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How to Ship a Car Overseas

Published by Joe Webster.

How to Ship a Car Overseas

Shipping a car overseas isn’t as easy as, say—buying a plane ticket. But it can be done. In most cases, there is a fairly simple process for international car shipping; you just need to know how to do it.

The US exports a little less than 700,000 cars every year overseas. Some of these vehicles are shipped by the military for deployed service members. Wealthy foreign buyers ship others after something exclusive and special they cannot get in their home country—like a classic American muscle car.


Do Your Homework Before Making a Commitment

As with any major decision, it is a good idea to do a good bit of research before talking to any shippers or making any commitments. While getting experience without getting your hands wet may be difficult, you don’t have to go into the conversation blind. 


Research Shipping Companies

Research Shipping Companies

Start by figuring out who provides international car shipping services. A cursory internet search using major search engines like Google and Bing is a good place to start. Then, dig a little Sleeper on the Better Business Bureau website, consumer reviews, and If you happen to have any friends with specific experience shipping a car overseas, now is the time to reach out and ask for their help.

You are looking at a few things:

  1. Do they offer the right services?
  2. Can they pick up and deliver in the areas you need?
  3. What type of licensing do they carry? (FMC, DOT, NVOCC)
  4. Are they insured, and by whom? Do you need to purchase additional insurance?
  5. What is the company’s reputation?
  6. How long have they been in business?

Do the leg work before requesting any quotes, or you may be swayed into uninformed decisions by a low price tag. Once you have a shortlist of companies you are interested in working with, it is time to get quotes and find out what competitive rates are.


Research Costs

The first step in researching costs is to request quotes from your top 3-4 companies. Once you receive the information, you need to qualify the quote by making sure you have enough context for side-by-side comparisons.

  • Services Included
  • Shipping Method
  • Inland Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Port Fees

Next, look online for generalized information about international auto shipping costs. You may be able to find rates on shipper websites or in online forums to make sure you are receiving competitive rates for shipping a car overseas.

In addition to the quote provided by the shipper, you can expect to pay additional fees for marine insurance, destination charges, customs duties, and additional taxes or fees levied by the destination country. Many foreign buyers quickly realize that these additional fees are not worth the cost-savings of buying a trendy new car in a different market. 


Choose a Shipper and Prepare Paperwork

All of your research should lead you to a final decision. Once you have settled on a service you are comfortable with, contact that shipper and get your vehicle scheduled. They will go over the requirements with you. However, plan to provide the following paperwork:

  • Clear Title
  • Bill of Sale
  • US Passport

Some ports or final destinations may require additional paperwork. Your carrier will advise based on the services requested. For example, if you ship a car from Miami, Florida, you may need an additional notarized power of attorney. Ports in New York or Los Angeles may not have the same requirement. 


Have Your Vehicle Inspected

Have Your Vehicle Inspected

A lot can happen in a cargo hold on the ocean. Before shipping your car overseas, make sure everything is in good working order and documented a full inspection. Take your car to the mechanic for service and keep documentation that everything is in good working order. Wash your car and remove any dirt or debris so that the condition will be obvious in photos. 

Next, conduct your own inspection with thorough notes on any pre-existing damage as well as pictures from all angles of the vehicle. This way, if the delivered car has any damages, you have reasonable proof that they occurred during shipment or inland transportation. This detailed inspection can help you recoup costs in the event of an insurance claim. In most cases, overseas car transporters will do a similar inspection prior to accepting the shipment. However, just like moving into a rental, it is important to keep your own records.


Prepare Your Vehicle

Your cargo shipper will provide detailed instructions based on the type of shipping you have selected. However, in most cases, you may be asked to remove license plates and registration tags prior to shipping. You will also need to make sure your gas tank is less than one-quarter of a tank full. Some shippers may charge extra fees to drain gas from your vehicle if it exceeds a quarter tank.



Work out the logistics of how your vehicle will get to the port on the shipping side and from the port to your new home on the import side. You basically have two options. You can either drive the car yourself or schedule a truck to pick it up and transport it. Payment arrangements should be made prior to delivery.


Additional Cargo in Your Vehicle

Shipping overseas is expensive, and it is common to find ways to make it more economical. While you may be able to pack belongings in your car, keep in mind that insurance limitations may not cover those items. And, doing so may result in additional fees like import taxes or duties on the items inside the vehicle.


Import Duties and Taxes

You will likely have to pay import duties or taxes when your vehicle arrives in the destination country. These fees vary by country, so it is not possible to give a generalization for the cost. In fact, in many cases, the cost of shipping and importing a car overseas can be cost-prohibitive. 

Make sure that your shipper can assist with all parts of the shipment, including import into the destination country. An experienced broker is invaluable when dealing with any type of import.


Shipping Duration

Shipping Duration

The most common type of shipping for international cargo is on an ocean liner. The time it takes largely depends on how far it is traveling and the congestion at the ports on either the shipping or receiving time—plan for at least one week in customs clearance and an average of three weeks on the water. 

Your shipping carrier will not be able to guarantee a delivery date. However, they should be able to provide reliable estimates based on current shipping conditions. For example, when many ports closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, international shipments stalled for weeks or months beyond the typical transit times. Such situations are beyond the control of an international shipping carrier.

The Bottom Line on Shipping a Car Overseas

Foreign residents returning home and military members stationed overseas often need to ship a car to another country. There are many international shipping services that can help using roll-on roll-off containers on a cargo ship. Most conservative estimates take between 3 and 6 weeks to arrive in the destination country. However, just like other imports and exports, there are inspections, paperwork, and customs clearance involved in shipping a car overseas.


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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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Mylene Rutllant
It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.
★★★★★ choice in terms of auto transport has to be A1 Auto Transport. It’s in the name, but also in the quality with which they do their jobs. I’ve never had a problem with this company.

Luis Rodriguez
You have my full support and recommendation!

A1 Auto Transport... From the get go, they were very different from my past options. Their website was very professional and up to date, full of useful information. I requested a quote using their online form, and I got an email response within an hour. Surprisingly fast!

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Cristine Benoit
I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

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.

David Osallo
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10!

We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10! We chose them to move our car from California to Vermont, since we needed professionals.

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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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