You’ve decided that transporting your auto is the best strategy because it puts far less wear and tear on your vehicle – and on you. But maybe you’re still unsure whether an open-air or enclosed carrier is best for your situation. We’ve studied the pros and cons of both so you can make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Open-Air Carriers

Advantages of Shipping Your Vehicle with an Open-Air Carrier

The most common type of open-air carrier loads vehicles on two levels and usually carries four vehicles on each level – much like the trucks and trailers you’ve seen that carry new cars. The less common open-air carriers are single-level and used to carry luxury or new vehicles for expedited shipping. The third type is a dually truck single-vehicle carrier typically used to transport a car over shorter distances. None of these three types of open carriers has a roof or side walls, therefore are called “open-air”. Let’s take a look at the advantages of open-air carriers: 

More Budget-Friendly 

Open-air transport costs run an average of $1 per mile from 1 to 500 miles, then over 500 miles, the cost becomes lower per mile. Single level and dually carriers can cost a bit more.


Because the most common type of open-air transporter can carry more vehicles in one load, that translates to more efficiency and lower costs for the customer. 


There are many more open carriers on the road covering more routes than enclosed carriers which means it’s much easier to schedule a transporter who can load, move, and deliver your car quickly. About 90% of all U.S. vehicle transporters are open-air.

Reduced Wear and Tear

Your car’s value is calculated on its mileage and condition. Open-air transport helps maintain the value of your vehicle by affording less wear and tear and preventing the mileage that adds up on a road trip.

Reduced Stress

Any type of move is stressful. Sure, road trips can be fun but if you’re moving, you probably don’t have time to enjoy a road trip – especially if you need to get started at a new job right away. 

Disadvantages of Shipping Your Vehicle With an Open-Air Carrier

The Vehicle is Exposed to the Elements

Your car will be exposed to dust, road debris, and inclement weather like rain, hail, sleet, and snow. Rocks that fly up from the road surface can damage the finish. Also, cars loaded on the bottom ramp are exposed to oil leakage from the cars located above. If this is a concern, you can request your car be loaded on the top level but you’ll pay an additional fee.


Some companies include waivers and don’t cover road hazards or interior theft. Be sure to ask.

Less Security

Your car is exposed to prying eyes, potential vandalism, or theft.

Pros and Cons of Enclosed Carriers

Advantages of Shipping Your Vehicle With an Enclosed Carrier

Enclosed carriers are completely closed in on all sides so that vehicles are not exposed. The two types of enclosed carriers are soft-sided and hard-sided. Soft-sided carriers have hard shells on the top, front, and back with tightly stretched canvas sides. Hard-sided carriers have solid walls of fiberglass or metal and provide the most secure protection. These two types can include three-car, two-car, and one-car trailers. An enclosed carrier is the safest, most secure option for valuable vehicles that shouldn’t be exposed to road debris, weather, or scrutiny.  

Safety and Security

When safety is paramount, shipping in an enclosed carrier provides the safety that an open carrier simply can’t offer. No one is able to see your car, nor its worth, which alone helps keep it safe from potential vandalism or theft while on the road. Open-air transporters are often reluctant to transport extremely valuable vehicles because they can’t provide the kind of security required to keep a valuable car safe.


The finish on a valuable car is a feature of its worth and beauty. Enclosed carriers are by far the best way to protect a car’s paint, chrome, and accessories. If you’ll be shipping your vehicle during the chance of inclement weather, the enclosed carrier protects it from hail, sleet, snow, mud, and the hazards of road debris. 

Enhanced Insurance

When you ship via enclosed carrier, you’re offered higher levels of insurance coverage. Some transporters offer up to $2,000,000. Be sure to explore coverage with potential carriers.

Hydraulic Lifts

Enclosed transport carriers have hydraulic lifts. Your car is driven onto the lift and loaded while maintaining a fully horizontal position. Your vehicle isn’t driven up a ramp. This puts less strain on the drive train and is ideal for low clearance vehicles.

White-Glove Options

For added attention and the highest level of customer service, white-glove service can include everything from single-car transport and the highest insurance protection possible to an enhanced driver experience, more frequent communication with the driver, and regular real-time updates.

Disadvantages of Shipping Your Vehicle With an Enclosed Carrier

It’s apparent that enclosed shipping offers many advantages that open carriers simply don’t or can’t offer. But it’s important to know the disadvantages:


Because enclosed carriers transport fewer vehicles and offer enhanced care, the service is more expensive than open-air transport. Typically, it costs about $2 per mile to ship a vehicle in an enclosed carrier. 

Factors That Affect Expense:

  • Location. If you’re shipping your vehicle to a higher elevation, you may be charged increased fuel costs because of the incline’s pressure on fuel mileage efficiency.
  • Pick-up and Drop-off Depots. Transporters have multiple regional pick-up and drop-off depots on scheduled routes. Rural pick-up or drop-off points usually mean added charges because the driver has to veer from scheduled routes and has to find a safe location for pick-up or drop-off.  
  • Delivery Time. Plan on an average of about two weeks for enclosed delivery. The time will vary based on distance, weather conditions, route, and the number of cars on the carrier. Expedited delivery will cost more.
  • Time of Year. Rates for enclosed carriers usually increase during the winter months. Increased risk of driving in inclement weather raises insurance costs which are passed on to the customer.
  • Weight. Enclosed carriers weigh more than open-air carriers, making them less fuel-efficient. Your auto will be weighed before loading because bigger, heavy vehicles also affect fuel costs. Higher fuel costs get passed on to the customer.

Limited Scheduling Options

Because there are fewer enclosed carriers on fewer routes, plan more time to schedule. Only about 10% of vehicle transport carriers are enclosed.

The Final Decision

  • Open Vehicle Transport: This is the best choice if you have a standard vehicle, want to schedule transport on short notice, need it delivered fast and efficiently, and want budget-friendly pricing. 
  • Enclosed Vehicle Transport: This is the best choice if you’re shipping a prestige, antique, classic, or expensive vehicle; you’re transporting your vehicle during the winter; you need to protect against theft or vandalism, and the cost isn’t a factor.
  • Licensed and Insured Carrier: Whether going with an open-air or enclosed carrier, it’s important to make sure the transporter is reputable, licensed, and insured. Caravan Auto Transport can save you the time and hassles of searching for reputable carriers. We vet every transport company we work with to make sure they’re the best, most reliable auto carriers in the industry.


Caravan Auto Transport makes it easy to find a trusted auto shipper that’s fully licensed and insured. We offer fast free quotes to expedite your search. Get a free estimate now!

Find out how much it costs to ship your car!