Air or Sea: Which Mode of Transport Is Right For Your International Shipping Needs?

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Air or Sea: Which Mode of Transport Is Right For Your International Shipping Needs?

Air or Sea Transport For International Shipping?

Shipping a vehicle is a complex process with many ways to come to the same result. This is particularly so for international vehicle shipping because there are two options by which this can happen: air or sea. Air is less commonly used for auto shipping because the cost is so significantly prohibitive. Shipping companies often prefer sea travel because it allows for the shipment of more than one vehicle at a time, resulting in cost savings for consumers. Here is a breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of shipping a vehicle via air and/or sea.

Air Transport

  • Benefits: This is a quicker approach to shipping and takes less time than sea transport. People with smaller, lighter cars may have this option more than those with heavier vehicles. Customers that need a more immediate solution to auto transport might consider this if cost is not an issue.
  • Drawbacks: Among the drawbacks to transporting a vehicle via air is the cost. It is much higher than shipping a vehicle via boat. This has to do with the specialized air transport involved with moving cars via plane and the fact that it is not possible to move multiple cars internationally with this mode of transport. In fact, many auto transport companies don’t even offer this as an option since this rate to engage in this mode of auto transport is often so extraordinarily high.

A-1 Auto Transport ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-518-8708 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.

Sea Transport

  • Benefits: The benefit of sea transport is that there are numerous options in terms of the way in which the vehicle is shipped. For instance, it can go in its own container, for those that are particular about the storage details of the vehicle; it can also go in a shared container to reduce the cost of the shipping. Speaking of cost, sea transport is a far more economical solution to transporting a vehicle internationally. This is one of the reasons that this is the most commonly used mode of transport for international auto shipping.
  • Drawbacks: The time factor is the biggest drawback when shipping a car via boat; it can take a week or two, sometimes more. For those individuals that need to have their car moved internationally faster than that may want to consider the alternative option of air transport. Additionally, there are more possible hang-ups with this method, since navigating by sea means going through and around patches of bad weather, depending on the time of year.


When choosing an auto transport company, it is best to look at all of the options presented via a specific company and make the choice that works best for your timeframe and budget. Many companies will offer various options, so that there are different choices depending on the type of vehicle. Because of the weight limit, however, there are vehicles that would be excluded from the air option simply due to weight. But even options by sea are varied depending on the resources of the company, which is why it is prudent to get all options on the table well in advance so that you know what’s going to work best for your needs.

Joe Webster

Written by Joe Webster

Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing.

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood.

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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