Understanding the Car Hauling Industry


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Though car hauling is a very profitable and rewarding career, it is a hard niche to get established in. But it is worth it, if you can hack it.

Physically hauling cars is not the only option in this industry, with a variety of different occupations available. Super Dispatch’s customers cover the entire industry, which is broken into three categories: shippers, brokers, and carriers.

The supply of cars that need moving comes from Shippers and the car-movers are Carriers. Between these two are Brokers.

The Shipper

A shipper’s primary job involves cars, but not the transportation aspect. OEMs like Jeep, Mercedes, Audi are considered shippers, but dealerships and auto auctions like Manheim and Adesa are as well. While car dealerships and OEMs are huge shipping customers, shipper also applies to individuals shipping personal vehicles (like military families or college students.)

The Broker

Auto transport brokers are the middle-men between shippers and carriers. Because shippers are not in the auto transport industry, finding carriers can be a challenge for them. This often means shippers hand over load offers to brokers instead, who then find carriers for a finder’s fee. This is usually a percentage of the load price. These fees are why carriers hate brokers; they see brokerages as a necessary and expensive evil to find loads. “Brokers make car haulers broke” is one of the least colorful phrases a new car hauler may hear in this industry.

There are absolutely dishonest brokerages that prey on unsuspecting carriers. But brokers need relationships just like carriers do; if a broker messes up a good relationship, his entire business is in the toilet.

Regardless, owner operators often start off by booking loads found on load boards before building their own network of three or four trusted brokers.

Major auto transport brokers: A1 Auto Transport, Metrogistics, United Road, Montway.

The Carrier

If you’re here, you know who a carrier is and what they do. But you might not know that not all types of car hauling is created equal! In general, there are three different types of car haulers:

Company Drivers

Company drivers are employees, usually of larger companies with anywhere from 10 – 500 trucks. You may have heard of big companies such as Swift, which employs a majority of drivers in the industry. This form of employment is ideal for new drivers; the pay and benefits are okay but the work is consistent and drivers aren’t liable for damages. These companies will sometimes pay for CDL schooling and driving practice in exchange for work contracts or payment programs.

Fleets: Jack Cooper, United Road


Contract work is a step above fleet driving in terms of freedom, but it is not necessarily the same thing as owning your own trucking company.

A common situation today is a driver leases his truck from a huge company like A1 Auto Transport and Ready Logistics. That same company will employ him as a contract or sub-contract worker (1099 IRS form.) Technically, this driver should be able to refuse load offers without any troubles from his leasing company. He also should be able to run loads from any other company or load board (within reason.) This is another way car haulers lose money.

On paper, 1099 workers get paid a higher dollar per mile than W-2 employees, but they get none of the benefits awarded to company drivers. This means that after expenses (gas, maintenance, health insurance, liability insurance, trailer lease payment, self-employment tax) the pay-per-mile decreases significantly. In many cases, 1099 contract workers end up with significantly lower take home pay than an employee driver.

This is profitable for huge companies to make rental money off of their equipment (much like a landlord with a rental property) while also getting drivers to move freight without paying employment taxes, health insurance or liability insurance.

Much like other professions, contract truck driving rarely benefits new and inexperienced workers. This type of work is only meant for an expert driver who can effectively run a business.

Common contracting companies: Accelerated Services

Owner Operators

As the name suggests, owner operators own their own business, while acting both as a dispatcher and a driver. As an owner operator, you find your own loads and drive wherever you choose. You choose what rates to accept on whichever load boards you want and what freight to haul.

Working as an owner operator is generally the ultimate goal for drivers because it means that you’re a 100% independent business, with freedom to take on as much or as little work that you’d like. But of course, this additional freedom comes at a cost: as the owner of your own business, the only person held accountable is yourself, which can be nerve-wracking for some. But at the same time, there is no limit to how much you can make as an owner operator, with many independent drivers making excellent income.

Overall, working as a car hauler is a great career choice, but it’s important to understand the various types of car hauling opportunities before jumping into the industry.

Owner Operators: Alpha Elite Transport, EM Logistics / Exotic Cars Midwest, Dailey Transport are just a few of the Owner Operators that use Super Dispatch’s car hauling dispatch software to run their small businesses

Try Super Dispatch

If you found this information useful and are interested in starting your car hauling journey, then you’ll definitely want to be prepared — that means having the latest and greatest tools at your disposal. We recommend trying out Super Dispatch’s all-in-one platform, which features both an advanced Carrier TMS system and load board. With our platform, you can book loads online, manage all of your contacts and loads seamlessly, send eBOLs digitally, and much more. Try it out for free today!

Published on August 22, 2018

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