Open vs. Enclosed Trailers for Car Shipping

Car shipping can be a daunting, complicated process, and one of the first decisions you’ll make is whether to ship your car on an open vs enclosed trailers. Open trailers are less expensive than enclosed ones, but they offer less protection for your vehicle. Shipping via an open or enclosed trailer is a safe option for transporting your car. You can save money using an open trailer, or you can opt for an enclosed one if you are worried about damage to your vehicle. But how do you decide which one is best for you? Read on to find out more about both options and the cost differences between the two.

What Is Open Trailer Car Shipping?

Open car shipping is a method that involves a trailer without a cover or container. These trailers are designed to accommodate up to 10 cars at once, depending on the size and weight of the vehicle. It is the most common form of auto transport because it’s economical and convenient. Generally, these trailers make it possible to transport more cars than enclosed ones.

However, open-car shipping does have its disadvantages. It requires more attention for proper vehicle stabilization during transport and has a higher chance of damaging your vehicle than an enclosed trailer.

Overall, open car transport is a popular option for auto transport due to its affordability and convenience.

What Is Enclosed Trailer Car Shipping?

Enclosed auto transport is the transport of vehicles in a trailer that is completely enclosed on all sides. These sides are usually made of fiberglass or canvas. This method is usually used for luxury, antique, or rare vehicles that require extra protection.

Of course, this exclusivity comes at a cost – quite literally. Enclosed auto transport can be 70-80% pricier than its open counterpart. But, for many, the peace of mind that comes with the added protection is well worth the investment.

Understanding the Costs: Open vs. Enclosed Car Shipping

Buckle up, because we’re about to cruise down the cost highway of car shipping. Money matters, and when it comes to choosing between open and enclosed trailers, understanding the financial landscape is crucial. Let’s break down the cost considerations for each option:

1. Average Cost of Open Transport:

Open transport is the wallet-friendly choice, averaging around $1 per mile. The overall cost typically falls between $1,000 and $2,000, making it a popular and economical option for many. The key here is efficiency – open trailers can accommodate more vehicles in one load, spreading the cost across multiple customers.

2. Average Cost of Enclosed Transport:

Now, let’s talk about the deluxe experience – enclosed transport. Be prepared to dig a bit deeper into your pockets, as it can be 70-80% more expensive than open transport. The added cost reflects the premium protection enclosed trailers provide, turning your car’s journey into a first-class expedition.

3. Factors Affecting Cost:

Several factors play a role in determining the cost of your car shipping adventure:

  • Distance: The longer the journey, the higher the cost. Consider the shipping distance when budgeting for your vehicle’s relocation.
  • Vehicle Size and Weight: Larger and heavier vehicles may incur higher costs due to increased fuel consumption and the space they occupy on the trailer.
  • Seasonal Demand: High-demand seasons can lead to increased prices. Planning your shipment during off-peak times might save you some dollars.

4. Balancing Act: Cost vs. Value:

Here’s the million-dollar question (well, not quite): What’s the value of your peace of mind? Open transport offers an affordable solution, balancing cost-effectiveness with reliable service. On the flip side, enclosed transport comes at a premium but provides an added layer of security, especially for valuable or sensitive vehicles.

5. Getting the Best Deal:

Shop around! Different car shipping companies may offer varying quotes. Don’t settle for the first option; explore your choices. However, be wary of unusually low prices – quality service often comes at a reasonable cost.

6. Insurance Coverage:

Consider the insurance coverage included in the shipping cost. While both open and enclosed transport from a reputable car shipping company should always  come with insurance, the coverage limits may differ. Ensure that the insurance provided aligns with the value of your vehicle.

7. Additional Costs:

Be aware of potential additional costs, such as expedited shipping fees or surcharges for special handling requirements. Understanding the full scope of the expenses involved will help you avoid surprises along the way.

Which Of The Two Options Is Cheaper?

