What is the Difference Between Open and Enclosed Car Shipping?

When booking a car transport company, you will likely choose between open vs enclosed car transport. Open car transport may be your best option if you are looking for an affordable and fast method. However, your car will be exposed to elements while in transit.

In contrast, enclosed car carriers offer better security and protection than open trailers since they are protected from weather elements and road debris. It is the best choice if you own a classic or luxury vehicle with low clearance. However, it is 35-50% more expensive than open shipping and can be difficult to schedule.

We help you choose the best option with our 15 years of experience in car shipping. We have reviewed open vs enclosed car shipping in this article.

Open Vs Enclosed Car Transport

Open vs Enclosed Car Transport: Quick Comparison

 Enclosed car transportOpen car transport
Average cost
Delivery timeSlowerFaster
Cars on truck3-78-10
Best for
Luxury or expensive vehiclesRegular cars


Open Car Carrier Transport: Fast and Affordable

Open car transport is the least expensive type of auto transport. 95% of vehicles travel in an open carrier with extremely few incidents. When using an open carrier, it is a possibility that rocks and other debris can hit the vehicle. That said, this risk is about the same if you drive a vehicle yourself.

Top loading or center loading may also be possible for special vehicles because it will decrease the chances of incidents. However, when your car is transported with an open carrier, it is important to use A-rated carriers with a strong customer service history and full coverage insurance.

Try to find a car shipping company that can start an insurance claim on your behalf at any time, and that will always cover any potential damages. This way, you can rest assured that open transport is an affordable and viable option.

Pros & Cons of Open Car Shipping

Pros Of Open Car TransportCons Of Open Car Shipping
Much faster and affordable than enclosed transportNo protection from debris or bad weather
Booking your preferred shipping date and time is easier Less security and protection for expensive vehicles
Driver can inspect the vehicle regularly for damage

Enclosed Car Carrier Transport: Best for Expensive and Low Clearance Vehicle

Enclosed car transport is generally used for classic or recently painted luxury cars. The cost of this method of transport is about 60% higher than the cost of the open carrier method. If you have a car that you consider to be priceless because of the rarity of the car or the cost of the car this will likely be the best method for you.

Also, many enclosed carriers are equipped with special equipment that can safely manage vehicles with low ground clearance. This method keeps the car in an enclosed trailer and this means that there is virtually no risk of any rocks or debris hitting your car itself because the trailer will be protecting it.

When choosing an enclosed car carrier, you have the option between a soft-sided and a hard-sided car carrier. The most commonly used one is the hard-sided one.

Pros & Cons of Enclosed Auto Transport

Provides protection and security during transitTwo times more expensive than open car shipping
Access to carriers that are more experienced with high-end vehiclesLess fuel-efficient
Reduces the risk of damage caused by flying road debris or bad weatherIt can take longer to transport a car

Enclosed Auto Transport

Open Vs. Enclosed Car Shipping Cost

In general, enclosed car shipping costs between $800 and $2,400, while open transport costs between $400 and $1,300. Enclosed car shipping costs 40 percent more than open car shipping.

DistanceOpen TransportEnclosed Transport
300 Miles$450$600
600 Miles$600$800
1200 Miles$1050$1600
2000 Miles$1200$1700

What Affects Open Vs Enclosed Car Transport Prices?

Regardless of which shipping method you choose, there are several factors that can affect the final price. Among them are:

  • Distance: Generally, long-distance transport costs less per mile but is more expensive overall.
  • Location: Popular shipping locations may be cheaper.
  • Vehicle type, make, and model: It is more expensive to ship expensive new cars.
  • Type of shipment: Generally, terminal-to-terminal shipping is less expensive than door-to-door shipping.
  • Condition of vehicle: Operating vehicles are less expensive to move.

Which Option is Best for Shipping a Luxury, Vintage, Or Sports Car?

The enclosed car transport shields your vehicle from the elements, rocks, and other external damage. Therefore, If you have a luxury vehicle, vintage, classic, or sports car, enclosed car shipping is the best car shipping method as it provides additional protection and safety for your one-of-a-kind car.

Alternative Means of Auto Transport

On the off chance that you would prefer not to utilize any of the above options, you can also hire someone from the auto transport company to drive your car to the final destination. However, this option is useful for shorter distances in light of the fact there are not many individuals who might go to the nation driving your vehicle, and it would also cost a great deal of cash.

If you have any other questions, our customer service department will gladly help you out. You can contact us by phone at (888) 802 8250, or send an email to info@autostartransport.com.

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    Open VS Enclosed Car Transport: FAQs


    How much does it cost to ship a car enclosed?

    Currently, the average enclosed car transport cost per mile is $2 for shipping a car less than 200 miles, but over 1,200 miles, you’ll pay considerably less per mile. For enclosed auto shipping over 1,500 miles, the average cost is around $1 per mile.

    Since enclosed cars are shipped in containers, the cost per mile is higher. Rates are normally 40% higher than open car shipping rates because of the added container element.

    While the per-mile rate may drop for long-distance transport, the overall enclosed car shipping cost will still be higher.

    When to use enclosed car transport?

    In general, enclosed transport is only needed if the car has a low ground clearance or is very expensive. Enclosed carriers are safer than open carriers because they do not expose your automobile to the elements (or burglars) during transport. However, it’s also roughly 40% more expensive than open car shipping.

    The extra cost may be worth it if you’re transporting a car with low ground clearance or one of several specialty vehicles: It may be worth the extra cost if you have a low-ground clearance vehicle or one of several specialty vehicles

    • Antique or classic vehicles
    • Custom or exotic vehicles
    • Luxury vehicles
    Is open car shipping safe?

    When your vehicle is loaded onto an open car transport trailer, it will be secured with chains or a locking mechanism. The driver takes every precaution to ensure that no unauthorized people gain access to the vehicle, making it a very safe and secure business. Reliable auto transport companies have insurance to cover any potential damages.

    Open or enclosed trailers: how many cars can they hold?

    Usually, eight to ten cars will fit on an open trailer, while only two to three cars fit on an enclosed trailer. Considering this, enclosed trailers are an excellent option for rare or expensive vehicles.

    How does road debris affect cars on open trailers?

    Many people request top-load car transport because of this common myth. It is believed that the higher your car is from the ground, the less likely it is to be damaged by road debris. In reality, instead of flying into your car sideways, debris hits the front of the truck.

    Open vs enclosed auto transport: what are the main differences?

    Open and enclosed auto transport differ primarily in price and protection. The enclosed car carrier provides greater protection for your vehicle, but it is more expensive.


    Mark Dugger

    Mark works as operations manager at AutoStar Transport. He has extensive experience in systems management and understands how to run a business efficiently. Mark is with AutoStar since its early days. He writes about auto shipping, logistics, and cross-country car shipping. In his free time, Mark plays golf and do skiing.
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