California Auto Transport

Exploring California’s nooks and crannies in your own four wheels gives you first-hand access to the Golden State’s natural beauty – sandy sundrenched beaches and rocky coastlines, the grandeur of the Sierra Nevadas, the majestic redwoods, and intriguing desert wilderness. Plus, cruising by car is the best way to investigate the array of charming beach, mountain, or desert towns and California’s exciting cities.

California has 394,383 miles of roadways, second only to the number of roadway miles in Texas. One of the most beautiful roads is State Route 1, which parallels the Pacific ocean almost the entire length of the state. SR 1 takes you through iconic towns like Malibu, Big Sur, Carmel, and Santa Cruz. Less about scenery and more about efficiency, eight-lane Interstate 5 stretches about 796 miles from the Mexican border to the Oregon border.

All kinds of reasons can pop up for needing your car transported to or from California. Maybe you’re anticipating a job change, starting college in California, or need to move a valuable automobile. Whatever the reason for relocating your vehicle, get free quotes from the best auto transport companies available. These top-rated shippers are not only insured and licensed but offer the best in safety, convenience, and affordability.

Find out how much it costs to ship your car!

Things to Know About Driving in the Golden State

  • Miles of Roadway: 394,383
  • Major Interstates
    • North-South: Interstate 5 starts at the Mexican border south of San Diego and runs to the Oregon border north of Yreka.
    • East-West: I-10 runs from Santa Monica east to the Arizona border and on to Phoenix. I-80 starts in San Francisco and runs east, just north of Lake Tahoe, to the Nevada border and Reno.
  • Average Commute Time: 29.3 minutes one way – the 6th longest commute of all 50 states.
  • Most Popular Car: Honda Civic

Steps to Take After Shipping Your Vehicle to California

Understand California Residency

The requirements for establishing residency in California are relatively straightforward:

  • You need to live in California for at least nine months of the year. If you have a home elsewhere, your California home must be your primary residence.
  • Provide documents proving your lease, mortgage, or property title.
  • Provide certain documents that show your intent to be a permanent resident even if you don’t pay rent, own a home, or have a permanent address.
  • Open or transfer your bank account to California.
  • Put CA utilities in your name.
  • If you own a home, pay California property tax.
  • Pay California state income tax.

Update Your Insurance to Comply with CA Laws

The state requires insurance for all vehicles parked or operated on California roads. If you’re moving to California, you have 20 days to get your car insured and must carry proof of your insurance in the vehicle at all times. Private passenger autos must have the minimum required insurance that includes:

  • $15,000 liability for injury/death to one person: This coverage helps cover medical costs if you are at fault and injured or die in an accident.
  • $30,000 liability for injury/death to more than one person: This liability insurance helps cover the medical costs of passengers who are injured or die if you are at-fault in an accident.
  • $5,000 in property damage: Property liability helps pay for damage to another car or property in which you are the at-fault driver.
  • DMV issued self-insurance and cash deposits are optional.

Since CA coverage is low, you may want to buy additional protection to reduce your risk further. Consider purchasing added liability coverage, collision insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, comprehensive coverage, or an umbrella policy.

Title and Register Your Vehicle

You need to register your vehicle within 20 days of establishing residency. Head down to the DMV and provide:

  • A completed application for title or registration (Form REG 343)
  • The vehicle’s out-of-state title
  • The vehicle’s out-of-state registration
  • The VIN (vehicle identification number) verification: A DMV employee will need to inspect your vehicle to verify the VIN.
  • Proof of insurance (see #2 above)
  • A valid smog certificate
  • Payment of fees. Fees vary, but all vehicles are subject to a minimum $46 registration fee and a $23 California Highway Patrol fee.

Moves can be complicated and time-consuming, especially if you’re starting a new job while trying to get settled. Online vehicle registration services can help simplify the process.

Obtain a Valid California Driver License

Within 10 days of establishing residency, you must visit a CA DMV office to obtain a driver’s license. Some DMV offices allow you to schedule an appointment online, otherwise plan on a lengthy wait at most locations, and be prepared to:

    • Complete the application
    • Show your social security card
    • Show verification of your birth date and legal residency (birth certificate, passport, military ID card, permanent resident card). A photocopy is not acceptable.
    • Pass a vision exam
    • Pass a traffic law and sign test

California law requires that you have your valid California driver license in your possession when operating a motor vehicle.

Purchase a FasTrak Pass

Most roads in California don’t require tolls; however, as with most things, there are exceptions. To avoid stop and go traffic in Orange County, many drivers opt to pay a toll and take State Route 73 between San Juan Capistrano and Costa Mesa. State Route 125 south of San Diego is another popular toll road. Many northern CA bridges like the Golden Gate, Oakland Bay, and Richmond Bridge charge a toll.

