When you move across the country, you have a few options for transporting your car. Driving your own car is the easiest way and the perfect excuse for a road trip with friends. If moving with a few suitcases isn’t feasible, your next best option may be to transport your car by towing it behind you. I can walk you through it. Just don’t do what we did.
Using a Tow Dolly Versus an Auto Transport
When Dan and I moved from Ohio to California, we’d already accumulated too much furniture. While a romantic cross-country trip in our Honda Passport would’ve been lovely, we decided that a romantic cross-country trip in our U-Haul would have to do. So, we rented a 15’ truck and added the auto transport option. This is different than using a tow dolly. With a tow dolly, the front wheels of your car are up on the dolly while the back wheels remain down. With the auto transport trailer, all four wheels are off the ground. That’s the option we chose. Check with your truck rental company to see the requirements for your vehicle.
The Cost of Our DIY move
If Dan and I made this DIY move today, it would cost $1,935 for the U-Haul truck and $422 for the auto transport. This doesn’t include costs for insurance, boxes, furniture pads, etc. U-Haul doesn’t recommend the tow dolly for our type of vehicle. However, if we could’ve used the tow dolly, that would’ve cost us $211 instead of $422.
The Money Tip: Words of Wisdom You Heard Here First
Using an auto transport seems easy enough. You just drag your car behind you, right? I’m glad I’m not the only naïve one. Okay, maybe I am and you’re rightfully laughing at me. Little did we know what we’d gotten ourselves into.
We wanted to protect our car as we drove it across the country. A good coat of wax would make it easier to wash off the accumulated bugs, so we started off there. However, we wanted to take it a step further by protecting our car from as much debris as possible.
Not long after we drove onto the highway, we’d gotten into our groove. Our U-Haul windows down, our radio blasting, the wind blowing through my hair, I sang with Tom Petty like he was on the road trip with us. Then, it happened. Our truck started to lose control. It began to swerve across the highway. I looked into the side mirror with panic. Our covered Honda stood at an awkward angle to the right of our truck…until it whipped to the left side at an equally inappropriate angle.
The car cover we used to protect our vehicle acted like a parachute. A very large and effective parachute. The tail wagged the dog frantically. It seemed like a lifetime passed until we made our way to the shoulder of the road. Fortunately, few cars were on the highway on that early morning. We took off the car cover and tucked it inside the car. After our heartbeats returned to normal, we couldn’t stop laughing. Life lesson learned.
When you transport your car, please don’t use a car cover. You heard it here first.
Realize that Speed Limits Vary for Trucks with Trailers
With thousands of miles between us and our car cover mistake, we settled into our routine again. We drove by the Great Salt Lake and the encircling mountains. Admiring the beauty of the country reminded us how lucky we were to be making this trip together. Our U-Haul truck and trailer felt less grateful for the scenery. The Little Truck That Could used all its might to make it up the steep inclines as we left Reno. I pushed my body to the front of the cab willing our truck to make it over the mountains. It worked. We barely made it.
Chanting “I think we can, I think we can” got us through several more steep inclines. At one point, in slow-mo roller coaster fashion, we almost made it to the top of the hill. It wasn’t going to work this time. There was no doubt that our U-haul and Honda would start rolling back down the highway. But, no. It pushed through one last time. We cheered and our U-Haul sped down the mountain at 65 MPH. We’d arrived in California in one piece! Then, the sirens started. A police officer waited patiently at the bottom of the hill. He gave us a $300 ticket for going 65 MPH. That was the speed limit for cars. The speed limit for trucks with trailers was 55 MPH. Welcome to California.
I made all these mistakes in life so you could spare yourself the pain. I’m here for your safety and to save you $300. Have you made any moving mistakes? If so, please share. It will really make me feel better.
Yikes! I”m glad it all worked out for you…except the speeding ticket. We moved ourselves from New Jersey to Virginia. We loaded the truck not really paying too much attention to how the things went in, other than fitting everything. Big mistake. My husband drove the rental truck and said it was so top heavy he was nervous it was going to tip over on exit ramps. He went so slow and was drained by the time we made it to Virginia. So the tip is to pack the heavy stuff on the bottom. This of course makes sense, but it can be challenging when you are throwing stuff in a the last minute having the truck for a limited time.
That is great advice, momof4! Yes, you definitely want to avoid making the truck top heavy. I’ve seen a flipped over moving truck on an exit ramp. I’m glad your husband was safe and drove slowly.
