Car Shipping For Newbies: How To Differ Auto Brokers From Auto Carriers

Your car is probably your second most valuable asset, next to your home. If you ever need to move your car across the country for relocation, moving out, or migration, you’ll likely need some help transporting your vehicle. Deciding what service to use isn’t a decision to take lightly because you don’t want anything wrong to happen to your car.

The most common way people look for auto transport services is by using Google. Once you search for “car shipping,” you’ll get a list of companies near you that offer this service. This list might seem intimidating initially because you’ll probably get a variety of them, including auto transport carriers and vehicle transport brokers. And now you’re confused, asking, “what are they, and what do I choose?”

To help you understand the difference between auto transport carriers and auto transport brokers, read on so you can evaluate the service that is more suitable for your situation.

Why do People Employ Car Shipping Services?

Shipping a car can be more convenient and practical than driving it, especially over long distances or when time is a factor. Shipping a car can also help protect the car from wear and tear and ensure that it arrives at its destination safely and in good condition.

People may need to ship their cars for several reasons, including:

1. Moving

One of the most common reasons for shipping a car is when a person is moving to a new location. If the move is long-distance or across state lines, it may be more practical to ship the car rather than drive it while the owner probably boards a plane.

2. Purchasing a car

If a person purchases a car from a seller in another state or country, they may need to have the car shipped to their location.

3. Selling a car

Similarly, if a person is selling a car to a buyer in another state or country, they may need to arrange for the car to be shipped to the buyer.

4. Snowbirds

People living in a colder climate may travel south for the winter to avoid the cold weather. If they want to bring their car with them, they may need to have it shipped.

5. Military relocation

Military personnel who are being relocated may need to have their car shipped to their new location.

6. Special events

People may also ship their cars for special events such as car shows, exhibitions, and auctions.

What is an Auto Transport Carrier?

An auto transport carrier is a company that specializes in transporting vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles, from one location to another. Auto transport carriers typically have a fleet of trucks and trailers designed to transport vehicles safely and efficiently over long distances. They also employ drivers to drive those trailers and trucks for transportation. Auto carriers show up at your doorstep to pick up your vehicle and deliver it to your chosen destination.

Carriers are sometimes referred to as “auto carriers,” “car carriers,” “auto haulers,” or “auto transporters.” Basically, they are the same: they operate with their own trucks or trailers and drivers. It’s also possible for a carrier to be a single-owner operator. This means that they own one, maybe a couple, of trailers, and they use them to transport other people’s cars.

Auto transport carriers may offer both open and enclosed transport services. Open transport involves transporting vehicles on an available trailer, while enclosed transport involves transporting vehicles in an enclosed trailer. Enclosed transport provides excellent protection against weather and road debris but is typically more expensive than open transport.

Auto transport carriers are required to be licensed and insured by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to operate legally. They must comply with regulations governing vehicle transportation, including safety standards and insurance requirements.

If you hire an auto carrier to transport your car, you can deal with them directly. A reliable company will keep you updated and informed throughout the transport process. They should give you a number to call for updates, questions, or check-ins. You also have one company to deal with should something go wrong and you need to make a claim. It’s also possible to hire a carrier by going through a broker.

When hiring an auto transport carrier, it is essential to research the company and read reviews to ensure that they have a good reputation and provide high-quality services. It is also necessary to understand the cost of the service, the estimated delivery time, and any additional fees or charges that may apply.

There are several pros and cons to consider when hiring an auto carrier to transport your vehicle:


  • Less cost – You will pay less because there’s no middleman compared to auto brokers.
  • Convenience – One obvious advantage is that hiring an auto carrier is a convenient way to transport your vehicle, especially if you are moving long distances or do not have the time or ability to drive your car to its destination.
  • Safety – Auto carriers are experienced in transporting vehicles and have specialized equipment designed to transport vehicles safely and efficiently. This can help protect your car from damage during transit.
  • One point of contact – With carriers, you only have a direct line of contact to the carrier, allowing for more specific and thorough updates. You can contact the dispatcher, and you might be able to deal directly with the driver, who will pick up and deliver your car. Should there be problems, it’s more likely to be easier to deal with when you’re working directly with the carrier than a third party.
  • Insurance – Most auto carriers have insurance coverage that will cover any damages that may occur during transportation. This provides peace of mind and protection for your vehicle.
  • Time-saving – Shipping your car with an auto carrier can save you time, as you do not need to drive the vehicle to its destination yourself.


