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What Cars Can You Not Ship?

Published by Tamar Hela.

What Cars Can You Not Ship?

Picture this: you’ve just bought the car of your dreams, but there’s a catch. It’s halfway across the world. Not all vehicles are easy to transport, with restrictions that can quickly turn your excitement into frustration. Shipping a car isn’t always straightforward, and certain types of vehicles represent unique challenges.

In this article, we’ll explore the maze of regulations that determine what cars you can and cannot ship. From vehicle types to country restrictions, we’ll unravel the additional requirements and potential charges you might face when embarking on the car shipping process, steering you towards a clearer understanding of the journey ahead. Let’s dive in.

Vehicle Type Restrictions

When considering car shipping, it’s absolutely crucial to analyze vehicle type restrictions imposed by various countries. A prime example includes countries like Argentina, where they restrict the import of vehicles over 10 years old. Likewise, countries like Chile, Bolivia, and the Dominican Republic usually allow the importation of cars under 5 years old. But Colombia presents a more strict rule, enforcing the complete prohibition of the entry of all types of vehicles. It pays to do your homework, in other words.

Shipping exclusive and luxury vehicles also have specific considerations. For instance, race cars typically need to be shipped in enclosed carriers equipped with specialty adjustments such as ramps that cater to the delicate loading/unloading process. On the other hand, cars and other vehicles entering the United States temporarily by nonresidents can enjoy being limited by certain import restrictions, easing the process for short-term stays.


Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) present their own unique challenges when it comes to the shipping industry. Due to their high-voltage batteries and sophisticated electrical systems, shipping companies need to adhere to particular safety protocols and packaging requirements. This could involve disconnecting batteries and making sure that the car is completely powered down during transportation.

Also, depending on the country you’re importing to, some places have additional requirements or even lack the necessary infrastructure for EVs, creating potential barriers for entry. And due to their increasing popularity, EVs are subject to changing regulations both in the U.S. and foreign countries. Be sure to consult with shipping experts when shipping an EV so you’re up to date on the current guidelines.

Larger Vehicles

When it comes to larger vehicles, there are also complicated logistics to consider. For example, the Höegh Autoliners Horizon-class ships have an incredible capacity of 8,500 Car-Equivalent Units (CEU), showing an impressive capability for a modern car carrier. But when shipping oversized vehicles via ocean freight, they typically can’t fit more than one within the confines of a standard 20-foot container.

So, an alternative mode of transport, like train carriages, freight containers, trucks, trailers, boats, or planes, may be what you need to ship a larger vehicle type. While there are container shipping or Roll On Roll Off (RORO) methods for overseas shipping, special arrangements may need to be made. Naturally, this can significantly impact logistics and costs.

Racing Vehicle

Shipping racing vehicles is governed by a series of strict guidelines, particularly when they’re imported into the U.S. Vehicles that were originally manufactured for racing purposes can be permanently imported with confirmation from the original manufacturer. But, if the car wasn’t initially created for this purpose, then you’ll need a temporary import under specific conditions approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA permits a temporary import of such vehicles for up to 3 years without duty payment or up to 5 years with duty paid. If a vehicle was manufactured for on-road use but is now intended for racing, it must arrive in full race configuration and be stripped of components that are needed for on-road operation. Be sure to check the NHTSA website for more details.

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Destination Country Restrictions

As previously mentioned, restrictions for car shipping vary from one destination country to another. If requirements aren’t met properly, then you might have to pay high taxes or even have your car be denied entry. In some cases, consulate approval is required.

Make sure you thoroughly understand the specific regulations and demands of the destination country of your choice. You don’t want to face any unexpected additional costs, so consult with experts and get their guidance before you proceed with your international vehicle shipping.

Container Shipping

When shipping cars, specialized car carriers, not container ships, are usually the norm. These custom-built ships have various decks with ramps that facilitate the efficient embarkation and disembarkation of the vehicles. Cars and trucks are carefully fastened during transit to deter movement and ensure safety.

But, in some instances of international relocation where someone may need to ship personal effects, container shipping is an option. The container can accommodate the vehicle along with the household goods, though it does present a few more logistical challenges.

Time of Importation

Timing can play a pivotal role when it comes to importing vehicles into another country. When the vehicle arrives at its destination, certain processes must be completed in adherence to local laws and regulations. Therefore, these procedures can be time-sensitive and may involve inspection, documentation verification, and sometimes even vehicle modifications to meet and comply with the country’s standards.

So, the time of year and current events or holidays can affect these regulations and the overall timeline for importation. Be sure to begin the importation process well in advance of the actual shipping date to avoid any delays.


Shipping Restrictions on “Gray Cars”

While most cars can be shipped internationally, there are certain restrictions in place for what’s known as “gray cars.” These are vehicles that are not officially imported by the manufacturer into a particular country or region. They may have been purchased abroad or through unofficial channels.

Furthermore, they often face strict regulations and limitations when it comes to shipping to certain countries. This is to protect the domestic automotive industry and ensure compliance with local safety and environmental standards.

Every country has its own set of regulations regarding gray market vehicle imports. In some cases, a vehicle may not meet safety or emission standards required by the destination country. Additionally, many countries have established specific importation rules and procedures that must be followed for these types of automobiles. This includes providing documentation such as proof of ownership, vehicle history reports, and compliance with all customs and importation requirements. Otherwise, if you can’t provide what’s needed, the vehicle will be rejected and you may even face additional fees and penalties.

Avoid Costly Mistakes

When you need to ship a vehicle, it’s important to verify whether there are any restrictions for your particular auto type. Larger vehicles, electric vehicles, racing vehicles, and “gray cars” may face additional scrutiny or costs. Plus, it’s important to comply with the destination country’s import regulations or the U.S. Customs rule at the time of importation to avoid delays or fines.

That’s why it’s best to consult with a shipping company to get detailed guidance on any additional requirements, or even alternative options when it comes to vehicles that aren’t permitted to be shipped.

Let A1 Auto Transport navigate vehicle shipping restrictions for you. Our experts ensure compliance and a hassle-free experience so you don’t have to guess if your car shipment will be accepted or rejected at its final destination.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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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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