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How long does it take to ship a car internationally?

Published by Joe Webster.

How long does it take to ship a car internationally?

Shipping a car internationally is a complex process that requires careful planning and consideration. Whether you're moving abroad, selling a car overseas, or bringing home a vehicle from a foreign country, understanding the timeframe for international car shipping is crucial. The question, "How long does it take to ship a car internationally?" is common among car owners and dealers alike. The answer isn't straightforward, as several variables come into play, affecting the overall timeline. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore these factors in detail, providing you with a clearer understanding of what to expect when you decide to ship a car internationally. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge needed to navigate the intricacies of car shipping, ensuring a smooth and timely process.

The time it takes to ship a car internationally can vary significantly, typically ranging from a couple of weeks to a few months. This variability is due to several factors that influence the shipping process. Generally, the most common shipping method for international car shipping is container shipping, which offers a balance of safety and cost-effectiveness. However, the choice between container shipping and other methods like Roll-on/Roll-off or air freight can impact the timeline.

For instance, shipping a car overseas via container might take longer due to the need for consolidation (loading multiple cars into one container) and the frequency of sailings. On the other hand, air freight, while significantly faster, is also more expensive. The exact duration also depends on the distance between the origin and destination ports, the efficiency and policies of the chosen shipping company, and the time taken for customs clearance in both the sending and receiving countries. While a definitive timeframe is challenging to pinpoint without specific details, understanding these factors can help set realistic expectations when planning to ship a car internationally.


Factors Affecting Shipping Time

Several key factors influence the time it takes to ship a car internationally. Understanding these can help you better anticipate the duration of the shipping process and plan accordingly.

  • Distance and Route: The geographical distance between the origin and the destination is a primary factor. Longer distances generally lead to longer shipping times. Additionally, the specific route taken by the shipping company can also affect the duration. Some sea routes might be quicker but more expensive, while others are longer but more cost-effective.
  • Shipping Method: The method chosen to ship a car internationally plays a significant role in determining the timeframe. Container shipping is a popular choice due to its balance of security and cost. However, it might take longer, especially if the process involves consolidation. Roll-on/Roll-off is another common method, where cars are driven onto the ship and off at the destination. It's often faster but might not be suitable for all types of vehicles. Air freight is the quickest method, ideal for high-value or time-sensitive shipments, but it's also the most expensive.
  • Customs and Clearance: The time it takes for a car to clear customs can significantly affect the overall shipping time. Each country has its own set of regulations and paperwork requirements. Delays can occur if there are discrepancies in the documentation or if the customs department is particularly busy. Working with an experienced shipping company can help navigate these complexities more efficiently.
  • Weather and Seasonal Factors: Weather conditions and seasonal variations can impact shipping schedules. For instance, rough seas might delay shipments, and certain routes might be less accessible during specific times of the year. Planning your car shipping during favorable weather conditions and understanding seasonal impacts on shipping routes can help in avoiding unexpected delays.

By considering these factors, you can gain a more accurate estimate of how long it will take to ship a car internationally and make informed decisions about the shipping process.

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Preparing Your Car for Shipping

Before entrusting your vehicle to a car shipping company, it's essential for car owners to take proactive steps to ensure a smooth shipping process. Proper preparation can significantly reduce the risk of delays and damage:

  • Documentation: Gather all necessary documents. This typically includes registration, insurance, and proof of ownership. A reputable auto transport company will inform you of the specific paperwork needed for international transport.
  • Maintenance Check: Conduct a thorough check of your vehicle. Ensure that your car is in good working condition, with all fluids topped up and no leaks. This is crucial as crew members may need to maneuver your vehicle during loading and unloading.
  • Clean and Inspect: A clean car allows for a more accurate inspection. Before shipping, wash your vehicle and document its condition. Take clear photographs from various angles to record any existing damage.
  • Secure Loose Items: Remove or secure any personal items or loose parts in your vehicle. Items left in the car can shift during transport, potentially causing damage.
  • Fuel and Battery: Keep the fuel tank only a quarter full to reduce weight and minimize safety risks. Also, ensure the battery is fully charged and securely fastened.

Understanding Shipping Insurance

When it comes to shipping cars internationally, securing the right insurance coverage is paramount. Car shipping companies generally offer a basic insurance package, but it's crucial for car owners to understand what is and isn't covered:

  • Basic Coverage: Most auto transport companies provide a minimum level of insurance. However, this may not cover all risks associated with international shipping. It's important to read the terms carefully and understand the extent of the coverage.
  • Additional Coverage: For added peace of mind, consider purchasing additional insurance. This is particularly advisable for luxury or antique vehicles. Speak with your auto transport company about your options; they can guide you on the best coverage for your specific needs.
  • Documentation and Valuation: Ensure that you have all necessary insurance documents in order and that the value of your car is accurately declared. This will streamline the claims process in the unlikely event of damage or loss.
  • Inspection Upon Arrival: Once your car arrives at its destination, inspect it thoroughly in the presence of a representative from the shipping company. If there are any discrepancies from the initial condition report, document them immediately for insurance purposes.

Tips for a Smooth International Car Shipping Process

To ensure a seamless experience when shipping cars internationally, consider these practical tips:

  • Choose Reputable Car Shipping Services: Research and select a car shipping company with a solid track record. Reviews and testimonials can provide insight into their reliability and customer service.
  • Understand the Contract: Before signing any agreement with auto shipping companies, thoroughly understand the terms and conditions. Pay special attention to clauses related to delivery times, insurance, and the handling of potential damages.
  • Communication is Key: Maintain open communication with your auto transport company throughout the shipping process. Being proactive about updates can help you stay informed about the status of your shipment.
  • Prepare for Delays: While companies strive to adhere to schedules, external factors like weather or customs can cause delays. Plan accordingly and allow some flexibility in your timeline.

By following these tips and working closely with a trusted auto transport company, you can navigate the complexities of international car shipping with confidence.



shipping a car internationally involves various factors, including distance, shipping method, customs clearance, and preparation. While the timeframe can vary, understanding these elements and preparing your vehicle properly can lead to a smoother shipping process. For a tailored shipping solution and a personalized quote, trust A1 Auto Transport, your reliable partner in navigating the complexities of international car shipping. Contact us today to ensure your car's safe and timely arrival at its destination.

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Joe Webster always knew the auto transport industry would be a great career option. And with decades of experience, Joe is now an established consultant for A1 Auto Transport.

Joe was born in Santa Cruz, California. During high school, Joe worked as a mechanic; a job continued to work part-time during his bachelor's degree.

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There are a lot of options for auto transport these days, which surprisingly makes it harder to find a good company. I received more than 10 offers to ship my car, but I couldn’t decide on any of them... Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus Drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd,
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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