  • They may be hard to contact directly – Depending on where you live, it may be a struggle to find a carrier, especially one with a single operator. They tend not to have enough time, money or need to market themselves to the public, so they may not have a website you can visit or have an online presence. You would need a broker for some of them, so you can’t contact them directly.
  • Dependability – There is a chance that your vehicle may not arrive at its destination on time or may be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, such as traffic or mechanical issues.
  • Not flexible – Carriers have only a few trucks in their fleet, so they would have to decide what type of trailer to use. Depending on their trailers and trucks, they may not be able to transport every kind of car.
  • Limited access – Some auto carriers may not be able to transport your vehicle to certain locations, especially if they are in remote areas. They have to decide which trailers to use, the type and number of cars they can ship, and how much they charge. They will likely choose the most profitable routes, which may not be cost-saving for you.
  • Risk of damage – Although auto carriers take steps to ensure the safety of your vehicle during transportation, there is always a risk of damage or accidents occurring during transit.
  • Not the best customer service – Most carriers are single-driver owners who are extremely busy and always on the road. Customer service isn’t at the top of their priority list.

What is an Auto Transport Broker?

An auto transport broker is a company or individual that acts as a middleman between customers who need to transport their vehicles and carriers who provide transportation services. Auto transport brokers do not own their own trucks or transport vehicles; instead, they work with a network of carriers to find the best options and rates for their customers. They make money in the form of a commission from the carrier in exchange for providing them with a customer.

An auto transport broker has access to a network of carriers. They don’t own the trucks or trailers, so they don’t handle the direct shipping of the vehicle. Their primary role is to find and vet the best carrier for a customer, depending on their location and needs. They also manage and coordinate car shipments on behalf of their customers.

Auto transport brokers handle the logistics of transporting a vehicle, including finding a carrier, negotiating rates, and arranging pickup and delivery. They are also responsible for ensuring that carriers they work with are licensed and insured, and they may provide additional services such as tracking the shipment and providing updates to the customer.

When you search “auto transport companies” or “car shipping companies,” most of the results are actually brokers.


  • Flexibility – Brokers have an extensive network of carriers and are not tied to a single fleet that may fail to deliver vehicles on time. They can help anyone, regardless of where they’re shipping the car to, the type of vehicle that needs to be transported, or when they should ship it. The best brokers work with large and small carriers that serve all routes all over the country.
  • Time-saving – If you work with a broker, you will save some time researching about carriers, like names, contact information, whether or not they are licensed or insured, and their reputation. Looking for a good carrier may take a lot of time, so if you contact brokers, they already have access to carriers, and they can do all the vetting for you. Also, they will manage the shipping process for you, ideally making it stress-free for you.
  • Network and experience – A good reason why you may prefer a broker is that they have contacts and access to reputable carriers. Their job is to verify licenses, insurance coverage, and credentials for every carrier they choose to work with. They are industry expert who knows what to look for when choosing a page for a particular shipment.


  • Can be costlier – Getting a shipping service through a broker may cost you more than going directly to a carrier. Since they work on commission, you’ll have to pay for their services besides the amount that is paid for the actual shipping of your vehicle.
  • You have to trust them – The disadvantage of working with a broker is that you must trust the go-between. Not all brokers are the same, and even the best may drop the ball from time to time. If they fail to do their job correctly and isn’t a good manager or communicator, the shipping process can be a miserable experience for you.
  • Some are unreliable – it is important to research and choose a reputable auto transport broker, as some brokers may not provide high-quality services or engage in unethical practices. It is recommended to read reviews, check for industry certifications, and verify licensing and insurance information before choosing an auto transport broker.

Differences between Auto Brokers to Auto Carriers

To simplify and sum it up, here are the main differences between an auto broker and an auto carrier are:

1. Roles and responsibilities

An auto broker acts as a middleman between the buyer and the seller of a vehicle. They help the buyer find the right vehicle, negotiate the price, and handle the paperwork for sale. On the other hand, an auto carrier is responsible for physically transporting the vehicle from one location to another.

2. Licensing and insurance

Auto carriers are required to be licensed and insured by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to operate legally. Auto brokers are not required to have a license or insurance but must be registered with the FMCSA.

3. Fleet size

Auto carriers generally have a fleet of trucks and drivers that they use to transport vehicles. Auto brokers, on the other hand, do not have their own trucks or drivers. They work with a network of carriers to find the best match for their customers.

4. Payment

Auto carriers typically receive payment directly from the buyer or seller for their services. Auto brokers typically take a commission from the buyer or seller for their role in finding and negotiating the sale.