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Should I drive or ship my car? – Part I

In February 2014, my employer informed me of an opportunity to get work experience in Alberta. A week later, he informed me that my transfer was official and that I needed to be in Edmonton ready to work on the 9th of March; it gave me two weeks to figure everything out. Fortunately, I did not own much aside from an old Volkswagen, a bed, a TV and a deteriorating sofa. I made my decision quickly: I would keep most of my furniture in a storage unit until my return, and I would sell my car. It was old and definitely not capable of taking me safely to my destination. Oh, I also sold the dying sofa to my roommates.

sign south park
White Avenue, Edmonton

I was not the only one to be transferred to Alberta; two co-workers came too, each using a different approach. One drove his car all the way, taking advantage of the extra space to carry luggage and small furniture; the second one shipped his car by train and flew directly to Edmonton. In the end, all of us were happy with our decisions.

In Part 1 of this article, you will find a comparison of different car shipping companies and what to look for when shipping your vehicle. In Part 2, I will evaluate the cost of driving your vehicle versus shipping it.

For the purpose of this article, I decided to use a fictitious move that I thought would be easy to extrapolate information from. I chose a Coast-to-Coast move and a somewhat standard four-door sedan.

  • The fictitious move: Montreal, QC to Vancouver, BC
  • Moving Date: August 28th, just in time for school
  • The vehicle: 2011 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5L (Gas)
  • Drop-off/Pick-up: Terminal-to-Terminal

Shipping your car

It is very easy to get an online quote to ship your car. You can use whatever search engine you like and type in “Car Shipping Canada”. Usually, the best companies will come up first, although these days, the best companies are not necessarily the ones that have the most up-to-date, optimized for search engine websites. So,  as it happens, some of the very first results may be undesirable.

In the table below, you will find a comparison of quotes from five (5) shipping companies that were listed on my google search results.

[table caption=”Shipping Quote Comparison” width=”700″ colwidth=”100|50|50|125|75|125″ colalign=”left|center|center|center|center|center”]
Shipping Carrier,BBB Rating,Years in Business,Price as quoted,Transport,Estimated delivery time
Livingston Vehicle Transportation,A+,30+,$1410,Rail and Truck,18+ days
MVS Canada,A+,30+,$1650,Rail and Truck,21+ days
L Hanson’s Forwarding,A+,30+,$1670,Rail and Truck,14+ days,F,NA,$1895,Truck,7 to 14 days
ABR Shipping (Truck),F,NA,$1655,Truck,14 to 17 days
ABR Shipping (Rail),F,NA,$1500,Rail,14 days

Reviews and ratings

Notice the Better Business Bureau ( rating in the table. There are a lot of new and inexperienced car carriers out there; be sure to opt for a reputable one. If you receive a lower quote from a carrier you are unsure of, present the quote to a company you trust and see if they can adjust their price. The shipping industry is very competitive; most, if not all, of the quotes I received mentioned that the company would match lower estimates from competitors.

Truck or train?

Another aspect to consider is to whether your car will be shipped on an open truck or in an enclosed train car. These are the main differences:

  • Open trucks are often more expensive, but will ship faster.
  • When shipping by truck, you will often be allowed to pack your car with personal belongings. Train carriers usually don’t allow this since they may cross the US border. They will allow only spare tires and other items that are considered to be “part” of the car.
  • Shipping by truck is more subject to damage such as paint chips caused by road conditions. Not all carrier provide insurance that covers this type of damage.

Vehicle Condition

Most carriers will require that your car is in working condition, with a working e-brake and foot brake. They may also have additional requirements such as having a minimum quantity of gas, all fluids topped-off, appropriate tire pressure, etc. If your car is modified with lower suspension or other external body parts that change its standard shape, be sure to inform your carrier as this may result in certain restrictions or a price increase.


When looking at an estimate, make sure it includes both the shipping insurance and the fuel surcharge. The best companies include insurance that will cover any damage to your vehicle, although small dents and chips may be excluded. Some car shipping companies have a deductible. Don’t hesitate to ask questions regarding the insurance since it will be your only resort if anything happens.

Delivery Time

One thing to be aware of is the lack of precision in shipping schedules. Most companies will not guarantee any dates for departure and arrival, as many factors will affect delivery. Make sure you are not on a tight schedule to receive your vehicle.

Drop-off location

Carriers will often offer terminal-to-terminal shipping, door-to-door shipping or a combination of both. The most affordable option will always be terminal-to-terminal. If you choose to have your vehicle dropped off at work for example, you will be charged an extra $150 or more.


Choose a reputable company. Those who have been in business for many years must be doing something right. Read reviews and don’t get rushed into a decision by a fancy website.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article!