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A Car Shipping Contract lays out the terms of your agreement with the vehicle shipping company you have hired. Whether you deal with a Shipping Broker or directly with a Carrier. Read the entire car shipping contract before signing and agreeing with the terms therein.

Our dedicated consultants at Nationwide Auto Transportation are up to date with everything you might like to know about your car shipping contract. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the language and general conditions of the industry

What to Know About Car Shipping Contracts

Most people never think about what are the best car shipping companies to use for long distance auto transport, or things like car shipping contracts. This is until they need to relocate and search, ‘how to ship car across country’! (our Ultimate Relocation Guide by Nationwide Auto Transportation is a handy read).

To help our first time shippers, I have compiled a little glossary of common car shipping terminology that you’ll find in your entire car shipping contract – and by the way, did you know that if you are a first time customer at Nationwide Auto Transportation, you get a whopping 20% discount on your car shipping costs? 

car shipping contracts

Glossary of car shipping terms

ShipmentWhat the customer wants shipped

Within the auto shipping industry, this term is used interchangeably between the person requesting that his or her property be shipped and the actual carrier that ships the vehicle. Make sure the context is defined in the car shipping contract
Customer Entity or individual looking for the service

A transport company that physically transports goods items. All carriers are licensed by the State and Federal Department of Transportation

Carrier Forms
Documents that will be shared by the carriers at the points of origin and destination – eg. Shipping Order, Bill of Lading, Inspection Reports and Receipts

As a broker, you arrange and facilitate agreements between different parties, which in car shipping would be the client and the shipping company.
Customer’s AgentSomeone above 18, who acts on behalf of customer
OrderRequirement for vehicle hauling services initiated by customer

Order Confirmation
Confirmation that customer has accepted terms and order to proceed

Bill of Lading
A bill of lading (BL or BoL) is a legal document provided by a carrier which details the type of goods being shipped, and serves as a receipt for delivery
C.O.D.Collect on Delivery / Cash Payment on Delivery
Point of OriginIt is the customer’s responsibility to specify a pick-up location, known as the point of origin
DestinationThe drop-off location for the order is chosen by the customer but cab change for a number of reasons, including difficult access. Changes need to be documented and agreed on
InoperableIf your car cannot drive for any reason

Request clarification before you sign anything. Once your car shipping contract is signed, any terms within it are assumed to have been reviewed and accepted.

Under ‘Service’

Your car shipping contract will specify what services the company will provide and what you can expect throughout the process.

It’s important for you to understand that you will be dealing with two separate entities if you are working through a Broker. When you place an order for a shipment, it is the Broker’s responsibility to locate the most efficient carrier/transporter to fulfill your specific requirements. Brokers may specify that their responsibilities end when the order is accepted by the carrier. Customers will also be able to receive full-service Customer Care from pick-up to final confirmation from the Customer.

Your contract with the carrier will be in the form of a Bill of Lading when you work through a broker, do not sign this car shipping contract unless you agree fully with the information it contains because any recourse you have against the carrier is based on the information in this document.

Availability of trucks, pricing for transport, and delivery times are all factors that affect the Auto Transport industry. Many companies will inform their customers that any estimates given are subject to change as part of their car shipping contracts.

Be aware of what services are covered by the contract. Learn about the process because after signing up with your car shipping company of choice, the arrangements you have agreed upon become active and serviceable. Remember its not just about car shipping. Own a boat and need it somewhere else? Our blogpost All the Ship you Need to Know About Boat Shipping – and Then Some, is for your interest.

Make Sure you Understand What the Car Shipping Contract Requires of you

In order to provide an efficient service, all Transport Companies require certain things from their customers. Among them are:

  • Accurate Information – Transport companies rely on customers to provide accurate information about their shipments. If the information is inaccurate, discrepancies may occur in the price originally quoted. It can affect projected dates, the specific type of carrier assigned to the load, or the route being travelled.
  • Prepare your car for shipping. Customers are required to prepare their cars for shipping. If this is not done according to the contract, you may be liable for damages.
  • Vehicle Inspections. At the pickup and delivery points, customers or their designated consignees are required to sign a Bill of Lading. Please read all terms carefully and witness your vehicle’s inspection. Essentially, the Bill of Lading is a legally binding contract between the Shipper and the Carrier.
  • Personal Items. Most carriers will allow you to transport up to 100 pounds of luggage in the trunk of your vehicle. Carriers are not licensed to transport luggage and as such this cargo will not be covered by their insurance. Contracts should specify this so that the customer is aware of the risks involved.

Prohibited Items

NB! An order may be cancelled without compensation if the following are found in their vehicles:

  • Flammable materials
  • Weapons and firearms
  • Explosives and Ammunition
  • Narcotics and Alcohol
  • Animals or plants that are alive
  • Whatever is considered illegal to possess 
auto transport
What are the Shipping Company’s Responsibilities?

A car shipping contract tell you what to expect, it also outlines the carrier’s responsibilities. Brokers have traditionally been responsible for arranging logistical details regarding client shipments. Carriers on the other hand, are responsible for implementing these arrangements according to the contract.

To summarize, the auto shipping company is responsible for

  1. loading and unloading shipments as close as possible to the points of origin and destination
  2. Communicating any updates or unforeseen circumstances efficiently to the client
  3. At the time of pickup and delivery, a Bill of Lading should be issued. This is a legally binding contract between the client and the shipping company.

If all of this sounds like just too much to handle, you could sell rather than ship. If this is you, my post What are the Best Ways to Sell Your Car for the Most Profit?, was written just for you. Read on to learn more about what all of this may cost.

Cancellation and Refund Policies, Fees, Payments, and Cancellations

Typically, fees and payments sections outline specific regulations that vary from company to company. They have the right to cancel a shipment if the vehicle has not yet been assigned to, or picked up by, a carrier.

car shipping contracts

Feel Free to Ask Questions About Car Shipping Contracts

A reputable auto transport company will assist you with any car shipping contract questions you have. You may want to have someone with legal expertise review some of the legal information if you are unsure what it means.

At Nationwide Auto Transportation, our dedicated team of transport consultants provides you with expert advice throughout the shipping process. We are here to answer any questions that may arise during the process.

Our Customer Service department provides additional support if your consultant is not available right when you need them. Call our number 800-311-7073 for car shipping peace of mind or for any questions about your entire car shipping contract.