Winning our 1965 Clark Cortez motorhome in an online auction was possibly one of the largest highs Andy and I have faced together — This was the purchase of our very first home and not only that but a home that would fulfill our dreams of travel.
There was only one rather obvious problem: Because our Cortez did not start and did not have working breaks, we happened to purchase the one antique RV that needed to be towed literally across America — from California to Virginia.
“Now we need to figure out how to get it here,” Andy said through an incredibly long and deep exhale. It is here I want to confess a truth throughout our Cortez journey: This was the one point that I was worried Andy was frustrated with me.
Don’t get me wrong: Sure, I had thought about the transport-dilemma before convincing him to wager a bid . . . and sure, I thought about this dilemma again once we won it. However, for better or worse, I was willing to go down in a blazing ball of glory — All my life I had planned then over-planned to a point that it all prohibited me from actually living so when I first thought about this distance-problem, I told myself We will deal with this if we get there — if we can even win the RV and once we got there, I fully embraced that new feeling of spontaneity and focused instead on the fact that this would be one hell-of-a story.
So back to Andy’s question: How on earth were we going to get our newly-won ancient vehicle to us? Here, we wanted to detail all ways we considered because we’ve found this concern to be relatively common among RV and trailer buyers. Know in advance however, while all advice below can be used for whatever you need shipped, I’m going to focus my words more on RVs so here are the tips and tricks we learned to getting our most prized possession our way.
↠ DRIVE IT ↞
YOU TACKLE THE DRIVE
First, if you are not like us and have an RV that is road-worthy, the obvious and cheapest option is to simply drive your RV home yourself. RVs are made to travel so regardless of the distance that needs to be done, it was designed to do exactly that.
YOU MAKE REPAIRS THEN TACKLE THE DRIVE
However, if you are like us and lucky enough to have an RV that needs major mechanical work that prevents it from being driven, you do have some options that still keep the reins (or, uh, keys) in your hands.
The number one plan Andy and I wanted most was to fly to California, resolve our mechanical issues, and then make the long drive back. What better way to get to know our steel beast than to set off in it on a cross-country drive? we thought. This is definitely one route but combined with needing a massive set of tools to do the work and knowing one problem could lead to another and another and — well, you get the idea . . . this turned out to be our least desired option.
If you, though, feel confident you can resolve any mechanical headache quickly and efficiently — and most importantly, trust the person that sold you the RV — go for it. Again, this saves a huge chunk of change.
HIRE A MECHANIC THEN TACKLE THE DRIVE
The second to last option you have in this category is getting someone to make the repairs before you even see your RV. Think about it: If you plan to already pay someone to work on your RV, then why not simply pay a mechanic in your RV’s hometown. This also means once the repairs are made, your RV will be ready and waiting for the drive.
HIRE A CARRIER
Now the last option is a strange one but one that we were presented to us: Pay someone else to drive your RV. There are legitimate carriers that do this for a living so if you are a bit nervous about your maiden voyage, you can take the stress off your shoulders and give it to a professional. I’ll explain more on how we were presented with this option further down, but know both of these two last routes cut down on having a shipper, which brings me to where our next option took us . . .
↠ SHIP IT ↞
GET THE SELLER’S ADVICE
When it came to getting our Cortez to Virginia, we were lucky enough to have a seller who was a vehicle collector. Because of this, he had numerous connections for shipping vehicles not only across the country but internationally. Thankfully, he was able to find our best shipping rate of $3,800 — which is a great deal of money; however, this cost dramatically less than other routes we could have taken.
I say all of this to show you should use your number one resource — the seller. That person is from the area your RV is located in and they may have connections. At a bare minimum, they may have great advice so always start with the seller and get his or her thoughts.
RENT OR BUY YOUR OWN TOW VEHICLE AND/OR FLATBED
Admittedly I am not very knowledgeable about this option, but I do know it is an option. This means if you have a heavy duty truck or vehicle that can tow, hitch a flatbed to the back that is large enough to transport your RV. No F350? No problem — Rent or buy a tow vehicle. Again, you will want to be aware of the rules, but I wanted to throw this out there.
If you’ve gotten this far — let’s face it, you are kinda outta options but I have the best known shipping secret: UShip. UShip touts as bridging the gap between shippers and carriers by allowing direct communication with not only one shipping company . . . but many.
Here’s how it works: Create a free account and enter your RV’s specifications (such as RV class, length, width, height — which, if you have a Cortez, visit Our 1965 Clark Cortez page to see all of this vehicle’s specifications). You can pick the dates you prefer to have your RV shipped and then bingo: Shipping companies respond. These responses give clear prices of how much it will cost to ship your RV by that company. Now the best part — prepare yourself: You are not the only person that sees these prices. Other shipping companies will also see what prices were quoted and they try to beat those prices. This means you have not only the ability to see a list of who was willing to take on your haul, information and reviews about them, and the lowest price.
Now advice: While our RV seller pulled strings, we logged into this website and requested shipping help as a back-up. We ended up not needing to leave our ad up long (thanks to our RV seller) but in the short time it was live, we got two offers: One was from an actual shipping company and another from an individual carrier who drives shipments for a living (this is what I mentioned above). Because we were waiting for our seller to get back to us on his options, we kept UShip’s offers pending. What I learned was this wait makes the shipping companies sweat . . . so they lowered their own costs. To give you an example, the towing company quoted us at $6,399 then that person dropped his or her own offer eight different times to come up with a final offer of $5,406.
Here’s my last bit of information on UShip — You will see this is a pretty steep price. I wish I could give reassurance that your quoted cost would be less or that you will have tons of shippers compete, but the truth is it all depends on when you post, how business is, where you are sending from and to, even if companies sees your ad, and more.
↠ SUMMARY ↞
In the end, if you’re in a state of panic right now at realizing you have a massive treasure that has no way of making it to you — Don’t worry. There are options, and I hope at least one of these will work. Meanwhile, if you have other recommendations, leave a comment so readers can have additional advice and help!