Legal Requirements When You Ship a Car Across Country

Whether you are relocating to another country or city and need to move your vehicle or you want to sell or buy a vehicle, you will need to ship the vehicle. There are transportation regulations and laws that govern this process which you need to know and adhere to ensure your shipping goes smoothly.

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When it comes to shipping a car across the country, these transportation rules and regulations cut across federal and state governments. In this article, we will explore these laws and how you can effectively follow them.

Federal Regulations

To ship a car across the country, you need to comply with federal regulations. These will help you avoid legal issues while ensuring a safe and lawful journey for your vehicle. These regulations are predominately overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The following are the main federal regulations to adhere to:

Federal Weight Limit

The federal law authorizes auto transport companies to have their drivers carry a given weight for every trip. This limit is based on the number of vehicles to be transported axles’ number. Drivers are expected to weigh a vehicle based on its model and make and then add 100IBS to its estimated weight.

The drivers are to weigh the truck at a weigh station when the car to be shipped is loaded in to ensure it meets the weight regulation. You can check here to learn about weigh stations for trucks. So, you need to remove all your belongings in the car. If the truck weight violates the law, the auto transportation company will be fined and you will be responsible for paying it.

Federal Height Limit

As there is a weight limit, there is also a height limit. The standard maximum height for cars carried in a transportation truck is 7 feet. Any vehicle that exceeds that is not legally permitted. However, if your car exceeds that height you will need to arrange with the transportation company for a special carrier to transport it.

Vehicle Registration/ Insurance Proof

Your car has to be properly registered under the right authorities for it to be legally approved for transportation. In addition, it needs to have insurance coverage proof that meets the authority’s requirement and also protects it against potential threats during transit. This regulation is necessary to guarantee the safe and legal transportation of your car across state boundaries.

Driving Limitations

The drivers are humans and therefore get fatigued while on the task. If not handled properly it can cause accidents on the road. So, the federal transportation authority set hours of services per day regulation to avoid this. In other words, the drivers are prohibited from driving when it gets to a certain hour per day. This is why if you want your car delivered on time, you need to book earlier and anticipate it for up to 7 to 10 days.

Auto Transportation Company License and Insurance

As your car has to be registered and insured, the transportation company you are working with needs to also be licensed under the right authority and insured. This license is to prove that they can ship a car across the country under the law effectively. An unlicensed company can be considered a fraud and will not ensure the safe transportation of your vehicle. The federal authority put this regulation in place to prevent that, and as for being insured, your insurance alone will not effectively cover your vehicle.

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State-specific Regulations

Every state has its specific regulations. Nonetheless, there are general state-specific regulations you will need to meet. They include:

Vehicle Inspection and Emissions

Each state has its requirements for vehicle inspection and emissions. These are conducted to find out the state of your vehicle before it is transported. Vehicle inspection and emissions are essential in ensuring that any issues concerning your vehicle’s state before and after shipping are effectively handled. Furthermore, they are important because your car needs to meet some safety standards to be transported.

Overweight / Oversize Permit

If the transportation carrier exceeds the federal weight or height limits, then you might need to get an overweight/oversized permit. The regulation for getting these permits varies based on the State. Also, the process can be quite complex.

Toll Road and Fees

Another regulation for the state is toll road fees. The fee is not the same in all states, as some of them have more extensive toll systems and numerous fee structures. So, be sure to find out the toll fee of the states you will be dealing with.


Shipping a car across the country requires careful consideration and action. You need to adhere to the rules and regulations at the federal and state levels that will legally approve your shipping. If you don’t adhere to them, you’d be violating the laws that will ensure the safe and legal transportation of your vehicle. Following the guide in this article will help you remain on the right side of the law.

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