By Road or by Water

By Road or by Water

By road or by water

Ways to get your vehicle in and out of Alaska

By Bailey Berg

Driving across Alaska is an exciting adventure that offers access to breathtaking landscapes and unparalleled wilderness. If you’re planning to relocate, bringing your car with you can provide the freedom and flexibility to explore this vast state.

However, moving your car to or from Alaska requires careful planning and preparation. Most people choose between either driving their vehicle along the Alaska-Canada Highway, otherwise known as the Alcan, or shipping their car. Here’s what you need to know about getting your vehicle in and out of the 49th state. 

The Scenic Route

Moving via the Alcan is seen by many as a right of passage. Granted, it’s one that involves driving thousands of miles through remote areas, facing unpredictable weather conditions. If you’re keen on making the journey, it’s a good idea to assess the condition of your car, considering factors such as age, mileage and mechanical reliability. Have your vehicle serviced before the trip, ensuring that the brakes, tires and other critical components are in good working order. If your car requires major repairs or has ongoing issues, you might want to reconsider making the journey with it. If your vehicle is in decent shape, bringing it with you might be your best option. In recent years, for those moving up and debating whether to bring a car or buy one upon arrival, the availability and costs to purchase a vehicle in Alaska, even a used one, can leave customers wanting and their wallets empty.

Consider the time of year and the weather conditions you may encounter — the road is typically under construction in the summer and icy in the winter. Many businesses, including campgrounds, along the way close for the snowy season, too.  

It’s also a good idea to do your research beforehand, finding a good map — which is necessary, considering you likely won’t have cell phone reception, and therefore GPS navigation, for long stretches of drive — as well as identifying some gas stations, eateries, campgrounds, pullouts, scenic viewpoints and repair shops en route. 

Before you hit the road, be sure to pick up the necessary supplies for the journey. That may include extra fuel, water, non-perishable food, a spare tire, a first aid kit, basic tools, blankets and a roadside emergency kit, which should include tire chains for winter drives. 

Don’t forget that it’s a long drive; going from Seattle to Anchorage, for example, is an estimated 43 hours of drive time — made longer in poor weather conditions. Be realistic about how long you’re willing to sit behind the wheel in a single day and plan overnights accordingly — hotels can be far and few between.

Ship Separately 

For those who would rather not drive but do want to bring their existing vehicle, another option is shipping a car. 

If you decide to ship your car to or from Alaska, start by researching reputable auto transport companies with experience in handling long-distance moves, especially those that specialize in Alaska transportation and have positive customer reviews. 

There are typically two types of vehicle delivery services: port-to-port or door-to-door. With port-to-port, from the perspective of those in the Lower 48 coming to Alaska, vehicles are loaded onto a cargo ship in Seattle or Tacoma, Washington. From there, it’ll be delivered to the port you choose in Alaska, with Anchorage being the most popular. Some port-to-port companies to consider are Matson, which offers car shipping from Tacoma, to Anchorage, Kodiak, or Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and Lynden, which ships from Seattle to more than 20 ports throughout Alaska. You can expect to pay between $1,500 and $4,500 for car shipping, with rates depending on the size of the vehicle and final destination. 

For those who would rather not go to Washington to drop or pick up their vehicle off, there is door-to-door shipping. Companies like Alaska Car Transport service the entire Lower 48 by working with various smaller shipping companies. The total price will, however, be more expensive.

Whichever option you choose, it’s a good idea to obtain quotes from multiple companies, compare prices, and consider factors such as insurance coverage, transit time and additional services offered.

It’s important to note that the gas tank cannot be more than a quarter full when they’re dropped off — a coast guard regulation with no exceptions. Most auto transport companies also don’t allow personal items to be left in the car, as it increases the weight of the vehicle, so be sure to clean your car out before dropping it off; some companies do allow moving boxes and bags to be transported with the car, but at an additional rate. It’s also recommended to document the existing condition of your car with photographs and to secure any accessories to prevent damage during transportation.

Now matter how you decide to get your vehicle to or from Alaska, you’ll have the freedom to explore your new home, which is worth the work involved.

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