Top Load Versus Bottom Load: Which Auto Transport Option is Right for You?

    Posted by Ben Davidson about 2 months ago
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    Top load and bottom load

    What’s the difference?

    Which one is right for you?

    Top load and bottom load

    “Top load” is the industry term for the vehicles on the upper deck of an open-air car transport carrier. So, obviously, “bottom load” refers to the vehicles on the bottom deck of an open-air car transport carrier. 

    This allows carriers to make each trip hauling cars almost twice as profitable depending on if it’s a fully booked transport or not. In fact, in rare cases, some enclosed auto transport trailers have a top and bottom load as well. 

    What’s the difference?

    Well, as it might sound, the top load tends to be the slightly better option. This is because being on the top deck of the car carrier will ensure that:

    • Your car doesn’t get hit with small debris from the road such as pebbles.
    • Fluid leaks from cars above it won’t damage your car because there are no cars above it.
    • When the driver is parked for a rest stop, there is no potential for a passerby to attempt to steal something from your vehicle because they will not be able to reach it.


    All of these things are extremely rare possibilities. A pedestrian attempting to take something from your car, being the rarest. It doesn’t hurt, however, to have some piece of mind during your auto shipment. 

    Are there any downsides to choosing the top load?

    Yes, unfortunately:

    • It costs an extra fee of at least $100.
    • Your car is still exposed to the elements like snow, rain and sun and there is no protection from cars above it.

    • Your car is at a higher risk of being hit by tree branches.

    If you want the best of both worlds AKA complete protection from fluid leaks from other vehicles, all the elements, branches and debris you should consider enclosed auto transport. The only downside to going with an enclosed trailer is that its even more expensive than choosing the top load. 

    In fact, it’s several hundred dollars more expensive than any option on an open-air carrier. The best idea is to contact your auto transport company for a free quote that factors in these various different options. 

    If YOUR car has a fluid leak, then you won’t have to worry about making the decision. Your car will be placed on the lower deck in the bottom load in order to avoid damaging any other cars below it. You should always disclose any fluid leaks or any issues, for that matter, to your auto transport company before your car is picked up for shipment. 

    Which one is right for you?

    This depends on your auto shipping needs as well as your budget. In the end, having your vehicle as part of the top load can help prevent (very rarely occurring) scratches, dings, and dirt from small debris that comes off the road during transport.

    However, depending on your local area, if there are a lot of trees close to the road you could potentially end up with tree branches making contact with your car if you choose the top load. These things do, however, happen very rarely, so you can be confident your car will arrive without any minor damage from small road debris. 

    Consider too that the cars in the bottom load will essentially be shielded from elements like rain and snow. However, your vehicle stands to incur almost no damage from those things. Any reputable car shipping company will tell you that there’s no completely risk-free way to ship your car. Even enclosed auto transport bears the possibility of an unpreventable car accident involving the carrier. 

    The most important thing to think about, though, is that if you drive your car instead of shipping it you will be at a MUCH higher risk for these sorts of things damaging your vehicle. 

    Plus, when you consider the cost of gas, the wear and tear on your car including a bunch of extra mileage, the cost of tolls, and the cost of rest stops and/or lodging for longer trips you should realize that you aren’t saving much by driving your car instead of shipping it.

    In a perfect world we would all be shipping our vehicles in enclosed trailers. However, those can end up being too expensive for the vast majority of us. So, if you can afford the extra hundred or so bucks it is worth it to choose the top load because you won’t have any possibility of fluid leaking on your car or small road debris scratching or denting it. The choice, however, is entirely up to you. 


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