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When Is the Best Time to Ship Your Vehicle

Posted on June 29, 2017 – Shipping Vehicles

In a previous article, we discussed the factors that affect the price of international shipping such as the size of ships, the price of crude oil and the origin and destination of the shipment. It may surprise you to hear that car shipping costs also vary greatly with the seasons. So if you are looking into shipping a vehicle, read on to find out at what time of the year you will find the best prices.

The best time of year to ship your vehicle is never ‘next week’

Shipping a vehicle is a significant cost and it is crucial to do your homework properly before choosing a freight-forwarding company. It takes time to gather quotes, obtain the paperwork necessary for export and import and make your car compliant, so the last thing you want to do is rush the process and find out too late that you are missing essential documents. It could lead to delays to have your vehicle cleared at the country of destination, increased costs to rectify lack of paperwork or mechanical issues, and, in the worst-case scenario, your vehicle may simply be denied entry.

In addition, volumes and costs are directly linked to the price you will pay. Shipping companies organise their journeys months ahead so as to be able to consolidate shipments and get the best value for money. By booking well in advance, you will be able to benefit from better prices but, likewise, by booking late, you are unlikely to get a good deal.

Why seasons affect shipping prices

While the weather can have an influence on prices, the main reason for costs variations throughout the year is supply and demand. During the summer months when more people go on holiday, you may find cheaper prices as carriers offer discounts on popular routes. On the other hand, in the winter when volumes are lower, you may pay a premium as shipping companies struggle to assemble full loads.

However, it is important to note that each country has its specificities which will influence those general trends. For example, the US has a phenomenon they call the “snowbirds issue”, which is when retired people ‘migrate’ with the seasons like birds, living in the northern States in the summer months and moving back south when temperatures drop.

So if the vehicle you are shipping comes from the US and uses these routes, the price of the journey is likely to be affected by this trend. In that case, Autumn and Spring will usually command higher prices due to high demand so it is best to try and ship your car another time.


Spring is generally a good time to ship a car. It is still quite slow after the winter, but this is the moment of the year when most carriers go back on the road so you can get reasonable prices. Early spring may still see frost, snow and storms so try to avoid shipping your car then. Late spring, shipping companies are back in the full swing of things and prices start rising.

Summer is always a busy time for shipping as kids are out of school and it is a prime holiday time for families. However it is important to remember that our summer is winter in the northern hemisphere and vice versa, so the cost of your shipping can still be affected by another season depending on where your vehicle is shipping from.

This high season is often the most competitive and finding a berth for your vehicle may be trickier as some shipping companies will prioritise the highest-paying loads first.

On the other hand, Summer is the season of the longest days which can be a benefit if your car needs to be driven to or from a port over land, as you will have safer conditions with more daylight and none of the hazards that can occur during winter.

Autumn is also a slow season for shipping and you stand a good chance of getting competitive prices as transport companies are keen to find loads. However, when winter is around the corner, some carriers may start to change their schedules and the weather will become less favourable to transport over land or sea. If your vehicle needs to be taken over areas prone to snow falls, you may well be charged eye-watering prices because of the poor road conditions.

McCullough are an experienced vehicle shipping company based in New Zealand but with clients all over the world. Motorhomes, caravans, boats and cats, we ship ‘em all. For more information, contact our friendly team on +64 9 309 1163 or via email. You can also request a quote online by filling a simple form.

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