A Complete Guide for Car Shipping to South Africa

What You’ll Learn From Reading this Blog International Car Shipping and Shipping to South Africa can feel like difficult subjects to wrap your head around. If you’re unfamiliar with overseas shipping, international shipping companies, and automobile shipping, rest assured. This post will teach you the secrets to shipping a car from USA to South Africa […]

What You’ll Learn From Reading this Blog

International Car Shipping and Shipping to South Africa can feel like difficult subjects to wrap your head around. If you’re unfamiliar with overseas shipping, international shipping companies, and automobile shipping, rest assured. This post will teach you the secrets to shipping a car from USA to South Africa as well as the do’s and don’ts of exporting cars to South Africa. You’ll learn what cars are accepted into the country as well as what methods work best for international freight shipping. You’ll also discover the process for a car shipping to South Africa and what to do for used vehicle import to South Africa.

car shipping to south africa

How to Ship a Car from the US to South Africa

There are a few basic steps for shipping a car from USA to South Africa,

  • Research South Africa and the different ports you can ship your car to.
  • Do research on the different shipping carriers who transport cars from the USA to South Africa
  • Get quotes from each shipping carrier and determine which carrier is in your budget
  • Talk to an agent who works for the shipping carrier to determine what shipping methods and services you will use to ship your car. 
  • Schedule your shipment

From reading the six bullets above, it’s easy to see that shipping a car to South Africa is fairly simple. However, it’s important to know that the decisions you make when completing each step of the car shipping process will affect the overall price you pay. Shipping carriers provide both economic and premium services depending on what type of car you are shipping to South Africa. The overall price you pay will also be affected by the type of car you are shipping when exporting cars to South Africa.

Importing New and Used Cars  to South Africa 

New Car Or Used Car

The rules for importing a car to South Africa largely relate to the type of vehicle you are shipping and what method you are using to ship it. Used vehicle import to South Africa works differently than if you are shipping a new car to South Africa.

Shipping a New Vehicle

The process for shipping a new car to South Africa is much simpler than shipping a used vehicle. Shipping a new vehicle requires you to provide the following documents.

  • Ocean bill of lading (OBL)
  • Proof of ownership for more than 1 year.
  • Passport.
  • Import permit.
  • Registration.
  • Letter of authority from SABS (South African Bureau of Standards)
  • Proof of SABS payme

After providing these documents, your car will be processed and you’ll be made to pay the duties and taxes on your vehicle. Because your vehicle is new it also won’t need to be as heavily inspected as a used vehicle entering into the country.

Shipping a Used Vehicle 

Shipping a used vehicle can be much more tricky than shipping a new vehicle. You can only import a used car if you have been granted permission to do so. For these reasons, you need to take the following steps to ship a used car to South Africa.

  • Obtain a letter of authority  from the NRCS
  • Complete the required application for importing a secondhand vehicle
  • If you are an South African Citizen submit the following additional documents
    1. Identity documents / passport
    2. Letter from your employer confirming permanent employment
    3. A copy of your foreign vehicle registration document
  • If you are not a South African resident and you are trying to import a secondhand vehicle, you’ll need to submit the following additional documents.
    1. Your South African permanent residence certificate
    2. Your passport  
    3. Your foreign motor vehicle registration certificate
    4. Proof of study or research to be concluded where applicable.

Methods for Shipping Your Car to South Africa

Method of shipping your car
Shipping Cars RO-RO – Roll On/Roll Off

There are two primary methods for shipping cars to South Africa. Roll on Roll Off (RoRo) shipping and container shipping. RoRo shipping is more economical, but provides less protection, whereas container shipping cost to South Africa is higher, but affords you greater protection and some added benefits.

RoRo Shipping

  • With RoRo shipping your vehicle is loaded onto the shipping  ( “rolled on”) and then placed in the cargo holding area. Your vehicle will remain secured in the same place until it reaches its final destination. Once it reaches its final destination it will be “rolled off” and processed for importation. The only drawback to using RoRo shipping is that your vehicle may possibly be damaged during transit by weather conditions.

Container Shipping

Container shipping is more multifaceted than RoRo shipping. For that reason we’ll discuss it in several different subsections to explain the shipping process and the container shipping cost to South Africa.

So first, let’s discuss what container shipping is. Much like its name implies, container shipping involves your car being loaded into a container for shipment. 

  • When you choose to  use container shipping, your car can be in any condition. This means you can ship a new, used, or inoperable car when shipping via a container. 
  • Container shipping cost to South Africa will depend on several different factors. 
  • Choosing to ship an inoperable car is more expensive than an operable car. Operable cars can be driven into the container, whereas inoperable vehicles need to be loaded into the container using other equipment..
  • Container shipping cost to South Africa also depends on whether you choose to ship your car in a Full Container Load (FCL) or Less Than Container Load (LCL).
  • If you choose to ship via FCL, you’ll pay a higher cost, but may be able to transport some of your personal belongings with your shipment.
  • If you choose to ship via LCL, you’ll pay a lower price, but you’ll have to wait until the container is full for your car to be shipped. On average shipping containers can hold anywhere between 2 to 8 vehicles.

Shipping Container Specs

  • Container shipping cost to South Africa largely relates to the size of the container being used. There are two general sizes that are used to ship containers. 20ft and 40ft. 
  • In general, it’s less expensive to ship a vehicle in a 20 ft container than a 40ft container. Take a look at the price breakdown in the table below to see cost differences.

NOTE: All of the price estimates given are based on rates generated from shipping in different locations of the US to Durban, Cape Town, and Coega. 

