How to Prepare and Ship a Car to Another Country

Aerial view car carrier ship in warehouse harbor

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If you're moving to another country, in particular, one that is not within driving range, you may consider taking your car with you. This is not uncommon, and although it can be costly, it may be more economical than purchasing a car in your new country.

To help you decide if you should move your car, find out how much it will cost to ship it and what exactly you need to do to ensure it makes it to the other side. Many companies offer a port-to-port service, getting you through the process painlessly. Quotes are available online with prices determined by size, weight, origin and the destination. And just like choosing a moving company for your household belongings, check out each company thoroughly. A car is a big-ticket item you don't want to lose.

After you receive some quotes, take a look at what you need to do to legally and safely export your car from your present residence. 

Gather Required Documents

U.S. Customs requires either the original title or a certified copy of the title. Only the original certificate of title, or a certified copy of the original, is considered valid proof of ownership. If a certified copy is provided, the certification of the title can only be made by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If there is a lien on your vehicle, you need to provide a letter from your lien holder. The letter needs to indicate the vehicle's year, make, model, VIN and must state that you have the authority to ship your car to the destination country. The letter must be printed on original letterhead, be dated and signed and provide a contact name and telephone number.

If your car is new and has never been titled, you can export it by submitting the manufacturer's statement of origin instead of the vehicle's title. You can obtain the manufacturer's statement of origin from your car dealership. The original, plus two copies must be presented to Customs.

Prepare Your Vehicle

Customs states that you can't use your car to carry any personal belongings. Your belongings are susceptible to theft, and the entire contents of the car must be declared at Customs. Also, using your car to export or import illegal substances is subject to seizure and possible personal penalty. It's a good idea to take an inventory of your vehicle's contents and keep that list with you.

Most carriers have specific rules and regulations surrounding what can be left in vehicles. Such items usually include those that are part of the car, such as the spare tire, factory-issued hand tools, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and permanent accessories. Check with your shipper to determine what they will allow your vehicle to carry during transport. Ask how much fuel is allowed to remain in the car as most companies prefer the tank to be less than 1/4 full.

And finally, clean your car inside and out. Make sure the undercarriage is free from dirt and debris. Customs will inspect your car thoroughly, checking for pests and soil that could potentially contaminate local agriculture.

Purchase Marine Insurance

You should purchase marine insurance to cover your car for the actual time it will spend on the ocean. The ocean carrier will have insurance to cover the goods it's transporting; however, it is minimal and will not replace your vehicle should damage or loss occur. Ask your carrier what is covered, then weigh the cost of purchasing additional coverage.

And as with any move, before you purchase additional insurance, check your current policy to see if they cover marine insurance or if you can purchase it from them.

Find out About Customs Duty, Taxes and Additional Charges

Before you leave, contact the Consulate of your destination country to find out the rules and regulations surrounding customs duty and sales tax. Paying these costs sometimes depend on your employment status, residency status and how long you've owned your car. Your carrier should also be able to help you by either providing you with the importation requirements or with the name of someone you could contact in your destination country. Either way, find out ahead of time, so you're prepared.

Also, find out from your carrier if there will be any port handling charges. Most ports will charge fees for terminal handling, off-loading and documentation. Each port varies in the amount charged, so ask your shipper for an estimate of these fees and add them to your total moving cost.