Last edited 7/9/2019
As you plan your move to Alaska from the Mainland, there are a number of factors you’ll want to take into account—including your car. Especially if you have an SUV, an AWD vehicle or a truck that handles winter weather well, you’ll probably find it simpler to move your vehicle to Alaska, rather than buying a new one when you arrive.
You have two main options to get your car, truck or SUV to Alaska:
- Hire a professional company to ship it for you.
- Drive it up there yourself.
To help you make the right decision, we’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each option. We’ll also give you a few tips to prep your car for the move, no matter which route you decide to take. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to check this item off your to-do list with the confidence that your set of wheels will be ready to take you wherever you want to go in Alaska.
Prepping Your Car for Alaskan Adventures
No matter whether you decide to ship your car or drive it yourself, there are a few pieces of prep work you can do on the Mainland to get your vehicle ready for Alaskan weather.
- Buy Good Winter Tires and a Set of Chains – That way, you’ll be prepared for Alaska’s harsh winter weather whenever it hits. If you’re driving, you even might find you need these items along the way.
- Have Your Mechanic Give Your Car a Good Once-Over – Complete any regular maintenance that’s due, and ask your mechanic to do a thorough inspection to spot any potential problems. If you’re driving to Alaska, this is especially important for avoiding a potential breakdown along the way.
- Update Your Car’s Emergency Kit – Make sure you have the basics, like a good set of jumper cables, a spare tire with a jack and a lug wrench, plus a good flashlight. If you’re driving, you’ll want a deeper stock of emergency supplies. (More about that shortly!)
With your car prepped for life in Alaska, your next step will be to decide between your two main options for moving your vehicle.
Option #1: Ship Your Car to Alaska
It’s fairly simple to hire a professional company to move your car to Alaska. Some companies offer door-to-door service, where they will pick up your car and drop it off at your new home. Other more do-it-yourself options require you to drive your car to the port, then pick it up at the destination port.
The Pros of Shipping Your Car to Alaska:
- Simplicity: Relocating to Alaska involves a lot of moving parts. Let someone else do the hard work for you by turning your car over to the professionals.
- Cost: You might think that driving your car will be cheaper. When you factor in the cost of gas and lodging—plus wear and tear on your car—you might actually save money when shipping your car.
- Less Stress on Your Car: Alaska is more than 2,000 miles away from Washington State, so driving is going to put some serious miles on your car. Shipping your car saves it from the long journey, ensuring that it will arrive at your new home in good working order.
The Cons of Shipping Your Car to Alaska:
- Trusting Strangers with Your Car: You might worry about placing your car entirely under someone else’s control. You aren’t alone! This is one of the most common concerns around shipping cars. The best way to combat this fear? Do your research and go with the company who makes you feel confident in their ability to care for your car.
- Lost Moving Space: If you choose to drive, you could nearly fill your car full of possessions—or you could use your car to transport unique or valuable items you don’t want to ship in a container. However, most shipping companies will require you to empty out your car completely so you’ll miss out on using your car as shipping space.
How to Ship Your Car to Alaska
Start by getting quotes from three, independent companies. This will give you a sense of the going rate for moving your car to Alaska. Make sure you ask about any additional fees so there are no surprises at pick-up.
When comparing prices between full-service, door-to-door shipping companies, and the DIY options, don’t forget to factor in your time and the cost of gas or hotels. After all, if you don’t live close to a port, dropping off your car at the port might not make financial sense once you tally all the costs involved.
Finally, you’ll also need to prep your car for shipment:
- Collect your documentation: Your shipper will need your vehicle documentation such as the current registration and title, plus your driver’s license.
- Clean everything out: Most shipping companies want to receive your car empty. Plus, since anything inside your vehicle likely won’t be insured, you’ll probably want to take everything out. (That includes emptying your glove compartment!)
- Wash your car: Although there shouldn’t be any problems, wash your car so you can get a good idea of what dings and dents it has before the move. That way, you can more easily identify damage caused by someone else during the move.
- Take photographs: Documentation is key! Take notes on current dings and scratches, then take photos so you have evidence to support a claim for any damages.
- Turn off your car alarm: The rocking and rolling of a ship can easily set off your car alarm. Disconnect it beforehand so there are no issues during your car’s journey.
