The vehicle shipping market in the United States is worth $12 billion. That’s because consumers want to feel secure that their expensive belongings are taken care of during moves. Enclosed car transport is the closest to a guarantee that your vehicle will arrive untouched.

Moving houses, states, or even countries can be stressful. The logistics of planning utilities, shipping, and travel is already tricky. With the added uncertainty of costs and availability of services during difficult time periods, stress is inevitable. In a world of uncertainties, during a time of uncertainty, guarantees are valuable.

For many, their cars are vital, if not invaluable, property. Whenever consumers choose to ship their vehicles, they have to decide between open or enclosed transportation. We’ll break down the differences between enclosed and open car transport to help you choose what’s best for your vehicle.

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Open Vehicle Transport

Sometimes referred to as open-air transport, vehicles are transported in an open car trailer. Open transportation often uses large multi-level trailers that can carry up to twelve cars per shipment. By definition, open-air trailers have no protection from the sides or top; cars are simply stacked.

Open-air vehicle transport has the lowest transportation cost, but it isn’t ideal for keeping cars safe. The vehicles are exposed to the elements, rocks from the road, and more. While carriers do their best to deliver cars safely and securely, open-air transport carries more risk.

While 90% of the vehicle shipping market by road uses open carriers, it may not be right for your car. Single level trailers can carry more expensive vehicles, especially for short distances. If your vehicle isn’t costly, open trailers may be the cheapest and most suitable choice.

Advantages of Open Vehicle Transport

Open transportation is always more affordable, often costing up to half the price of an enclosed service (depending on extra care required). Open trailers are more fuel-efficient as they do not have the added enclosure weight. Additionally, open trailers can also carry more cars at a time without space restriction.

Open carriers can transport all kinds of vehicles unless they are rare or one-off’s that have special modifications.

More Availability

Open trailers represent most of the market, so they are easier to locate, and prices are more competitive. Finding an available trailer delivery service on short notice is much easier than an enclosed or white-glove service.

Open transport will always be faster as shipments are more efficient. Remember that open-air transportation isn’t necessarily a lower quality service. Many companies offer both open-air and enclosed transport. However, open vehicle transport doesn’t protect cars as well as enclosed services, and may not be suitable for specific deliveries.

Regular Checks

Despite lacking the enclosure, the driver will be able to check on the cars’ condition with one glance at any point in the journey. This means early detection of potential issues like leaks or damage to the vehicle.

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Disadvantages of Open Vehicle Transport

Cars will suffer the elements during open trailer transport. Vehicles will have little to no protection from rain, snow, hail, or road debris. Small rocks can often get kicked up on the road causing small dents or scratches.

Since open-air transport doesn’t cover cars, they may be coated in dust, dirt, or mud and need a wash on arrival. If your vehicle is antique, classic, custom, exotic, or luxury – open vehicle transport mostly likely isn’t the correct choice. These kinds of cars require more protection and care during transport to avoid damage and theft.

Enclosed Car Transport

Some customers are better suited to an enclosed shipment option. Low floor clearance vehicles, valuable collector’s items, or roofless cars make enclosed transport necessary.

It may be best to think of enclosed vehicle transport as a first-class air travel ticket. You may not exit the plane first, but the journey is quieter, smoother, and less stressful.

Let’s dive into what advantages enclosed car transport can offer and why it may be worth the extra expense.

Types of Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed carriers come in a few varieties with regard to structure. Hard-sided, soft-sided, multi-car, single, or two-car trailers are all possibilities. Multi-car trailers are the cheapest and can take up to seven cars and are, therefore, the most popular choice.

Enclosed trailers have a roof and four sides that protect and hide the car. While covered transportation vehicles are the same size, the enclosure makes it harder to fit the same amount of vehicles. While open trailers may carry up to twelve cars, enclosed trailers can only accommodate seven or eight.

However, soft-sided trailers replace the sides of the trailer with a tightly pulled canvas. While protection isn’t as good in soft-sided trailers, less space and weight improves fuel efficiency. Fully enclosed car transport is generally safer but also more expensive.

For expensive rare cars, one or two trailer trucks are most appropriate. Trailers often have solid walls made from tin, fiberglass, or aluminum to protect their loads. They are also the fastest form of enclosed transport. They are most suitable for select vehicles like one-person classic race cars.

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Choosing the Type of Enclosed Car Transport

Shipping cost is generally calculated based on the following qualities of the delivery:

  • The shipping distance
  • The location
  • Vehicle make and model
  • Vehicle condition
  • Type of transport

As shipping distance increases, the cost increase is less per extra mile. Short distances can, therefore, sometimes cost similar to long distances. Shipping from rural areas can be challenging, and not all carriers do remote pick ups.

