There are several ways to haul a vehicle across the country. Using a flatbed car hauling service is among the most popular methods because it allows the safe transportation of heavy loads, such as cars, with minimal fuss. Using flatbed car transport, you can get your vehicle from Point A to Point B, confident that it will be protected all the way.
Still, you need to know if going the flatbed route is the right choice compared to the other hauling options available. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about using a flatbed car carrier to haul a vehicle over long distances.
What Is Flatbed Car Hauling?
Flatbed car hauling involves shipping a vehicle over a long distance on a flatbed trailer. These flatbed trailers are designed for heavy hauling and typically carry oversized equipment, bulk cargo, and wide loads. They’re made using heavy-duty materials, such as steel, and come equipped with several axles to allow cargo to be moved safely on and off the flatbed.
Think of a flatbed as a moving platform that is attached to an appropriate hauling vehicle (such as a truck). It will usually have open sides, which allows for easier loading onto the platform. The load is tied down at various points to keep it secure. In many cases, those placing a car on flatbed trucks will first load the car into a large cargo container before placing the car on the truck.
The Seven Flatbed Transporter Types
You have several options available when hiring a flatbed vehicle to transport cargo. Each type of flatbed has pros and cons, in addition to being useful in specific instances.
Type No. 1 – Standard Flatbeds
The most common type of flatbed car carrier, standard flatbeds are usually between 48 and 53 feet long. They can carry weights of between 45,000 and 48,000 pounds and have a platform that can be anywhere between 42 and 60 inches off the ground.
As such, they’re extremely stable, which is why so many carriers trust them for transporting cars. However, the platform’s height limits restrict their use for tall cargo. But this isn’t an issue in most cases of flatbed car hauling.
Type No. 2 – Double Drop
These flatbeds include a front and back deck, in addition to a well area in the middle. This well is usually between 25 and 29 feet long, allowing it to hold tall freight. As such, double drop flatbeds are ideal for transporting oversized freight that is over 10 feet tall.
However, the well is also this type of flatbed’s main drawback. It shortens the space available for your cargo, which limits your transportation options. Furthermore, the carrier will usually need to use a crane to load the cargo into the middle well.
Type No. 3 – Lowboys
Another great option for tall cargo, lowboys include a double drop, meaning it has two drops in its deck height. They also sit lower to the ground than most other types of flatbeds. This lower height is one of their main advantages, as it allows the transportation of tall cargo of up to 11 feet, 6 inches.
Type No. 4 – Step Deck
Also known as a drop deck, a step deck trailer comes with a bottom and top deck. Again, this makes them ideal for transporting cargo that may be too wide or tall for a standard flatbed. Step decks often ride low in the trailer, which allows them to pass under bridges. This low trailer height also means that cargo can often be loaded onto the flatbed easily using ramps.
Step decks are often used in flatbed auto transport because they allow carriers to load multiple vehicles fairly easily.
Type No. 5 – Extendable Flatbeds
Sometimes referred to as stretch trailers, extendable flatbeds allow carriers to transport cargo that is too long for a traditional flatbed. They also allow hauling without any overhang, which makes the transportation process safer. However, certain uses of these flatbeds require permits and the presence of escort vehicles.
This type of flatbed vehicle isn’t often used to transport cars because of its extendable nature. The platform provided may not be stable enough for vehicles, meaning other options are usually preferred.
Type No. 6 – Side-Kit Flatbeds
If you need to protect your cargo against the elements, a side-kit flatbed may be the perfect choice. These flatbeds usually incorporate metal spines, stakes, and panels that provide some protection against the weather and debris. Your carrier may reinforce this protection by attaching tarps to the flatbed.
They’re usually used for wind- and weather-sensitive loads, in addition to transporting sensitive machinery and agricultural products.
Type No. 7 – Removable Gooseneck
This type of flatbed is very similar to a standard flatbed, except it comes with one key difference. The trailer comes with a removable gooseneck, which your carrier uses to turn the front of the flatbed into a ramp. This makes the removable gooseneck ideal for loading vehicles, as your carrier can simply drive your vehicle onto the flatbed, tie it down, and transport it. Removable gooseneck flatbeds are also used to transport agricultural equipment, mobile homes, and construction vehicles.
Why Use a Flatbed Truck Car Hauler?
Using a flatbed vehicle to transport your car comes with several advantages when compared to a traditional towing service.
Advantage No. 1 – Quick and Simple Loading
Loading a vehicle onto a flatbed truck is often a simple process that involves driving the vehicle up a ramp onto the platform and then tying it down. Even in cases where the vehicle is non-operational, your carrier can use a crane to lift the vehicle onto the platform without making any modifications to the car itself.
This is not always the case with standard towing. Your carrier may have to remove the car’s driveshaft to allow safer transportation. With flatbed car hauling, you don’t need to worry about making any changes to your car.
Advantage No. 2 – Elevation Leads to a Safer Ride
In traditional car towing, the carrier uses a hook and crane to elevate the vehicle’s front or rear wheels. It then essentially drags the vehicle along the road, relying on the tires that are still in contact with the road to keep the car rolling. This method presents several problems. In addition to potential problems with vehicle sway, traditional towing also adds wear and tear to its tires.
