Shipping a Car to the USA

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Shipping a Car to the USA
Shipping a Car to the USA

We understand that shipping a car to the USA may seem overwhelming, so we're here to give you the ins-and-outs of the process to experience a more seamless transport experience. There are several reasons why you might be interested in shipping a car to the USA. Perhaps you're sending a car to the states because of work relocation, retirement, or the need to move a rare, high-value vehicle. No matter your reason for shipping a vehicle to the USA, A-1 Auto Transport understands that vehicles play an essential part in your life and occasionally need to be moved. 

We're going to be covering:

  • USA vehicle shipping regulations
  • Different vehicle shipping methods 
  • What costs you can expect to incur 
  • Timeframes for delivery 
  • Required shipping documentation 

—and more!

It's helpful to understand what regulations are in place for shipping a car into the United States as different countries run by different rules. 

What Regulations Does the USA Have Regarding Car Shipping?

If you know what regulations exist with shipping cars into the USA, you'll have an easier time avoiding problems and delays with shipping your vehicle. Safety and emissions standards are two of the essential requirements to meet when looking to ship a car to the USA. The age of your car will play an essential role in how easy or difficult it is for your vehicle to meet safety and emissions standards. Cars under 25 years of age are subject to strict safety and emissions requirements, while cars over 25 years of age may be exempt from standard safety and emissions requirements.  

What Can I Expect if My Vehicle Is Less Than 25 Years of Age?

When your car is older than 25 years, and you can prove this fact, you'll be able to ship the car to the USA whether or not it matches U.S. Safety Bumper and Emissions standards. The reason for this stipulation is the age of your vehicle precedes current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. You can prove your vehicle's manufacturing date through a label instilled within the vehicle by the manufacturer or documentation. Vehicle registration documents or original sales documents should help you figure out when the vehicle was originally sold. 

If you're in a situation when you can't determine your vehicle's age through a label on the vehicle or documentation, consider contacting a reputable historical vehicle society for help figuring out when the vehicle was manufactured. United States customs will require you to fill out an HS-7 form to declare your vehicle is over 25 years of age. Owning a vehicle over 25 years of age isn't the only way to get around strict safety and emissions standards. Shipping a vehicle into the USA for a temporary period is an example that would negate the need to meet standard safety and emissions requirements. 

Let's look at what's involved for vehicles under 25 years of age regarding safety and emissions standards. 

What Can I Expect if My Vehicle Is Less Than 25 Years of Age? 

If your vehicle is less than 25 years of age, you'll have to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Safety Standards. A nice shortcut to see whether your vehicles comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is to check and see if there's a certification label that the manufacturer attached to the vehicle. If you have a vehicle that was made outside of the USA or Canada and does not meet U.S. safety standards, consider investigating whether or not you can make modifications to your vehicle that help its case for shipping. 

Let's say that you know your car will meet U.S. safety and emissions requirements. Now we need to take a look at how you can get your vehicle into the states. 

What Methods Are Available for Sending a Car to the USA?

If you're shipping a car overseas to the USA, the two shipping methods you can choose from are sea freight or air freight shipping. Moving a car to the United States from Canada or South America allows you to explore shipping a vehicle through open carrier transport, enclosed carrier transport, or air freight shipping. Open carrier shipping is the most popular mode of land auto transport, while sea freight shipping is most often used when transporting vehicles to the USA from overseas. The reason as to why specific methods are more popular than others mostly has to do with pricing. 

Let's take a closer look at what's involved with each method of shipping vehicles. 

What Is Open Carrier Transport?

Open carrier transport services get their name from the fact that they expose the vehicles they're moving to outdoor elements. Your vehicle being exposed to outdoor elements is the reason why open carrier transport remains the cheapest and most popular form of auto shipping. While the people who transport cars on open carriers are professionals trained to keep your vehicle safe, the risk of your car being damaged due to exposure to harmful natural elements such as inclement weather or stray flying objects remains a possibility. You'll have an easier time booking a shipping appointment for open-carrier transport due to the service's popularity. 

What Is Enclosed Auto Transport? 

Enclosed auto transport is similar to open carrier transport in the sense that your car will be loaded onto a carrier, but different in that your vehicle will be shielded from outdoor elements via an enclosed setting. The extra protection that enclosed auto transport provides for customers will make the price you pay for shipping higher than that of open carrier transport. People who own high-value vehicles are more likely to pay the extra price tag for enclosed auto transport to gain peace of mind while their vehicle is in transit. 

