An Overview of International Car Shipping

cars leaving the boat after roll-on/roll-off international car shipping

It isn’t as straightforward as domestic shipment, but transporting vehicles internationally is possible.

Key takeaways

  • Multiple forms of international car shipping are available
  • The costs vary based on distance, shipping type, vehicle type, and route
  • Transit time will likely be lengthy
  • You’ll need the proper documents to proceed
  • A broker can streamline the process for you

The thought of shipping a car across the globe might be intimidating. Where do you even start? How much will it cost? How long does it take? Can you be sure your car is safe?

It’s important to find the right company and let their experts walk you through the process. There is some information you’ll want to learn before you begin so you’ll know what to expect. Here’s an overview of the international car-shipping procedure.

International car-shipping types

International auto transport can seem overwhelming, but breaking the process down step-by-step will help. First, you’ll want to determine the type of car shipping you’ll need to meet your needs. The three most common shipping types are roll-on/roll-off, container, and air freight. 

Roll-on/roll-off, or RORO, involves driving your car to a shipping port, where it is then loaded onto a boat. Your vehicle isn’t provided any special protection; it will sit on the ship like any other piece of cargo while it’s transported to its destination. 

Shipping containers provide some shelter. Your vehicle is loaded into a shipping container on its own or with other cars, ensuring it has protection from debris, cargo, and the elements during transit. This method is recommended for rare or classic cars because it’s safer than RORO.

Air freight is the most expensive option, but also the fastest and safest. The car is secured on an airplane when you go this route, allowing it to reach its destination in hours rather than weeks. 

The cost

Naturally, the cost of the service will influence the shipping type you select. Various factors determine the final price: distance, vehicle type, transport method, and route popularity.

Longer routes generally cost more. So, shipping a vehicle from Miami to Santo Domingo will theoretically cost less than transportation between Los Angeles and Tokyo. 

However, because Los Angeles to Tokyo is likely a more popular route with more shipping options available, you’re more likely to secure a deal at a lower price. 

The vehicle type also factors into the cost. Transporting a large truck will cost more than a compact car because of its space requirements. Taking into account a number of factors, shipping a vehicle internationally typically costs between $1,000 and $5,000. Air transport runs, with similar variables, between $5,000 and $40,000. Secure quotes early in the process to ensure you get the best deal.

How long it will take

The timeline is the final aspect that will help determine your method for international car shipping. On average, car transport abroad takes 30 to 60 days from drop-off to arrival. The timeline could shorten if you’re shipping on a popular route to an in-demand destination, but it still takes boats time to cross oceans. 

Air freight is far quicker because planes are faster than ships. However, you’ll still have to wait for the vehicle to clear customs. Make sure you have all necessary documentation when it arrives. 

Again, keep budget, timeline and any specific needs top of mind while determining which shipping method works best for you.

The documentation you’ll need

Preparing the necessary paperwork is essential before shipping vehicles internationally. Your carrier will probably need copies of this information to ensure a smooth transition into the foreign country. 

First, you’ll need to supply two copies of your government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license and passport. You’ll also have to write out personal information: name, address, phone number, and email for both the shipper and the receiver. 

Note the vehicle’s VIN, year, make, and model while providing proof of ownership. These documents could include the title, bill of sale, or a notarized lien authorization. You could face delays and additional fees if you don’t supply this documentation, so be ready.

Finding a shipping company

Locating an international car-shipping vendor is relatively simple through an online search, but you need a broker to ensure the carrier is reputable. Choosing a shady shipper may leave your car is stuck in transit or, worse yet, languishing in the departure port. 

Mercury Auto Transport is a car-shipping broker that provides service throughout the United States. We don’t arrange international shipments, but can assist booking vehicle shipments to Alaska or Hawaii. Contact Mercury Auto Transport to learn about our auto shipping services or get a quote.


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What Our Customrs Are Saying


We feel it’s important for you to know how we determined your quote. Quotes are based on what the market demands for cars to be moved at a given time. Each quote is compared with the current rates on the National Load Board before being sent to our customers and will be reviewed periodically through the process.

Other companies might offer you a lower price to obtain your business. This method is ineffective because if the car does not pay the correct amount of money, it will run the probability of not getting loaded or transported on time. You will not get this information from our competitors. Truck drivers always take the loads that pay the most first, leaving the loads that are mispriced to be moved last or not at all. We try very hard to avoid this with our customers by quoting a fair but realistic quote up front. Visit our How we determine your quote page for more information.

Understanding auto transport insurance is important and we think it’s valuable to explain how it works. As part of providing a great car transport service, it is our job to guarantee that the carrier we assign to pickup your vehicle is licensed and insured. Click here to check out our license.

When you go with Mercury to ship your vehicle, you can rest assured that the carrier assigned to move your car is fully insured and licensed with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier and Saftey Administration).

Your vehicle is covered by the carrier’s insurance policy that is doing the shipping. Depending on the type and size of the truck/trailer that is shipping your car, the insurance policy can cover from $100,000 to $1,000,000 of damage.

We have also provided a checklist to explain what you need to do at both pickup and delivery in case there are any issues so, you can file a claim and know that everything will be taken care of.

It is rare but, time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit and it is good to know that your carrier’s insurance will protect your auto shipment in that event.

To view a sample BOL (Bill of Lading) and learn what to do in case of accidental damage, please check out our Condition Report and Procedure checklist.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible.  

We feel it’s important for you to know how we determine your quote.

When you’re looking for a car shipping rate, you want to understand how auto transport works. Prices are based on seasonal market demands for cars to be moved at any given time. Each quote is prepared based on the season and the current national rates.

When comparing auto transport companies, keep in mind that low-priced quotes often result in delays in getting your vehicle loaded. Choosing the right broker is vital to getting a reputable carrier for the lowest price possible. Not all brokers are created equal in this talent.

Mercury does a thorough background check with each carrier for every shipment. We verify their ratings, references, and in addition, we obtain a certified copy of their insurance certificate, directly from the government agency that it is on file with.

You can have peace of mind knowing that the carrier shipping your vehicle is the very best and that there are no surprises guaranteed.

Mercury Auto Transport is licensed, Bonded and Insured. Our FMSCA Motor Carrier Number is MC647319.

While we do our best match your auto shipping needs with the most responsible carriers with the best track records, from time-to-time there may be accidental damage while in transit, it is good to know that the insurance of the carrier we locate for you will protect your auto shipment in that event.

Shipping a vehicle can be stressful if you don’t know what to do.  This is why we believe it is paramount to have our highly trained agents be your main point of contact from start to finish.

They will go over everything you need to know so you can relax.  In the meanwhile, we prepared this checklist.  This includes everything from pickup to delivery and how to make sure your car is ready for pickup.

When it comes to car moving, we want you to be ahead of the game!  For any questions and further assistance our agents are standing by, (800) 553-1828.  Please read our checklist to prepare your vehicle to learn more.

There are several ways you can ship a car.  The options include enclosed trailer, open carrier transport, flatbed truck, door-to-door shipping services, and to or from a terminal as well.  The most popular of the options is a 7 to 10 car open carrier.  These large trucks can accommodate almost any size vehicle including carsSUVstrucksjeeps, and vans.

Open car transport, door to door is also the best way to get the cheapest auto transport rate possible.  To learn more and see what transport method is best for you, please fill out our free quote form and one of our representatives will respond to you within minutes.  You can also call us at (800) 553-1828.

We present offers from FMCSA Licensed and Insured Carriers. When you accept an offer, we send your service agreement that guarantees the price, door-to-door service, and 100% bumper-to-bumper insurance. There are never any hidden fees or charges, guaranteed.