Pricing is always an important topic to consider when The average cost of open transport is around $1 per mile, with the overall price ranging from $1,000 to over $2,000. It is the most popular and reliable option for transporting a car, truck, van, or trailer. It is also less expensive than enclosed as you can generally fit more cars in one load.

Enclosed auto transport can be up to 70-80% more expensive than open auto transport. Because of this, it is generally a less desirable option when moving your vehicle.

At the end of the day, this is a matter of preference. Open carrier car shipping typically has a low risk of damage, but accidents can happen. It is also the cheaper of the two options

Enclosed carriers are safer and more secure, but it is also more expensive than the alternative.

It comes down to your level of comfort. If you would like safer transport, go with the enclosed. If you would like cheaper but still considered very safe, go open.

Pros and Cons of Open vs. Enclosed Car Shipping: A Comprehensive Comparison

Choosing between open and enclosed car shipping involves a careful consideration of various factors. Let’s delve into the pros and cons of each option, along with their best use cases, providing you with a comprehensive guide for your car shipping decision:

Open Car Shipping: The Pros and Cons


  • Cost-Effective: Open transport is budget-friendly, with an average cost of around $1 per mile. Ideal for those seeking economical solutions.
  • Efficiency in Volume: These trailers can efficiently transport multiple vehicles simultaneously, making them a practical choice for standard car shipments.
  • Availability: Open carriers are widely available, offering more flexibility in scheduling and shorter waiting times for booking.


  • Exposure to Elements: The primary drawback is exposure. Vehicles are out in the open, vulnerable to weather conditions, debris, and road elements, which may lead to cosmetic damage.
  • Less Security: While measures are taken to secure vehicles, open trailers provide less protection against theft and potential damage during transport.
  • Exposure to Elements: The primary drawback is exposure. Vehicles are out in the open, vulnerable to weather conditions, debris, and road elements, which may lead to cosmetic damage.
  • Less Security: While measures are taken to secure vehicles, open trailers provide less protection against theft and potential damage during transport.

Best Use Cases for Open Car Shipping:

  • Ideal for standard vehicles such as sedans, SUVs, and everyday commuting cars.
  • Suited for short to medium-distance transport where exposure to weather is not a significant concern.

Enclosed Car Shipping: The Pros and Cons


  • Maximum Protection: Enclosed trailers provide a shield against the elements, ensuring vehicles are protected from weather, debris, and road hazards.
    Ideal for Special
  • Vehicles: Perfect for luxury, antique, or rare vehicles with specific transportation requirements that demand the utmost care.
  • Lower Risk of Damage: With added protection, the risk of cosmetic damage or minor dings during transport is significantly reduced.


  • Higher Cost: The most substantial drawback is the cost. Enclosed transport can be 70-80% more expensive than open transport, making it a less economical choice.
  • Limited Availability: Enclosed carriers may be less readily available, potentially leading to longer wait times for booking.

Best Use Cases for Enclosed Car Shipping:

  • Suited for high-value vehicles, luxury cars, antiques, or limited edition models.

  • Ideal for long-distance transport where protection from the elements is crucial.

Now, let’s break down these pros and cons in a straightforward table for a quick comparison:

Criteria Open Car Shipping Enclosed Car Shipping
Cost Economical, averaging $1 per mile Premium, 70-80% more expensive
Protection Exposure to elements and road hazards Maximum protection from weather and debris
Vehicle Type Standard vehicles Ideal for luxury, antique, or rare vehicles
Efficiency Efficient for transporting multiple vehicles Lower efficiency due to limited vehicle capacity
Availability Widely available with shorter booking times Less readily available, potentially longer wait times
Best Use Cases Standard vehicles for short to medium distances High-value vehicles, luxury cars, or long-distance transport
Weather Considerations Suited for fair weather conditions Ideal for inclement weather, protecting against rain, snow, and harsh elements
Protection Against Debris Greater exposure to road debris Virtually eliminates the risk of road debris causing damage
Special Vehicle Care May not cater to specific vehicle requirements Tailored for vehicles requiring special care and attention
Security Measures Less secure, more vulnerable during transport Enhanced security, reducing the risk of theft or vandalism
Insurance Coverage Standard coverage with limitations Typically higher insurance coverage, providing additional peace of mind
Booking Flexibility More flexible, easier to secure last-minute bookings Requires advanced booking due to limited carrier availability
Recommended for Everyday use vehicles, short-distance moves Classic cars, luxury vehicles, high-value assets, long-distance moves

