Open Auto Transport vs. Enclosed Auto Transport

Choose the best option for relocating your vehicle by exploring the differences between open-air and closed-air car shipping in the United States.
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Open Auto Transport vs. Enclosed Auto Transport
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Open auto transport and enclosed auto shipping are two popular methods used to ship cars in the United State.

There are many schedules to prepare, details to handle, and things to manage that you will be seriously tested on based on your organizational skills. Couple all these stresses with finding an option for shipping your car can be more challenging.

If you choose to transport your vehicle to your new state rather than drive it to the other part of the country, you certainly will have two major options to choose from: open car transport and enclosed car transport.

Even though most auto shipping companies will transport the vehicles by using a tractor-trailer, you may be presented with both open-air and enclosed shipping based on the company of your choice.

While the two methods use a moving truck for shipping, they both have their differences.

Below is all you need to know about open and enclosed auto shipping so you can make a perfect decision on the better option for your specific situations, budget, and your car. 

The major difference between enclosed car shipping and open car shipping is the type of truck used in each auto shipping method.

Open-Air Car Shipping

This method transports your car in an open car trailer.

Open car shipping companies make use of long (usually between 75 and 80dt in length), two-level moving trailers that have a long row of vehicles on the top level and a shorter row on the level under it.

There are also single-level moving trailers that are used to transport luxurious cars or expedited car deliveries as well as dully trucks with single-level tow trailers that are used for local and short distance deliveries. 

The open-air trailer doesn’t have sides or roof on it, so the cars are exposed to road and weather elements.

However, open transport is perfect for any type of car and cheaper than the enclosed auto shipping, so it is more popularly used. Most of the cars(around 90%) are transported using open auto shipping.

Pros and Cons of Open Auto Transport

Open auto shipping is an efficient and affordable means of shipping a car across the country. Although the method exposes vehicles to the elements, auto shipping companies take caution to deliver the car to their final destination in perfect condition.

The vehicles are well strapped and packed in the transport truck (so they don’t slide aside while in transit and vibrations are significantly reduced). The highly-trained drivers make sure the transportation is quick and safe.  

Pros of open-air vehicle shipping:

  • Open-air shipping is the cheapest auto shipping option.
  • It is the auto shipping industry standard, so there are many open vehicle carriers available, shipping along many routes. This makes the option more flexible and implies that you can get an open-air vehicle shipping service on brief notice. 
  • Open-air shipping is more efficient as many cars can be shipped with each shipment. 7 – 10 cars can be loaded onto a two-level shipping trailer and transported at once, which saves fuel and time in transit (and then, money). 
  • Open auto shipping is faster than the enclosed option because of the many numbers of open car carriers and the efficiency of open auto shipping. 
  • Open car shipping is perfect for all types of cars, no matter their size, weight, height, or model.
  • The driver can easily check the car while in transit and see if everything is well with just a look at the side mirrors.
  • An open-air trailer is not heavier like an enclosed shipping trailer, which implies that it consumes less fuel, thus ensuring environmental protection and fuel costs reduction. 

Cons of open-air car transport:

  • Open vehicle trailers are open-air, which implies that the cars are exposed to the elements and are not protected from the weather (snow, rain, sun, hail, and so on). 
  • The cars on an open vehicle trailer are exposed to dust and debris that may damage the cars while on the road.
  • Vehicles shipped in the open trailer are not covered one by one, so your car may arrive dirty and require a wash.
  • Road hazard is not covered by insurance.

In summary, open auto shipping is less expensive, faster, and more flexible than the enclosed shipping option. However, it is not as secure for cars as they are exposed to damage resulting from harsh weather conditions and debris.

Enclosed Car Shipping

The enclosed car transport ensures that your car is shipped in an enclosed auto trailer. There are four sides and a roof on the trailer, which provides a safe and secure room for cars during shipping.

Covered moving trucks are generally of similar size as open vehicle trailers, but they cannot contain as many cars because of the restrictions provided by the enclosing walls.

