more economical, give us a call to see how we can help.