I’ve blogged about shipping wheels before in a way that is cheap and safe – but shipping race seats for a car is an entirely different level!
Why is shipping car seats difficult?
For starters, they’re huge and heavy.
Measuring the OEM seats for my TTRS came in at about 40 inches tall with a 24″ x 24″ base, and they weighed in well over 50 lbs each.
The next level of difficulty is their unusual shape.
Unlike wheels where you can cut-out cardboard circles or put them in a rectangular box, seats are L shaped and won’t really fit in a standard box.
Last but not least, given their size and weight, expect these to be more expensive to ship…while wheels work out to about $50 per wheel within the US, a seat might cost a few hundred bucks per seat.
That being said, I’ve got three methods to easily package and ship seats that won’t break the bank.
What’s crazy is that I’ve done all three methods in the last 30 days!
But having done all three methods recently I can tell you the pros and cons of each approach, and let you decide what is best for your particular situation.
Method 1: Freight Shipping
Freight Shipping is different than normal shipping in that everything must be loaded onto a pallet. You can either send an entire truckload, or what is called LTL or “Less Than Truckload” and this method is ideal for large, heavy objects like heavy equipment, appliances, etc.
I used FreightQuote.com to shop for options to ship my rare European Recaro Wingback seats from Arizona to Wisconsin and got a number fo quotes instantly. The rates ranged from $150-400 depending on the carrier, speed, and level of insurance you carried.
I selected a carrier that was $184 to ship BOTH seats from AZ to WI, plus another $40 in insurance which covered up to $3,500 of coverage (the value of the seats). I used WELCOME20 as a coupon code to save an extra $20, putting my grand total at around $204 to ship both seats almost 2,000 miles across the country!
This was much cheaper than I thought it would be, and packaging was relatively easy too as long as you have a pallet handy.
Packaging is straightforward. Obtain a standard pallet of 48×40 and bolt the seats into the pallet so they’re secure…any standard screws will work.
The hardest part is finding a pallet, but check with local department stores to either buy a new one (expensive) or see if they have any old ones they don’t need anymore. Here is a resource that lists other ways to find cheap or used pallets.
Next, wrap the seats in bubble wrap, towels, and shrink wrap to provide a protective layer of the leather.
Lastly, if you have some spare cardboard, consider covering them with cardboard or cutting down boxes to protect the entire seats like pictured below in Method #2.
This method is best for long distances and is the most cost effective option.
Method #2: Shipping via FedEx or UPS
If you want to ship via a standard carrier like FedEx or UPS, you’ll need to box the seats rather than using a pallet…
To box them, you’ll need two large boxes per seat, and then you’ll have to modify these boxes to work.
The bottom box should be 24×24 and about 18″ tall. This will fit the base of the seat. Place the seat into the box like the image in the upper left above, then fold in the tabs like pictured in Image 2 and cut the “arms” by making a slit so that it covers the full topside of the seat cushion.
Next, take a second box of 24x24x12 or so to cover the top half, like pictured in the bottom right.
Tape the two boxes together, and add in any newspaper or bubble wrap you have lying around to make sure the seats are snug. Consider wrapping any parts that protrude like seat belt levers, and tape any wiring to the bottom of the seat so it stays secure.
The downside of shipping this method is that it can be very expensive. A quote from AZ to WI was more like $400-500 compared to less than half of that for freight shipping.
This method is more viable if it’s a short distance, or if you know someone who has a commercial account with FedEx/UPS that gets discounts based on volume – often large shippers will only pay 10-20% of what a normal person would, in which case this method could possibly be both cheaper and easier since you can drop them off at any FedEx or UPS location.
This method is best for short distances, or those with access to discounted rates via corporate accounts.
Pro tip: have pickup & delivery at business addresses to save a few dollars.
Method 3: Drive Them!
This one is probably most obvious, but if you and the buyer aren’t too far apart from each other, borrow a truck or SUV (or rent one from U-Haul for $25 a day) and ask the seller to meet you at a midway point.
I had originally sold my seats to someone in Arizona, which was about a 5 hour drive away. We met at the midway point so each of us drove about 2.5 hours there and 2.5 hours home.
The cost to each of us was only about a tank of gas, or around $50, and about 5 hours of our time.
I listened to an audio book and for the most part enjoyed the drive, or at least didn’t mind it much.
Depending on how much leverage you have or how eager the buyer is, you could split the drive differently, or even plan a little vacation around the transaction if they or you live somewhere that is worthy of a long-weekend stay.
I’ve heard of people using Greyhound to ship large car parts. I’ve tried this once before shipping a car hood, and the hood was completely destroyed when it arrived after getting lost for weeks. I really wouldn’t recommend this method as it’s not trackable, there are no guarantees, and your parts are likely to get pretty banged up in the process. That is just my experience so take it for what it’s worth, but “never again” is my motto with Greyhound Shipping.
Another option is to fly somewhere and check the seats as baggage, and certain airlines allow free checked bags although may charge extra since they are oversized and overweight. This is probably only worth it if either party in the transaction wants to visit the other’s city (e.g. for a vacation or to see family or friends), but could be worth considering…
To summarize, shipping car seats is hard, but not impossible. For most transactions, I highly recommend freight shipping. It’s super easy and surprisingly cost effective. For the rest, consider either splitting the drive, or try to find someone that has a “hook up” on commercial rates via FedEx/UPS and box them using a two-box method as described earlier.
Got any other good hacks for car seat shipping? Leave me a comment with your recommendations!