International Car Shipping

Written By

Machaela Casey
An international shipping port with multiple modes of transportation including a ship, an airplane, and other freight carriers

Have a Plan For Your International Car Shipment

You’ve made the decision: you’re moving abroad. An international move requires a lot of planning. But, you’re organized. You have a plan. Job and passport: check. Housing: got that covered. Medical insurance: yep, got that, too. Car…wait, what about your car? International car transport takes some work, but it’s a fairly straightforward process if you know what to expect.

Aerial view of a cargo container loaded with shipping containers traveling across the open sea

Know the Rules of the Road

First, investigate the licensing requirements and road regulations in your new country. Make sure that you’ll be able to actually drive your car in your new country when you arrive.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car Internationally?

Shipping a vehicle from one state to another takes some work. But, shipping cars internationally is another thing altogether. Many factors impact international car shipping cost. Some of these factors include:

-The total distance traveled: Simply put, the farther you travel, the more expensive it will be to ship your car.

-The size and type of the car: The larger your vehicle, and the heavier it is, the more expensive it will be to transport. Also, you’ll pay more to move a luxury or classic car. These types of cars often require additional insurance and packing fees.

-The method of transport: An international move almost always requires multiple modes of shipping. If you’re moving to Mexico or Canada, you may be able to transport your vehicle over land.

However, if you’re crossing an ocean, you’ll likely need multiple modes of shipping to reach your final destination. In that case, you’ll need to use freight shipping services, which provide such intermodal shipping.

Pros and Cons of Boat Transport

You can choose to move your car via airplane. But, air transport is extremely expensive and is often impractical. Shipping by boat is more cost effective, but it takes longer.

With boat shipping, you have more options. Depending on your timeline and budget, you can choose either economy or expedited shipping.

Economy shipping will take longer but will be cheaper. Expedited shipping will get your car there faster but for a higher price. Still, shipping your car by boat means it will take weeks (or even months) to get there.

Containers and Car Shipping Costs

The quickest way to ship by boat is to ship your car in an individual shipping container. This type of container is built to hold only one car.

To save money, you can choose to share a container with other vehicles. This option is called consolidated vehicle shipping. However, with consolidated vehicle shipping, the container is not shipped until completely full. This means that vehicles shipped this way usually take longer to arrive.

Reduced Price: Roll-On/Roll-Off Shipping

Finally, you don’t have to ship your car inside of a container. You can choose an option called Roll-On/Roll-Off shipping, where your car will not have the protection of a container. Instead, with this option, your car will be secured for transport in the hull of the ship with other cars secured nearby. This type of shipping is usually the cheapest.

This method of shipping may also take the longest amount of time. Usually, ships that utilize Roll-On/Roll-Off Shipping stop at several ports, so it can take longer for your car to be delivered.

Additional Fees to Consider

When calculating car shipping costs, it’s important to factor in these costs as well:

-Insurance: Always purchase marine insurance when shipping a vehicle overseas to protect your car on the open water. Check with your current insurance carrier. Some carriers do offer supplemental marine insurance. If not, purchase it for the trip.

-Destination charges: When your car arrives at its destination port, it will need to be moved from the ship and safely cleared through customs. You can’t do this yourself—you’ll need to hire an agent to do it. International car shipping companies usually arrange handle this, or they will help you find an agent for hire.

-Customs tax: A customs tax is any tax levied on goods shipped internationally. For vehicles, this cost is a percentage of its value. To determine your cost, contact the port authority of the country that you’ll be entering.

Get Your Documents in Order

Now that you know what costs to consider to move your car internationally, you can start to get ready. The process is pretty straight forward, but there is a lot of paperwork required. When moving a car overseas, you’ll need to provide certain documents to your U.S. Port of Entry at least 72 hours prior to the shipping date.

Typically, these documents include:

-A completed U.S. Customs & Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet

-An original certificate of title for the car or a certified copy of the original

-Your current, government-issued passport

-Vehicle registration papers

-Bill of Lading from your moving company

-Forms to show emissions compliance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Prepare Your Car for Shipment

You’ve decided how to transport your car, and you have all of the right documents in place. Next, you’ll need to get the car itself ready for the international move.

First, know that you’ll need to ship an empty car. While it would be convenient to pack your car full of cargo, that usually isn’t allowed. Different shipping companies have different rules, so be sure to check.

Typically, the only items that can be inside of the vehicle at all are items directly related to the car itself, like a spare tire or jumper cables. (Also, make sure to remove any valuable documents, like vehicle registration and insurance information).

Service and Clean Your Car for the Trip

Make sure that your car is road ready before you leave. Check your tire pressure and battery charge before departure. Check all fluid levels, too.

Also, inquire with your shipping company about fuel levels. Usually, your car can have no more than ¼ tank of gas for the journey.

Next, wash and vacuum your car before departure. A clean car will allow you to see any existing dings or scratches and will help you to spot any new damage that may occur during transport.

Be sure to take several photos of your car right before the vehicle is loaded for transport. It’s a good idea to have proof of the condition of the car prior to the move.

Finally, make sure to have a spare set of car keys on hand. You’ll need to provide your shipping company with keys, and you don’t want to give them your only set.

The Best International Car Shipping Company

Making the decision to leave the United States is a big one. To get your car there safely, trust the professionals. At Nelson Westerberg, we’re experienced international movers. We have partners around the world that will move you-and your car- efficiently from door to door.

With over 30 years of experience in global moves, we provide quality services according to stringent FIDI (Federation of International Movers) standards. We have moved people, corporations, vehicles, and more. We understand modern global mobility challenges. Contact us for a free, customizable quote.