Call NOW (888) 346-2202

Open vs Enclosed Car Shipping: Which is Better for You?

Classic Car in Enclosed Trailer | National Transport Services

Open vs Enclosed Car Shipping

So you need to move your car to a new city or across the country?
The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether to drive it yourself or have it shipped. Having your vehicle shipped by a professional is fast and efficient. Shipping your car can save you a lot of stress and time.
When deciding to ship your vehicle, you’ll have to choose between open vs enclosed car shipping. An open auto transport trailer is affordable and flexible. But an enclosed vehicle transport, despite being more pricey, provides added safety and protection, ensuring your car remains undamaged upon arrival.
Are you struggling to decide which one to choose? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about enclosed auto transports and open transport car shipping.

What Is Auto Transport?

Automobiles are transport tools, but sometimes they need to be transported. That’s why auto transport services are such an important industry.
Whether by truck, ship, or railway, millions of cars are transported each year. Auto transport is also known as vehicle shipping. It is a specialty service that helps people move their cars from one location to another.
There are several reasons why somebody would need to have their vehicle transported. These include moving cross-country, going to college far away from home, or relocating for corporate reasons.
If you’re wondering how cars are transported to dealers, auto transport is an important piece of the puzzle. After all, if a car is driven to the dealership, it’s no longer ‘new’. That’s why new cars are shipped there instead.
Car manufacturers invest in auto transport services to provide dealerships with their needed vehicles. This requires much planning.
Car manufacturers spend up to billions of dollars each year on auto transport services. This is partly what fuels the industry.

How Does the Vehicle Transport Process Work?

If you need your vehicle shipped, you must first contact a company that offers such a service. The company will then provide a quote on how much it will cost to transport the vehicle depending on whether you choose open vs enclosed car shipping.
After booking your order, the company will assign a professional transport carrier to collect the vehicle based on the transport type (open or enclosed) that you ordered. The customer must set a time and location for pick up.
Once the carrier arrives, both the customer and the driver must sign a Bill of Lading. What’s a Bill of Lading?
It’s a legal document that specifies the details of the item you want to ship. It also details the quantity and location of the shipment. When the receiver receives the vehicle, they must also sign the Bill.
There are several methods of auto transport. These include railways, truck, and personal transport.
Railroad transport is a fast and efficient way of moving large numbers of cars. Certain rail cars, called autoracks or train cars, are specifically designed to carry vehicles. They usually have 2-3 decks.
Truck transports are also frequently used to carry vehicles. Truck drivers face numerous challenges, including deciding in what order to load the cars. If the driver loads the wrong car first, they’ll have to move all the other cars to get it out.
Chains and straps are used to secure all vehicles so the chances of one falling off are minimal.
Personal auto transport relies on special carriers that use trailers to load and move vehicles. There are two types of trailers: open trailers and enclosed trailers.
Are you wondering what the difference is between open vs enclosed car shipping? Keep reading to find out.

Open Transport Car Shipping

Open car trailers are open at the sides, exposing your car to the elements during transport. These trailers can hold different car sizes, ranging from small models to large SUVs.
An open transport for car shipping is usually a long, two-level trailer capable of carrying several cars at once. Open trailer shipping is suitable for all types of cars. Open trailer shipping is often used to move used vehicles.
There are different kinds of open-air carriers. The most popular is the two-level, multi-car trailer. This is a kind of double-decker trailer, able to hold multiple vehicles.
Next is the single-level, multi-car trailer. This type of transport is used for moving high-value, luxury automobiles. It is also used for expedited deliveries where time is a significant factor.
For short distances, sometimes a truck is used with a single-level tow trailer. The kind of transport you need depends on distance, vehicle type, and budget.

Open trailer with two cars loaded on the top, one is a yellow Volvo P100 2 door coupe and the other is a purple American muscle car

What are the Pros of Open Trailer Shipping?

