Enclosed Car Hauling – How It Works and How Much Will You Pay?

Enclosed Auto Transport Services

Despite its advantages, not many people choose enclosed car hauling or enclosed car shipping. Not all vehicle owners know the difference between enclosed and open shipping, and instead make their decisions based only on price.

If you want to know more about enclosed car hauling, how it works, and why it may be advantageous to you, the following paragraphs will explain the process.

Open vs. Enclosed Car Transport

Open transport or open car hauling is arguably the most popular method of shipping cars. It’s the top domestic shipping choice—but not a solid international transport option.

In most cases, open transport involves putting the car onto a large, open trailer or truck carrier. While it may have some cover above and underneath it depending on its location, the sides will always be exposed.

Enclosed car hauling can be done in various ways, but it entails shielding your car from the environment. This form of transport involves shipping fewer vehicles simultaneously due to the constraints of enclosed trailers, air freight, and cargo ships.

There’s a common misconception that covered car transport is slower than open hauling. In reality, the method of transport doesn’t influence the delivery time that much.

One could argue that open transport takes longer than covered car transportation due to the large number of vehicles being shipped simultaneously. Should your destination be among the last on the planned route, the delivery can take up to a week longer than the first vehicle on the delivery list.

In that respect, covered auto transport might be considerably faster. The covered car transport service might have fewer drop-offs, so your car will get to its destination faster.

Many factors influence the delivery timeline more than just the mode of transport.

Top Benefits of Covered Vehicle Transport


Shipping a car without the benefit of cover is risky. Theft is always a concern when using open trailers to transport a vehicle. Thieves could easily access a car while the trailer is parked and the driver is taking a break.

Enclosed car hauling is a major theft deterrent because a thief would have to figure out how to get in the enclosed trailer first. Moreover, enclosed trailers don’t transport as many cars, so drivers tend to take fewer breaks, leaving fewer windows of opportunity for someone to try to steal the cargo.

Cars are also safe from damage. If you think about it, shipping via road comes with plenty of risks. Flying road debris can scratch, chip, or dent your car. A traffic collision could do even more damage. And that’s not even counting what exposure to the elements can do. The more expensive your car, the more costly the repairs.

Enclosed car transport offers substantial protection against accidents, road debris, and bad weather because your car is shielded by four walls, a roof, and a floor.

Better Coverage

Not all auto carriers are willing to get more liability insurance and cargo coverage than the mandated minimums to operate legally. But a covered car transport service provider might be willing to pay for more coverage due to the vehicles being safer during shipping.

This means that it’s more likely you’ll find enclosed auto transport carriers with sufficient insurance to cover extensive damage or total loss of a vintage or luxury vehicle.

It’s highly unlikely to gain this benefit when using open transportation.

More Specialized Services

When you opt for enclosed car hauling, you often get much better treatment. Everyone involved in the shipping process, from the loaders to the driver to customer service representatives, tends to treat you and your car with great care. Think of them as your concierge team at a Ritz Carlton.

In addition, you gain access to specialized services, such as lift gates or ramps that can load low-clearance vehicles safely into a trailer.

Furthermore, you can find qualified specialists to handle and ship non-standard, custom, and non-operational vehicles. These services are hard to find when you want to ship a car using an open trailer.

Hydraulic lift gates are particularly useful but rarely used to load cars onto open trailers. While opting for lift gates can increase shipping costs, it’s a must-have service for non-operational vehicles that can’t be steered or driven onto a traditional ramp, such as a vintage Ford Model T you might be in the process of restoring.

These lift gates are necessary to relocate low-clearance cars safely and without scraping the undercarriage.

Superior Stability

One could argue that enclosed auto transport carriers are dedicated to protecting their customers’ vehicles at all costs. That’s why this service almost always involves strapping down vehicles with nylon straps instead of chains.

Chains are harder to use, and may even require that your vehicle has a certain type of frame. Additionally, they can create too much pressure, and that will take a toll on the suspension. And then there’s the matter of added risk.

Chains used to stabilize cars during transportation are thick, hard, and can cause severe damage if they snap. Nylon straps, on the other hand, don’t have this problem. They’re a bit flexible and don’t strain the suspension as much. Furthermore, they’re not secured directly to the frame and are less likely to touch anything other than the tires.

Enclosed car hauling services that use nylon strap systems essentially go the extra mile to protect your vehicle from damage without sacrificing stability during shipping.

Route Flexibility

If you’ve seen how massive a multi-vehicle trailer is, you might already know how difficult it can be to ship a vehicle across country to a new city, state, or across the border.

Multi-vehicle trailers carry up to two tiers of cars. They can be up to 80 feet long and probably make up to 90% of all auto shipping deliveries. For the most part, multi-tiered trailers are amazing at fulfilling bulk orders or transporting cheaper cars.

But they’re not optimal for reaching certain destinations. Maneuvering an 80-foot trailer is difficult. They’re also very tall, so they might not fit on certain roads that have low-clearance bridges or narrow tunnels. This can create difficulties when planning routes.

