Some Commonly Used Terms in the Car Shipping Industry

Transportation of multiple cars in an open carrier

When it is time to ship your car to another city or country, and you decide to hire the services of an auto transportation company, you will encounter a lot of unfamiliar industry terms.

Although to those working in the car shipping industry or those who have experience in getting their car moved, these words make perfect sense; however, to the inexperienced car owner, these terms can cause a lot of confusion. As a result, these car owners may not satisfactorily understand the terms and conditions of a car shipping service, and this can lead to misunderstandings.

Before these misunderstandings turn into real issues, we decided to bring you an abbreviated glossary of some of the most commonly used terms in the car transportation industry. Here they are:

ATA/ Actual Time of Arrival: The time when the vehicle actually arrives at the destination.

ATD/ Actual Time of Departure: The time when the vehicle was actually picked up and departed from the place of origin.

Auto Delivery/ Auto Transport/ Auto Moving: Although these are three different words, they essentially mean the same thing, which is to physically move a vehicle from its origin (e.g., an owner’s home) to its specified destination (e.g., to another state or country as described by the car owner).

Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is documentation in the form of a receipt for freight services. This bill is issued by the car transport company to acknowledge the receipt of a vehicle that needs to be shipped. The bill of lading serves three main functions, including a confirmation that the vehicle has been loaded, the terms of the contract and the document to the title of the goods.

Co-Loading: This means to load more than one automobile in a single carrier. This is the most common mode of car transportation. Since multiple vehicles are loaded in a single carrier, this mode is very cost-effective. It reduces shipping costs for both the shipping company and the end-user.

Cut-Off Time: A cut-off time is essentially the deadline or the latest possible time that a vehicle needs to be delivered to its end destination.

Damage Codes: A set of codes that are used to indicate and report damages to a vehicle.

Diversion: Diversion means rerouting or changing the route of a shipment that is in transit.

Door-to-Door Auto Shipping: As the term implies, this means picking up a car from the car owner’s home (or whatever location the car owner specifies) and dropping it off to the receiver’s specific end destination.

Enclosed/ Closed Car Haulers: These are carriers that are enclosed so that outside eyes cannot see the cargo inside. These kinds of carriers are used for vehicles that demand extra protection or by those owners who need to keep the transporting of their vehicle a secret. Enclosed car haulers are quite expensive and uncommon.

En Route: This term means that your vehicle is in transit and has started its journey from the place of origin to the final destination.

Open Carriers: Open carriers are the most popular and cost-effective mode of auto transportation. These open-air carriers typically transport multiple vehicles and are open to the elements like wind, hail, and snow. However, these open carriers still keep your cars very safe when handled by

Proof of Delivery: Proof of Delivery or P.O.D. is a document used by auto transportation companies as a receipt for the final delivery of the vehicle. The Proof of Delivery document notes the condition of the vehicle after delivery. The car receiver should carefully inspect the vehicle before signing the Proof of Delivery. The driver of the carrier should also sign the document.

Shipping Quotes: These are the charges accrued by an auto transportation company for delivering your vehicle from one place to another. Shipping quotes are not fixed but are affected by a variety of factors like weight and size of the vehicle, distance, location access, type of carrier being used, and even the season.

Terminal-to-Terminal Shipping: Terminal-to-terminal shipping involves the car owner dropping their vehicle at a terminal (an assigned area where vehicles are prepared for loading) closest to the pickup location and upon delivery, picking it up from a terminal closest to the delivery location. This type of shipping often takes considerably more time than door-to-door shipping since the carrier must wait at one or more terminals until it has enough cars to fill it.

Tracking: Tracking means following the progress of a car shipment through its delivery process.

Transit Time: the total time that passed between the vehicle’s departure from the origin to the vehicle’s arrival at the destination.

Transport Status: The status of the vehicle during the transportation process, including in transit, delayed, diverted, or damaged.

VIN Number: The vehicle identification number is a unique registered code used to identify an individual motor vehicle.


We hope this glossary helped you understand a few terms used in the auto shipping industry. If ever you get confused by the industry terminology, review this list or just call our customer service representatives at to help you figure out the process.