Here’s a simplified version of the comparison:

open vs enclosed car shipping infographic

Factors to consider when choosing between Open vs Enclosed Car Shipping

Choosing between open and enclosed shipping is akin to navigating a complex road system. Your vehicle is the treasure, and the route you choose can significantly impact its journey. Let’s delve into the factors that should guide your decision-making process:

1. Vehicle Type:

The nature of your vehicle is a paramount consideration. Is it your daily commuter, a trusty family car, or a rare classic? Open shipping is often ideal for standard vehicles, while enclosed transport caters to the more delicate, high-value, or vintage automobiles that demand extra care.

2. Weather Conditions:

Mother Nature plays a role in this automotive adventure. If you’re shipping during a season of unpredictable weather or extreme conditions, opting for an enclosed trailer provides an added layer of protection against rain, snow, or debris. It’s like giving your car an umbrella for the journey.

3. Shipping Distance:

The distance your vehicle will travel is a crucial factor. For shorter distances, open transport might suffice, offering cost-effectiveness without compromising safety. However, for longer journeys, especially cross-country hauls, the added protection of an enclosed trailer becomes more appealing.

4. Budget Considerations:

Let’s talk dollars and cents. Your budget is a significant influencer. Open transport is the thrifty choice, providing a reliable service without breaking the bank. On the other hand, enclosed transport comes at a premium. Assess your financial comfort zone and weigh it against the value you place on securing your vehicle.

5. Vehicle Sensitivity:

Some vehicles are more sensitive than others. If your car is a delicate flower, susceptible to scratches and dings, enclosed shipping offers a cocoon of protection. Luxury cars, antiques, or limited edition models often fare better in the secure embrace of an enclosed trailer.

6. Availability of Open-Air Services:

Consider the logistics of your location. Are open-air shipping services readily available? If open transport aligns with your preferences but isn’t as accessible in your area, it might affect your decision. Accessibility can influence both the cost and convenience of the shipping process.

7. Delivery Timeframe:

Time is of the essence for many, especially when moving or selling a vehicle. Open transport, being a more common method, often has shorter wait times for booking. If you’re in a hurry, this might tip the scales in favor of open shipping.

8. Personal Comfort Level:

Your peace of mind matters. Consider your comfort level with the level of exposure your vehicle will face. If the thought of your car sharing the road openly with the elements makes you uneasy, the added security of an enclosed trailer might be a worthwhile investment.

9. Insurance Coverage:

Check the insurance coverage provided by the shipping company. While reputable companies offer insurance regardless of the method, the coverage may vary. Enclosed shipping might come with higher insurance limits, adding another layer of assurance for your valuable cargo. Whether you choose open or enclosed, never ship with a carrier without confirming that they have insurance for your vehicle during transport. 

10. Special Requirements:

Does your vehicle have special requirements? Perhaps it’s a low-suspension sports car or a vehicle with non-standard dimensions. In such cases, an enclosed trailer may offer a more tailored solution to ensure the safe transport of your unique vehicle.


There are a number of factors that can influence your decision between shipping a car in an open or enclosed trailer. These include the car’s weight and shipping distance, as well as the availability of open-air shipping services in your area. While open-air transport provides a more cost-effective shipping option, enclosed trailer shipping allows you to transport cars with more precious cargo, such as classic cars. Remember to always do your research and pick the option that best fits your car shipping needs.