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How to pick a car transport company in Australia

Moving cars interstate can be convenient if you are busy, but there are some pitfalls to look out for.

Transporting a car remotely is a bit of a boom industry right now. Online shopping for classic and collector cars, and motorbikes, has never been more popular as COVID-19 restrictions make travel (particularly interstate travel) impossible. But that also means that actually getting the purchase to its new owner requires the services of a transport company that can legally operate under those same restrictions.

Of course, even if you’re not caught up in the Coronavirus net, sometimes it’s simply more convenient and vastly cheaper to organise a vehicle transport specialist to move your car than renting a trailer and making the trip yourself in both directions. Or flying in to pick up the car and then running the risk of a mechanical failure on the way home.

Leaving such a delicate operation to experts with specialist equipment is also a way of minimising the risk of damage to your new toy. So what are the questions to ask when shopping for a car transport company?

One of the first issues to tackle is whether you need depot-to-depot transport or door-to-door. In the former, the seller needs to drop the car off at the transport company’s depot and then you need to pick it up at the nominated transport depot at your end. This is often okay with a car that is running and driving safely (unless there are trailers involved at either end of the journey) but also relies on the seller being willing and able to do the drop-off. As you can see, car shipping isn’t always simple, and you really need to have an idea of what you and, crucially, the seller requires before even picking up the phone.

For cars that don’t run, or when you want maximum convenience, door-to-door transport is the solution. In that case, the transport company collects the vehicle from the seller and delivers it to you directly. No unregistered vehicle permits, no worries about the car’s reliability, no need to stop to fill the petrol tank en route. This also gets around the problem of having the seller deliver the car to a depot.

But there are some guidelines you need to follow. Obviously, not all carrying companies offer links to all Australian locations. So, the first thing to do is find a company that offers interstate car transport to the states and territories involved. A lot of operators concentrate on the east coast (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) while others are specialists in getting from the east coast, across the Nullarbor to Perth and the rest of WA. The cost of the car freight will, broadly speaking, be based on the distance covered, but even then there are some big variations in this, so shop around.

Insurance is one subject you should fully investigate before choosing a particular carrier. Make sure the insurance policy covers your vehicle not just during the journey, but also for loading and unloading mishaps. Different companies have different insurers so obligations and clauses vary. Read the fine print. Don’t forget to inspect your vehicle closely on delivery to make sure no damage has been inflicted on the journey. If it has, point it out to the depot immediately.

What can look like cheap interstate car transport is often not quite so inexpensive once you delve a bit deeper into the quote. That cheap car transport quote might not include things like GST and the level of insurance you want, so you really need to look closely at the contract. You also need to establish what is and isn’t okay with the company in question.

A lot of vehicle transport these days is within the classic and collector-car market. (image credit: Ceva Car Carrying) A lot of vehicle transport these days is within the classic and collector-car market. (image credit: Ceva Car Carrying)

For instance, some car companies are fine with a car that isn’t running and driving, others aren’t. Some will only take a non-running, non-driving car as a door-to-door job (rather than depot-to-depot) while others simply don’t want to know about non-running cars at all as they require winching and pushing to get them on and off the transporter. The definition of a running vehicle also includes cars that have fully functioning brakes, park-brakes and steering, have seats and glass installed, and will start first time, every time. If your car isn’t running because of something simple, it might actually be cheaper to fix the problem before shipping and paying extra for a non-running car. The transporter’s insurance will often not cover a non-running car.

Another stipulation that varies from company to company is that the car being carried must not be filled with spare parts (or anything else). There’s a danger that the parts can move in transit, but also the chance that some car owners will try to get a car full of cargo moved for the price of a single car transport. And when you consider that even a spare gearbox on the back seat of a car will add to its mass significantly, you can see why some companies make this ruling. Even a contract that allows for some spare parts or personal items in the car will generally not include those items on the insurance policy.

One of your options will sometimes (depending on the company involved) be to have the car covered or out in the open. A covered car carrier obviously offers more protection from the elements and damage from debris, but you’ll generally pay extra for this service. Those who use motorcycle transport services really like this option as it ensures extra security as well, and it’s generally not as expensive as moving a car as the bike takes up a lot less space and the transport truck itself can be a smaller, more economical vehicle.

What can look like cheap interstate car transport is often not quite so inexpensive once you delve a bit deeper into the quote. (image credit: Ceva Car Carrying) What can look like cheap interstate car transport is often not quite so inexpensive once you delve a bit deeper into the quote. (image credit: Ceva Car Carrying)

Given that a lot of vehicle transport these days is within the classic and collector-car market, what about modified cars? Most carriers won’t have a problem with this, provided they’re aware of the modifications and can allow for them. You need to inform them, for instance, if the car has less than standard ground clearance (which makes loading and unloading more difficult). That doesn’t mean the vehicle can’t be moved, but it might require special handling and that will cost.

Really long, wide cars can also create issues and high four-wheel-drives might physically not fit on the average transport truck. Generally, if your vehicle is longer than five metres, wider than two metres or more than about two metres high, you need to specify this and let the carrier work out a solution.

You also need to spell out whether the vehicle is beyond a certain age limit (again, it varies from company to company) and whether it’s beyond a certain dollar value at which point you might need to negotiate specific insurance cover.

So who do you talk to? Well, there are plenty of car transport companies out there. Some are specialists, some will carry cars as part of a broader business strategy. Either way, though, it’s important that you make contact with a human being once you’ve done your online research and make sure you’re happy with the terms and attitude of the carrier in question. Carting your new car across the country might be just another job for them, but this is your new toy we’re talking about.

With that in mind, here are a few contacts:

  • Ceva Car Carrying: 1300 310074
  • PrixCar Services: 1300 063567
  • Car Transport Express: 1300 656689
  • Super Cheap Car Transport: 02 80147607
  • Affordable Car Carrying: 1800 177821
  • Vtrans: 0401 914836
  • National Car Movers: 1300 396099

You can also search for car transport companies on a site like and source a carrier from the options there.