International car shipping costs
Prices range from $1,000 to $5,000
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Shipping your car overseas can be an expensive and complicated process, but often it makes sense. Maybe you have a classic car, for instance, and find the perfect buyer in another country. Maybe you’ve been relocated for work and the value of your car far exceeds the cost of shipping — or maybe your car has sentimental value, and you can’t bear to part with it when moving away.
According to Andrew Kuttow, editor in chief of LamboCARS, international car shipping is likely to cost from $1,000 to $5,000 as of publishing, but it’s a quick and easy way to get your car to a new country if it’s worth it to you.
- Air shipping is the quickest but most expensive shipping option; shipping by boat is slow but cheaper.
- Make and model matter; larger, heavier vehicles typically cost more to ship.
- Before shelling out the money to transport your car, make sure you (or a buyer) can drive it in the destination country.
How much does it cost to ship a car internationally?
Kuttow, whose website caters to Lamborghini enthusiasts, explained that larger cars, like SUVs, are more expensive to ship due to the weight and space they occupy.
If you have a larger, heavier car, you can expect to spend more on shipping.
Other factors affecting pricing are the method of transportation (ground or air), distance and even the time of year.
There are some fees your shipping company can’t help you arrange. For example, unless you’re a government or military employee, you need a customs broker to help estimate and pay for the import taxes. Other costs vary by country. Contact the American Embassy in your destination country to learn what taxes and fees apply.
How international auto transport works
As one ConsumerAffairs reviewer from California reported, shipping your car internationally can be difficult: “I’ve shipped from overseas back to the States, and it was a terrible ordeal. I was reluctant to do it again.”
Ultimately, they said finding a shipping company that worked for their needs made all the difference: “I was perfectly satisfied with Montway.”
It’s all about being aware of your options so you can find the perfect fit for you.
Types of international car shipping
Some shippers do door-to-door service, transporting your car from your house to the carrier and to your new home, and other shippers require you to get your car to the port or its company warehouse yourself. Here are some important international shipping terms:
- Roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) shipping: This is the most common form of shipping. The car is driven onto and off the ship on its own (rather than, say, being lifted by a crane). These cargo ships contain many levels, storing most cars below deck, which keeps them safe from the elements.
- Container shipping: Cars get loaded into a container that’s put on a vessel. These containers are great for car owners who want the most protection. There are two types of container shipping: consolidated and sole.
- Consolidated container shipping: Your car is in a large container with other cars.
- Sole container shipping: Your car has its own 20- to 40-foot container, which can be used to store additional belongings.
- Air freight shipping: Shipping by plane is the fastest option, but it can also be very expensive.
- Land transportation options: Alex Ravich, the founder of Cross Country Moving Company, pointed out that land transportation is rarely an option. “That's because taxes and insurance don't allow land shipping across borders,” he told us. If you’re exporting your vehicle from the U.S., even if the destination is Canada or Mexico, it most likely will be shipped via air or sea.
Your shipper will help you arrange the documentation to get your car to the destination and into your possession once you arrive. Since much of this paperwork will stay with the car, it’s not a bad idea to make copies for your records.
Most shippers will ask you for these documents:
- Keys to the vehicle
- Personal ID (usually a passport)
- Up-to-date title with VIN
- Notarized statement from the lender (for leased cars)
- Notarized bill of sale (required at some ports)
Be sure to clarify the due date of all required documentation — your shipper may need to have it before the date of transport. For example, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol needs your documentation 72 hours before shipping.
Picking up your car
Check with your shipping company to see if it has an agent placed at the destination port, which can make getting assistance easier. If you plan on having a spouse or someone other than the person listed on the title pick up the car, let your shipper know so it can help you arrange any additional paperwork.
Check with your embassy to make sure you’re legally able to drive the car from the destination port yourself. American licenses work in most of Europe, but other places may require additional licensing.
Before you decide to ship
A word of caution — older, large American vehicles are impractical to drive in some countries and not street-legal in others. Many countries don’t allow old vehicles to enter; for example, Argentina doesn’t allow cars more than 10 years old to be imported. Your shipping company should be able to help you determine if your car can be legally imported.
» MORE: 5 reasons to ship your car
Another consideration: Few mechanics are trained to work on American cars outside of the U.S., so parts may not be readily available — and many European parking areas are too small to accommodate large vehicles, like SUVs and Hummers.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to research whether your car will be practical to drive at its destination. If you own a Ford or a GMC, for instance, try to find a mechanic before making a decision.
Is international car shipping safe for luxury or classic cars?
Yes, but you may need to take additional precautions. Kuttow, whose website specializes in luxury cars, suggested arranging container shipping and taking out additional insurance on expensive and rare cars.
How do I prepare my car for international shipping?
Check with your shipping company for recommendations. The car will either need to be drained of gas completely or down to a quarter of a tank. The battery may need to be either disconnected or removed.
Are there any restrictions on the types of vehicles that can be shipped internationally?
Many countries don’t allow older cars to be imported, especially those over 25. If you have an older or classic car, check the regulations of your destination country.
Can I ship personal belongings in my car?
Items left in your car may cause delays and other complications at customs, so it’s best to find other ways to transport your belongings. Some shipping companies do let you keep a few items in your car or allow storage by the pound, but make sure those items won’t cause problems or delays when the car arrives at its destination port.
How long does it take to ship a car internationally?
Expect shipping to take about one to six weeks, depending on the method of transportation, distance and the customs process where the car arrives. In general, air shipping is much faster than shipping by boat.
What should I do in case of any damages during the shipping process?
Make sure to take pictures of your car before it’s shipped and before you drive away from the port. If your car is damaged, follow the claims procedures of the party responsible for covering the damages.
Before you ship, it’s important to ask the shipper and your insurance company if they’ll cover any damages that occur on the trip and ask where to find that information in writing. You may need to take out additional insurance on your car.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- East West Auto Transport, “Shipping Cars to Argentina.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- Federal Maritime Commission, “Shipping Your Vehicle Overseas.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- Government of Canada, “Importing a Vehicle.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- Military.com, “Shipping a Car Overseas.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- Schumacher Cargo Logistics, “Vehicle Shipping.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- Ship Overseas, “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Exporting a Motor Vehicle.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Requirements for Exporting a Vehicle (including: Snowmobile, ATV and Motorcycle).” Accessed July 28, 2023.
- U.S. Department of State, “Plan for Shipment of Automobile.” Accessed July 28, 2023.
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