Smaller and lighter cars are more manageable and, therefore, cheaper to transport. If your vehicle is not in an operable condition during transportation, it may have to be lifted into the trailer.

The type of transportation is the most significant shift in cost. While enclosed transport is more expensive, it can be faster if a small trailer is used. Take into account the length of time of transportation.

Longer trips are riskier for the cargo as the likelihood of damage or theft is higher. Certain locations can have more dust or debris on the road, which can damage the car during transport.

Advantages of Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed trailers bring protection for your vehicle. Your car will remain dry, clean, and unaffected by bad weather conditions or road debris. This is more desirable for vehicles that would be very expensive to repair from water damage, hail marks, or scratches and dents from road debris.

Bear in mind that thunderstorms, high winds, torrential rain, and snow can blow debris onto or into your car. If your vehicle has a custom paint job that could be damaged by weather, enclosed transport may be wiser. Should your vehicle not feature a cover or top, it will need to be transported via an enclosed trailer.

Keeping Cars Safe

Security is paramount for rare or expensive cars; you can browse our gallery, for examples. Enclosed trailers are more secure, not only from potential theft but also from damage during transport. Enclosed trucks also make fewer stops during delivery.

Since potential thieves cannot see what sits within closed trailers, they are less incentivized to break into the truck. Your car may represent a hefty investment. Parading an exotic vehicle during a long transport haul isn’t a great idea.

Generally speaking, any car worth more than around $80,000 is worth the extra investment. The price difference in transportation will be little compared to the price and hassle of damage repair to an expensive vehicle. While, in theory, you can transport a Porsche via open transport, the exposure to rain, wind, sun, snow, and debris is not worth the discount.

Enclosed services also come with greater insurance protection. As the cars are carried within the enclosure, companies are more willing to grant higher insurance protection. This is because damages are most likely to occur during loading and unloading. Make sure you pick a reputable company to work with.

Specialized Services

Enclosed trucks also contain drip pans between upper and lower level vehicles to catch transmission fluids. Drivers of enclosed transport are experienced in dealing with expensive cars and often offer white glove services.

White-glove services involve treating the car with extreme care and providing 24/7 updates during the delivery. More expensive services also carry extra protection within the vehicle. Extra clamps and ties will keep your car from moving during transport without damaging the vehicle itself.

If your car is not a standard shape or size, it is likely your best choice. Specialized services are also more convenient as they can be arranged to pick up the car from almost any location around your schedule.

Taking your expensive car to an industrial area of town for transport may not as safe. Some vehicles are designated for the race track and shouldn’t be driven around a city or town.

Low Clearance Vehicles

For low-clearance vehicles, enclosed trailers have lift gates and ramps that can hydraulically lower cars flat to the ground. Vehicles are horizontally loaded rather than driven into the truck. For low-clearance vehicles, enclosed transport is essential to avoid damage to the car.

Disadvantages of Enclosed Car Transport

Enclosed car transport mainly differs in price. As a niche service, enclosed transport requires more fuel, expertise, and specialized trucks. Since there are fewer enclosed transport trailers and companies, they can be harder to schedule, especially short notice.

Since fewer cars can fit into enclosed trailers, the service is generally slower. Drivers are also less able to regularly check up on the vehicles as they are locked in the truck.

Making a Decision

Here are some key points to consider if the above still leaves doubt about your options. New cars usually feature factory paint jobs, which are harder to damage and are therefore more resistant to the wear and tear during open transport.

If your car features a custom paint job, it may be more suitable for fast service. If your vehicle is a standard vehicle and not expensive, open transport is more than enough safety. If speed, availability, or price is of concern, then an open carrier may also be more appropriate.

If your car is an investment, expensive, rare, luxurious, or a collectible — enclosed delivery is likely to be a better choice. Closed trailers reduce the risk of damage. If the area of transportation is experiencing bad weather or conditions that may include salty or sandy roads — enclosed transport is probably better.

If your car is old or has low-clearance, the extra protection and ability to board the truck horizontally is essential. Lastly, if you are concerned about theft, enclosed carriers are better.

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Still Not Sure?

We hope that this comparison guide made it easier for you to make an informed decision about your vehicle. If you’re still not sure, let a professional assess the value and transportation dangers for your car.

The decision can be challenging to make if availability, speed, and price play an important role. However, the value of your car should always come first. Please contact us if you have any questions concerning car transportation.

Enclosed car transport isn’t significantly more expensive than an open trailer, but can save you potential priceless damages or losses. Either way, our employees will treat your car with the utmost care and attention during its journey. And if you should select our white glove treatment, we handle your car as if it were our own.