Freight Rate Spot Quotes: How to Get One, How to Compare Them and Negotiation Tips

The first step in arranging a shipment is to reach out to a carrier or broker and receive a rate. With just that information, you can decide which provider is best for you based on the competing interests of cost, timing and customer service. 

Although it’s the first step, it can be intimidating to begin. How do you know if you can trust a quote? Did you provide enough information? And most of all, how long will it take until you know the price for my shipment? 

Over the course of 68 years (and counting), Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) has learned a lot about formulating and presenting quotes. Whether you are requesting a quote for a one-off shipment or are looking to start a partnership, we’re happy to share what we’ve learned and what you can expect.

After reading this article, you’ll have all the information you need to request and accept a freight rate quote, as well as advice for comparing brokers to find the right solution for your shipment.

What Is Included in a Freight Rate Spot Quote? 

The quote you receive from your carrier or broker should include all the information you need to begin your shipment. 

  • Price. Perhaps the most important piece of information you need to get started, your initial rate quote should include the cost to move your shipment from origin to destination. Note, this price is based on the information provided. If your load changes, expect the price to change too. 

  • Timing. Your rate quote will include the number of days your freight will be in transit, as well as an expected delivery date. 

  • Vehicle. The type of vehicle that will haul your freight will be specified in the quote.

  • Expiration date. Your spot quote is valid for a certain number of days. After that date, you can request a new quote for the shipment. In most cases, rate quotes are accepted or rejected immediately.

This information can help you compare carriers, as well as make plans for your shipment.

In a hurry to move your shipment? Try the Find a Truck Faster Guide to save time.

Download the Guide

How Long Does it Take to Get a Spot Quote? 

The time it takes to get a rate quote varies based on the complexity of the quote. A simple quote submitted during standard business hours — nothing over-dimensional or hazardous, pickup and dropoff at commercial addresses, etc. — should be ready in less than 15 minutes (yes, really)

If you have a more complicated shipment — requiring additional driver credentials, customs brokering or other non-standard variables — you should still expect a rate quote within a few hours. 

Transportation is a competitive industry that depends on tight timelines. If you haven’t received a response back within an hour or two, consider if you are a priority for that carrier.

Once you have your rate quote, you have until the expiration date to approve or reject it. However, if you can immediately respond to the carrier with your answer that will help build the relationship.  

What Information Does a Carrier Need to Create a Shipping Quote? 

The best way to get a timely, hassle-free quote is to provide your carrier or broker with accurate information up front. 


  • Type of commodity. Specify the item that will be shipped. If it requires any special handling, be sure to note that as well.

  • Length, width, height and weight. Precise measurements are vital. This will determine the type of vehicle used for your load, as well as permitting requirements. Both these variables will have a significant impact on the timing and price of your shipment. 

  • Origin and destination addresses. Your pickup and dropoff points help determine the freight’s route. Transportation providers use this information to determine the time it takes to haul the load, as well as any potential delays. If either location has restricted hours or access, include that in the specification as well. 

This is the basic information needed to create an accurate rate quote. Using these details, the agent will be able to provide a quote or follow up with questions that will be used to create your rate quote. 

Related: 8 Tips for Receiving the Most Accurate Spot Quotes Possible

Can You Negotiate a Spot Freight Rate?

Sometimes. There are a number of variables in any rate quote. If you need to request changes to the price, contact your quoting agent. 

If you need to negotiate, you are more likely to get a better price if you can be flexible in some aspect of your shipment. For example, if there is a window of time when your load can be delivered, you may be able to get a better rate by allowing pick up a day or two later/earlier than initially specified. 

Experienced carriers and brokers know that shippers are often comparing multiple quotes for the same load. If you have a relationship with a preferred carrier and have a less-expensive price quote from a competitor, contact your preferred carrier and let them know the price to beat. They may be able to meet the competitive price in order to preserve the relationship.

Use More than Price to Compare Freight Carriers

As we said earlier, freight quotes are often used to compare carriers for a particular load. However tempting it may be, it’s not always best to choose a carrier based on price alone. When entrusting your valuable assets to a carrier, do you really want to choose based only on who provides the lowest cost? Often, the cheapest carrier will end up costing more in the long run. 

In addition to comparing cost, compare carriers using multiple criteria, including: 

  • Longevity. Carriers and brokers who have been in business for several years have the experience needed to troubleshoot anything that can happen along the way, as well as a track record you can rely on.

  • A vast network. Brokers and carriers that have an expansive network of trucks and drivers, even if they don’t own the trucks, are more likely to have a solution available when and where you need it. They also have a diverse fleet of vehicles (trucks and trailers) suitable for shipping any commodity. 
  • Customer service. You can judge customer service as soon as your first interaction. If the agent who returns your quote is not professional and honest, that reflects on how they run their business. And your business is unique — even a well-regarded provider may not be the best fit for your particular needs. 

Choosing the best carrier is an ongoing process, and a carrier or broker who works for one load may not be a good fit for your next shipment. Developing multiple relationships within the transportation industry is one way to get consistently good rate quotes. 

Getting the Most from Your Freight Quotes

Once you have decided to accept a rate, contact the provider immediately to get started. All transportation companies are different, but many prefer to communicate via email — that creates a paper trail for both parties and it can serve as a reminder of the details. Some providers generate dozens of quotes each day and that written record is helpful as you work together. 

Spot quotes also have an expiration date. If you do not accept the quote within this time frame, you will receive an updated quote. Carriers and brokers update things like fuel costs as often as weekly, so your second quote may differ from the original. 

Once you have accepted a quote, the carrier or broker will find a truck and driver for transport. They are the ones responsible for making sure your load is picked up and delivered as expected. If you need to make changes to your specification, these changes should be made and accepted before the driver is heading to your cargo’s point of origin.

Before submitting a quote request or reaching out to a carrier or broker, consider how you will award the quote. The free Freight Carrier Vetting Guide can help. Also compile as much as you can about your load — including more complete data will result in a more accurate quote. 

Experienced carriers and brokers are here to help you move your freight as efficiently and safely as possible. When requesting a quote, remember that you have the same ultimate goal: Cost-effective and uneventful transport. With that in mind, you can confidently request a rate quote. 

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Tags: Transportation Solutions, Contract Rate Pricing, Spot Rate Pricing, Carrier Network

Tucker Sexton

Written by Tucker Sexton

After years in operations, Tucker has joined the ATS family as national sales representative. As the first point of contact for customers, Tucker thrives on finding solutions and keeping promises to customers and carriers.

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