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.