I read a previous article of yours about moving, this one has been really helpful, with how careful one must be with moving companies when transporting your house hold goods and vehicles.
Thanks so much, Craig! I’m glad you found it helpful.
The whole car cover ordeal, that must’ve been scary as heck.
Thanks, John! It really was. One of those memorable moving moments.
Would you prefer to have used the tow dolly instead of the auto transport company after this? was it worth paying more to use the auto transport instead?
Great question, Mark. We were happy with the auto transport option (other than our huge error in judgment on using the car cover). We would do the auto transport option again.
No car covers next time! Loved your post. Thanks for sharing.
Wow! great story. We are moving from Ohio to Seattle and this post helped me to make key decisions.. one being, junk the car towing idea.
Hi and thank you, that answers my question..no cover needed. I am assuming your car came through without issues.
Thanks for sharing your great advice! We’re moving from Michigan to Oklahoma and had every intention of using a car cover, not only to protect our car, but to obscure anything we decided to put in the car. That’s a negative! Lol.
If I’ve saved one person from making the same mistake we made, I’ve done my job. 🙂 I’m so glad you won’t be using the car cover. LOL. Good luck with your move to Oklahoma!
I really appreciate this article this very detailed all my question are answered
Wow. Very well written. Loved your post. Thanks for sharing.
Hey thanks for your honesty & sharing your
My family are about to do the exact same thing in the near future with the same exact issues.
Thanks for the info I didn’t even consider…I wish i could but you a cup of coffee because I got more questions about my up coming cross country move….sence my wife doesn’t want to drive her car, yup ill be towing it 2500mile….thanks again
I will come back here to read this helpful article. because this is really so much helpful for me. because every time I,m thinking about car safety. thank you so much, DEAR ADMIN,, that awesome post share with us.
I will come back here to read this helpful article. because this is really so much helpful for me. because every time I,m thinking about car safety.
Other than the car cover issue you had, are there any lessons learned about the car transport trailer that might persuade someone to find a different option?
Hi Ali! Thanks for the info, I hope you are enjoying the Cali weather and lifestyle 🙂
We are planning a similar trip and need to transport two cars— yikes! Do you or your readers have and ideas or recommendations? Tow one, ship the second? Sell one buy another at our final destination? Tow two cars!????
Hi, Nadia. It comes down to cost and your ability to drive a truck with a trailer. We’ve shipped, we’ve towed, and we’ve driven our cars during various moves. There are pros and cons to each option. Determine how much it will cost you for each option and be sure to include the cost of fuel and overnight accommodations if you drive on your own. Good luck!
WOW what a great article, thank you..thank you, we are moving from Nevada to Ohio…I was supposed to drive our little Accent car, but now we are going to use the Auto transport….thanx to this great article…..
THANK YOU NADIA FOR SUCH VALUABLE ADVICE, ADVENTURE, AND CHUCKLE ALONG THE WAY (SORRY IT WAS TO YOUR EXPENSE)!!!
Thank you for sharing your experience and awesome advise! I am in the works of moving from Boston, MA to Houston, TX and I want to bring my car along with me in a auto transporter. However, I am not sure if I want to take the risk because I have never towed a car before. I wanted to ask you how does towing a car compare to driving a sedan or perhaps a pick-up-truck? Also, will I need any special licensing to tow my car? Thanks in advance, I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
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I really prefer this Demco Tow-It 2 tow dolly!! It has lots of different safety features, so you should try it. First and foremost, it has its own taillights, so I haven’t had any accidents on the road so far. It has its own brakes and don’t easily bend or give in. I really have nothing to comment on in terms of the design. The fenders are truly magnificent! They are rust-proof, so I don’t need to worry about natural elements such as water slowly ruining them over time.
I can say that Demco Tow-It 2 Tow Dolly is a reliable product. It has superb safety features such as brakes, tail lights, durable ramps, and rust-proof fenders. If you want a quality tow dolly and have the budget to spend, it is highly recommended that you choose Demco 9713047 Tow Dolly.
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Moving is very stressful work. Not an easy work. i read your blog and i get the moving tips. your moving tips is really nice and useful tips. Thanks a lot for this beauty Enjoying article with me. I appreciate it very much!
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WOW what a great article, thank you..thank you, we are moving from Nevada to Ohio…I was supposed to drive our little Accent car, but now we are going to use Auto transport….thanx to this great article…..