Each year SDC International Shipping moves clients to locations all around the world. We are an established international car shipping company located in the Los Angeles area. Many of our customers find themselves moving temporarily for work or studies. We send a large number of shipments for clients to their new retirement relocations as well.
Foreign nationals living in the United States often move back to their home country each year as well. Or, many tourists come to the United States to purchase cars at auctions or antique shows and then want to send them back to their home country.
Whatever their reason for moving from the United States to locations around the world, to many of them, it makes a lot of sense to send a car or other vehicle.
Figuring Out 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, cars commonly must be between six months and five years old to qualify for tax-free import. Many countries will not let in cars older than five years unless they are certified antiques.
- You usually have to own your car for at least six months before sending it. If you are now investigating relocating in a few months, check the local regulations immediately 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 apply to 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 before driving on their roads. In others, you can drive your car for a short 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, which are considered commercial vehicles in most countries.
- Localization is often required. Some countries will have specific regulations about 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 that 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 belongs to the person sending it, who should also be the person receiving it.
- A few countries require that you receive specific permission for your exact vehicle before export, but this is not the rule. Ask your SDC relocation specialist to help you check the exact requirement of your destination.
Popular Car Shipping Destinations Around the World
Driving on the Right
It would help if you kept in mind that not all countries will allow you to import right-hand drive cars. Please ensure 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 jurisdictions, the steering column is on the car’s right-hand side. 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 Zealand, 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. Remember that motorcycle controls are inverted in some countries, but others still allow for it.
Some countries 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.
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.
Documents Required for International Car Shipping
The first step in car shipping is collecting all necessary documents to export and import your car. A typical set of documents includes:
- Bill of Lading
- Notarized Bill of Sale
- Filled out EPA forms
- DOT forms
- New insurance policy
We may ask you to provide any other documentation covering the vehicle. New requirements often come up, so it’s almost impossible to be too prepared. That is why it is so vital that you plan your move at least a month in advance to get all the paperwork you will need.
International Car Shipping Options
How your automobile will be shipped will depend on the logistics of your particular move. Our international car shipping options via sea include containerized shipment and roll-on/roll-off (RORO) shipping.
If you are concerned about convenience and speed, we also offer air freight, which means we’ll ship your car by plane.
Containerized Car Shipment
We can ship your car in a sole shipping container. If you are tight on finances, you may ship a car in a shared container with other vehicles heading to that direction. Unlike shipping a car in a private container, it may take longer before your car goes on the sea because a mover will need to wait until the container is filled up before shipping it abroad.
Most cars, SUVs, and light pickup trucks can be sent in your shipping container. Typically the most economical way of shipping them is to get a larger container that can accommodate both your household goods and personal belongings, 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.
Roll-on/roll-off shipping, also known as RORO is a transportation method where your vehicle is placed and secured on a shipping vessel. It’s also less expensive than sending in a single container. The RORO ships pretty much look like parking lots. Your car is driven on the vessel, fastened in its spot to avoid shifting. Upon arrival at the destination port, it will be driven off the vessel.
RORO is more timely than shipping in a shared container. It’s also cheaper because your auto is less protected during travel. However, unlike consolidated shipping, it may take longer to transit because ROROs usually dock at multiple ports before reaching your destination.
To learn the difference between shipping via RORO or container, read our article: RoRo vs. Container Shipping: Which is Better for Your Car?
Shipping a Car By Air
Shipping your car by plane is the most pricey transportation method because it is the fastest and most secure. It’s a perfect option for clients that can afford airfreight despite its price and, especially for those that have high-value autos like vintage, luxury, etc.
SDC International Shipping will help you choose the method that suits your timing and budget. In our view, sole container shipping is the best investment for the safety and timely arrival of your vehicle.
International car shipping cost
Naturally, one of the first questions people ask is: “How much does it cost to ship a car overseas?” We know that the answer “depends on many factors” is as unsatisfactory an answer as accurate—those who require a number cost between $1000 and $5000 to ship cars by sea.
What factors can affect the cost of shipping a car overseas?
Type of Vehicle
Cars are not the only vehicles that you are permitted to send overseas. Our clients commonly send motorcycles and other vehicles also. The rules for cars and motorcycles are usually identical, but some countries will allow you to send both a bike and a car. In addition, some countries will allow one licensed vehicle per family; others will allow one vehicle per adult.
However, when you send your motorcycle in your shipping container, it can be crated and secured within your container for a small additional cost.