It may also make it impossible to receive door-to-door service on your shipment.

You won’t have these issues when using an enclosed auto transport service. Sure, there are plenty of fully-enclosed, multi-tiered car trailers. However, enclosed transport also gives you the option to ship your car with a smaller trailer that can easily maneuver under overpasses, take tight corners, and fit on smaller roads.

That’s why enclosed hauling is more advantageous. You can plan routes and destinations that open transport simply can’t accommodate.

Shipping Other Items

Generally, every carrier will advise against leaving personal items or household goods in your car during transport. Not only is it not their job to take care of them, but they’re also not generally covered by carrier liability and cargo insurance.

However, when you choose enclosed car transport, some carriers may give you the option to ship other items inside your car. This can be very helpful when traveling or moving into a new home.

Granted, this service isn’t guaranteed, and is something you must discuss with the carrier. But it is a possibility that you won’t have when opting for open transport due to the lack of security, protection, and limited insurance coverage.

Are There Disadvantages to Using Enclosed Car Hauling?

There are mainly two cons to using covered car transportation—cost and delivery time.

As far as pricing is concerned, there’s no denying that enclosed transport cost is more expensive.

Fulfilling fewer simultaneous shipments can lower a carrier’s profit margins. Enclosed trailers need special loading equipment and straps, and offer more protection. These are perks that get factored into the enclosed car shipping cost.

But a higher price might not be considered a disadvantage. After all, you are paying for extra services, peace of mind, security, expertise, and quality of life. The starting rates for distance and car type may not be that different than for open car hauling. It really depends on the carrier.

The idea is that you’re not paying for nothing. Enclosed transport offers so much more than a traditional open hauling service, it would be impossible to get it for cheap.

While this might not be ideal for someone on a tight budget, if you’re shipping a valuable vehicle, you’ll at least want enough cargo and liability coverage from your carrier to cover any possible loss. That may leave enclosed transport as your only logical solution anyway.

Regarding delivery time, Many vehicle owners have relocated their cars faster with enclosed shipping because enclosed trailers don’t transport as many cars or make as many stops.

That said, there are more open trailers than enclosed trailers. This means covered vehicle transport providers can sometimes struggle to meet the market demand, and scheduling a delivery could take longer than expected.

How Much Will You Pay?

To understand how much money you need to set aside for enclosed car hauling, you have to know what factors influence the shipment cost.

Weather Conditions and Season

Shipping your car during bad weather conditions will cost a premium. Your vehicle will be shielded from the elements, but the drivers will still have to deal with heavy rain, snow, slippery roads, and other inconveniences.

Driving in bad weather is hard, risky, and takes a toll on the drivers. That’s why carriers charge extra depending on the weather conditions.

Bad weather can cause dangerous road conditions and decrease visibility. Drivers will be forced to go slower, adding to the delivery time and keeping the trailer occupied longer. It can also drive up the insurance costs for the carrier, which can be reflected in the quote.

Enclosed Car Shipping RatesLocation Accessibility

Delivering a car to a remote location with busy routes can increase the shipment cost. Even though enclosed car hauling can generally tackle more routes, remote locations generally cost extra.

It takes more fuel and more time to drive to a remote location. The longer the driver and trailer are busy moving your car, the fewer other contracts the carrier can fulfill.

Additionally, traveling to remote locations can mean that drivers get fewer rest stops, and may lack good accommodations or amenities along the way. These could be factors that drive the price of the shipment up.

In general, shipping your car to urban areas or choosing door-to-terminal shipping is much cheaper than door-to-door transport.


Most carriers have their own flat fees per mile, although many try to keep them within range of their competitors. It can cost you up to $2 per mile to ship a car using a standard, open car hauling service. But this is usually the case if you’re shipping a vehicle over shorter distances.

The longer the distance, the cheaper the rate per mile. Not only can carriers fulfill multiple shipments, but drivers also get better mileage over long distances. Therefore, the operational costs are lower.

When it comes to enclosed car shipping, the rates can be 30% or even 40% higher, depending on demand, the carrier, the season, and other factors. One way to lower enclosed transport costs is to ship a vehicle over distances longer than 1,000 or 1,500 miles. That will give you a better rate per mile.

With that in mind, it will still be more expensive due to the added service, extra coverage, and protection associated with enclosed transport.

Is It the Service for You?

Choosing enclosed car hauling for a cheap car rarely makes any sense. But vintage cars, luxury vehicles, and even cars with sentimental value should probably be shipped via enclosed trailers when you can afford it.

There’s much less risk involved when moving a vehicle hundreds or thousands of miles in an enclosed space where sunlight, rain, road debris, snow, hail, or other cars can’t hit it directly.

It’s also a great way to ship a vehicle to an event and have it arrive there clean and ready to show off to the crowd. Enclosed car hauling might not be the cheapest way to ship a vehicle, but it’s the safest, and carriers can charge extra because of the many additional perks you get.

If you’re looking to ship a vehicle and want it to get the best care and attention possible, feel free to reach out and get your quote and more information on how we can tackle your transportation needs.