How to Avoid Car Shipping Scams
Better Business Bureau has recently alerted consumers regarding a fake car shipping company that has cost victims thousands of dollars. Since May 2018, BBB reports multiple Scam Tracker reports from consumers who have collectively lost more than $30,000 to scammers that were operating under the name ElkHorn Express Transport.
One consumer has told BBB that he was scammed when he was trying to buy a classic car. The victim was informed that the money he had to transfer would remain in an escrow account until the vehicle reaches its final destination. He never heard back from that seller and he claimed that he had lost $11,600.
In another car shipping scam, the consumer performed an internet search for auto transporters. He went to a company website and asked for a quote to ship their car. The victim thought that they got a bargain and hurried up to send money. In the end, a driver never arrived to pick up the vehicle.
BBB strongly advises that you should avoid doing business with a company that wants you to send payment through a wire transfer service such as Western Union. Legitimate auto transporters should accept credit cards or certified checks. Moreover, paying by credit card guarantees fraud protection.
You should check the shipping company’s license. Auto shipping companies are regulated by the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Legitimate companies will provide their USDOT number, so you can confirm that the company is authorized to operate.
Here are some essential steps that you should undertake to avoid car shipping scams:
Research the car transport company
Run a thorough check on your potential auto transporter. Find out the company's full name including any ‘doing business as’ names, addresses, phone numbers and even employee information. You can ask potential companies for their DOT number. Once you gather all of the information, you can start researching each detail, fact and name. Make sure to check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration (FMCSA) to see if there are any egregious complaints filed for the car shipping company that you are considering to hire.
You should not get discouraged if you see a history of complaints. It is normal for a good auto transporter to have some complaints. You should look closer at the number of complaints and the severity of the penalties. You can go to FMCSA’s Protect Your Move site to better educate yourself on the potential scam hazards and how to avoid them.
Reading online reviews and getting recommendations and opinions from friends is a must. Your close friends and also general public’s recommendations will help you understand the quality of service you can expect from any given car shipping company. Reading reviews is of great importance when it comes to hiring a reliable car transport company. You can learn from other’s experience and thus avoid car shipping scams.
Pay attention to your auto shipping agreement (Bill of Lading)
Your contract for transporting your car should include all the details about shipping your car. There should be no hidden charges. A professional salesperson will walk you through the company's tariff and answer any questions you may have in regards to transporting your car.
If you do not read the terms of service carefully, you will probably end up disappointed by the experience. You should be aware of the rights and responsibilities each party has prior to pick-up date. It is essential that you understand the clauses before you enter into a legally binding agreement.
The Bill of Lading is an important document, as it is your receipt and it also contains the pick-up and delivery inspection reports. Do not skip the inspection. If you fail to document any damage, you will not be able to claim compensation later. In case you cannot attend pick-up and delivery, designed a person whom judgment you can fully trust.
Trust your instincts when you communicate with the car shipping company. Call them and speak with a sales representative directly. Find out how many employees the company has and how many trucks they own and operate. Reputable car shipping companies will be more than happy to answer all of your questions and provide you with all the relevant information you need to experience a smooth move.
If you feel that you can trust the potential company, once you have talked to an agent, it means that they have lived up to your expectations. You can understand a lot about their customer service from how they actually respond to your questions. If someone presses you to make a fast decision, that should be a red flag.
It is vital to understand what affects your car shipping quote. Generally, the cost to ship a car is based on a few factors:
Distance and location;
Car’s make, model and modifications;
Vehicle condition – whether it is operable or not;
Type of carrier – open or enclosed carrier;
Current supply and demand situation;
The car shipping industry is competitive, so you will get different quotes and price offers. However, do not settle for the lowest bid. Make sure that your quote is comprehensive and all fees are included. The current supply and demand on any given route is another crucially important factor. You may receive one price for a route in one direction and a different price for the same route and vehicle in the opposite direction.
When the demand is high, prices go up too. Any rate that is significantly lower than the current market rate should be regarded as a red flag. Keep in mind that there are dishonest companies that will take advantage of you, thus offer an unrealistically low price.
Learn from other people’s mistakes and try to avoid those mistakes. You should be handled with care and integrity. Do not hire a mover based on a price offer solely, as you will sacrifice service quality. Make an educated choice and do not fall victim of a car shipping scam. Have a safe move and enjoy peace of mind.