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How to Get Your Car Overseas Safely

Updated on July 7, 2015
Get All Your Paperwork Together for Overseas Car Shipping.  Photo Courtesy of Rennett Stowe, under Creative Commons Attribution License
Get All Your Paperwork Together for Overseas Car Shipping. Photo Courtesy of Rennett Stowe, under Creative Commons Attribution License | Source

If you're considering shipping your car overseas, the process is simple if somewhat bureaucratic. Whether or not it's worth the expense and effort depends on:

  • how long you're staying
  • if you're returning
  • where you're going

You may find that if you need to sell your vehicle or even have it fixed while you're abroad, the process might not be as easy or as economical as using public transportation or renting a car or scooter. As boring as it is, you will need to research the specific regulations about vehicle handling in your destination country before you transport your car. (I'd provide them for you, but do you have any idea how many countries there are on this planet?)

Of course, it's a different kettle of fish if you're making a permanent move or embarking on a long-term stay - the pros in this case might very well outweigh the cons.

Here are the steps you need to do insofar as preparing your vehicle and making sure you have the documents required by the car transporter as well as Customs when you ship your car to a foreign country.

Documentation you may need, in brief, includes:

  • The original title of the vehicle, or a certified copy of the title, and two extra copies
  • If there is a lien on your car, a letter of permission by the holder of the lien
  • Bill of lading
  • Miscellaneous documentation, which varies according to country and circumstance

How Long Does it Take To Ship A Car Overseas?

How long car shipping takes is harder to predict for international transport than for shipping cars domestically. Domestic shipping can take one to two weeks for coast-to-coast transport. Overseas shipping will take longer and depends on where you're going and where you start, on customs delays, and freight ship cancellation or delays. Your best recourse is to talk with the car shipping company for an inside and outside estimate.

Hire a Vehicle Transporter or Moving Company That Ships Your Transport Type Overseas

The people who will move your car are called vehicular transport companies. They will move it on a ship. Different companies tend to handle different kinds of vehicles. Make sure if you have a special type of automobile, motorcycle, SUV, pick-up truck, sailing vessel, yacht or boat that the company you choose is equipped to move your vehicle type and has all the appropriate insurance coverage and transport facilities to safely ship it.

But - who to hire? Assuming you do not have any convenient referrals from trusted sources, here is where you become a serious micro-manager. The first step - and only the first step - is to compile a list of at least 3 car movers and get price quotes from each. The usual advice applies: Check out their records with the Better Business Bureau or similar agency in your country.

The price quote from each shipping company for moving your car will depend on:

  • your country of origin
  • your destination country
  • the make and model of the car you're moving - especially its dimensions and weight
  • what kind of insurance or other coverage is included in the standard auto transport service contract (usually shipping insurance coverage, if included, is nominal.)
  • whether or not the car can drive on its own

So now to the detail work: Make sure you compare each quote based on what's included. Consider taking out supplemental insurance in the event something happens to your car in transit.

In selecting the company to use, also pay attention to the way the car shipper will physically transport the vehicle to the ship and onto the ship, where the car will be stored while on board the ship, and how the car will be delivered--port to port, or actually door-to-door.

Pay special attention to at what points the car will be driven or hauled atop a vehicle transport, and if moved on a vehicle transport, whether the transport is open or covered. Ask when delivery is estimated to take place.

Once you make a choice, get thoroughly versed on the internal regulations of the car transport company. Most often, the regulations are there to comply with federal and international regulations, so to assure the safety of your car, do everything by the book, even if you are a rebel at heart.

Can You Ship a Car With a Lien?

You may very well be able to ship a vehicle even if it has a lien on it, if you include a letter of permission from the lien holder. Check with the vehicle shipping company about the details.

Get Your Car Ready for Transport

As you prepare your vehicle for shipping, take the chance to learn about the specific duties, taxes, customs regulations, and restrictions of the foreign country you're destined for. You can sometimes find out this information from an experienced car shipper or by calling the consulate of the country to which you're moving.

Assemble your documentation for Customs.  Among other paperwork, you'll need multiple copies of the car's title--either a certified copy that can be gotten from the DMV or the original.  If the car is too new to have a title, the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin will serve.   If there's a lien on the car, you'll need to bring a letter of permission to ship the car to a foreign country from the lien holder.

Now it's time to clean your car. There are usually restrictions about what you can leave in the car, and the car transport company can let you know the specific regulations that apply to you. Clean the vehicle thoroughly. Empty the trunk, passenger area and glove compartment of personal items, trash, tools, and other loose objects. You may be allowed to leave floor mats, spare tires, seat covers and other fixtures inside

When the car shipper representative arrives to pick up the car, or meets you at the designated point, make sure to check your car thoroughly.  Before you sign it, make sure the shipper includes all details about your car's condition on the bill of lading, which documents the state of your vehicle before transport and after arrival.

You'll pay the car shipper before releasing the car to the mover.  Once the car is in transit, you may call the vehicle shipping company to check on where your vehicle is at any point during transit.  The delivery date for your car is an estimate; there may be a few days variance.

Either have your car met or be there on the other end to meet it when it arrives at the destination country.  Once again, inspect it well before you sign off on it.

When You Travel Overseas by Air, Your Car Can Be Shipped Across the Ocean.  Photo courtesy of MarinaAvila under Creative Commons Attribution License at
When You Travel Overseas by Air, Your Car Can Be Shipped Across the Ocean. Photo courtesy of MarinaAvila under Creative Commons Attribution License at | Source


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      I have read all about the open trailer shipping and enclosed trailer shipping and now going to transport my car in an enclosed trailer. It will surely safe for my car.

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      lubna 8 years ago

      Hi. I shipped my car oversease. I receiveda dmv notice of delinquent revenal from the state of California USA. I have searched every where under DMV...I could not locte an area. Please help tell me the steps so I do not nee do to pay the registration or PNO fees since itis not being in the the USA. Pleas attach a link for DMV if you happen to have ene/

      Thank you so much.