Three Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed by Car Shipping Companies

CarsArrive | Auto shipping

When we imagine moving, many of us run through worst-case scenarios in our minds. We drive 200 miles before remembering the cat is still locked up in the laundry room, or we double wrap all of our fragile items, only to find that the priceless antique vase has been smashed upon arrival. What many people don't envision, though, is that during long-distance moves, their cars might not show up for weeks longer than they expected.

CBC News detailed the account of an Edmonton man, Dean Neville, who has had an experience similar to many others dealing with sub-par car transport companies in the U.S. and Canada. The company seemed legitimate and professional, and Neville was happy to give them a check.

The car was supposed to arrive in 5-9 days; after a month, Neville started calling. The company began ignoring his phone calls, but eventually agreed to issue a refund after Neville got friends to pick up the car from the shipping facility where it was languishing. It took Neville another two months, along with persistent contact, to finally get a refund -- something many scammed customers never even see.

You don't want to end up the victim of a car shipping scam, arriving at your new home without a car in sight anytime soon. What can you do to avoid this? Here are three easy tips.

1. Check the Car Shipping Company's References

Neville realized belatedly that he should have checked to see what others were saying about the company -- after his car shipment was delayed, he went online and found a shocking number of complaints and poor reviews. "Right then and there I knew I'd been somewhat had," he said.

But don't just rely blindly on online reviews, because the most likely customers to comment are the ones who had problems with the shipment. Even the best auto transport companies make mistakes, and you can't determine how good or bad a provider is based on volume alone. 100 bad reviews is not bad at all for a business who moves 100K or more vehicles a year.

If you see something you don't like in the online reviews, get references from the company directly. Be sure to ask for a happy customer, a repeat customer, and someone who had a poor experience. That way, you can compare from multiple angles to get a true picture of what it will be like to work with the company in question.

2. Be Wary of a "Free Lunch"

If you come across car shipping quotes that seem way lower than the average, take pause. Every car company has overhead, gas, storage, and insurance to pay for -- exactly where is the big cut in price coming from? Are they going to try and charge you again upon delivery? Although there are legitimate great deals out there, sometimes something that seems "too good to be true" usually is.

3. Know the Difference Between Brokers and Shippers

Car shippers are companies that take your car from point A to B. Brokers contact multiple shippers for you.

It is very important to know what you should expect when dealing with either type of company. Shippers will often be quicker, and liability is limited to one company. With auto shippers, you are dealing with the company who will move your vehicle, not with the broker with whom you placed your order.

On the other hand, brokers will often be less expensive and have a larger selection of carriers at their disposal. This can be especially valuable during busy times when available carriers are limited. But be careful with brokers - some are focused on making a markup on the cheapest deal they can land. Make sure they are not just pushing you off to a carrier, but instead will remain involved with the move until completion. Know what you are getting when you pay the bill, or know that you are taking a risk.

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