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International car shipping costs

Follow the appropriate regulations and precautions to avoid delays and unnecessary fees

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by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team
shipping cars internationally

Whether you’re moving overseas as a member of the military or as a civilian, or you’re a classic car owner who travels frequently to international auto shows, you need a reliable way to transport your car, SUV, motorcycle or truck. Shipping vehicles overseas doesn’t have to be an ordeal. An auto transporter that specializes in international shipping can help you navigate the process and make sure your vehicle arrives safely at its new destination. In this resource, you’ll learn the cost to ship a car overseas, the requirements to ship a car overseas and how to choose the right international car shipping company for you.

How much does it cost to ship a car overseas?

The cost to ship a car overseas depends on several factors, including how you ship it and the distance your car travels. The average range for international shipping is $1,000–$5,000 for transport by sea, but your final price can range anywhere from $750 to ship a small car by boat to $40,000 to ship an SUV via plane.

Shipping toAverage cost
United States$1,000—$5,000
Europe$850—$5,000
West Africa$1,500—$2,500
Australia$3,000—$5,000
Germany$900—$3,900

Several additional factors will affect international car shipping costs:

  • Type of vehicle: The larger and heavier the vehicle, the more it will cost to ship.
  • Distance to a port: If you live close to San Francisco, New York, Miami or another major port city, then the cost of shipping to the port will not be significant for you. Expect anywhere from $100 to $300. If you live in the middle of the country, expect additional costs of up to $1,000. Either way, either the overseas shipper or a local auto transporter will need to take the vehicle to port for you if you are unable to do so.
  • Import taxes: When shipping to another country, it’s vital that you research the taxes that will be levied upon you. They can range from a small fee to more than the cost of shipping the vehicle.
  • Pickup location: Picking up the car at the port will be your cheapest option. The most expensive option will be having it dropped off right at your door. Somewhere in the middle would be picking up your vehicle at a terminal.
  • Travel route: Popular routes with frequent traffic cost less than remote, less-traveled routes. And, of course, the longer the journey, the higher the price will be.
  • Expedited shipping: It typically takes 3–12 weeks to ship a vehicle overseas. Expedited shipping will reduce this to a few weeks’ time. If you opt for expedited shipping, expect to pay quite a bit more. If possible, plan ahead so you can manage a few weeks without your vehicle.
  • Open or closed container: Your price will vary depending on whether you choose to use a shared container or an individual container, also known as open or enclosed shipping. A shared container is less expensive but will include other vehicles. An individual container is more expensive (as much as twice the cost of a shared container), but it can be a good option if you’re shipping a classic car and want to make sure it’s completely protected from other vehicles.
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shipping cars overseas

How to ship a car overseas

Shipping cars overseas can be complicated because of customs and port paperwork requirements at both ends of the journey. Fortunately, auto shippers are well-versed in the ins and outs of exporting vehicles from the United States, so they can handle most of the legwork for you, including dealing with customs and taking care of the actual transport of your vehicle. Knowing the requirements for shipping a car overseas will make the process much easier and reduce a headache.

  1. Verify the legal status of your vehicle
    Contact the U.S. State Department hotline for American travelers to find out whether your car is legally acceptable in the country of destination. Some countries have entry restrictions on the make and age of cars and accessories like tinted windows and white headlights. If it’s a go at the U.S. State Department, prepare your original title to the car or a certified copy of the title.
  2. Provide required documentation Even with an auto shipper taking care of the leg work for you, you still need to provide the right documentation to prove that you own your vehicle legally and that it can leave the country. Here are the documents you need to have:
    • Notarized vehicle title
    • Shipper export declaration form (available online or from your transporter)
    • Declaration of dangerous goods form (available online or from your transporter)
    • If your car is financed, you can ship it overseas if you have a letter from the lien holder
  3. Find out how customs works
    Every country has their own policy when it comes to taxing your vehicle. Some countries, like Germany, don’t charge tax if you are moving there as a permanent resident. Using an auto transport company will simplify the customs process for you, but it’s important that you check with the appropriate department in the country you’re shipping your car to so you can learn more about the customs process.
  4. Check your insurance
    Some auto transport companies only offer limited coverage, so check with your car insurance company to see if your existing car insurance covers ocean shipping or if you will need to purchase shipping insurance separately. While you’re on the phone, find out if your insurance coverage includes driving in a foreign country. If it doesn’t, now is a good time to start shopping for insurance that will cover you while you’re driving abroad.
  5. Research auto transporters
    The next step is to request online quotes from different auto transporters and brokers. Compare bids and services offered. If your car is one of a kind, know if the auto shipping companies provide special services for the specific needs of your car. Before you sign a contract with an auto transporter, check their insurance certificate and safety record by searching by their MC docket number at the Department of Transportation website.
  6. Choose your shipping options
    You have a few different options for how to ship your vehicle.
    • Door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal or port-to-port: Door-to-door shipping is the most convenient option but also the most expensive. Port-to-port, on the other hand, is the cheapest option. Terminal-to-terminal is a middle ground option. You will drop off and pick up your vehicle at a terminal where other vehicles are stored.
    • Enclosed shipping or open air shipping: If your vehicle carries a special place in your heart, you might want to opt for enclosed shipping. Just know that it will cost significantly more, sometimes up to 50 percent more than open air shipping.
  7. Do a thorough inspection
    Get your car thoroughly inspected before you hand it over to your chosen auto transporter. Take pictures, and keep an inspection report with you. You should also get your vehicle washed before it gets shipped. This can make it easier to spot any dings or dents that happen as a result of shipping. Also, make sure to take all of your personal belongings and possessions out of your vehicle before you transport it.

