There have been a lot of quality guides out there explaining the overall process of how to ship a car overseas from the USA.
This article will cover some similar steps as well as a few additional suggestions that we propose based on our own experiences over the past 37 years, as well as client feedback. So without further ado, let’s get started. Below is a quick navigation to each section.
- Request and Compare Quotes
- Determine your priorities…cost vs. time frame
- Select a shipper and gather the paperwork
- Vehicle inspection and condition report
First Step: Do Your Research
So one of the first steps in any purchasing decision is to do the research and when shipping a vehicle overseas, research is a very important step.
When we say do your research, there are a few things that need to be considered and we’ll explain how they should be done.
The first things that you want to do is gather a list of international car transporters and shipping companies that you’re considering using.
Search in Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. but also use sites like BBB.org, fmc.gov, review sites, as well as forums. Don’t forget to use friends or friends of friends for references either.
Look at each company’s credentials and certifications. See whether or not the company is licensed, insured and bonded. If a company is all of the above they won’t hide it.
The licenses will vary also by the type of company you deal with. For example, freight forwarders will have FMC licensing and some may also have a special license if they operate as an NVOCC.
All domestic transporters are required to have their DOT license and if the international shipping company has an in house domestic pickup department, ask for their DOT information.
Additionally, make sure to ask each and every company, no matter how trivial it may seem, whether they are fully insured and licensed and whether they use licensed and insured carriers/third party services.
Go a step further and ask for those companies names and conduct some research on them as well.
Tip: Do this before you go out and request a quote from tons of websites. Anyone working from a computer can email you a price that looks great but it could be from an unlicensed company, for an uninsured transporter or a broker that never actually handles your car.
If you’re wondering how to research the cost of shipping a vehicle overseas without requesting a quote, you can check the actual websites for rates. Although, not all freight forwarders or transporters will disclose rate information online.
It’s important to note that the rates on their websites are usually for the ideal shipment (smallest size vehicle, to a popular destination, at their best rate). Also,
rates can change quite frequently with the rise of fuel costs and other surcharges so online prices may not be 100% up to date.
Another way to research shipping costs is by visiting a few forums and seeing what others paid to ship their cars overseas. The price that you’ll find will vary based on vehicle type, the company used, the shipping method used and their departure location. Make sure to look at the date of the response as some of the forums may contain responses from 5 or even 10 years ago.
So although you may not get an exact number using either of the two strategies it should give you a pretty nice ballpark figure, that way you have an idea of the budgetary requirements.
Step 2: Request Quotes and Compare Them
When comparing quotes, obviously the first thing that we do is look at that dollar amount. We don’t always look to see exactly what it includes. So make sure to read through each quote you receive carefully…and we mean carefully.
There’s a lot more to it than simply the ocean freight costs. Below are some key points to look for and they can all have a direct impact on cost but need to be predetermined before booking with a company.
- The type of service quoted: Are you paying for a port to port, door to port or door to door service?
- The method used: Is it shipping via roll on roll off vs. ocean container? Is it in a shared container or sole 20ft?
- Inland transportation: This goes hand in hand with number one. Some companies quote with domestic transport included, others only include the ocean transport.
- Destination Fees: Note: There will always be destination fees at every port, no matter the destination. This also relates to number one. If you are paying for door to port or port to port, this handles everything on the exporting side including US customs clearance. Unloading, customs clearance at the destination and transport from the arrival port all vary by destination. Make sure to ask about this!
Ask About Insurance
Most of the time, international auto transporters will offer this to you either through their own in house program or through a company they work with. Once again, these numbers differ by carriers and providers.
The rates can vary between 1.5% of the value of the car to 2.5%. Make sure you understand exactly what the insurance covers and ask your company! Are you purchasing a policy for total loss or all risk? When does coverage start?
Just like any type of insurance, when shipping a car overseas, the insurance is there for peace of mind. You will almost never need it, but when you do you’ll be glad.
