How active is the American auto transport industry?

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The American auto transport industry has gone from a moribund niche specialty to a booming and competitive field seemingly overnight. In the days when cars were sold in person, most people picked them up and drove home from the dealer lot themselves. Most auto transport was limited to either delivering new vehicles from the manufacturer to the dealer, or hauling broken-down cars to the scrapyard.

What factors influenced American auto transport?

With the advent of the Internet, two things have happened: first, people have started shopping for cars online, necessitating vendor-to-customer delivery; and second, auto transport brokers have gained an opportunity to reach a much bigger audience than before, for much less money and with minimal manpower. The emergence of a lively used car market online has also been a boon to the business.

Who are these American entrepreneurs?

Get a feel for volume...

Every year, as many as 15 million cars are bought and sold on sites like AutoTrader and, with the eBay Motors marketplace leading the pack in terms of sales volume.

Most auto transport companies are rather small outfits, running only one or two trucks. The U.S. Department of Transportation has gotten involved in regulating the industry, with every transport carrier being required to pay for a minimum of $50,000 in insurance coverage per vehicle shipped.

Some carriers skimp on the insurance, so it's important for the customer to make sure they hire auto transport companies that cover the whole value of their car. This is especially important for people who are trying to ship luxury vehicles or valuable vintage pieces.

Fortunately, the new-found diversity in the industry has allowed companies to specialize, with a number of shippers running more expensive but much better-protected covered transporters. These are essentially eighteen-wheeler trailers that have been adapted to roll-on/roll-off and securely transport passenger cars. This is the best option if you have a car that you don't want to subject to the vagaries of weather and rogue pipes sticking out of dump trucks. There are companies that operate the customary open car transport rigs, as well as single-vehicle transport trucks.

As is usual in a rapidly-growing and evolving industry, there are plenty of shady and irresponsible operators lurking in the wings, so be sure to check the background and record of the company you're thinking of hiring. We will give you some tips on that in our next article.

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