When it comes to shipping a car abroad, people will often say that Canada is the easiest, with Europe coming a close second. However, not all European nations are similar to England when it comes to importation rules and policies. Take, for example, the country of Belgium. As part of the EU’s common trade agreement, cars imported from other EU nations experience fewer regulations.
However, the country’s approach to car importation is different for non-EU members and other foreign countries like the US. If you want to take an extended vacation to Belgium or consider settling down permanently in the country, you need to study each step of the importation process. This way, you don’t find yourself stranded in a foreign port for hours due to incomplete requirements and non-compliance with the law.
In this guide, we'll show you the ropes of shipping cars to Belgium.
Familiarize Yourself With Belgium’s Laws
One great thing about Belgium’s importation laws is that it is more favorable towards immigrants than people who import cars for profit. If you declare your vehicle as part of your household goods, you can save money on taxes and duties. To be eligible for this exemption, you need to fit the following requirements:
- You must have lived outside the EU for at least a year before you process your car transport.
- The car’s origin must be outside the EU and has been driven for at least six months before its arrival in Belgium.
- After importing the vehicle, the owner must promise not to dispose of, give away, or sell the car for at least 12 months.
- You must have already paid the VAT or any equivalent fees before your car arrives in Belgium.
If even one of these conditions doesn’t apply to you, your exemption will be voided, and you need to pay additional taxes and duties for your imported car.
Explore All Shipping Methods Available
When it comes to available shipping methods, you have two main choices: open-air transport or enclosed transport.
For open-air transport, your car will be picked up from your home or place of work and loaded onto an open vehicle trailer. Your vehicle will be secured in place and covered with a tarp. The trailer will then transport your vehicle to the nearest port, where it will be unloaded from the trailer and rolled into the ship’s cargo hold, which is why this method is also called the roll-on/roll-off method.
One of the most significant advantages of this method is that it’s cheap. Because you are sharing the open-air trailer with other cars, you’re only paying for whatever space your car takes up. Also, no extra machinery or technology is used when loading your car onto the ship. The moving crew usually moves the car manually by pushing it to its proper spot. However, keep in mind that your car is vulnerable to the elements because it is out in the open. Also, because the crew will touch your car directly while moving it from the trailer to the ship, your car may get damaged in the process.
The other method is the enclosed method, which uses a shipping container instead of an open trailer. Your car is rolled into the shipping container or is driven in by the crew if you are present during loading. The car is then secured in place and taken to the nearest port. The shipping container is uncoupled from the truck and is carried into the ship’s hold using machines. The use of more technology plus the added cost of the shipping container makes this method more expensive. However, because it provides additional protection for your vehicle, the extra cost might be worth it.
You can order an FTL shipment if you want to give your vehicle more protection against potential damage. FTL means full truckload, and this gives you ownership of the entire shipping container. You don’t have to share the container with other cars, which means there’s less risk of other cars scratching yours during loading and unloading. With LTL or less than truckload, you share the shipping container or the open-air transport with other cars.
Use An Auto Transport Company
People who are trying to save money will always try to ship their cars on their own, without the help of an auto transport company. However, because Belgium has strict importation rules, it’s essential to find professionals who can ensure an easier shipping and clearance process for you. Sure, it’s an added cost, but you’ll spend more money in the long run if you decide to do the process on your own and you encounter several problems along the way.
When searching for an auto transport company, here are some questions you want answering:
- Are they licensed and registered?
- Do they have experience with shipping cars to Belgium?
- What is included in their list of services? Do they simply take your car to Belgium, or do they offer clearance and registration assistance as well?
- Will the company guide you through the process?
- Do they offer insurance coverage for your car?
This is also the best time to ask for an estimate. Auto transport companies give quotes or estimates for free, so it’s best to ask around for several quotes so you can choose the best one for your budget and needs.
Calculate the Costs of Shipping Your Car
Once you’ve gathered several quotes, you will get a good idea of how much car shipping to Belgium costs. Keep in mind that your total shipping costs will differ based on the following factors:
- The distance between the destination port and your place of origin
- The insurance coverage you purchased for your car
- The shipping method used (Open-air versus enclosed transport)
- You can save money if you are eligible for tax and duties exemption.
Shipping costs usually go from $1,300 to $3,200, excluding duties, taxes, and other fees. Remember that penalties may be imposed if you lack documentation or did not follow the procedure correctly.
Collect The Necessary Documents
While waiting for the shipping date, it’s time to start collecting all the documents needed for your migration to Belgium and your car’s importation into the country. Here are the necessary documents you need to procure:
- If you are eligible for tax and duties exemption, you need to request an exemption letter.
- Your car’s bill of sale
- Your car’s original title
- Proof of payment of VAT or its equivalent
- Proof of vehicle insurance. The insurance must have taken effect at least six months before car importation.
- Proof of residency outside the EU. You must have spent at least 12 months outside the EU before initiating the importation process.
- Shipping documents for any personal items or belongings, if applicable.
While waiting for the shipping date, you have to start processing your Belgian citizenship. You must include your name in the Belgian national register, and you must secure your Belgian identity card, as this will be necessary for your car’s registration.
Prepare Your Car For Shipping
Aside from collecting the necessary paperwork, your car also needs to be prepared for its entry into Belgium. Here are the things that need to be done before the big day:
- Take your car in for servicing. Once you’re in Belgium, you need to register your car. As part of the registration process, your car will be inspected to see if it conforms to Belgium’s environmental and safety standards.
- Remove all personal belongings or valuables from your car. Most people place personal items in the trunk of their car or inside the glove compartment to save on shipping costs. However, remember that your insurance may not cover personal belongings and that you need to file additional paperwork to declare all personal belongings inside your car.
- Fill your gas up to a quarter of its full capacity. This will allow you to drive your car as soon as you reach Belgium, but it won’t become a hazard during the trip.
- Take note of your car’s condition before the shipping date. Take pictures and videos of your car to use as a reference once it arrives in Belgium.
Pick Your Car Up From The Port
Shipping to Belgium takes around 40 days, which gives you enough time to prepare for your car’s clearance process. Once your car arrives at the port, you can now take it through clearance. If you have the necessary paperwork with you, there’s no reason why your car should be held or detained pending further investigation.
Once your car enters the country, you need to complete the registration process in two months. To register your vehicle, here are the steps you need to take:
- You have to clear customs successfully.
- You need to secure a certificate of conformity. This certificate proves that your car conforms to the country’s safety and environmental standards.
- You need to set up an insurance policy for your car with a Belgian insurance company.
- If you are importing a used car, your car also needs to pass tests proving its roadworthiness.