    Keep in mind that if you drop your car off at port, you will need to make arrangements to get back home. Many people opt to take a train back or travel with a friend or family member.
  8. Pick up your vehicle and make payments
    Once your car arrives at its destination abroad, it must be accepted by an agent of your car shipper or an overseas agent you have designated who will then pay the destination charges, if any. Transport and storage fees may or may not be paid depending on your arrangement with your shipper.

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Shipping cars to Europe

If you are transporting your car to Europe, it is vital that you have all the correct documentation to ensure a smooth shipping process. There are many common rules and regulations in the European Union, but it is still important to research the local legal requirements for shipping your car into your destination country. Here are a few things to consider when shipping a car to Europe:

Cost of shipping a car to Europe
The cost to ship a car from the USA to Europe range from $850 for a compact car to $5,000 for an SUV. This doesn’t include port of entry fees which can cost $200–$300 each way. You’ll also shell out shipping insurance of 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent of the estimated value of the car, which would equal about $300–$500 for a $20,000 car. Additional fees include taxes and customs.

Taxes
You will have to pay duty on your vehicle before it can clear customs. Here’s a breakdown of what you should expect to pay in taxes when you ship your car from the U.S. to the European Union:

  • 22 percent for trucks
  • 10 percent for passenger cars
  • 8 percent for motorcycles with engine capacity up to 250 cc
  • 6 percent for motorcycles with engine capacity over 250 cc

In addition to paying duty, you will also need to pay import tax, which will vary from 19 percent to 22 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) depending on the country.

shipping cars

Shipping cars to the US

When you ship a car to the U.S. you will need to locate your legal documents and find a legitimate auto transporter who will take care of the transport for you and make sure your vehicle is ready to go once you land. In addition, here are some things you need to know about shipping a vehicle to the United States:

Cost of shipping a car to the US
When shipping by ocean, expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to ship a car into the U.S. Factors that affect the cost of shipping include distance, popularity of the shipping route and method of shipping. Additional costs include taxes and duties. If you are shipping your vehicle by air, expect to pay much more.

Taxes
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, non-American vehicles (both used and new) transported into the United States pay duty at the following rates:

  • 2.5 percent for cars
  • 25 percent for trucks
  • Up to 2.4 percent for motorcycles

However, the following people can import their vehicles duty-free:

  • U.S. Citizens who were employed abroad and/or government employees who are returning to the U.S. on TDY (temporary duty) are allowed to import a non-American car without paying duty as long as they are entering the United States and staying for a short time. They must also claim nonresident status and export the vehicle upon their departure from the U.S.
  • Military and civilian U.S. government employees who are returning to the U.S. indefinitely after an assignment are allowed to include a conforming vehicle among their duty-free effects provided they meet all the qualifications set by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Non-residents are allowed to import a non-American vehicle duty-free for up to one year as long as the vehicle’s import is part of their arrival into the country.

Gas-guzzler tax
Your car might be liable for national gas-guzzler tax when you import it into the U.S. if the estimated fuel economy is less than 22.5 miles per gallon. The fuel economy rating determined by the EPA might differ from the manufacturer’s ratings, so you may end up paying this tax even if your vehicle’s manufacturer claims the fuel economy is more than 22.4 miles per gallon.

semi truck hauling vehicles

Shipping cars to Africa

Whether you’re shipping a newly bought car to West Africa, shipping a car to a family member or moving to a new country, it's important to know what your options are and how to comply with the rules and regulations of this diverse continent. African nations do not adhere to a common set of rules to the degree of the countries in the European Union, so it’s important to do your research.

Cost of shipping a car to Africa
The cost of shipping a car to Africa varies greatly. You will probably pay at least $1,200 to do so. The average range is $1,500 to $2,500. This is just the cost for shipping on ocean transport from one port to another.

Laws and Taxes
There are 17 countries in West Africa, and they each have their own laws, regulations, and import taxes. To find out more, contact the country’s Department of Commerce and inquire about the car shipping process.

shipping car airplane

Can you take your car on a plane?

You can ship your car by plane, but it is significantly more expensive than shipping your vehicle by the ocean. If you need your highly valued, antique or exotic car shipped overseas quickly and you have the budget for it, air freight is the fastest and safest way to ship a prized car overseas. Just be aware that air freight is the most expensive method of shipping a car overseas.

ShipYourCarNow offers air transport for $5,000-$40,000. This wide range is due to a variety of factors, including the type of vehicle, length of time to ship, shipping route and whether you choose to ship door-to-door or pick up the vehicle at the port. Typically, air transport may cost 2-3 times more than shipping in an ocean container. In some cases, the cost of shipping via airline exceeds the value of the vehicle several times over. You’ll also have to comply with the usual customs processes required for shipping cars overseas.

Bottom line

Every auto transporter shipping internationally has its own cost schedule, and many handle the headaches of customs paperwork for you. Our advice is to shop around and find the auto transporter that will get your vehicle safely transported. Spending a little extra money can be worth it for the peace of mind a good auto transporter can offer. Talk to your car shipper to learn about additional documentation requirements and fees to pay at the customs offices and ports at each end.

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Profile picture of Tom Rains
by Tom Rains ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Tom Rains graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2014 with a master’s degree in Professional Writing. Tom’s passion for delivering quality content fuels him to provide consumers with accurate, well-researched information on major life purchases.