Before diving into how to ship an oversize vehicle, it’s important to understand what actually qualifies a vehicle as oversize. An oversize vehicle is one that exceeds the standard legal dimensions for transporting on public roads without a permit.
In the United States, the federal legal limits for vehicle size are:
- Width – 8 feet, 6 inches
- Height – 13 feet, 6 inches
- Length – No federal limit, but most states limit single vehicles to 40-45 feet
So any vehicle that exceeds one or more of these dimensions would be considered oversize. Some common examples of oversize vehicles include:
- Motorhomes over 13′ 6″ tall
- Boats on trailers wider than 8′ 6″
- Trailers longer than state limits (usually 45-50 feet)
- Farm equipment wider than the legal width
Choosing the Right Shipping Method
With an oversize vehicle, your shipping options will be more limited compared to transporting a standard-sized car. The two main methods for shipping oversized loads are open carrier transport and enclosed transport.
Open Carrier Transport
Open carrier transport, also called flatbed transport, involves securely strapping your vehicle to a large flatbed trailer for transport. This is generally the most cost-effective option, as it allows transport of extremely large vehicles that may not fit within the confined space of an enclosed carrier.
However, open carrier transport leaves your vehicle exposed to the elements. It’s also not possible during extreme weather. So this option works best for shorter distances and more temperate climates.
With enclosed transport, your vehicle will be driven into an enclosed carrier trailer/container for protection from weather and debris during transit. While more expensive than open carriers, enclosed transport provides better security and protection for your vehicle.
It also allows for transport of oversize vehicles that may be too large or awkwardly shaped for open carriers. The key limitation is that enclosed carriers have restricted interior dimensions, so very large vehicles may still require open transport.
Getting a Binding Quote
To ensure you’re getting the best available rate for shipping an oversize vehicle, it’s important to get binding quotes from multiple transport companies. Don’t just get estimated rates over the phone.
A binding quote locks in pricing for a specific move on set dates. Most reputable transporters will provide free binding quotes online or over the phone once you provide the vehicle details, pickup/delivery addresses, and desired travel dates.
Be sure to note if the quote is for open or enclosed transport, as enclosed moves will undoubtedly be more expensive. Also clarify if anything is excluded, like additional tarping or permits that could increase costs.
By getting at least three binding quotes, you can easily compare pricing and services to select the best transport partner for your oversize vehicle move.
Request Tarping or Additional Protection
Even with an enclosed move, your vehicle will still be exposed to dust and debris during transport. This is where tarping and protective wrapping can provide extra coverage to shield against elements.
Many transport companies will automatically included basic tarping with open carrier moves. But it never hurts to request extra protection, especially for high-value or luxury vehicles.
You may need to pay additional fees for professional vehicle wrapping or full enclosed tarping. But doing so offers peace of mind that your vehicle’s exterior and finishes will stay flawless through the journey.
Plan for Potential Road Restrictions and Permits
As an oversize load, your vehicle will likely require special transport permits to legally operate on public roadways.
Permit requirements and any size/weight road restrictions vary greatly by state and local jurisdictions. Be sure to discuss this topic thoroughly with your selected transport company.
They should handle acquiring all necessary permits. But having this conversation upfront avoids unwanted surprises down the road if rerouting is needed due to permit issues.
It also allows your carrier to properly budget their time and costs. Oversize load permits often have additional fees and restrictions like forbid transport during rush hours on certain roads.
Opt for Escorted Transport If Possible
For extremely large oversize loads that approach the maximums allowed with special permits, escorted transport provides an extra degree of safety.
With an escort, one or more pilot vehicles will lead and follow the transport truck to warn other drivers, help navigate complex routes, and assist in case of emergency.
While escorts increase the transport bill, they offer piece of mind for high-value cargo and loads that demand the utmost caution. It also helps prevent potential permit issues from exceeding posted size limits on certain roads.
Be sure any escort requirements are discussed proactively with your carrier when selecting a shipping solution. Factor potential escort fees into your overall budget for moving the oversize vehicle.
Inspect Thoroughly Before and After Transport
With larger vehicles come greater risks of damages during transport. Even enclosed carriers can experience impacts.
To protect your rights as the owner, thoroughly inspect and photograph the vehicle’s condition before it’s loaded for transport. Note any pre-existing flaws.
Do the same unloading inspection to check for new damages. Report and document anything immediately to make claims easier down the road if repairs are needed.
Most reputable carriers will have you sign inspection forms acknowledging the vehicle’s condition pre and post-move. This helps establish accountability in case of later disputes over transport damages.
Consider Commercial Auto Insurance Coverage
For high-value oversize vehicles, it’s prudent to explore commercial auto liability insurance as an extra layer of protection during transport.
Your standard auto policy likely won’t cover vehicles when operated commercially. But commercial coverage can account for higher risk situations like long-distance transport to provide liability and physical damage protection.
Talk to your carrier about policy options. Adding commercial coverage usually doesn’t cost much and offers valuable peace of mind, especially for irreplaceable classic cars, big rigs, or luxury motorhomes being transported long distances.
Prepare for Potential Delays
Given the size constraints involved with moving oversized cargo, delays are more common compared to loading typical passenger cars.
Be realistic with your estimated delivery timeframe, building in an extra day or two buffer wherever possible. Oversized loads are more prone to rerouting, inspection stops, or taking additional care navigating tight turns.
While frustrating if prolonged, expecting potential delays will help avoid issues if the move ends up taking slightly longer than initially quoted. Communicate proactively with your carrier about estimated arrival windows too.
Understand Customer Service Is Paramount
With highly specialized transport needs, oversize vehicle moves demand top-notch customer service from start to finish.
Pay close attention to carrier reviews online, qualifications, and communications responsiveness before selecting a transport partner.
Reputable companies will clearly explain policies for delays or damages, provide tracking updates, and address any issues promptly. Ultimately, you need a carrier advocating for your interests throughout the process.
Be Prepared to Pay a Premium
Compared to transporting standard passenger vehicles, moving oversize loads will always come at a higher price tag.
Factors hiking rates include bigger/heavier equipment needs, additional driver training, increased liability, potential routing challenges, tarps/coverings, and byzantine permit requirements.
However, doing your research and selecting carefully can contain costs. Quotes that seem too good to be true may lack important protections or services. An extra investment upfront saves headaches down the line.
Shipping any oversize vehicle takes more planning and precautions versus relocating standard cars. But with the right preparation steps – getting binding quotes, requesting all protections, permitting guidance, escorts if needed – you set your unique transport needs up for smoothest success.