The plant hormone auxin is transported from sites of synthesis to sites of action. Auxin responses are mediated by fast (non-transcriptional) and slow (transcriptional; ubiquitinylation) responses, which affect physiological changes at cellular and organismal scales. As such, auxin transport vectors regulate programmed and plastic growth responses to optimize growth and development. Here we address some common problems in extrapolating ‘universal’ understanding of auxin transport streams from analyses of loss-of-function mutants and auxin transport inhibitors. We also discuss the analytical methods and tools used to directly quantify, measure and infer auxin gradients within the plant [DR5:GUS/GFP (beta-glucuronidase/green fluorescent protein), DII-VENUS; surface electrodes, direct quantification]. We discuss the assumptions and limitations of each of these analyses, present comparative summaries of auxin transport methods and assay conditions (diffusion, non-specific transport and relevant assay conditions), and consider what is actually being transported and measured [labeled-indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), IAA metabolites].