How to Pack & Ship Car Parts

What makes selling on eBay such a good venue for selling car parts and accessories is the website's reach; you can sell to customers around the world with relative ease and safety. Shipping your items to those customers is another story.

1. Prepare the Item for Packing

Many items don't require any special preparation other than packing securely and finding a large enough box. But others will need to have road grime and engine grease cleaned off, fluids drained, and delicate components removed and packed separately.

In general, you'll need to drain all the fluids (gasoline, oil, etc.) from an item before packing. After you've finished, seal the item in a plastic bag to prevent any residue from leaking out and weakening the container. If the item contains a hazardous substance that can't be removed (e.g., you're shipping a sealed car battery), be sure to note this on the shipping paperwork. You may also need to affix hazardous material stickers on the outside of your package.

Different carriers have different guidelines for packing and shipping hazardous materials; here are links to the major carrier's regulations:

A New England company that rebuilds transmissions offers the following tips for packing a transmission:

  • Take your time!
  • Completely drain all oil by flipping it bellhousing down in a drain pan for at least a few hours.
  • Wrap the transmission in at least 1 or 2 plastic bags to prevent any leakage in the container.
  • Pull off all the brackets, throw out bearing, clutch fork, and speed sensor (2g only).

Foley Engines has a very helpful tutorial on their website that shows customers how to ship engines to them. It includes step-by-step instructions with diagrams and measurements.

2. Pack the Item

For large, bulky items, use a sturdy corrugated cardboard box You can purchase a "Dish Pack" (double-walled box) at U-Haul or from shipping supply companies like Uline.

Consider double-boxing the item if it's heavy and/or delicate.

For car hoods, doors and other oddly sized parts, ask local auto body shops if they have any boxes that will fit the item. These boxes are usually thrown out (or recycled), so you may be able to pick one up for free. Just make sure it's still sturdy enough to properly protect the contents.

Tires should be shipped in individual boxes. Protect the wheels by covering them with a non-abrasive cloth (to prevent scratches), then cardboard. Use tie down straps to hold the cardboard in place.

Five-foot-tall wardrobe boxes are great for shipping oversized items like motorcycle exhausts. Wrap the exhaust in soft towels or bubble wrap to protect the finish, place inside the box, then cushion with crumpled paper or packing peanuts.

For large, heavy and dirty items like transmissions, place the item inside a large plastic storage tote that's been padded with dense foam (the squishy kind, not rigid Styrofoam unless it's cut to fit the item you're shipping). Packing peanuts or bubble wrap are fine for lightweight items but not recommended for heavier parts. Seal the tote securely by wrapping heavy-duty strapping tape completely around it in both directions, then place inside a snug-fitting cardboard box.

Another option for shipping a heavy item is to crate it. Cover the item completely with thick plastic sheeting or a heavy piece of fabric (e.g., a mover's blanket), then strap it securely to a wood pallet (use a ratcheting tie-down cargo strap) or the base of a wood crate and nail the lid and sides on. You may want to have a crate custom-built for the item, depending on its value.

If you're stumped (or just don't want to bother with packing the item yourself), contact a local shipper (e.g., your nearest FedEx or UPS Store) or freight company like Craters & Freighters, who will professionally pack your item for you.

3. Choose the Shipping Carrier

UPS Ground is often the least expensive shipping option for large, heavy parcels; however, UPS does have some restrictions on what they'll accept and where they'll deliver. UPS Ground is available in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, however they will not deliver to P.O. boxes or APO/FPO. All UPS shipping methods have online tracking and are automatically insured for up to $100 Additional insurance is extra, as are optional Delivery Confirmation and Delivery Confirmation Signature Required. DCSR is strongly recommended when shipping expensive items.

Ground delivery is generally slower than other services, sometimes taking up to 7 business days or more. For faster delivery, consider offering an air delivery option, such as 2nd Day or Overnight/Express as well.

These will cost more than Ground (sometimes more than double or triple the amount), but they're good for customers who need to get a part quickly. Also, make sure that the item you're shipping can be transported by air; some items, like pressurized gasses, can only go by Ground.

FedEx and DHL have comparable ground delivery services. Many sellers have a strong preference for (or aversion to) one, so it pays to do a little comparison-shopping before choosing a shipper.

Freight companies are another alternative. Look in the yellow pages under "Freight" or try Freight Quote to receive quotes from multiple carriers.

Some eBay sellers prefer to ship large items via Greyhound Package Xpress.

This is sometimes a cheaper option than other delivery services, however the buyer will have to travel to their nearest Greyhound bus terminal to pick up their merchandise. Weigh the differences in price and convenience carefully before choosing this option.

Tips

  • Be aware that PayPal's Seller Protection Policy does not cover items delivered in person, only those that are shipped via a method with online tracking; if the buyer uses PayPal, picks up the item in person and then tells PayPal they never received the item, PayPal will find in their favor and remove the money from your account.
  • While many car parts have global appeal, not all are well-suited for shipping. Items like engines and car hoods can weigh more than a hundred pounds and be very expensive to ship, not to mention challenging to pack. As a result, many sellers offer these items for local pick-up only.

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