cars being unloaded from a docked roll on/roll off ship of a car transport international company.

Key takeaways

  • Car transport international services are cheaper than buying a car abroad.
  • Extended holidays, international auto shows and an overseas job are situations that could compel you to ship your car overseas.
  • You’ll need to prepare your vehicle for shipment and its arrival at the new destination.
  • Learning about international car shipping helps you understand the process and eliminate mistakes.

International car shipping doesn’t have to be an ordeal. With the right information, you can move your luxury car, sports car, classic car, or pickup truck abroad without a hitch. Thousands of people do each year; why not you?

Let’s walk you through the steps of preparing your car for shipment, address the necessary paperwork and requirements, and highlight typical costs for international car shipping.

Steps to shipping your car overseas

Whether you’re going on an extended vacation or taking your ride to international auto shows, it’s essential to know how to ship a car abroad. Mercury Auto Transport recommends the following eight steps to ship to safely transport your car overseas.

1. Research auto-shipping companies

You’ll need to find a trusted shipping service. See what options a Google search pulls up on your browser. A quick search for “how to ship a car overseas”, or “international car shipping from the US” will yield interesting results. 

The shipping company you’re considering should meet these requirements:

  • Transporting your vehicle from Point A to Point B within a reasonable timeframe
  • Prosper licensed, bonded, and insured 
  • Works with reputable freight carriers that are licensed and insured

2. Compare international shipping firms

After trimming your list of international car shippers, make comparisons. Check the companies’ Better Business Bureau reports. Ask for quotes and see which company offers value. 

Only hire a shipping company that understands vehicle-transport requirements. If you have to move an unusually shaped or sized car, discuss this openly with the shipping provider.

3. Collect your documents

International car shipping typically involves a lot of paperwork. For example, you must provide export documents at the U.S. port of entry 72 hours before your car is moved. The following are key documents that might apply to your situation:

  • Photo ID
  • Vehicle registration
  • Proof of insurance
  • Bill of lading
  • Notarized bill of sale
  • Certificate of title for the car, plus two copies
  • Duly completed and notarized export power of attorney (POA) 
  • EPA form 3520-21 and HS-7 form for car reimportation to the U.S.
  • Duly completed DOT forms for safety compliance

If there’s a lien on your vehicle, you will require an official letter from the lien holder, with car model, year of manufacture, and VIN, permitting you to take the car overseas. 

Allow ample time to gather the car’s documentation. Contact the point of entry in advance to know what they expect from you. Set aside a month to prepare all the essential paperwork.

4. Check your car’s insurance

Some auto transporters offer limited coverage for freight; check with your insurer to see if your policy covers sea transport. Ask whether the vehicle’s insurance coverage includes driving it overseas. 

5. Prep your car

You can’t ship a car with boxes inside. Make sure you remove any crucial documents such as insurance documentation and registration. The only things you can leave inside are related to your car, like a spare tire or jumper cables. Check with the company handling the shipment regarding how much fuel is allowed. Most auto-shipping firms require that fuel tanks must not be more than one-quarter full. 

6. Document your car’s condition

Want to move an old car with existing damage? Record scratches, dents, and chipped paint. Take clear pictures of the car’s exterior and interior. Also, note current mileage before handing the car to the shipping company. Photos help confirm the car’s condition at pick-up abroad. If the vehicle gets damaged during shipping, you can use them to justify insurance claims case against the liable party.

7. Wash and service your car

When moving, it’s easy to forget that your car needs some TLC. Take care of its for service and maintenance. Customer agents at the border might inspect your vehicle for pests, debris, and illegal stuff. Also, take your car to an auto detailer to wash and vacuum it before it heads to the port of entry. Disarm the alarm and copy the car keys; you’ll have to give one to the car-shipping company.

8. Fill out the legal paperwork

Once your car is clean, complete the paperwork required to shipping a car abroad and sign the bill of lading. Confirm the destination and read the T&Cs that apply. A shipping company official will help you complete the steps. If satisfied, sign the bill, and retain a copy.

9. How much does international car shipping cost?

Almost everyone who ships a car abroad worries about international shipping costs at some point and safety. You want to find a shipper that provides value, but on the other, you want reliability. 

Here’s how much you’re likely to spend on international auto shipping:

Destination                          Cost

Within the U.S.                        $1,000 to $5,000

Shipping to Europe                 $850 to $5,000

Shipping to West Africa         $1,500 to $2,500

Shipping to Australia             $3,000 to $5,000

What factors determine international shipping costs?

Any of these factors may impact car-shipping costs:

Vehicle type: This is a no-brainer. Larger, heavier cars are more costly to ship than small ones.

Distance to port: If you live close to a major port city, such as Miami or New York, shipping will cost less. The local transporter or overseas shipper still takes the vehicle to the port if you cannot do so.

Import taxes: Research taxes associated with shipping to another country. It can range from a small fee to several thousand dollars. 

Pick-up location: It’s cheaper to pick up the car from the port than to deliver it to your door.

Travel route: Popular high-traffic routes cost less than less-traveled ones. The longer the journey, the higher the cost. 

Shipping method: Standard shipping typically takes three to 12 weeks; expedited shipping is faster and more costly. Order management begins when a shipping order is placed, not dispatched.

Type of container: Shipping costs vary depending on whether you pick a shared or dedicated container. Shared containers are cheaper because they contain other vehicles. Individual containers cost as much as double the fee for shared containers.

Ship your car to Hawaii and Alaska with a trusted shipping service

If you’re taking your car abroad, learn how to ship a car abroad sensibly and affordably. Shipping a car costs money, but it’s still cheaper than buying a new car at your new destination. Get the paperwork ready, prepare your car and check with the Port of Entry to ensure you understand their car shipping requirements. 

Moving to Hawaii or Alaska? Don’t leave your SUV, sedan, truck or motorcycle behind. Mercury Auto Transport can help you move your vehicle there for a fraction of the cost of a new car. We are a leading auto-shipping company with experience in car shipping and can efficiently move your car. For overseas shipping, we are happy to connect you with leading carriers to reliably ship your car to your new destination. Book a consultation with us today.


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