If you’re on a tight budget, then you should consider open transport car shipping as it’s a cost-effective shipping option. Enclosed trailers tend to be a lot pricier because they can’t hold as many vehicles.
Open-air trailers are also lighter, which reduces fuel consumption during transport. This helps bring down the costs and is also better for the environment.
Open-air carriers are also easier to come by. That means it will be easier to book one and you’re less likely to have to wait for availability.
Open car trailers are more flexible and you’re more likely to secure delivery services at short notice for a reasonable cost. This flexibility is important when you’re trying to sort out a hectic move.
No matter what kind of car you own, an open-air trailer will work for you. They can house any kind of automobile.
You can also ship multiple cars at once on the same trailer. This is useful for families with multiple vehicles.

What are the Cons of Open Trailer Shipping?

The biggest con to using an open-air trailer is that your car is exposed to the elements. That means there is no guarantee that your car will be fully protected. Depending on the weather conditions and the amount of road debris, your car may sustain damages.

Enclosed Vehicle Transport

With enclosed shipping, your car will be transported in a fully enclosed trailer. Many owners feel more comfortable using enclosed auto transport, as it offers a higher degree of protection for their vehicle.
Enclosed vehicle transports are a reliable and safe transport option. They are often the preferred choice for luxury cars and antique vehicles that are worth a lot of money.
There are different types of enclosed trailers. The first is a single-car trailer that is capable of shipping just one vehicle over a short distance.
Single level multi-car trailers can move more than one vehicle at a time. And multi-level, multi-car enclosed trailers can ship several cars at once.

Sun setting just to the right of an air traffic control tower, with a black and white Bugatti getting loaded onto an enclosed trailer in white

What are the Pros of Enclosed Auto Transport?

Closed trailers provide secured transportation for your vehicle. In an enclosed vehicle transport, harsh weather and road debris won’t be able to damage your car.
In an enclosed auto transport, your car will be secured using soft ropes and tie-downs, further mitigating any chance of damage. Enclosed trailers often make use of climate control systems to ensure your car stays at the right temperature.
For certain vehicles, keeping them at the right temperature is important. It’s well-known that cold weather can damage most types of cars.
Enclosed transports offer a high degree of safety and are the number one choice for shipping classic cars, sports cars, and antique vehicles.

What are the Cons of Enclosed Auto Transport?

The main con to using enclosed auto transport is the cost. Many people cannot afford to ship their vehicles on an enclosed car trailer.
Lack of visibility may also be a downside. For drivers to check on the conditions of your vehicle, they would need to open the trailer.
Enclosed trailers are larger and bulkier than open trailers. Because of this, they tend to use more fuel. This raises the cost of transport and causes more harm to the environment.

What Affects Auto Transport Costs?

There are several factors that affect the cost of shipping a vehicle. The main factor is the type of transport (i.e. open vs enclosed car shipping).
Distance also has a profound effect on shipping costs. A car being shipped a short distance can often cost the same as it would over a long distance. This is because of fuel costs.
Pickup and drop-off locations also affect the price. For example, if you live in a rural area, it can often be a challenging process trying to ship your vehicle. Transport companies are often not willing to drive long distances to pick up a car.
The type of car you have can also affect the cost of delivery. If your car is small and light, it’s going to cost less than a bigger, heavier model.
Your car’s condition may also affect the cost of auto transport services. For example, if your car is old and inoperable, a forklift may be required to load it into the trailer and secure it in place. This can add to the overall cost.


Both open car trailers and enclosed car trailers can transport many different types of automobiles.
Open trailers are a cost-effective shipping method but offer little protection from weather or debris. An enclosed car trailer is safer but comes with a higher price tag.
The overall cost of shipping your vehicle depends on distance, pick up/drop off location, and the type of car you own.
Whether you need to transport your car a short or long distance, we can help. We are dedicated to providing quality auto transport services to individual clients and dealerships. Contact us today for a quote.