What Is Air Freight Shipping?

You can ship your vehicle to the USA through air freight shipping if you live overseas from the U.S., or if you're connected to the U.S. by land. Airfreight shipping is by far the most expensive way to ship a vehicle to the USA due to the accelerated rate at which deliveries are completed. We mentioned that people who own high-value vehicles are more likely to spend some extra bucks on enclosed auto shipping. The same goes for people who select air freight shipping to transport their vehicles. 

If you're spending a large amount of money it takes to transport a vehicle by air, chances are you either own a high-value vehicle; you need your vehicle shipped fast, or both. Shipping a vehicle via air freight is the safest way to transport a vehicle due to the amount of security within airports and the lesser number of vehicles being shipped alongside your car. 

What Is Sea Freight Shipping? 

Sea freight shipping is the most popular way to ship a vehicle overseas due to its cost-effectiveness. The main reason sea freight shipping is the most cost-efficient way to ship a vehicle overseas is that the process takes longer to complete than air freight shipping. If you're selecting sea freight shipping and want to ensure that your vehicle enters the USA at the same time you do, book your shipping appointment ahead of time, so you have an easier time coordinating the delivery. 

Selecting a vehicle shipping delivery service is equally important as choosing a shipping method for moving your vehicle. Let's address the difference between shipping methods and delivery services. 

What Types of Delivery Methods Are Available for Shipping a Vehicle to the USA?

Your vehicle will need a way to get to the port it's departing from and arrive at its desired U.S. destination. Door-to-door or port-to-port are the two primary delivery services people choose when shipping their vehicles to the USA. Port-to-port shipping is less expensive than door-to-door shipping since door-to-door shipping is more convenient. 

Door-to-door shipping involves an auto transport company picking up your vehicle at your door outside of the USA, delivering your vehicle to the port it's departing from, then picking up the vehicle once it's delivered to the USA to take it to your new home/destination. Port-to-port delivery consists of you dropping off your vehicle at its departing port personally to pick up the vehicle when it arrives in the USA. 

Will My Vehicle Be Insured While I Ship It to the USA?

Yes! Reputable auto transport companies will include an insurance policy in your service price that covers your vehicle in case of damage or loss during transit. You'll have the ability to purchase an additional policy with your insurance to be extra safe. Whether your vehicle is being shipped short or long distances, insurance is an essential part of keeping your car safe. 

When you're requesting a quote from an auto transport company, do your best to bring up the topic of insurance to ensure that a policy will be included in your service. 

What Fees Can I Expect to Pay When Shipping My Car to the USA?

You can expect to pay duties on your vehicle if the car is foreign made. Foreign cars are subject to a 2.5% duty while a truck is subject to 22% duty. The duty fee is calculated based on the price you paid for the vehicle. If the vehicle you're shipping to the USA gets less than 22.5 mpg, you'll be subject to a "Gas Guzzler" tax. Other taxes you may be subject to include Goods & Services Tax, Provincial Sales Tax, Air Conditioning Tax, and Excess Weight Tax. 

You may be exempt from paying duties when shipping a vehicle to the USA if you're a returning citizen, government employee, or U.S. military member. 

How Much Time Does It Take to Ship a Car to the USA?

The answer to the question of how long it'll take for your vehicle to be shipped to the USA mainly depends on where you're sending the vehicle from and what shipping method/delivery service you select. Airfreight shipping can deliver a car from anywhere in a matter of days or around a week. Sea freight shipping can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to deliver your vehicle to the USA. Shipping a vehicle through a land transport service takes at least a week for distances over 2400 miles. 

Planning and booking your appointment far in advance can help ensure that your vehicle gets to the USA when you want it to be delivered. 

Let's end by taking a look at some documentation that's important to have when shipping your car to the USA. 

What Documents Do You Need to Ship a Car to the USA?

Most countries require similar documentation to ship a car to their country. Essential documents to have on hand when shipping your car to the USA include a bill of lading, proof of insurance, title and registration, and photo I.D. It's helpful to consult with a vehicle shipping company to verify that you have all of the necessary documents to ship your car to the USA. 

Cars that are shipped to the USA commonly land in ports located in Newark, NJ, Baltimore, Jacksonville, FL, Long Beach, CA, Tacoma, WA, Brunswick, GA, Galveston, TX, and Charleston, SC. 

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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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.

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

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
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
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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