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International Car Shipping from the USA

Each year, SDC International Movers moves clients to locations all around the world. Many of them are moving temporarily for work or studies. We send a large number of shipments for clients for retirement relocation as well.

Many people are living in the United States of foreign nationality that move back to their home country each year as well.

What’s on this page?

01 | Value, Comfort, and Reliability
02 | International Car Shipping Regulations
03 | Popular Car Shipping Destinations
03 | Driving on the Right
04 | International Motorcycle Shipping
05 | International Car Shipping Requirements 
06 | International Car Shipping Options

Whatever their reason, moving from the United States to locations around the world can be done, and to many of them, it makes a lot of sense to send a car or other vehicle.

Many tourists come to the United States and want to purchase cars at auction or antique shows and then want to send them back to their home country.

International Car Shipping – Value, Comfort and Reliability

Compared to most countries in the world, cars bought in the United States are affordable. This is especially true for European countries, where there are high taxes on automobile purchases in addition to high value-added tax (VAT).

International Car Shipping

Today it is straightforward to gather information on the Internet about automobile costs anywhere in the world. We recommend that you go ahead and compare the cost of your car in the United States to the cost of the same car in your destination country. Make sure that you are comparing comparable models, as there will always be slightly different model names from country to country.

Depending on your exact pickup and drop-off locations, sending a car overseas will cost a few thousand dollars and takes a few weeks. If it is sent in your container, it will take a little longer but cost a little less.

International Car Shipping Regulations

  • If you have a visa as a permanent resident or are a returning citizen of your destination, most countries will allow for the import of a car without paying import taxes. Though this is not uniform throughout the world, commonly cars must be between six months and five years old in order to qualify for tax-free import. Many countries will not let in cars that are older than five years unless they are certified antiques.
  • You usually have to have owned your car for at least six months prior to sending it. If you are just now investigating relocating in a few months, check the local regulations right away and plan accordingly. It might make the most sense for you to upgrade to a new car now.
  • If you do not meet the immigration requirement, you can still send a car, but applicable taxes will be applied in the destination country. 
  • There is usually a requirement that you must continue to own the car for at least a year, and in some places up to three years after import prior to reselling it in your new country.
  • Most countries require that cars undergo inspection and local licensing prior to driving on their roads. In others, you can drive your car for a short amount of time, until you get a local ID number or address.
  • Some countries will only allow 4 wheel drive vehicles to families.
  • There are often different rules for light pickups to heavy pickups, considered commercial vehicles in most countries.
  • Localization is often required. Some countries will have specific regulations about things like emissions, headlights or license plate size. If your car does not meet the local requirements, it needs to be fitted to meet the local regulations. Typically there will be garages who know how to do this adjacent to licensing facilities or these services are provided by the licensing facilities themselves.
  • Cars often have to be delivered to do these facilities. Even if you have ordered door to door service, the automobile is delivered to the inspection garage, and in many countries, your physical presence is required for this. 
  • All countries require that the vehicle being sent belong to the person sending it, who should also be the person receiving it.
  • There are a few countries that require that you receive specific permission for your exact vehicle prior to export, that this is not the rule. Ask your SDC relocation specialist to help you check the exact requirement of your destination.

Driving on the Right

It would help if you kept in mind that not all countries will allow you to import a car. There are several countries that discourage vehicle import altogether. Please make sure that the country you want to send a car to will allow it.

About a third of the countries in the world drive on the left. In these countries, the steering column is on the right-hand side of the car. The standard American car has the steering column on the left and cannot be licensed in these countries. Special exceptions are often made for antique cars.

Some of our most popular relocation destinations are left-hand drive countries, including Australia, New Zeeland, India, Japan, and the UK. Some countries are slightly more lax in their regulations, but please remember that replacement parts won’t be readily available.

International Motorcycle Shipping

Even if you are not permitted to send your car, there is a good chance that you can ship your motorcycle. Keep in mind that the motorcycle controls are inverted in these countries, but some still allow for it.

There are some countries that will allow you to import both a motorcycle and a car. This is not an issue for most families, as each returning citizen can bring one vehicle each.

If you own a motorcycle, you will want to ship it. If you are sending a private container, SDC International Shipping’s expert movers will prepare your motorcycle for shipment, emptying fluids, crating it, and securing it within your shipping container.

International Car Shipping Requirements 

  • Registration – regardless of how we send your car, you will need to send your vehicle’s registration to us for clearance. We will return this to you before you leave, as you will need it in your destination country.
  • Title – The vehicle’s title should be clear. If you purchased your car with financing, you might have to get a fresh title made that is clear of the creditor’s lien on the vehicle.
  • Keys – We highly recommend that you get a spare set of keys made, even two. If your car has additional keys for the gas cap, trunk, or storage on pickups, they must all be provided.

International Car Shipping Options

The manner in which your automobile will be shipped will depend on the logistics of your particular move. International car shipping options include in your private container, separately using special car moving containers, or using a method known as RO-RO, for roll on roll off, in the same manner, that new cars are shipped worldwide.

Most cars, SUV’s and light pickup trucks can be sent in your shipping container. Typically the most economical way of shipping them, it makes sense to get a larger container that can accommodate both your household goods and personal belonging, along with the vehicle. The internal width of the shipping containers is 7’ 8” wide. A Toyota Highlander, for instance (one of the more common cars we are asked to send), is 76 inches wide, just fitting into a container.

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