Detailer Transporter Plates

Auto Detailer Transporter Plates

Transporting cars is usually an easy thing to do as long as your customer has their own license plate on the vehicle.  When you get into wholesale or commercial type work with auto dealerships you get into a new area of potential problems.  This creates the need for specialized license plates or more specifically auto detailer transporter plates.

If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle you know that the auto dealerships don’t have license plates for each of their cars.  The salesman grabs a “dealer” plate and puts it in the back window and you take the car for a spin around the block.  That dealer plate insures that vehicle while the salesman is driving it.  The problem is it doesn’t cover you as a contractor doing services for the dealership. This is why most dealerships want you to have either “Repair/Towing” license plates, or “Detailer Transporter Plates”.  Both plates serve to temporarily transfer your garage keepers liability insurance to the vehicle you are driving while you are in care, custody and control of the vehicle (remember this from our business liability insurance page?).

Insurance is tough when transporting cars. In Pennsylvania, you can’t get a Repair/Towing plate if you have the word “detail” anywhere in your company name.  So that generally leaves the detailer transporter plates for shops to get.  The Repair/Towing plate is preferred though if you can get it.  Why?  A few reasons why Repair/Towing plates are better:

  • You can use them 24 hours a day versus transporter plates being limited to use only during your business hours. A big problem if you happen to be driving a car beyond your regular hours of operation;
  • They are easier to get since the DMV is much more stringent on detailing applications than they are for mechanics shops and towing companies whom use these plates most of the time;
  • Many states are phasing out the transporter plates and just telling detailers not to move vehicles. Amazing how bureaucrats can think their solutions are so easy to live with, isn’t it?

The idea of detailer transporter plates was specifically designed for transporting cars between auctions and dealerships.  Detailers picked them up when the state DMV’s didn’t think they were an actual repair shop so they shouldn’t be permitted to use Repair/Towing plates.  Unfortunately this means that many detail shops with these detailer transporter plates use these plates beyond their intended purpose when they transport cars between dealerships and their own shops.  Even though technically they aren’t supposed to do that.  The only way you can get auto detailer transporter plates is to convince a dealership to do a contract with you that says you will be transporting cars for them.  The application specifically says that you can’t be driving their cars between your shop and the dealership.  So basically they don’t want detailers moving cars and this is their way of making it hard on them.  Mechanics shops have repair/towing plates.  Dealers have dealers plates.  Detailers don’t have anything except this obscure plate that only auctions use to move cars back and forth. If you do get transporter plates you need to make sure you are insured with garage keepers and vehicle transport insurance on EACH and every plate you own.  That will run you about $1,400 per plate.  Plus the state makes you get the insurance BEFORE they even look at your application which is fun since it takes them over a month to process it.

The detailing business is like any other when it comes to being properly insured.  The reason you have insurance is to make sure you are covered in the event something bad happens.  So by cutting corners like many detail shop owners do, eventually you will get burned in some scenario that you might have thought sounded good but in reality just doesn’t work.  When securing auto detailer transporter plates for your shop, you need to make sure the insurance part is setup and maintained correctly.

***TIP*** When you are naming your detailing business, don’t use the word detail anywhere in your actual name.  Call it something along the lines of Joe’s Vehicle Reconditioning or Auto Recon Experts.  This way when you apply for a Repair/Towing plate and they ask you what you do you can honestly tell them that you recondition vehicles which is entirely true.  Too many detail shops start out just detailing, but by the time they get big enough to need something like detailer transporter plates, only a small portion of their business is actually performing actual car detailing.  So keep this in mind early on when you are naming your business or when you eventually incorporate, consider slightly changing the name.