Flat bed transport elevates the car from the road. The vehicle remains completely still during the transportation process. Plus, the lack of road contact provided by flatbeds means your car doesn’t undergo any unnecessary wear or tear.
Advantage No. 3 – Your Vehicle Is Secured
Your car is tied down to a secure platform when you use a flatbed transporter. This means it cannot move until it’s released and driven off the flatbed. Contrast this with normal towing, where the car is free to sway and potentially collide with other vehicles. Flatbeds offer more security, a safer ride, and a far lower potential for damage to occur to your vehicle during transport.
How Do Carriers Secure Your Car to a Flatbed Trailer?
Carriers use a combination of calculations and tie-down equipment to ensure your vehicle stays secure on a flatbed car carrier.
The calculations occur before loading. Every flatbed truck has a maximum freight weight the carrier must abide by. They must also ensure their cargo is distributed evenly, which prevents the trailer from swerving or tipping over. As such, your carrier should follow the below best practices to ensure they get their freight calculations correct:
- Calculate the total weight of the freight. This is particularly important if several vehicles are loaded onto the flatbed or if the trailer will carry additional cargo in addition to your car.
- Determine how to stack the load safely. Usually, the carrier loads from the middle and moves outward. In the case of car transport, your carrier will likely load your vehicle above the flatbed’s axels, which creates a low center of gravity and gives your heavy vehicle extra support.
- Approximately 60% of the cargo’s entire weight should go onto the flatbed’s front half. This makes the rear half easier to maneuver during transit.
With the calculations and positioning determined, the carrier loads your car. Flatbed transports have built-in tie-down points for the straps that are needed to secure their loads. This is where your carrier’s second step comes in.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s rules dictate that the flatbed should have a minimum of one tie-down for every 10 feet of its load. It should also have a tie-down for any fraction beyond 10 feet. So, if the flatbed is 42 feet long, it needs at least five tie-down straps. It’s likely a carrier will use more straps when transporting vehicles to keep the cars secure.
Ideally, the carrier should use tie-down straps made using soft materials, such as lumber or plastic piping. This ensures that any contact made between your vehicle and the straps does not result in damage to the car’s bodywork.
How Much Does a Flatbed Car Carrier Service Cost?
Your flatbed car transport cost will vary depending on several factors. These include the carrier you use, the distance you need to haul the vehicle, and any special provisions the carrier needs to take to protect your car.
Generally speaking, a flatbed auto transport will haul up to three vehicles per journey. That means you can expect to split the cost of the journey between the other vehicle owners using the service. You’ll also usually pay a little more per mile for short journeys than you would for long ones. Short journeys may cost between $1 and $2 per mile, with long journeys typically falling in the $0.60 to $1.50 range. Again, expect to pay at the higher end of these ranges if your car is oversized, in poor condition, or if you wish to provide it with special protection.
Note that these costs are very general figures. Each operator has its own method for determining the cost of flatbed car transport, meaning you should collect several quotes before choosing the right carrier for your needs.
How Should You Prepare Your Car for Flatbed Auto Transport?
There are several things you can do to ensure your vehicle is adequately prepared for flatbed car hauling.
First, give the vehicle a thorough cleaning both inside and out. This allows your carrier to instantly see the vehicle’s general condition before they load it to the flatbed.
Next, keep the vehicle in an operable condition. That means inflating the tires, ensuring the battery has a full charge and leaving some gas in the car’s tank. The more operable a vehicle is, the easier it is for your carrier to load it on and off the flatbed. Of course, these aren’t concerns if you’re transporting a non-operational car. In these cases, your carrier needs to be aware of the vehicle’s operational state in advance so they can prepare the required equipment for loading and unloading.
Third, remove any personal items from the vehicle and secure any loose parts that may cause issues during transit. Carriers don’t usually cover the loss of personal items or damage caused by loose materials in your vehicle.
It also helps to take some photos of the vehicle’s condition before it’s loaded onto the flatbed car carrier. While a good carrier does everything they can to keep your car safe, having photos means you have proof of the vehicle’s original condition if external damage occurs.
Finally, provide your carrier with what they need to transport the car without issues. Usually, giving them the keys should be enough. However, if your vehicle has an alarm, the carrier needs to know how to disable it so they’re not stuck with a vehicle that’s blaring out loud noises during the drive.
Is Flatbed Car Hauling the Right Choice for You?
Flatbed vehicle transportation allows you to haul your vehicle over long distances without worrying about wear and tear or the possibility of direct collisions. Your car is kept in an elevated position and tied down so it stays stable and secure for the entire journey. Furthermore, flatbed services allow you to transport operational and non-operational vehicles, making them flexible to handle almost all of your needs.
When choosing a flatbed car transport service, focus on the carrier’s experience and its ability to handle the type of car you wish to transport. It’s also worth quizzing your carrier about the other vehicle transportation services they offer so you can ensure you’re making the right choice.
Ship Vehicles is here to help if you’d like to inquire about a flatbed transporter service. To find out more, get an estimate from us today. And remember, we’ll match the price of any equivalent service if you can provide proof of another carrier’s quote.
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