If the thought of your car becoming lost or damaged is enough to make your blood pressure spike, you’re not alone.

Most people rank their vehicles among their most valuable and relied-on possessions. That’s why if you need to ship your vehicle from one place to another, it’s prudent to make sure you’ve got your bases covered before you sign on the dotted line.

Choosing a shipping provider may feel like a bit of a gamble, but there are ways to hedge your bets. All that’s required is the willingness to do a little legwork and the good sense to take a few simple precautions. Here are some tips for sharing your shipping vehicle.

Research the company you plan on using.

You wouldn’t hire a sitter for your child or pet without first doing your homework on them. Why would you turn your car over to an auto transport company you know little or nothing about?

Finding out who you’re going to be entrusting your vehicle to is, without a doubt, your most pressing priority as a prospective client. Take the time to investigate all providers you’re thinking about working with.

Reading reviews from past customers can be especially helpful for learning what a company is really like beyond the testimonials on their website and arming yourself with the insight you need to make an informed, responsible decision. A company like Guardian Auto Transport (https://guardianautotransport.com/), for example, checks all the right boxes—given that they offer free, instant quotes, guarantee refunds up to the time of driver assignment, and boast five-star reviews across the board.

Check your provider’s insurance coverage.

Part of the research you conduct on a given shipper should focus on the size and specific conditions of the company’s insurance policy.

As a rule of thumb, you can count on a legitimate provider to carry between $50,000 and $1 million in general coverage. This coverage typically only applies to external damage incurred while the vehicle is in the shipper’s care. You’ll be on the hook for any internal damage suffered as a result of a failure to secure personal belongings left inside the vehicle properly.

With that in mind, it’s never a bad idea to double up on your protection. Between the transporter’s coverage and your individual plan, you should be able to breathe a little easier once your vehicle is officially out of your hands.

Make sure all the proper paperwork is in order.

Don’t make any decisions, agreements, or negotiations with a broker or provider without requesting a copy of the details in writing. This fine-print approach should be applied to every transaction phase, from the initial quote to the final bill of loading.

When you receive a piece of documentation, study it closely to understand what it says and, just as importantly, what it doesn’t say. If you don’t ask for clarification before going any further, misunderstanding the terms of your contract can have costly consequences.

Keep your shipping contract and all other files and forms you accumulate together in one easily accessible location until your vehicle gets where it’s going. That way, you’ll be able to produce them at a moment’s notice in the event of a billing dispute or unauthorized action.

You’re also well within your rights to ask for copies of (or at least access to) the transporter’s bond, shipping license, and registration with various authorities. You might feel sheepish about asking for these items, but you’d no doubt feel worse if something were to happen to your vehicle in transit.

Get your vehicle ready for its journey.

Before you transfer custody of your vehicle, comb the cabin, seats, and floorboards for anything that might prove to be a liability during the shipping process.

Items such as electronic devices, tools, books, toys, CDs, and loose change should all be temporarily relocated. Otherwise, they may become displaced during the move, potentially causing dings, scuffs, scratches, and cracked or broken windows. It’s worth reiterating that the shipping provider cannot be held responsible for this type of damage.

If you have no choice but to haul something inside your vehicle, stow it away safely in the trunk, where it will be less likely to wreak havoc when the transport truck hits a rough stretch of road.

Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s vital to leave some gas in the tank. Similarly, a driver must double-check that their battery is charged before departure. Remember, t’s not uncommon for shippers to charge additional fees for vehicles that can’t quickly be loaded and unloaded.

While this step-by-step guide is of utmost importance, don’t lose too much sleep over losing personal belongings. After all, most companies provide a checklist of recommended procedures for customers to look over before pickup.

Be wary of companies that ask for a deposit.

Different providers do things differently when it comes to processing payments. Some accept compensation only when the job is done to the client’s satisfaction. Others request hefty deposits before the vehicle ever makes it onto the truck.

Being prompted to put up a deposit isn’t necessarily a red flag in itself, but it could be a hint that you’re facing more risk than you initially anticipated.

Think about it this way. What happens if you fork over a $200 deposit, only to have your shipment canceled at the last minute with no explanation? Similarly, what if you discover that you’ve been stood up on the day your car is supposed to depart? In these cases, you’ll be out of couple hundred dollars with no legal recourse, that’s what.

Unless you’re ready to face such a scenario, it will be worth the extra time and energy to track down a provider that doesn’t charge a deposit.

Final thoughts.

There’s no getting around the fact that you’re taking your chances anytime you consign a vehicle for long-distance shipping. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help ensure that it reaches its destination safely.

By partnering with trusted services, paying close attention to the journey’s logistics, and being diligent about making the necessary preparations on your end, you can reduce risks in a snap. Not to mention, these tips and tricks will improve your odds of driving away with a smile on your face.