How hard is it to ship a car to France? Frankly, it's complicated. It can be a burden for those who haven't previously arranged for vehicle shipment overseas. But here's the good news: there are ways to prepare well before you get your car shipped, limiting the risk of hiccups and minimizing stress for everybody involved.
Here is a step-by-step guide for shipping your car to France:
Check Vehicle Eligibility
For your vehicle to be permitted to be shipped to France, its build and specifications must comply with French regulations and requirements. Given that you're coming from another country unless you're a French citizen, a number of things become a factor for eligibility that you should check on, including:
- Whether you're importing a new car or a used car
- Whether you have owned the vehicle for a minimum of six months
- Whether you plan to keep the car in France permanently or temporarily
Those conditions don't just directly impact whether or not your car is eligible to be shipped but also the actual tax rate you'll be covering. Therefore, make sure you research and choose a reputable company for shipping your car. They will assist you well in finding these out.
Consider Shipping Duration
When it comes to international car shipping, be as flexible as you can regarding the exact date you expect the vehicle to arrive at its destination. That said, there are ETA durations to take note of based on the port that your car will be transported to.
• Le Havre
For car shipments to France, Le Havre is the more common destination port, given its greater capacity for container shipping and the fact it's located in the north of France. Typically, it takes about 4-5 weeks on the water from a port on the west coast of the US and about 3-4 weeks from the east coast.
• Marseille Port
Taking shipments to the southern France region, expect around 5-7 weeks port to port from the west coast of the US, particularly with full containers being shipped. From the east coast, the time on the sea is shortened to approximately 3-5 weeks.
Prepare Necessary Documents
Now that you have an idea of what regulations you should adhere to and how long you're likely going to have your car taken away for shipping, the next step is gathering all the essential documentation for this service to go through, which consists of:
- Your car registration
- Sales contract or invoice/bill (if there has been a sale)
- Certificate of insurance – French law obliges any motor vehicle owner to take out a third-party liability insurance policy. You must produce proof of insurance resulting from the obligation of automobile insurance. Alternatively, you can get a special type of insurance called "border insurance." This insurance can cover a period of 30 days or 90 days.
Moreover, your car must also be declared in Customs, which means copies of all the documents above must be accessible to those in charge of inspecting the vehicle. And also, an external Community transit declaration, which is made using the New Computerized Transit System (NCTS), is needed where applicable.
Contact an Auto Transport Representative
The shipper's reputation is a big deal, especially if you're shipping a car overseas for the first time. You wouldn't want to have your car shipped by people who seem hesitant or unsure about sensible questions you may have. They should have the expertise on how the whole thing works from start to finish. So before booking with your chosen company, speak with a customer representative and gauge how well they respond to these questions:
- "Are shipments to France guaranteed in a specific duration of weeks/days?"
- "Where do you park or store a car overnight before taking it away for shipping?"
- "What insurance is there to cover for damages or theft that happened during shipment?" (Reputable companies should have good insurance covering any form of damage, with the values of insurance claims ranging from 50,000 USD up to 1 million USD.)
Select the Shipping Method
Note that there are a number of different ways that your vehicle will be handled during shipment, and you should think about it carefully before deciding.
- Roll-On/Roll-Off – It's the most cost-effective of the three, as the only added fees apart from shipping costs are port and customs clearance charges. Your vehicle gets loaded into the holding area of a large vessel resembling a large parking garage.
- Shared Container – It comes with a little more security than the "roll-on/roll-off" method as your car is placed in a container, but several other vehicles join it inside. Bear in mind, however, that the extra charges involved for unloading and customs clearance will be shared between you and other clients.
- Full Container Load – It's almost the same as a "shared container." Still, in this case, your car is the only vehicle occupying the entire container, and you cover all the additional charges. Nevertheless, this is the most secure option, and it's a good choice if you wish to transport other personal items with the car. But you're advised to pack these with extra care inside the car, as the shipper isn't likely going to be liable for any damages to those.
Get an Estimate
As far as the shipping cost goes, you should consider all the stages your car has to undergo just to make it to the other side. Charges include freight and insurance, delivery, storage once your vehicle arrives, cleaning the undercarriage, import processing, and logistics service provider fees. The exact amount you'll have to fork out will depend on (1) the type and model of your vehicle, (2) the departure port used for your vehicle, as well as its proximity to warehouse locations, (3) your chosen method of shipment, and (4) the destination port. Use the site of your shipper to get a quote and calculate the total cost of your shipment, and a customer rep should be able to clarify why it might be that high.
Customs duties and taxes are also factors. Most vehicles imported to France from another country are subject to the local customs duties plus a value-added tax (VAT) of nearly 20%, so do bear this in mind. However, not everyone needs to pay this in each case. Only a deposit is required up front for those who plan to bring their car in for a holiday trip. Also, you'll get back this deposit upon the export of the car from France. If you're a US citizen and ship a car to France from the US to relocate for work, then you can import the vehicle as part of your "personal effects," provided you've owned it for six months or longer.
Confirm Shipping Arrangements
Regarding the shipment purchase, this can be done over the phone or through an online booking page of the company's site. Have all numbers, and important details easily accessible as some may be required (e.g., driver's license and car registration). Once the purchase has been confirmed, your shipper will contact you with an available date and time slot for shipping the vehicle. You can expect to be given about a full week's notice before the day they will pick up your car.
Prepare Vehicle for Shipping
This step is all about minimizing risks. Keep your car in perfect 'shipping' condition so that it can be transported without a hitch all throughout the process. It'll also make it easier to verify signs of damage caused by shipping, which will help you in making a claim.
- Wash your car by hand thoroughly and be mindful to use clean rags.
- Check that no jewelry and other valuable items are left in the car.
- Leave the gas tank roughly 1/8th to 1/4th full, as this saves weight.
- Shut off the car alarm completely or have it disabled temporarily in a way you can reactivate it easily when it arrives at the other side.
Also, be sure to store photocopies of your car registration and license in the glove compartment. What's important is that these papers are easily accessible and can verify that the vehicle is, in fact, yours.
Have Vehicle Ready for Pickup
Depending on what's been arranged with your shipper, have your car ready about five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. If you must drive to a port, be sure to leave early enough to have some leeway for bad traffic. When the driver meets with you, he will have you double-check the important documents like your shipping invoice, forms listing down payments received plus outstanding balance, and a certificate of origin to indicate where your car is being shipped from. After that is settled, leave your car keys with the driver. And spend a few seconds to snap a few photos of your car right before it's taken away so that later on, you can compare how everything looks before and after shipment.
Collect Vehicle and Inspect
Collection day has arrived (the company should've given you notice a few days prior and informed you of any possible delays). When you meet with the staff, sign the required forms and papers confirming all payments are finalized and that you have officially collected the vehicle. Also, take a moment to inspect your car for any distinct scratches or damages. Take pictures of whatever was not there before the day you turned it over, and compare both sets of photos to confirm any differences.
Contact your shipper's insurance provider if there is noticeable damage that you want to file a claim for. Note that they may ask for a written record of all damages to your car predating the shipment, as well as pictures showing its current condition. Email these as necessary to speed up the whole process for your claim.
Congratulations – your car has made it across the sea, and it's ready for new adventures in France.