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Open vs Closed Carriers for Car Shipping (Podcast)


Open vs Closed Carriers for Car Shipping (Podcast)

Mike Marshall, Logistics Manager at Preowned Auto Logistics, a car shipping company and auto transport and logistics company in Massachusetts, discusses open versus closed carriers for car shipping and what works best for your situation.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Mike Marshall, Logistics Manager at PreOwned Auto Logistics, a car shipping and auto transport and logistics company in Massachusetts. Today our topic is open versus closed carriers for car shipping. Welcome Mike.

Mike Marshall: Thanks John, nice to talk to you today.

What Is Open Carrier Car Shipping?

John: You too. So Mike, what is an open car carrier?

Mike: An open car carrier is a trailer that is exposed to the elements. You might’ve seen large trailers and smaller ones on the highway. They range from flatbeds to all different sizes and they hold different amounts of vehicles, they can hold anywhere from one to nine.

John: So those are that sort of typical car carriers that I might pass on the highway where it’s like a double-decker, where you’ve got cars on the bottom and then cars on the top. How are those cars loaded onto a truck like that, and how many cars can it hold at once?

Mike: Yes. So as far as the loading for any multiple vehicle trailer, the first step is for the driver to assess the size and the weight of the vehicles to see where they will fit onto the trailer. There’s a lot of regulations with DOT on weight distribution, and just for driving the truck as well to make sure that you get the maximum efficiency. It starts with the driver making those assessments. Then the cars are actually driven onto the trailer by the driver. They’re then strapped down or chained down depending on how the trailer is, most of them have straps. Each wheel gets a strap, so you have four wheels, four straps, the cars are secured.

Then the decks on the trailers, like you said they’re multilevel. They have hydraulic and electric decks that go up and down and they have ramps on them so they can drive to the different locations on the trailer. And they hold anywhere from one vehicle to the most is actually 10.

John: And does the driver have to kind of almost play like a game of Tetris, where you have the tallest cars are up on the top, and the lowest cars are on the bottom, in order to sort of get them all to fit on?

Mike: Yes, it absolutely is like a game of Tetris. That’s a great analogy actually. And they do have to do it, they have to meet the height requirements, the weight requirements. That’s why often when a driver loads, he’ll lineup his vehicles on the ground and then make calculations to weight and size, and kind of figure out the load so they can see how it will go. It’s rare that there’s a load of the same vehicles moving. So it’s always a bunch of different ones that they have to put together and make sure that they fit and are safe and efficient.

John: So, when I get a car that I have shipped from state to state or across the country, I might think that having it put on a truck like that, where you’ve got nine or even 10 cars at once, that’s going to kind of slow down my shipment. That truck is going to have to go and deliver one car to this state and then go and deliver another car over here and then another car over there. And then it’s going to take forever, if I’m the last one on the truck, it’s going to take a long time for mine to get delivered. Is that accurate, or do I have an incorrect picture of how the delivery takes place?

Mike: Yeah, it’s not necessarily accurate. Generally the truck will be loaded, not only for efficiency and for weight, like I was talking about, and for height, but for where those stops are as well. Whenever possible, the driver does look for maximum efficiency. They have limited hours they can drive in a day, and the driver doesn’t want to take any longer than he has to either. So in general, if your car is going across the country, a driver won’t have to stop in Ohio and unload five cars, then get one, then load five back on. The rare occasion where that happens according to size, most of the time it’s loaded so they can make their continual drop-offs across their path.

John: So either they have cars that they know they’re driving and dropping off along one particular route, or they’re taking a whole load of cars that are all going to the same state at the same time. That kind of thing?

Mike: Yeah, it could be different it just depends on the shipment. Obviously if you got cars going to one location that’s less of a concern. But, if there’s a lot to consider for the driver, he has to make sure he does it safe. He has to meet DOT requirements, he has to meet height requirements and he has to have an efficient load that gets dropped off in order. So a lot of consideration and forethought goes into that process.

John: And that’s part of what you guys do at PreOwned Auto Logistics, right? You guys are in the business of figuring that out and doing those deliveries in the most efficient manner.

Mike: We do. Each load that we set up is really based on that. Our system and our dispatch team has a really good feel for what cars fit on what trailer, what route we should take. And we can really impart that to our drivers.

What is Closed Carrier Car Shipping?

John: So let’s move on and talk about closed car carriers. What is a closed car carrier?

Mike: Sure. A closed car carrier generally looks like a regular trailer truck that you’d see on the highway. Only inside that trailer it’s kind of like an open trailer that is in an enclosure. So, generally they hold anywhere from two vehicles to eight and it loads the same way, but you get the added protection of it being inside. So no exposure to the elements, no expose to road dust and debris and things like that. Any higher value vehicle or any maybe odd shaped vehicle, or maybe like a car that has a removable top or a convertible, a lot of folks use closed carriers for that. But the basic loading and unloading is the same, it’s just the safety and security of the vehicle.

John: And how many cars can fit in a closed car carrier? Do they have multiple levels inside the truck again, like an open carrier does, or is it just like a few cars in a row and that’s all they can take?

Mike: Yeah, so it’s very similar actually. There are just single car closed carriers, but we’ve seen them as big as eight cars that can fit in an enclosed trailer. They are generally 53 feet long, have multiple decks. Depending on the size of the vehicles, they can put eight in those trailers.

Price: Closed Carrier vs. Open Carrier Auto Shipping

John: Wow. And how much more expensive is a closed car carrier transport than an open transport?

Mike: Yeah, there’s certainly a premium because you’re getting a white glove service. It can range anywhere from 10 to 15% more to maybe upwards of 30 to 40% more depending on the move and the season and what the vehicle is. But there certainly is a premium for that service.

John: But worth it. Like you said, if you’re a car collector maybe, you have a classic car or some kind of a convertible or a luxury car or something like that, where you just want to keep it away from potentially getting any kind of damage by being on the open road.

Mike: Absolutely, it’s well worth it for those vehicles. The other added benefit is, the enclosed trailers and the enclosed carrier drivers, they are very much used to making residential pickups and deliveries because that really is their business. So you’re likely to get your car right up to your driveway.

John: All right. That’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Mike: All right. Thank you very much.

John: And for more information or to request a quote for your auto shipping needs, visit the website at or call (877) 542-1955.