The Largest Car Business You Didn’t Know About

When you think of car shipping, it’s quite often many imagine cars arriving at the ports or factories pumping out inventory heading to dealers. But it’s far more than that. How about a billion dollar industry that moves more cars for people like you and I than they would for any single big car manufacturer?

Let’s dive into the largest car business you didn’t know about, the auto shipping industry.

Just How Big Is This Gig?

First off, let’s talk about the big picture. The auto shipping industry is gigantic, with its financial footprint stepping into the billions. How many billions? Putting it into perspective,, as of last year in 2023 there were about 291 million cars in the U.S., which translates to almost 9 cars for every 10 people. That’s a lot of parking! Now let’s take auto shipping into consideration. It then makes sense that by 2025 automotive logistics is estimated to become a 472.9 billion dollar industry.

It’s also then safe to say this industry will remain a major heavyweight in the economy. Carriers shipped almost 24 million of those vehicles all-around in 2023. Now more in demand are specialized carriers for electric vehicles, for example. Numbers are expected to increase even further in 2024 and 2025 as more and more people are willing to relocate than ever before. 

Talking to Someone in the Business

Offering some industry insider info is Carl Rodriguez from NX Auto Transport who has been in the auto shipping business for over a decade chiming in with some insider information about how auto shipping works. Carl says, “The car shipping business is not B2B for those shipping cars as most people think. In fact, even the shipments we do involving dealers are usually arranged by the person buying the car.”  

That’s really interesting considering how many people buy cars online to save money. But just the same, that trickles down to other kinds of auto shipping as well. Carl went on to say “We do have deals with certain auction companies , even Youtubers that buy cars for their channels that call us every time they need something moved. However, that’s more like repeat customers. It is mostly referral contracts that we have.” and he also goes on to mention,  “We may be featured on a car site or magazine but as a recommended service, the person needing the shipping is normally procuring it themselves”. 

According to Carl, that’s why there are so many auto shipping brokers and companies. The competition is fierce. The battle for car shipping supremacy is complex and although shipping brokers don’t maintain drivers and trucks, their money goes into advertising and marketing to see who shows up on your phone or computer screen. 

On the carrier side, the independent trucker wins here, as they have a stronghold on the business. “That’s why you don’t see UPS shipping cars, or Uber car shipping for example. Big companies are too top heavy and need a ton of money to operate, while the broker and the carrier work with less operational costs, making this a long term symbiotic relationship.”, according to Carl 

The business of getting loads is the least thing carriers have to worry about. The broker does all the advertising, and the carrier begins just picking up cars scattered across the country on the load boards which are member only marketplaces that advertise cars available from brokers. “The price carriers pay is being on the road and away from their families as the business is there and more than they can take.”, says Carl.

And it’s true. The car shipping carrier business has a shortage attached to the 82,000 driver shortage expected this year, 2024. Carriers have more cars than they can shake a stick at.

A Sea of Cars on the Move

So, how many cars are we talking about shipping annually between manufacturing and just normal people? While precise figures are elusive, individual auto manufacturers give us a glimpse. For instance, a titan like BMW reported shipping over 2.4 million vehicles worldwide in a single year. Now, extrapolate that across all manufacturers, and you start to grasp the sheer volume of everything else. .There are people who are moving, buying a car, selling a car, or seasonally moving. Now you have the rest of the industry.

Brokers: The Matchmakers of the Auto Shipping World

In this bustling market, brokers play the pivotal role of matchmaker, connecting those who need to ship cars with those who have the means to move them. Thousands of brokers operate in this space, each offering their unique blend of expertise, customer service, and pricing. They’re the ones making the calls, sending the emails, and doing the deal-making that keeps this industry humming.

Carriers: The Heavy Lifters

Then there are the carriers, the ones who take the wheel, quite literally, on getting vehicles from here to there. Like the brokers, carriers are plentiful, each with its fleet and specialty. From massive trucks that carry thousands of cars to ocean ports,  to single flatbed trucks that haul a precious vintage car across state lines, carriers are the backbone of this industry. Take a look at any large truck stop and see how many car shippers there are.

Buying, Selling, and Shipping

In today’s digital age, buying and selling cars has never been easier, and with that ease comes a lot of shipping. Whether it’s enthusiasts purchasing dream cars from far-off places or dealerships moving inventory, a significant number of individuals and businesses rely on auto shipping services. The rise of online car sales platforms has only turbocharged this trend, making auto shipping an essential service for many.

Why Do We Ship Cars, Anyway?

At its core, the need for auto shipping springs from a well of practical and personal reasons. For some, it’s about convenience and time-saving; driving a car across the country is a monumental task compared to the simplicity of having it shipped. For others, it’s about preserving the condition of a vehicle, avoiding the wear and tear that comes from a long journey. And let’s not forget the buyers and sellers in different states or even countries, for whom shipping is not just a preference but a necessity.

The Road Ahead

The auto shipping industry, with its massive scale and critical role in the automotive supply chain, is more than just a cog in the global economy; it’s a driving force. As we look to the future, trends like the increase in online car sales and a growing demand for door to door vehicle transport are set to keep this industry on the move. With every car shipped, a story is carried along — of dreams fulfilled, deals made, and the unseen threads that connect our global marketplace.

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