Relocating to a new place is an important and exciting step, especially when the new location is overseas. If you are bringing your car along, you’ll want to start the process early. Shipping vehicles overseas can be complicated and long, but with enough time and assistance from auto transport and international moving companies, you can understand the full process and choose what’s best for your convenience and budget. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of international car shipping so you know where to begin and how to prepare.
How Much Will It Cost Me To Ship My Vehicle Abroad?
Let’s get down to business – the cost. When it comes to international shipments, the price changes depending on how and how far your automobile travels. The average cost for overseas car transport is between $1,000 and $5,000 for shipment by sea. Request a quote for more accurate numbers as they can vary considerably. While shipping a compact vehicle by boat can cost approximately $750, transporting an SUV on a plane can round up to $40,000.
So, What Determines The Cost?
There are several factors that can influence your final invoice. They include:
- Automobile Type: the bigger and heavier the car, the more it will cost to transport it. The same applies to vintage, classic, fragile, and exceptionally valuable models as they require extra protection.
- Route and Distance: popular travel routes usually cost less though they can also take more time due to frequent traffic. Also, longer distances will, on average, cost more. For example, shipping from the United States to Germany can cost anywhere from $900 to $4,000. Meanwhile, it will cost a minimum of $3,000 for a vehicle to travel to Australia. However, the distance to port also affects the price, meaning it can cost the same, if not cheaper, to ship to a farther port city than to a close but inland location.
- Port Proximity: as was just mentioned, the charges are significantly lower if you live in or close to a major port city such as New York, San Francisco, or Miami. If you are unable to drive your car to or from the port, you can arrange your auto transporter to do so.
- Pickup Location: Collecting your car at the port would be the most economical option. However, if your circumstances or car don’t allow it you can schedule a door-to-door delivery, which will cost significantly more. A halfway solution would be retrieving your car at a terminal.
- Timeframe: Depending on several factors, the shipment can take anywhere between 3 and 12 weeks to travel internationally. If you’re pressed for time, you can request expedited shipping and receive your vehicle a few weeks earlier for an additional cost.
- Shipping Method: the shipping method you choose will play a significant role. You can ship your car on a truck (if you are shipping within the same continent), by sea, or via plane. The latter is the safest and most expensive option. You can also pick between open and enclosed transport. Open and shared containers are more economical as they include several other cars, which may not be a good option if you are transporting a luxury or an antique car. Enclosed transport or an individual container can cost as much as twice the price of a shared one but it also provides complete protection.
- Import Taxes: Shipping internationally requires research. Look up the taxes that will be levied upon you and allocate the necessary amount. Your shipping agent can assist you in acquiring the necessary information and preparing paperwork.
Got It. Now, How Do I Ship My Car Overseas?
Just to give you heads up, the process of international transportation can be complicated due to paperwork requirements. You will need to prepare and provide custom and port documents at both ends of the trip. Fortunately, professional auto hauling companies are very knowledgeable and experienced in this domain. It is important, on your end, to choose a trusted, licensed company to ensure low risks and a smooth process. Below are several steps to shipping your automobile abroad:
Verify Your Car’s Legal Status
To find out whether your vehicle is legally acceptable in the country of destination, you can call the U.S. State Department hotline or visit the Federal Maritime Commission's website. Countries may have entry restrictions on models, ages, or certain accessories. If all is clear and in order, prepare an original or a certified copy of the proof of title.
Research, research, research
First and foremost, do your homework and conduct a background check. You can look up a company’s records through local highway patrol and the Federal Department of Transportation. Read auto transport companies’ information, reviews, and shop for quotes. If you own a unique car, say an antique or an ATV, check if a carrier provides relevant specialized service.
Before you book a shipment and sign a contract, make sure the company you pick has and is able to provide the following documents:
- Licensing and Registration. All vehicles and transport companies must be registered with the Department of Transportation and possess authorized DOT and MC numbers.
- Insurance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that it is mandatory for all carriers to hold liability insurance.
- Reviews. Feedback from old and existing clients can provide good insight into the company’s performance.
Although your auto carrier will be handling most of the paperwork, you will need to prepare several documents to prove that your car legally belongs to you and can leave the country. Below are a few papers you’ll need to provide; your shipping agent will share a full and accurate list with you.
- Notarized proof of title
- Shipper export declaration form
- Declaration of dangerous goods form
- Letter of Lien Release from a financial institution if you purchased your car on a loan
If you are not sure where to get or how to accurately fill a form, consult your shipping agent.
As mentioned earlier, every country has its own customs policy and requirements. For example, Germany doesn’t charge tax if you are relocating there as a permanent resident. There may be different nuances and you should research and be mindful of them. Even though your auto transporter will assist you and handle most of the legwork, knowing the process is important.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that auto hauling companies must have liability insurance. The amounts differ from one company to another, so contact your shipping agent and verify the details. Ask what the policy includes, things like does it cover ocean or air shipping, the deductible amounts, and other relevant information. You may need or want to purchase transit insurance separately for full protection or international coverage for driving abroad.
You can choose between shipping via truck (if applicable), sea, or plain. You will also need to pick between open air or enclosed transport. In addition, you can ship door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal, and port-to-port.
- Door-to-door: the carrier will arrange a pick up from your home (or other stated pickup spot) and deliver right to your new location. It is the most convenient but also the priciest service.
- Terminal-to-terminal: this is a halfway between the other two options; you drop off and pick up your car at the nearest terminals.
- Port-to-port: this the cheapest option. You will need to drive your automobile to and collect it from the closest ports.
Conduct a full inspection of your vehicle. It is recommended to hire a mechanic to do a full checkup. Make sure your breaks are working well, the battery is charged, and the fuel tank is a quarter full. Take good, detailed photos to document your car’s condition. Thoroughly clean the exterior and interior of your vehicle and remove all items and accessories before the shipment. Disable your alarm and prepare a spare set of keys to pass on to the shipper. A carrier representative will carefully inspect your automobile during drop off and pick up. Be present and attentive during the inspection and make sure everything is noted correctly on the Bill of Lading before signing.
Once you sign off your car, you can take your mind off the shipment and focus on your own things while the transporters take care of your vehicle’s safe delivery. Upon arrival to a foreign port, a designated agent – a shipping representative or an overseas agent – will accept your car and pay the applicable fees.
As you can see, shipping your car can be rather complicated and time-consuming. Custom paperwork and other documentation, research, and taxes – all of it can create quite a headache. Fortunately, professional companies such as A-1 Auto Transport are well versed in the ins and outs of international auto shipments, custom paperwork, and scheduling and can provide considerable assistance. This is why picking a reputable and licensed company is always worth an extra dollar. Not only do you take the pressure off yourself, hiring an experienced and trusted provider is also the best guarantee of a smooth and safe shipment.
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.