Five agencies distribute FasTrak transponders, so it’s important to get your transponder from the agency that operates the bridge or road you’ll be using the most. In some cases, a FasTrak transponder is the only way to pay because tolls are not collected on some highways and bridges, like the Golden Gate. Read about payment options so you’ll be prepared when you drive California’s bridges and roads.

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Top 3 Places to Go for a Drive (After Shipping Your Car) in California

Once your car arrives in California, hop in, and treat yourself to some spectacular road trips. The state overflows with beautiful scenery, from the Pacific beaches and wild Sierra mountain hideaways to remote deserts. But before you head out, it’s a good idea to take a minute and check highway conditions, especially for winter road trips.

1. SR 1, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Morro Bay

This 340-mile journey takes you through urban San Francisco, wild coastal country, and charming seaside towns. To truly enjoy this drive, allow for at least two nights on the road – some winding stretches are very narrow and slow travel time considerably, plus you’ll want to make lots of stops along the way because there are so many fascinating things to see.

  • In San Francisco, you’ll start your trip on Highway 1 at the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Drive a few miles south to Golden Gate Park, which is 20% larger than NYC’s Central Park. Here you can explore the world-class de Young Museum and the amazing California Academy of Sciences. Then work your way southwest to the coast where a soft mist often douses the beaches.
  • Half Moon Bay is a classic northern California coastal town with a fishing fleet and extensive floriculture. Investigate the sea coast trails and the historic downtown.
  • Santa Cruz is a two and a half hour non-stop drive from San Francisco. However, it takes time to truly explore the gorgeous coast with its lighthouses, elephant seal rookeries, and windswept beaches. By the time you arrive in Santa Cruz, you’ll want to spend the night and be fresh for the fantastic scenery you’re going to see on day 2.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea is small, enchanting, and artsy. Imaginative shops, fantastic restaurants, and beautiful scenery make it unique and a worthwhile stop.
  • Big Sur. Take your time driving the winding narrow two-lane road through Big Sur. Be sure to investigate the wild beach at Andrew Molera State Park then stop at Nepenthe for lunch among the redwoods and some spectacular views out to sea and down the rugged coast.
  • Cambria is a charming town that’s perfect for your second night on the road, especially if you want to see the large elephant seal colony near San Simeon and visit the famed Hearst Castle.
  • Morro Bay is popular with surfers, kayakers, fishermen, and bird watchers. Strolling the town can make you feel teleported back to the 1960s.

2. US 395 from Lake Tahoe and the Eastern Sierras to Lone Pine

After you explore Lake Tahoe, you’ll start this 234-mile wonderland adventure on US 395 east of South Lake Tahoe. You’ll probably want to spend at least one night on the road. To get started, point your car south toward

  • Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve where you’ll marvel over the weird tufa towers that seem to lurk out of the lake
  • Mammoth Lakes offers some of California’s finest winter skiing and snow sports, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking. Mammoth is a great overnight stop.
  • Bishop is a classic western town tucked in between the Sierra Nevada Range on the west and the White Mountains to the east. Rock climbers, backpackers, and mule and horse packers use Bishop as a base. If you’re driving through Bishop in May, be sure to stop for the renowned Mule Days festivities.
  • Lone Pine is a tiny berg that’s famously on the map as the setting of many old western movies. Visit the Museum of Western Film History, then drive west into the rocky sculptured Alabama Hills that served as the backdrop to many films. Lone Pine is a gateway to Mount Whitney, California’s highest peak, so many backpackers start their ascent near here.

3. Desert Wonderlands – from Joshua Tree to Death Valley.

Exploring California isn’t complete until you experience the incredibly fascinating deserts. However, try to avoid this trip from June through September when temperatures soar up to the mid-120s °F. Also, be aware that cell phones don’t work in much of the desert.

Before you head out on this remote 240-mile odyssey, be sure your car has up-to-date servicing with fully functioning AC. Then pack plenty of extra water, a hat, sunscreen, and layers for nighttime temperatures that can surprisingly drop 60 degrees. To see the highlights, you should plan on at least three nights out.

  • Joshua Tree National Park offers an intriguing mix of rock formations, desert animals, and plant life. The park gets its name from the unique Yucca Brevifolia, the Joshua trees that populate the otherworldly desert landscape. Joshua Tree is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with hiking, camping, rock climbing, and flora and fauna viewing. I-10 skirts Joshua Tree on the south, and SR 62 runs east-west along the park’s northern border.
  • The Mojave Desert. To explore the Mojave, North America’s driest desert, hit cruise control and take SR 62 west from Joshua Tree, then head north on SR 247 to Barstow. Stop in at the Barstow Desert Discovery Center to develop an appreciation for the region’s historical, cultural, and natural resources. Then join I-15 east to Baker, where you’ll pass by the world’s tallest thermometer! Make sure you have plenty of fuel, then turn north on SR 127. At Death Valley Junction, you’ll turn left onto SR 190 toward . . .
  • Death Valley National Park, the nation’s hottest and lowest elevation national park. Vistas are immense in this arid landscape of salt flats, sand dunes, and sandstone canyons. It’s worthwhile to explore all the desert has to offer, but some roads require 4×4.
  • Visit Furnace Creek, a welcoming oasis in the expanse of remote desert wilderness. The four-diamond Inn at Death Valley resort was once a watering hole for Hollywood stars like Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Carole Lombard. Today, the Inn is a delightful place to truly relax around the spring-fed swimming pool, enjoy the views with a cold drink on the terrace, and spend the night. RV and camping facilities are also available.

