While shipping a vehicle can be nerve-wracking, proper preparation can make a world of difference and minimize the risk for damage, ensuring the safest possible journey. Options to ship a vehicle include open or enclosed shipping. Open shipping, which is how most dealerships to transport vehicles, is more common and less expensive. In either case, there are a few things that should be done to prepare the vehicle for transport.

First, be sure to check the vehicle for any damage. To guarantee that no pre-existing damage goes unnoticed, wash your car well and document any damage with multiple photographs and a written record of chips, scratches or dings. Notify the transport company of the findings. During this step, it would also be wise to remove any parking passes or toll tags to ensure that they are not stolen or charged during the trip. If the vehicle has a car alarm, disable the alarm to make sure that it is not activated in the shipping process and provide instructions on how to disable to alarm to the transport driver. Remove any aftermarket items on the outside of the vehicle, including light bars, antennas, spoilers or ground effects, and fold in the mirrors. If the car is a convertible and an open shipping method is being used, ensure that the top is as secure as possible and consider using a wind-resistant tarp for added protection. Next, clean the inside of the car and remove custom accessories and personal items. In some cases, extra fees could be charged or penalties assessed if the auto transport company is not authorized to ship these additional items.

Although the car should be locked, it is possible that personal belongings could be stolen as the car will most likely be unlocked for periods of time during the trip. Because your car will be driven some to load and unload it from the transport vehicle, take steps to ensure that the car has no issues that could be a problem during transport. Check the car for mechanical and electrical issues and document any special instructions that may be needed to start, stop, or drive the car. Provide these instructions to the transport company. All fluids in the car should be topped off, including but not limited to anti-freeze, transmission and power steering fluids. Don’t gas up though, as the fuel level should be down to less than an eighth of a tank. Make sure that the car has a fully-charged battery and check tire pressure to verify that the tires are inflated to the recommended level. Verify that the brakes are in good working order. Once all vehicle checks and maintenance have been completed, check for leaks and document any issues. Notify the transport company of any leaks or issues that may arise.

On the day of transport, be on time to meet the transport company and do a final inspection of the vehicle with the driver. Hand over all of the notes and special instructions that have been prepared during preparation for transport and lock car.