Your Guide to International Car Shipping
Planning an international move? If you’re going to be bringing your car along, you’ll want to start figuring out pretty early how to transport a car overseas in a way that makes the most sense for your move and your budget. And while shipping a car to another country isn’t cheap, it’s certainly more cost effective than buying a new car when you arrive at your destination.
Cars are major items to move—especially across an entire ocean—but the process for transporting a car overseas is surprisingly straightforward. We’ll walk you through everything that you need to know to make it go as smoothly as possible so you can focus on your other major tasks, such as getting your pets ready for an international move and purchasing international health insurance. Note that we’re only going to focus on shipping a car overseas by boat, since international air transport for cars is incredibly expensive and not really advised for standard moves unless you’re shipping a car that is very rare or valuable.
Start Your (Research) Engine
There are quite a few different companies that offer international car shipping, so you will definitely want to do plenty of research when choosing the right one for your needs.
As with most things nowadays, start with the search engines. A simple search for “transport a car overseas” or “international car shipping” will pull up plenty of companies for you to begin your research with. Any company that you hire for this task should meet the following requirements:
Offers service from your current location to your new one
Is properly licensed, bonded, and insured
Only works with third-parties (such as freight carriers) who are also properly licensed, bonded, and insured
If a company doesn’t meet all three of these requirements, cross them off your list. If you’re not sure about licensing and insurance—particularly when it comes to any third party shipping companies that they work with—ask directly. Don’t just take a “yes” for an answer either; ask for their licensing numbers so that you can verify them yourself.
Once you have narrowed down your list of options to companies that meet the requirements above, you can start to do some more direct comparisons. Look up companies through the Better Business Bureau and read online reviews. From there, you can narrow your choice down further by asking for quotes and going with the most reasonable one.
Gather Your Documents
As with most things having to do with an international move, there is paperwork involved when you want to transport a car overseas. In this case, you’ll need to provide export documents to the U.S. Port of Entry your car will be shipping out of at least 72 hours before the date of transport. These include:
A filled out U.S. Customs & Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet (find it here)
An original Certificate of Title for the vehicle or a certified copy of the original, plus two additional copies of either
If there is lien on your car, you will need an official letter from your lien holder giving you permission to take the car out of the country. This letter must include the make, model, and year of your car, as well as its VIN and a clear statement entitling you to transport the car overseas.
In terms of documentation, you can never be too prepared. Contact your Port of Entry directly prior to your move so you know exactly what they expect from you and when.
Get Your Car Ready to Travel
As tempting as it might be, you probably won’t be able to ship any boxes or belongings inside of your car. Generally, the only items that may be left in the car are those that are directly related to it—things like your spare tire and your jumper cables. Be sure to remove any important documents, such as your registration and insurance information.
The car shipping company that you hire will be able to tell you exactly what can (and equally important, cannot) be in your car during export. They will also likely have a requirement in terms of how much gas can be in the car. Most companies dictate that the fuel tank can be no more than one-quarter full.
Customs agents at the border will be checking over your car carefully for pests and debris that are illegal to bring into the country. As a preventative measure, get your car washed on the way to your export Port of Entry.
How Much Does it Cost to Transport a Car Overseas?
The exact amount that it will cost you to transport a car overseas depends on how far your car is going to be traveling and the company that you hire to do the job. In general though, expect to spend about $1,000 to $2,000 to ship one car to another country. This won’t be the only cost associated with shipping your car internationally (more on those additional fees below), but represents that base amount that you’ll have to pay and covers the cost for your car’s accommodations during travel.
Other Car Shipping Costs to Consider
Make sure to budget for these additional line items when transporting a car to another country:
Marine insurance. It’s always a good idea to purchase supplemental insurance that will protect your car (or more specifically, your investment in your car) when it’s on the open water, even if your shipping company does not require that you do. Check with your existing car insurance policy holder to see if they offer marine insurance. Your shipping company may have it as an add-on option as well. Otherwise, purchase marine insurance from a third party.
Destination charges. Once your car arrives at the port of your new country it will have to be trucked off of the freight carrier and safely navigated through customs. You’ll need an agent to do this for you, since you’re not permitted to do it yourself. Most shipping companies hire out agents at the port or can guide you in the right direction of where to hire one from. Expect to spend another $500 or so for the service.
Customs duty. Customs duty is a tax charged on items that are shipped internationally. You’ll need to check with the port of the country you’re moving to in order to find out what their customs fees are. Generally, this fee is calculated as a total percentage of the item’s value.
Additional taxes and fees. Sales tax, processing fees, and other additional charges may apply when you transport a car overseas. Your shipping company may be able to give you an idea of what to expect, but keep some wiggle room in your budget just in case.
How Long Does it Take to Ship a Car Overseas?
This largely depends on where it’s going. For some international destinations, you can expect to get your car about a week after it ships out. For further destinations you may have to wait as long as a month or two. Your shipping company will be able to give you a good estimate of when your car will arrive, which should be accurate barring any issues at customs.
Another factor that impacts how quickly you get you car is the shipping method that you choose. The quickest way to ship a car overseas is to book a sole shipping container. If you want to spend a little less, you could go with consolidated vehicle shipping (wherein your car shares a container with other vehicles going to the same destination), but this could greatly extend your timeline since the shipping company will need to wait for the container to fill up before sending it overseas.
Roll-on/roll-off shipping, where your car is securely braced on to a vessel without the protection of a container, is also cheaper than sole container shipping. Like consolidated vehicle shipping though, it’s also less timely. Transport vessels for roll-on/roll-off car shipping tend to be visiting multiple ports, or may dock at a port that is not your true final destination. There is also some additional risk since your car is exposed to the elements during travel.
Choose the method that works for you in terms of timing and budget. If you’re able to spend a little bit more, sole container shipping is the best way to ensure that your car arrives at its final destination as safely and quickly as possible.