Have a non-running car? Need to have it delivered to a car show, new home, or buyer in another state? The good news is that, yes, it’s definitely doable to ship a car that doesn’t run. But you need to know what you’re getting into. Caravan Auto Transport is here to shed light on how to transport a non-operational vehicle.

How to Ship a Car That Doesn’t Run

From classic car to project truck to damaged vehicle, there can be a number of reasons why your auto doesn’t operate. Fortunately, there are plenty of companies that specialize in this type of delivery. Let’s dive into the details.

What Counts as an Inoperable Car?

Simply put, a non-running vehicle is one that can’t move under its own power and properly operate on the road (including steering, brakes, and forward/reverse travel). This can be due to motor or transmission failure, suspension issues, missing parts, auto collision, or a combination of all the above. An inoperable car requires the right carrier and proper equipment to transport.

Keep in mind that even if your car runs but isn’t safe doing so, it’s still considered “inoperable” by auto shipping companies (and must be treated as such). This can add to the delivery time and overall cost. And in some cases, a company might not be able to deliver your vehicle.

With Caravan, you don’t have to waste time with research and risk. Simply grab a free quote, compare services and rates, and enjoy a smooth experience with one of our fully vetted, qualified, and reliable carriers. We make car transport easy!

Things to Consider Prior to Shipping

Before booking a service, you’ll want to educate yourself on a few points.

  • It requires specialized equipment: First, a non-operable auto requires specialized knowledge and tools. Since it can’t be driven onto a flatbed truck or enclosed trailer, a company will have to use certain equipment to get it ready for transport. This typically involves a winch system that pulls a car into place.
  • Not every carrier is equipped for the job: Not all companies have the gear or experience to properly ship a vehicle that doesn’t run. From winches to straps to special transport trucks, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t come standard.
  • It will cost more than traditional shipping: Of course, the points listed above affect pricing. Transporting a non-running auto is almost always more expensive than delivering an operational one. Along with more time and effort, there’s an increased level of risk. This can add quite a bit to the overall cost.
  • You have shipping options: There are also two main forms of transport: open and enclosed. Open transport is more cost-effective and readily available, but it exposes your vehicle to weather and debris. Enclosed transport is more expensive but provides better protection (particularly for valuable cars).
  • You’ll need to disclose specifics to your shipper: Consider your particular vehicle’s condition and clearly communicate this to your hauler. Does it not start? Will it roll? Are there any potentially hazardous issues? Make sure you disclose this information while shopping around for a shipping service.
  • Ask questions about your quote: Some companies find it to be a hassle to haul a non-runner. If you deal with a less than trustworthy company, they might charge you a lot more in the long run. Always ask about your quote. What does it include as far as insurance and fees? Is it subject to adjustment?

Considering the added level of complexity, you want to work with a company that has a proven track record with this type of shipment. Be sure to thoroughly research candidates. Read reviews and ask about insurance coverage.

Steps to Prepare Non-Running Vehicle for Shipment

Wondering what’s involved with shipping an inoperable vehicle? Here are the basic steps to follow to safely transport your non-running vehicle from Point A to Point B.

1. Find a Trusted Shipping Company 

If you go with a trustworthy shipper, you’ll have peace of mind. A reliable company won’t charge you an arm and a leg. So don’t be shy or hesitate to disclose the full nature of your car. A good outfit wants to make things as smooth as possible.

Caravan Auto Transport helps you find the most trusted auto transport outfits in the country. View the rankings of the best shippers by city or state, and find a reputable hauler that’s equipped to handle the complexities involved with transporting your vehicle here.

2. Provide Ample Details

Provide the length, height, width, and weight of the vehicle. Also, communicate whether the auto rolls or has tires. If not, a forklift may be required. You might also need a small tow truck service to get the vehicle to and from point of transport.

So, you’ve done your research and found the right fit. Now what? To ensure a stress-free delivery, you’ll want to prep your auto:

3. Collect Necessary Documents

Gather required documents in advance – original title, insurance coverage, proof of ownership, etc. Whether you’re relocating or selling the car, you’ll need to have appropriate paperwork ready for the shipper.

4. Check Maintenance and Operation

Sometimes there can be an easy fix. Have a mechanic check out your ride. If it’s something simple, getting the vehicle running now can save you money, time, and effort. Also, secure any loose parts ahead of time.

5. Look Over Fluids

Make sure that the gas tank is at an optimal level (about an eighth or quarter tank full) if the car has a gas tank. This cuts down on shipping weight, which in turn can reduce the cost of transport. Also, check oil, coolant, and other fluids.

6. Clean the Car

No matter the condition, it helps to clean your auto inside and out before shipping. Take out any unnecessary or valuable items. Also, make sure to take care of any potentially hazardous issues. This can range from leaky lines to faulty suspension components.

7. Take Pictures

This step is where cleaning your car comes in handy. Whether you have an exotic, vintage, or passenger vehicle, you’ll want to have proof of condition. If there’s an accident, these images will come in handy for insurance purposes.

8. Create a Written Record

Along with pictures, create a written account of your car’s current condition. Make sure that your transport company makes an official note of these details. Again, this will be helpful in case you need to file an insurance claim. 

9. Have Multiple Keys Ready

Your driver is going to need a key – even if it doesn’t run, they’ll need to be able to operate the steering (and possibly lights) – so it’s wise to have at least one spare set. The last thing you want is for someone to lose your only keys!

10. Account for Special Handling

If your vehicle doesn’t roll or have tires, it’s most likely going to require additional equipment to load onto the carrier. This can include a tow truck or forklift. Be sure to inquire about this prior to the pick-up date.

11. Provide Driver with Ample Time

This is particularly essential if you’re on a tight schedule. It can take some time to properly load a non-runner, so account for this with a gap of time. This way, your driver won’t be rushed and can safely load your vehicle.

12. Be Ready for Drop Off

Again, if your car requires special handling because it doesn’t roll or have wheels, make sure that proper services are arranged at the drop-off location. Unloading and transport assistance will need to be covered.


Whether you have a running or inoperable car, it pays to hire the right fit for your auto transport needs. Caravan Auto Transport makes the whole process simple. Click here to request your free estimate and enjoy peace of mind via Caravan!

Find out how much it costs to ship your car!