Location (To and From)20ft Container Price40ft Container Price
Norfolk – Durban$1928.50$2504
Savannah – Cape Town$1928.50$2504
Charleston – Coega $1928.50$2504
Miami – Coega$1928.50$2504
Miami – Cape$1928.50$2504

As you can see from the table, container shipping cost to South Africa is flat rate depending on the size of the container being used to ship your car. Knowing this will help you understand the cost of shipping a container from USA to South Africa. You’ll also have a better idea of how to answer the question “how much does it cost to ship a container overseas?”

How a Car is placed into a Container

The techniques used to place a car into a container depends on the condition of the car.

  • Cars that are operable are typically driven into the container using a ramp or a flatbed truck. If using a ramp, the car is driven into an open area and lashed down. This precaution is taken to make sure that your vehicle is secured and does not get damaged during transport. How your vehicle is placed in the container depends on whether you are shipping via FCL or LCL.
  • Cars that are non-running / inoperable are still able to be placed in a container and shipped, but they are typically transferred into the container using different equipment.The shipping carrier will most likely use heavy equipment to transfer your vehicle to the container and then use similar machinery to unload your vehicle from the 

How a Car is Taken Out of a Container

( video)

  • Whether your car is operable or non-running, it will be removed using the same methods. 
  • Your car will be held up with a winch, and then taken out of the container using a forklift. If your vehicle is operable it will be driven to the storage area for import processing. 
  • If your vehicle is non-running, it will still be transferred to the storage area for processing, but it will be transported there using heavy equipment and a flatbed truck.

The Advantages of Container Shipping

Though the container shipping cost to South Africa is higher than RoRo shipping, container shipping comes with several advantages.

  • Container shipping can be used for both operable and non-running vehicles.
  • Your vehicle is strapped down and provided with extra protection
  • The price of container shipping is lower when you choose a shared container
  • It’s very easy to transport a container, which enables you to safely ship your car anywhere in the world.

Taxes, Duties, Regulations

Taxes, Duties, Regulations
Tax planning concept with wooden cubes on calculator on blue background flat lay.

Overseas vehicle shipping requires a person to pay taxes and duties when they have their car imported. For instance, when you’re shipping to South Africa from USA, the number you are quoted by the car shipping carrier will not include the cost of duties and taxes. It’s also important to learn South Africa’s importation regulations so you’ll know the car you plan to ship will be accepted into the country.

  • When preparing to ship a car, get in touch with one of South Africa’s customs agents in order to be certain your car meets the country’s regulatory guidelines.
  • The customs agent will indicate every document you’ll need to ship your car into the country.
  • Take note of how the different regulations for car shipping affect the overall cost of importing your car into the country.

Duty Free Importation 

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to import your car without having to pay any duties on your vehicle. In order to qualify, you must meet the following terms:

  • You have to be the registered owner of the vehicle for no less than 12 months.
  • You must be in the process of becoming a permanent resident of South Africa.
  • When importing your car you must agree to not sell, hire, exchange or dispose of the vehicle for at least 2 years.

Calculating Costs of Duties and Taxes

You may not qualify for duty free importation, which, as you can guess, will affect the shipping car to South Africa cost. For that reason it’s good to know what approach is used to calculate what you’ll cost you’ll be expected to pay when importing your vehicle.

  • Vehicles up to 20 years old are taxed at a rate of up to 36%
  • Vehicles more than 20 years old are taxed at a rate of 20%.
  • An ad valorem is oftentimes applied at a rate of 0.75% to 20%. The amount is based on the age and value of the vehicle.
  • VAT, when applicable,.is charged at 15%.
  • The South African VAT act is used to calculate VAT. The act determines cost by basing it off the value of goods in addition to customs duty levied and an additional 10% of that value.

You’ll need to review your appraisal letter to gain a full sense of what these numbers mean in relation to the cost of shipping your car to South Africa. Your appraisal letter is what establishes the monetary value of your car.

Delivery Times for Shipping from US to South Africa

On average it can take anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks to ship a car from the United States to South Africa.

The amount of time it takes depends on several factors.

  • Whether you’ve chosen standard shipping or expedited shipping
  • The current shipping season and shipping demand
  • How often your chosen shipping carrier ships vehicles to your destination port
  • Weather conditions. Harsh weather conditions cause delays.
  • Congestion on the sea. If the seas are busy, it will take longer for your car to arrive

The Dos and Don’ts of Shipping a Car to South Africa

South africa residence

When you prepare to ship your car to South Africa you’ll need to remove all important documents and empty out all your personal belongings. 

  • The only items that should remain in your vehicles are jumper cables and any tools that are necessary to make the car run. 
  • You’ll also be required to clean the undercarriage of your car in order to be certain it does contain any bio-hazardous material.

If you’re choosing to use container shipping, you may have the option to back some of your personal belongings in the container as well. However, it’s important for you to know what items cannot be shipped to South Africa. (This also applies if you are shipping freight instead of a vehicle.

South Africa does not accept the following items:

  • Narcotic drugs
  • Fully automatic, military, and unnumbered weapons
  • Explosives and fireworks
  • Toxic substances and poison
  • Cigarettes that have a mass that’s greater than 2 kilograms per 1,000
  • Counterfeit goods and goods that have a trademark in contravention of any Act 
  • Unlawful reproductions of any copyrighted work
  • Goods made in a prison or penitentiary 


After reading this blog you’ve learned about each of the different steps of the process for shipping a car to South Africa from USA. You’ve also discovered the advantages of transporting your vehicle in a shipping container and uncovered what methods are used to calculate the costs of importing a car into South Africa. Now all you need to do is choose your shipping carrier and plan your shipment.


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