There are other types of vehicles that you can send. These include both licensed and unlicensed vehicles. Cars licensed in the destination country will need to meet their safety and licensing regulations. For instance, some countries permit light motorcycles (fewer than 50 CC ), and others don’t. In addition, ATVs, off-road motorbikes, snowmobiles, jet skis, motorized scooters, etc., require licensing in some countries.
If they are licensed or titled in your state, you will need to clear their title before sending it overseas, regardless of the licensing policy in your destination country. While boats can usually be dispatched on the trailers, their registration is generally done via a different government ministry.
Cars are shipped overseas in a variety of methods.
Most cars, SUVs, and light pickup trucks can fit into a shipping container. If you are shopping for a new car, this measure is listed in the details of all new vehicles. If you are doing some advanced planning, you will find that buying a new car six months before your moving date will make the most sense.
Some SUVs, vans, and full-sized pickup trucks will not fit into sea shipment containers. These, along with RVs, boats, and other oversized vehicles, get sent using the roll-on roll-off method, where the cars are delivered using special ships. Don’t let the name fool you; this method is safe, and the vehicles travel in a protected environment.
Occasionally we will also send our clients cars using specialized containers that have been outfitted with equipment to make automobile transport safe and secure.
When you get quotes for the international shipping of cars, include the exact method. Sometimes cheap methods, like open containers, are used. Unfortunately, these expose your vehicle to natural elements like water and wind.
Where will we be picking up your car? If you live close to a major port, then it will cost less. However, the cost will increase if we send a car carrier hundreds of miles to pick up your car. Sometimes, you can bring your car directly to one of our warehouses or the port, which can also reduce shipping costs.
The cost of shipping a car will depend upon the destination. Usually, but not always, the further away, the costlier. However, there are specific destinations where the laws of supply and demand reduce the cost slightly.
How can you reduce the cost of shipping a vehicle?
The best way to reduce shipping costs is to send it as a part of the household items you are shipping. For example, you eliminate many intermediate steps when you send your car within your container.
Many clients send a 20 ft. container with their personal effects and household goods. The container is large enough to hold all furniture and personal interests in a typical three-bedroom house in the USA. However, the standard car requires about 15′ for its length.
It means that sending a car in your container will take up most of its room, and there may not be enough room in it for the remainder of your items. Or you can opt for a 40 ft. container with an additional 15% cargo space, with plenty of room for all your belongings and your car.
Shipping your car from top ports, such as New York, Los Angeles, or Miami, could also prove to be more cost-efficient than shipping from less popular departure ports.
Other International Car Shipping Costs
While sending a car to most locations, especially to European countries, additional costs will be associated with moving your car from one country to another.
We will also include the costs of legal fees for services that we must perform to prepare your car for export. In addition, you will need to send us your car’s original title and license, along with a copy of your driver’s license. We will return these to you before you depart, as you will require these documents when your car arrives at its destination. Finally, you will include all labor costs associated with moving the vehicle.
High taxes for CO2 emitting vehicles
Recently many European countries have imposed taxes on high CO2 emitting automobiles, and you might want to consider a hybrid if moving to France or Germany, for instance. Safety equipment is usually not a problem, as we send newer cars. However, cars must be between six months and five years old to send them to most destinations.
A handful of countries require that you obtain a specific permit for importing your car before sending it. Unfortunately, this is something that you have to do yourself.
Please review your shipping quote carefully. Depending upon the country, your car might be delivered directly to the facility. Even if you send your vehicle within a private shipping container, your container is often opened at the port, the vehicle removed for transportation to the licensing and inspection facility, and the remainder of the contents delivered to your door.
We always recommend purchasing marine insurance to protect a car while it’s in the open ocean. If your existing car insurance can’t arrange that for you, as your shipping company we also have this add-on service.
Customs duty is a fee you need to pay for shipping a car internationally. Some countries charge low fees. We’ll check with the port of the country you are relocating to inform you of their customs fees. Usually, these taxes are calculated as a certain percentage of the car’s value. Also, additional taxes and fees, such as sales tax or processing costs, might be applied. As your shipping company, we’ll tell you what to expect.
You may have to be present
Most countries demand the car owner be present when the car passes through customs and vehicle inspection. Many require the owner’s physical presence, at least at the review. We will try to notify you as soon as we know about your car’s customs clearance date. If you are moving somewhere far away from a port, you might have to arrange to travel to the dock when the vehicle arrives.