By Jeff Walker, Chubb Collector Car Insurance
There comes a time in the life of classic car owners when driving their precious vehicles to an event or restoration shop is not an option. They will need to load their “baby” onto a commercial trailer and hope it arrives safely. Classic car owners can do more than hope, however. With a little due diligence, they can help make sure their car arrives in the same condition it was in when it as loaded onto the trailer.
Not all classic car transportation companies are created equal. I have heard horror stories—crushed roofs, oil-soaked convertible tops and broken glass—from car owners who shipped their vehicles using the “lowest bidder.” Below are some tips to help protect your car if you must ship it.
Who is your shipper?
If this is your first time transporting a car, you may turn to friends, colleagues and the Internet to locate a reputable shipper. These are good places to start, but you should understand that in the trucking world there are owners, operators and brokers. It may be hard to tell which is which, but you want to be sure you’re dealing with an operator who owns the equipment, not a broker who will farm out your request. To verify that the company you’re dealing with owns the trucks, ask for its USDOT number. Brokers aren’t required to have one, but owners are. Once you have this number, check out the transporter’s safety history by visiting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at ai.fmcsa.dot.gov/sms.
Are you covered?
A trucking company should have both liability and cargo insurance. Remember your car is their cargo. Ask for a copy of the insurance policy and take note of the deductible. If it is $10,000, know that you could be responsible for up to that amount should something happen. If the trucking company does not want to show you its insurance documents, go somewhere else. Also check with your insurer to see if any coverage applies while the vehicle is in transit.
Closed or open?
Cars can be shipped on an open trailer (like you may see parked in front of a local car dealership) or in a closed trailer. Many new car manufacturers now wrap their cars in plastic before transporting them on open trailers, because road debris damage a car’s paint and the undercarriage. When talking with a transportation company, verify your car will be in a closed trailer. This means hard walls and roof, not canvas sides wrapping an open trailer. This will also help keep prying eyes off of your classic car and reduce the risk of theft.
Classic car shipping firms normally use a double-deck trailer with a lift gate. You want your car to be on the top deck, if it fits, because you don’t want brake fluid, engine oil and gear oil leaking down from an unrestored car above. Your vehicle will need to be adequately secured. Some companies secure cars by strapping the wheels down. Others strap the car to the trailer via the undercarriage. Depending on the type of car you have, you may want to request one or the other to avoid damage from the car bouncing on its own suspension. Before your car rolls into the trailer, take a lot of photos and make sure the photos are dated. When the car gets to its destination, thoroughly inspect it for signs of damage.
Trucking companies live and die by their schedules. They want to pick up your car when they have a truck in the area. Call the trucking company at least a month before you need to have your car shipped. If you need a specific pick-up or drop-off date and time, don’t be surprised if you have to pay a little extra.
Filing a claim
Even if you’ve taken all the precautions, there is still a chance your car may be damaged in transit. If it is damaged, it’s good to have on hand those photos you took before it shipped. Tell the driver you want to submit a damage claim, and call your insurance company and report the incident. Do not hesitate. Have your camera ready to take photos of the damage, and note the day and time of delivery.
On any given day, hundreds of classic cars are on trailers crisscrossing the country, and most will never be damaged. When it’s time to ship your car, you can relax and know that it will arrive safely if you’ve done your homework and worked with a reputable transporter.
[Source: Jeff Walker]