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How to Move Your Hot Rod

how to move your hotrod

Moving your beloved hot rod, roadster, or classic car is a daunting task. People often place so much time and love into these vehicles that they almost become more like family members, for which they care deeply. The very prospect of moving the vehicle becomes much like making the choice to put your kid on the school bus for the first time, filled with emotions and a slight bit of fear - but breathe deeply - you have a few options.

In this post, we’ll go through the many ways that you can choose to move your hot rod or classic car, whether it’s a finished operable vehicle, or a project car that has no engine… yet. We’ll talk about the different options for hired transport you may have, and some tips and tricks for managing the move yourself.


Finished Car or Project?

First up in deciding how to move your hot rod is whether the vehicle is capable of moving under its own power. If you have a finished show car in your garage, the act of moving the vehicle becomes much easier, but also fraught with delicate, slow, and precise moves - whereas when you have a chassis and a rusted body awaiting their time on the hoist, you can be less gently in your moves, but must find a way to secure and move the vehicle onto a means of transport like a trailer, for example.

If you can move the vehicle by its own means, the task of moving it out of storage or the garage is a simple one, but moving a metal sculpture is another story. If this is the case, the trailer that either your auto transport company, movers, or that you rent yourself - must have a winch on it so the vehicle can be towed up onto the trailer to be secured. There’s usually a small winching fee associated with a non-running project vehicle.


Prepping the Car for the Trip

Before the transportation of your hot rod can commence, there are a number of things you’ll have to do in order to prepare the car for its voyage. Some factors are obvious, and fall in line with typical moving company procedure, while others are less obvious and require some forethought so moving day isn’t delayed while the vehicle is prepped.



The first big obvious no-no is that no oil, gas, or fuel may be stored in the vehicle’s trunk. This includes barrels of race fuel, or oil if you have your own shop at home. Secondly, make sure that your gas tank is only ¼ full. This ensures that the weight of the vehicle and the vehicle carrier is kept as low as possible - and further, your vehicle won’t be driven other than to load/unload onto the trailer.


Extra Keys

Make an extra set of keys for the transporter of the vehicle. This helps to ensure that, one, you don’t hand over the only set of keys you have to your vehicle, and two, that there will always be an extra set in the hands of the transport carrier should they need to unload or readjust the vehicle mid-trip.

You can also choose to make a third set of keys and hide it somewhere on the undercarriage or chassis of the vehicle in case of emergencies by duct taping, or securing a weatherproof metal box to the frame. Let’s imagine the transport company loses the extra set you’ve made and has no way of unloading or entering the vehicle without your original key. If you’ve chosen to fly to your new address and are unavailable, this third set will provide a welcome sigh of relief.


Get Rid of Loose/Extra Parts

Transporting your hot rod means that it’ll inevitably be on the open road, at speed, for a prolonged period of time. Removing and tightening up extra and/or loose parts is a great way to prevent damage associated with the journey.

This can include things like folding in the rear-view mirrors, removing a large spoiler or the antenna, and removing any extra parts from the interior of the vehicle that you’ve been storing in the backseat. Some owner's also opt to remove stereo systems, GPS units, and similar electronics like alarm systems. Removing these systems and taking them with you gives you peace of mind.


Tune-Up/Assess Existing Damage

If you’re transporting a non-operable vehicle, this will be noted upon pick-up - but if you have an operating hot rod, you should take some precautions before handing over the keys. Doing a proper tune-up on the vehicle and documenting its existing damage is a great way to make you and your transporter aware of any mechanical issues, leaks, and scratches so everyone is on the same page.

You don’t have to take the vehicle to a garage either, a small tune up at home is all you need to assess the condition of your hot rod.

  • Check and top up all of the vehicle's fluids and make that all four tires are inflated properly.
  • Make sure the battery is well charged, and holds a charge.
  • Make a list of any mechanical issues the vehicle has, and explain any special steps they may have to do to get the hot rod on or off of their transport trailer.
  • Take pictures of any existing damage - like scratches, dents, scuffs, etc. These photos will come in handy if there’s ever a discrepancy should a mishap happen while the vehicle is in the care of the transporters.
  • Record current mileage with a photo.


Registration and Insurance

Making sure your vehicle has a valid insurance policy covering it - and that your chosen moving or transport company has the proper insurance in place is paramount to allowing yourself a shred of relaxation while your cherished hot rod is ushered out of sight and into the sunset. Make sure you know ahead of signing on the dotted line with your moving company their insurance limits and deductibles.

As a precursor to hiring your transport company, have your vehicle appraised to ensure that you know what it’s worth, should an unfortunate accident happen. Make sure to have your hot rod appraised by a professional and reputable firm, because this number will ultimately be proof for your insurance provider.


Decide How You’ll Move the Car

There are usually two options for most people. Hire the transportation services of a qualified Auto Transport company, or tow it yourself. Both options come with their own pros and cons, and a few variables that you can choose from to customize your own move.

If you choose to tow your hot rod yourself, you’ll need to verify that the truck you’ll be using to tow the hot rod and the weight of the trailer is appropriate. Most full-size pickup’s - diesel or gas - equipped with V8 engine and a tow package should be able to do the job just fine, but always make sure by verifying the tow capacity, usually included within the information found on the driver’s door sill.

You’ll also need to consider what type of trailer you’ll employ to move your hot rod. You typically have one of two choices:


Open Car Trailers

The name says it all. An open car trailer, or open-air trailer is a cost-effective method of transporting your hot rod that exposes your vehicle to the elements. This means your car may be exposed to rain, snow, scorching heat and sunlight, etc. Further, it can also mean that your vehicle is exposed to road debris, and has very little protection against stones, and other road debris that can be kicked up by your tow vehicle If you have a non-running hot rod project, this option will likely be a no-brainer. But for a show-car, you may wish to consider the alternative.


Closed Car Trailers

Again, name says it all. Closed car trailers boast four walls and a roof to fully enclose your hot rod from the elements. They’re a bit more expensive, but if you value your hot rod enough, no cost will be too much. They also feature some added security, by locking up and concealing the contents of the trailer.

Some closed car trailers can feature insulation and heat as well, so your vehicle never has to experience a shred of cold, and/or wet weather. There are a few downsides to closed car trailers, like fuel efficiency, for example. A bigger, boxier trailer will inevitably create more drag and therefore poorer fuel economy for the tow vehicle. The tower will also have less opportunity to check in on the hot rod.