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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.
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.
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 FMC.gov. 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.
And my 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.
The only time my shipment was delayed was during winter when a snowstorm closed down all the major roads. And they still found an alternative and got my car delivered before roads got unstuck.
When I moved to West Virginia, they picked up my car the very day I called them. I like to think they take special care of me considering all the business I’ve sent them. I’ll continue to support A1 Auto Transport. It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.
I considered selling my car when I moved to Washington. It was old and rusty, but I grew attached to it. So, I called a couple companies to transport it to my new home, but they both fell through.
The first one couldn’t decide on a schedule. He would constantly change the pickup date till I got frustrated and canceled. The second was insufferable, very rude on the phone, even worse in person.
They started picking a part my car asking me why I still have it. If that’s their opinion of my vehicle, how can I trust they’ll take care of it? If something happened midway, why wouldn’t they just blame it on the car instead of paying up?
So, I cancelled this company as well and turned to 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!
If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were lacking customers, but the email spoke for itself. In just one email, everything I needed to know was there, including a contact number I could use to get more information or confirm the transport.
I called and got things rolling. I was very pleased with the driver. He followed standard procedure and represented his company well. Can’t remember his name, but props to him!
The car arrived in Washington 6 days later in excellent condition. From what I understand, the transport was delayed a bit by a storm, but since the time window was 4-6 days from the beginning, I don’t really care. You have my full support and recommendation!
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.
After doing some research, I got even more worried reading about all the scams and accidents that can happen. But, I have work to do and couldn’t afford to drive my newly purchased Mini Cooper all the way to Virginia.
Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport. They are very good at their jobs. I spent more than an hour drilling Joe with various questions, and he never once lost his patience. He saw I was interested, so he bore with me until I was satisfied. The driver was also very courteous and my car was intact on arrival. I couldn’t have asked for more.
By the way, the price we first agreed on stayed the same. There were no delays or unexpected “surprises.” I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.
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.
We were abroad during the transport, so the transport was a bit tricky. The driver had to pick it up from storage on short notice and get it to its destination within at most 10 days. I was happy to note it arrived sooner. We got it 3 days early, right when we got home to pick it up. It made getting around way easier. Awesome service!
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