- Empty your gas tank: Leave about a quarter tank of gas in the car so it can get driven on and off the ship—but no more than that. If there’s more than a quarter tank of gas in the car, you’ll have to drain it prior to turning the car over.
Now that we’ve discussed your first option for moving your car to Alaska, let’s cover the second: hitting the road yourself.
Option #2: Drive Your Car to Alaska
If you love a road trip with gorgeous scenery and a touch of adventure, the drive to Alaska might be just right for you. You’ll have a couple of options for your drive, depending on where you’re starting and what kind of drive you want to enjoy, including:
- The Alaska-Canada Highway – The Alcan Highway starts in Dawson Creek, BC, and was originally built as a supply route during World War II for the US Army. The entire roadway is paved, although you’ll hit a few stretches of gravel where the road is under repair.
- The Trans-Canada Highway – If you’re coming from the eastern U.S., the Trans-Canada Highway gives you the chance to maximize your time in the Canadian wilderness. As the name suggests, the highway stretches 4,860 mi across the length of the country from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
- The Stewart-Cassiar Highway (Highway 37 BC) – This off-the-beaten-path alternative route offers a journey through British Columbia’s most beautiful scenery.
- The Alaska Marine Highway – The ferry trip starts in Bellingham, WA and asks you to trade highway scenery for marine sightseeing. However, it’s also likely your shortest route to Alaska. Book early if you’d like a stateroom for the journey, as they sell out months ahead of time.
Pro Tip: If you decide to drive, pick up a copy of the bible for Alaska roads: The MILEPOST, which is updated yearly. Don’t rely entirely on your phone map app since you never know when you’ll find yourself out of cell range.
The Pros of Driving to Alaska:
- Adventure: The drive to Alaska will show you sights you’ll remember for the rest of your life. If you’re extra adventurous, bring a tent and camp along the way. If you have the time to take it slow and visit all the small towns and sights along theway, the trip will be even more rewarding.
- Control: Since you’ll be in possession of your car from start to finish, you won’t have to worry about how your car being in anyone else’s hands. This offers some owners significant peace of mind.
- Extra Moving Space: If there’s anything you couldn’t ship in your container—or items that you prefer to keep with you, like valuables—you can easily pack them in the car with you.
The Cons of Driving to Alaska:
- The Potential for Breakdowns: No matter which way you drive, it’s a long road to Alaska. You may run into mechanical problems along the way, which could make for an expensive trip indeed. (Check our prep list below to reduce the likelihood of issues along the way!)
- Expenses: You’ll encounter high gas prices along the way, as well as costs for food and lodging. More than likely, you’ll discover that driving your car will be the more expensive option at the end of the day.
- Length of the Trip: Driving to Alaska is a unique adventure, no question. It’s also a long one. If you need to get to Alaska fast, shipping your car is the way to go.
However, if you decide the pros outweigh the cons, you’ll need to get your car prepped properly for the drive to Alaska:
- Get a Tune Up: Tell your mechanic about your upcoming trip to get any additional service recommendations you’ll need for the trip. For example, make sure your heater is in tip top shape to warm your car up quickly.
- Stock up on Maps: In addition to The MILEPOST, make sure to have good maps for all the areas you plan to travel. You will drive through areas with no cell coverage, so you don’t want to depend entirely on phone apps.
- Beef Up Your Emergency Supplies: If you break down in a relatively unpopulated area, you may need to sit and wait for help. Be prepared with enough supplies for an overnight in a cold environment. Edmunds offers a good list to get you started. You may want to add in rain gear, cold-weather gear and a sleeping bag, just in case.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to stop frequently on your trip. If you’re debating on whether to fill up your gas tank or stop for a snack, err on the cautious side and pull over. You don’t want to get caught with low supplies in an isolated area.
How Will You Move Your Car to Alaska?
Now that we’ve given you a run-down on the what, the why and the how around your two options for moving your car to Alaska, you may find yourself closer to a decision. Will you choose the ease and simplicity of shipping your car? Or will you opt for the rugged adventure and unforgettable scenery of the drive? No matter which option you select, now that you understand everything that’s involved, you’re perfectly positioned to make a confident decision for moving your car to the Frontier State.
Looking for a professional company to move your car—and your other possessions—to Alaska? We’d be happy to help! With 40+ years of industry experience and expert staff located in Alaska, we know how to make your move to the 49th state a safe, easy and affordable one. Just get in touch with us to get a quote started.