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Few things concern vehicle owners more than the ultimate long-distance investment. Learn how to relax with our guide to international car shipping.

Key Takeaways: 

  • International shipping methods vary, with inherent pros and cons
  • Car owner preparation plays a large part in successful transport
  • Climate concerns, proper paperwork, and timing are important factors
  • Working with an experienced international auto broker protects your investment

Every car owner should take two steps before their vehicle makes any journey: Learning how the auto transport process works and knowing what to look for in an auto transport company. This knowledge can cut your concerns in half when entrusting your vehicle to a carrier. However, even the most well-versed customer gets antsy over international car shipping.

This is understandable. The longer the journey, the more potential for mishaps when car owners and carriers don’t prepare or perform as they should. Read our guide to learn how safe the long-haul can really be and discover what you can do to prep your vehicle for shipping.

International car shipping methods

Cars can go overseas in a solo shipping container, which is the more expensive but also the safest of the usual methods. Added protection from damage, theft, and the elements isn’t the only benefit: If you opt for a shared container, you’ll save some money as the shipping charge is spread between the owners using it. A downside is that these containers won’t ship until they’re full. Thereby subjecting them to potential delays that don’t affect the solo option.

Less expensive and, as a result, more risk-prone is RORO shipping, which stands for “Roll On, Roll Off.” Your vehicle is rolled onto a ship (which may be of various types) and shored up against transit shift with many others until being driven off at the docking point and transported to drop off. This approach has the virtue of being quicker than container transport. Also, its lower price tag makes it the most common method of international car shipping.

If you do have the money for air freight, you’ll receive the safest and fastest international shipping out there. Owners of particularly expensive vehicles may find their insurance company gives them no choice but to use air freight to prevent an unnecessary payout, so check with your provider if that’s the vehicle class you drive.

5 ways owners can prep for international car shipping

Beyond selecting a safe shipping method, there are steps car owners can take to make sure their vehicles are in good condition when they make it to their final destinations.

1. Consider the new climate

When your vehicle lands in a new country, it may be faced with a significantly different environment than it’s used to. Increased levels of precipitation and cold are usually the issue here and can be tackled in several ways. Fitting your car with weather-specific tires before it ships means it can hit the ground running at Point B. Reassessing and, if necessary, replacing your windshield wipers and car battery also gives you a head start on Mother Nature.

2. Be extra-careful with luxury or electric cars

Shipping luxury or electric cars internationally means some extra prep, but some steps are common pre-shipping practices. Owners of either car type should document their vehicle’s condition thoroughly before it ships. Knowing how to inspect your vehicle at both ends of an international trip helps you successfully manage potential damage claims while readying your car’s contents to ensure it meets weight restrictions (and stays within the law).

Prepping an electric car for shipping means giving it a good wash (dirty cars can hide transit damage), fully charging the battery, and running a complete maintenance check. Owners of luxuries and electrics/hybrids may also want to consider auto transport insurance. Accidents can happen even with the best carriers, and extra coverage will provide greater peace of mind.

3. Check if international car shipping is even possible

The country you’re shipping to may require a clean vehicle title before allowing import, if it allows it at all. Check your car’s VIN before shipping to streamline international transport and contact Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), they will be able to confirm if your destination country accepts your car.

4. Refer to CBP resources

The CBP provides a handy international car shipping glossary that demystifies shipping lingo and clarifies the required documentation, times of presentation, and how shipping via sea or air affects procedure. Typical documentation required from car owners is proof of ownership (this may be a Bill of Sale or the VIN), photo ID, and vehicle registration.

A CBP vehicle export cover sheet must also be completed and all required paperwork submitted to the authorities at the export point no less than 72 hours before shipping. These are standard requirements, however, further documents may be necessary, as may duplicates. Also, an existing lien on your car will require written permission from the holder before it can ship. Contact the CBP in advance with all questions and concerns.

5. Consult with an experienced auto broker

That carrier company you spoke to may have sounded worth the money, but only an auto transport broker who handles international car shipping can provide the insight necessary for a smooth journey. Brokers vet carriers on metrics like their safety record, experience level, ratings, references, and insurance status.

These specialized brokers can also help car owners consider other important matters, like additional customs or import fees and how to get their car safely from the docking point to the desired pick-up location. The cheapest auto carrier isn’t always the best, especially when it comes to international trips. A good broker will ensure you get the best possible service at the lowest possible price.

Trust Mercury Auto Transport when shipping closer to home

Mercury Auto Transport is a nationwide, full-service auto shipping company that connects buyers with reliable vehicle carriers anywhere in the country. Our process is transparent and trustworthy, and we can provide you with a car shipping quote within minutes. We’re always working to get you the best deal. Call us today to see how we can help!


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