While an open-air vehicle carrier ships about 10 vehicles, a multi-vehicle enclosed trailer can transport about 7 or 8 vehicles.

2-vehicle enclosed trailers and 1-car trailers are also available, and they are often used for highly expensive antique, or rare cars, or expedited deliveries. You can go for the hard-sided or soft-sided enclosed vehicle trailers: 

Hard-sided trailers are similar to standard mover’s trucks. Their walls are solid and made of different materials such as fiberglass, tin, or aluminum and offer

  • Great protection to the cars inside them.
  • Soft-sided trailers contain hard shells in the top, front, back, as well as a soft canvas, pulled tight on its sides. The canvas cannot give as much protection to the cars loaded inside the track as solid walls, but it consumes less space, and the weight is not much. 

Enclosed vehicle shipping is safer but more costly than open auto shipping.

Pros and Cons of Enclosed Auto Shipping

Enclosed vehicle transport offers the maximum security and protection to a car in transit. It is the preferred auto shipping method for luxury cars, collectibles, sports cars, antiques, and other expensive autos. Enclosed auto shipping, however, is costly and less efficient than open auto shipping.  

Pros of enclosed car transport:

  • Cars shipped in enclosed trucks are protected from the elements, so they won’t suffer from the weather conditions.
  • Vehicles on enclosed auto trailers are well protected from dust and debris on the road.
  • Enclosed car shipping gives top-level security as there is no transit hazard and not a risk of damage while on the road.
  • Enclosed trucks are well equipped with drip pans to protect it against any fluid transmission from the top levels from entering the vehicles in the rack underneath.
  • There are lift gates or hydraulic ramps on enclosed trailers that reduce down to ground level. This enables cars to be loaded in a horizontal form, thereby making sure there is safety of low-clearance cars. Enclosed carriers can withstand cars with a clearance as low as possible without causing damage to the bottom while loading and unloading.
  • Enclosed shipping involves lesser stops while on the route.
  • Enclosed truck drivers have much experience in taking care of expensive cars.
  • The majority of enclosed vehicle shipping companies offer a white glove shipping option. Glove vehicle services include giving special care for your car and live update on the status and location of your car.
  • Enclosed car carriers offer wide coverage of up to $2,000,000. 

Cons of enclosed car transport:

  • Enclosed vehicle transport service is costly than open vehicle shipping services.
  • There are lesser enclosed vehicle carriers, which make it harder to schedule enclosed vehicle transport.
  • Fewer vehicles can be transported in a covered moving truck, which makes enclosed auto shipping less efficient than open auto shipping and leads to slower service.
  • There is not much opportunity for the truck driver to conduct routine inspections of the car while in transit. 
  • Enclosed trailers have much weight, so they consume much more fuel than open-air trailers (which increases your fuel costs).

Should you go for an Open or Enclosed Car Transport?

To get the perfect answer to the question “should I go for open or enclosed transport to ship my vehicle?” You first need to check your specific situations, personal choices, and available budget.

Consider the open-air vehicle shipping as your best option when: 

  • You are transporting a standard car (you don’t need to be scared about the safety of your vehicle as hundreds of brand new cars are shipped through open carriers every day, so you can relax that open auto shipping is safe enough). 
  • You would like quick delivery of your vehicle (open vehicle shipping can be easily accessed and are more efficient, which leads to quicker deliveries).
  • You are shipping on a slim budget (open shipping is more affordable; this is certain). 

Consider the open-air vehicle shipping as your best option when:

  • You are transporting a costly car (collectible car, sports car, antique car, luxury car, classic car, and so on) or a car that has an exposed interior. There will be much risk of damage to your expensive vehicle when shipped on an open car trailer, as well as more risk of theft (because the vehicle will be seen by the people on the road). 
  • You are shipping during winter and desire protection for your vehicle against harsh weather and other elements on the road.
  • The ground clearance of your car is low.


Which option do you opt for, make sure you choose from the best car shipping companies to offer any of the methods for your car. This will guarantee the quality service and safety of your car.

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