Car Shipping to and from California

Looking to ship your vehicle to California from another part of the country? Caravan Auto Transport’s network of vetted, licensed, and insured auto transporters offer safe, efficient transport of your automobile to its destination without running up the miles on the odometer. These reputable California car shipping companies provide the following services:

Open Car Transport

The most common method of car transportation, open transport carriers are ideal if you’re looking for an affordable shipping option with speedy delivery. As the name suggests, your car is loaded onto an open-air trailer along with several other vehicles headed to the same destination.

Enclosed Auto Transport

If you desire enhanced security or protection for your vehicle, you may wish to arrange enclosed carrier shipping. Inside a covered trailer, your car has protection from harsh weather conditions and road hazards like dust and dirt. Shipping your vehicle in a closed carrier also enhances its safety during transit by keeping the car concealed.

Door-to-Door Car Shipping

With a door-to-door car shipping service, you choose the desired pick-up and drop-off locations rather than having to arrange getting your vehicle to or from a transport terminal. Door-to-door shipping is the most convenient choice for shipping your car to or from California, saving you time and effort.

Expedited Shipping

In a hurry to get your car to or from California? Upgrading to expedited shipping ensures a seamless pick-up and drop-off of your vehicle on your schedule. As a priority customer, you receive fast, timely service, so you can get back to driving that much quicker.

Classic and Antique Car Transport

When it comes to transporting a classic car, you want an auto transport company that can deliver your vehicle without a single dent or scratch. From a vintage Mustang to an antique DeVaux Sports Coupe, our network of classic auto transporters has the expertise and equipment to transport your classic car safely, so it arrives in pristine condition.

High End and Luxury Auto Shipping

Exotic car transporters use specialty equipment, like hydraulic lifts and sophisticated tie-downs, along with enclosed trucks, to keep your valuable car safe during every mile of transit. An enclosed car hauler ensures the ultimate protection for your high-end or luxury vehicle, protecting it from dirt, dust, and debris along the way.

We Take Care of Your CA Auto Shipping Needs

Are you trying to get settled in a new job ASAP? Or moving off to college? There are numerous reasons you may be interested in shipping a car to California or somewhere outside of the Golden State. Caravan Auto Transport’s network of auto shippers streamlines the car hauling process no matter your reason for transporting your vehicle to or from CA.

Moving and Relocation

When moving cross-country or out-of-state, many people choose to ship their cars rather than add a long road trip to an already stressful and exhausting relocation experience. Leave the logistics of moving your vehicle in the hands of professionals with either open or enclosed vehicle shipping services.


For decades, the California coasts and deserts have attracted snowbirds. Given southern California’s mild winter temperatures and warm sunshine, it’s easy to understand why. Start enjoying your escape from the frigid north that much sooner by shipping your car and meeting it at your California destination – whether you’re wintering in the luxe desert oasis of Palm Springs or the desirable coastal communities around San Diego.


With more military bases than most states, California is home to over 1,300,000 active-duty military personnel and more than 800,000 reserve forces. CA’s 32 bases represent every branch of the military. Personnel serve in desert bases like Fort Irwin Army Base and Edwards Air Force Base while other troops work in seaside facilities like the Point Loma Navy Base in San Diego. If you’re one of the brave men and women working to keep our country safe, we’re happy to serve you with top-notch car transportation to or from California.

Online Car Buyers

If you’ve found the perfect vehicle on Craigslist, eBay, or AutoTrader, you may need some assistance getting it home, especially if it’s sitting on the other side of the country. Instead of flying out to pick it up and putting hundreds or thousands of miles on the odometer just to get it to your driveway, arrange for a hauler to transport your new car for you.

College Students

From Humboldt State University in the far north of California to the Design Institute of San Diego, California has no shortage of top-tier public and private colleges and universities for those seeking to further their education. If you have a college student moving to California from out-of-state (or vice versa), have their vehicle shipped straight to campus with a fast, affordable auto transport service.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship a Car to California?

On average, it costs between $500-$1500 to ship a car to California. Anticipate paying around $1 per mile for the first 1-500 miles, then approximately $.75 for every mile after that. Several factors influence the final cost of shipping your vehicle, including the origin and destination zip codes, the method of transport (open vs. enclosed), the speed of shipment, the type of vehicle, and the time of year. The best way to get an accurate estimate of car shipping costs is by requesting free quotes from our network of top-rated auto transport companies.

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