Preparing Your Car for ShippingThe boxes are packed. Your furniture and household items are loaded onto the truck to make the move to your new home. You’ve cleaned your old place, turned in your keys and are all set to go — all that’s left is to load your car onto the shipper’s trailer and you can hit the road.

Not so fast, though. When you ship your car, whether just a few hundred miles or all the way across the country, you need to take some time to prepare it for the journey. Taking these steps not only ensures that your car arrives safely and without damage, but it will also save you money and any hassles later on.

So before you hand over your vehicle and the keys, run through this checklist to make sure everything is ready to go.

Clean the Car, Inside and Out

While it might be tempting to load up your car with personal items to make the trip to your new hometown, this is actually a very bad idea — and is probably even prohibited by the car transport company. Before the move, clean everything out of the car, including car seats, electronic devices, emergency supplies and anything else that might be rattling around the back seat. Since car transport companies are generally not liable for loss or damage to personal items inside vehicles, take care that you’ve taken everything out of the car.

Once you’ve cleaned out the car, take it to the car wash and get it sparkling clean. While a car transported on an open trailer is probably not going to arrive in the same pristine condition, thanks to rainstorms and other hazards of the road, if your car is clean when the shippers pick it up, you’ll be better able to see any dings, dents and scratches on the body before the trip. The transporter will do an inspection before you load the vehicle on the trailer, and a clean car helps him get a better sense of the car’s condition before the trip. Though you hope your car arrives in the same condition, if it is clean when if leaves, you’ll be able to identify any signs of damage sustained en route.

Check the Fluids — and More

Because car shipping companies generally charge by weight, you want to make sure your vehicle is as light as possible before loading it onto the trailer. Avoid filling your gas tank; leaving it with around 1/8 to 1/4 of a tank is ideal.  If your car has any kind of fluid leak, get it fixed before shipping or confirm that it will be transported on the lower level of the trailer. Leaking oil or transmission and brake fluids can damage the paint on the cars on the lower level.

Finally, make sure that your battery is fully charged and the tires are properly inflated. Nothing’s worse than arriving to pick up your car, only to find that it won’t start or has a flat tire.

Remove Accessories

Disable any alarm or security systems. If the alarm goes off while in transport, the driver probably won’t be able to deactivate it. Remove any detachable parts, such as antennas, so they won’t be lost or damaged. If you have parts that cannot be removed, but are vulnerable to damage, such as spoilers and fog lights, wrap them up with a protective cover; also, fold back side mirrors if possible.

If your car is a convertible, double-check for any tears or holes in the top before loading the car on the transporter. If damage is present, seal or cover it ahead of time to prevent further damage or leaks during transport.

The transport company you work with will provide instructions and guidance on preparing your car before shipping it, and let you know if there is anything specific you need to do in advance. If you’ve covered all of these points though, you should be able to ship your car without incident. Within a few days, you’ll have your wheels back, and be well on your way to your new life in your new city.

About the Author: Gretchen Andrews is a personal organizer who specializes in helping people prepare for long-distance moves. She provides guidance in cleaning and packing and offers resources to her clients to help their moves go smoothly.