Step 3: Determine Your Cost vs. Time Trade Off
This consideration is really all about your shipping preferences. Do you want the car shipped asap or are you more concerned with getting the cheapest rate?
Most people are uninformed of how long the process can take and how much it varies based on the method you choose.
Determining Shipping Method
If you are trying to determine how to ship a car overseas quickly, then the answer is simple. Book your own 20ft container, supply all the paperwork and pay the bill. As soon as it gets into the hands of your shipper with the documentation, the company will clear US customs and it will be loaded on the next available vessel then shipped.
The trade off here is the cost so expect to pay hundreds of dollars more than you would for some the next methods.
The middle ground for time vs. cost could be considered roll on roll off. Your car will be driven into the hull or belly of a RORO vessel and then secured and braced. This method is slower than the one listed above but costs substantially less.
Three things to consider with this method are that these vessels often transship, meaning they don’t go directly to your final destination. So they can end up taking longer. This isn’t always the case.
The other problem is that it lacks the added protection and security that transporting a car in a container offers. So it will be open to the elements such as sea water, moisture, etc.
Lastly, using RORO, absolutely nothing is allowed inside the vehicle other than standard tire jack, spare tire, etc. So if you wanted to supply a small manifest and place items in the car, that’s out of the question with this method.
Note: This does not mean that cars are showered with ocean water, but cars do end up getting more exposure to the elements.
The last method is consolidated vehicle shipping. This is where your car is loaded with other vehicles bound for the same final destination port. Not always, but it generally takes longer since the company must have other vehicles to fill the container before it can be shipped overseas.
However, you get the added protection of a containerized shipment and you can save hundreds of dollars if not more than that.
Selecting a Departure Port
Now most of the time, the shipper you select to move your car overseas will give you their best rate from their closest departure port. They should also give you other options. So, for example let’s say you are shipping your ford truck to Australia and you live in New Jersey.
A company may have a location in New York and you may want to ship out of New York but they offer you a rate from the west coast in Los Angeles as well. At first it seems obvious that you’ll want to ship from the east coast, but there are two reasons it may be beneficial to move it to California first.
- West coast to Australia is a much quicker sail time and shorter distance meaning…the ocean freight will cost less.
- Most of the time there is a higher volume since Australia is a more common destination from the West coast.
*This type of scenario is more relevant to overseas consolidators but it is still useful when you’re trying to figure out how to ship a car overseas.
Step 4: Choose Your Shipper and Gather All the Paperwork
The first part is a result of the previous three steps and hopefully by this point you’ve already selected your shipper.
The next step is to gather all the paperwork that the company requires and send it to them as soon as possible to speed up the shipping process.
Most of the time the documentation is straightforward. Common documents include the:
- Clear original title
- Copy of bill of sale
- Copy of your US Passport
*If you’re shipping via RORO, then we’ll only need copies and the originals can stay with the car.
There are additional forms or documentation that are required by particular ports or final destinations. We won’t list every single example because that list is exhaustive but we will list a few just to give you an idea.
Shipping a car out of Miami requires a special notarized power of attorney, whereas that’s not required in Los Angeles. New York sometimes requires proof of payment on vehicles newer than 2010.
If you want to move a vehicle to Australia, you absolutely must have an import approval prior to shipping. These are just a few examples but the sales reps are fully capable of answering these types of questions.
Step 5: Vehicle Inspection and Condition
When shipping any type of vehicle overseas, always do your own vehicle inspection report and take pictures. We recommend first servicing your car before handing it over as well as getting it washed.
This way, you know for sure the running condition of the vehicle and it will be much easier to spot any exterior dings or damage that your car already has to include in your report. Most overseas auto transporters will also do this as soon as the vehicle arrivals at their warehouse or office but two inspection reports are better than one.
If your company does not have it’s own warehouse or office overseas at your final destination city they’ll most likely be working with their own partners or agents.
Make sure to ask for their agent’s information and contact them well ahead of time. They’ll be able to answer more destination oriented questions.
In the end, there are numerous details and things that may come up during this process but being more informed about it will help you out in the end.
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