International Vehicle Transport

How Does International Vehicle Transport Work?

It’s fair to assume that not everyone knows about international vehicles. It’s the very reason may ask themselves How does International Vehicle Transport Work? They may have trouble imagining how a vehicle can start in the United States and end up in France, Ghana, or England. When they watched boats travelling across the sea, they […]

It’s fair to assume that not everyone knows about international vehicles. It’s the very reason may ask themselves How does International Vehicle Transport Work? They may have trouble imagining how a vehicle can start in the United States and end up in France, Ghana, or England. When they watched boats travelling across the sea, they didn’t stop to think that the ship’s cargo may very well be a long line of cars making their way to a different country. Some people don’t want to buy a new car when they move to a different country. Other people want to own cars that they can’t buy in their home countries. Both reasons cause people to look to international car shipping as a solution.

International Vehicle Transport
Shipping and Trucking Transportation – RO-RO Transport (Roll-On/Roll-Off)

Doing Your Research

Shipping a car overseas can feel as if it’s a very big deal. Depending on how attached you are to your vehicle, you may feel nervous about paying someone to transport your vehicle across the ocean. This is why it’s important to do your research. The more research you do, the better you’ll understand how the process works. You’ll gain insights into the different ways cars are loaded on the ship, the different timetables provided by car shipments, and what services are provided to you by a shipping carrier depending on what you pay.

Yes, that’s right, international vehicle transport works just like everything else in life. If you do your research, then you’ll be able to find the company that fits the experience you’d like to have within your budget. Some shipping carriers will offer flat rates for vehicles depending on what country you are shipping to. Other carriers will charge based on the size and weight of your vehicle. These different factors may influence who you choose to use as a carrier.

You’ll also need to consider what services you’d like to receive through your carrier. In these modern times, some carriers provide real-time tracking, while others do not. There are also carriers such as American Forwarding & Logistics (AFL), who offer Door to Port Services, so you won’t worry about having to drive your car to the port it’s shipping from. Not choosing Door to Port or Door to Door services will require you to go to both the shipping port and destination port to drop off and pick up your car, which may be hard to do if you have only one vehicle.

These are the types of things you’ll learn from doing your research on how does international vehicle transport works!

Shipping Methods

There are two primary ways that vehicles are shipped internationally. They are sent via Roll on Roll off shipping (RoRo) shipping or container shipping. You can also ship your car via air freight, but we won’t be covering the subject, because it’s very expensive.

RoRo shipping is the most economical and cost-effective way for a person to ship their vehicle from one country to another. The process works by the vehicle being rolled on the ship at the port where the car starts and then rolled off at the vehicle’s port of destination. The cars are secured on the ship, but may still be subjected to minor damage depending on the length of the voyage and the weather that occurs as the ship moves from port to port on its way to your vehicle’s final destination.

Container shipping is more expensive than RoRo shipping but comes with a few added benefits. When a person chooses to use container shipping, their car is placed within a solid container. The vehicle is secured within the container, and, depending on whether the person has paid for either a shared container or a full container, they may also be able to pack some of their personal belongings along with their car.

Whether a person chooses to ship their car using RoRo shipping or container shipping, it’s also important to note that the price they pay will be reflected in the size of the vessel, the shipping season, and the carrier’s current shipping demands. Each of these different factors will cause the price a person is quoted to fluctuate.

Want to learn more about shipping methods. Check out Money Inc.’s article that discusses the different ways you can ship your car cross-country or internationally.

Documents You Need

Similar to travelling from one country to another country as a person, your vehicle will also require certain documents in order to be imported into the country. Some countries have very particular rules for importing cars, so it’s highly suggested that you either get in contact with a customs’ agent for the country you’re planning to ship your car to. You can also click here for additional information on what countries may expect you to know when you planning to import your car into their country.

Not every country accepts every vehicle. Certain countries will require your car to be of a certain make and model. They also may require your car to be of a certain age. And if it’s not, your car will either not be permitted into the country, or you’ll be required to pay additional taxes, duties, and fees. (We’ll get more into these details in an upcoming section.)

An alternative option is to use a shipping carrier who will handle the customs paperwork for you. Shipping carriers who offer this option will assign an agent who will work with you throughout the entire shipping process. They’ll inform you of everything you’ll need to do to get your car imported into the destination country.

Shipping process

Getting Your Car Ready for Travel

Another important aspect of understanding how international vehicle transport works is knowing how to get your car ready for transport. How you need to prepare your car for transport will depend on the services you are paying for, the carrier you are using, and the requirements of the country you are shipping to.

Typically, if you choose to use RoRo shipping, you’ll be advised to leave no more than a quarter tank of gas in your car. Some companies will allow you to pack some materials in your car when you ship it, whereas others will only allow you to transfer items related to your car, such as jumper cables and spare tires. There are two primaries for this. The first is that the carrier knows that during transport, there may be a risk item from your car could be stolen. The second reason is that adding items/weight to your car will drive up the cost of what you’ll need to pay to ship your car.

A person may be able to send some personal items when using container shipping, but it’s because no one will have access to the vehicle until it’s dropped off at the final destination port.

Want to learn more about preparing your car for shipment? provides great insights into how to prepare your car for being shipped overseas.

Getting Insurance

Speaking about things getting lost or stolen is never fun. And though the cost of shipping a car may be higher than you expect it to be, it’s highly suggested for you to choose a carrier who provides insurance. Getting insurance for your vehicle and/or personal belongings will help you rest at ease if anything should go wrong. Carriers will oftentimes quote you a price that includes insurance, but if they don’t, be sure to ask. Getting price quotes and insurance quotes from different carriers will help you decide who you’ll use when shipping your vehicle across the sea.

Duties and Taxes

It’s no fun to think that you’ll have to pay more than your shipping carrier when your car enters a new country. If you take the time to talk with a customs’ agent for the country you are shipping to, you’ll be able to ask about the different duties and taxes you’ll be subjected to when your car enters the country. The answers you get will not only let you know your car is importable into the country, but it will also let you know the country will expect you to pay.

For example, older cars and larger vehicles are often made to pay additional taxes when entering a new country. These charges are tied to the country’s laws regarding the pollutants that will be released by your vehicle as you drive throughout the country. Newer cars and/or smaller vehicles are believed to have less of a negative effect on the environment.

The duties and taxes you pay will reflect the country’s position on your car as well as vehicles/automobiles in general. Whether you decide to speak with a customs’ agent yourself or pay to have someone speak to the agent for you, it’s important to gain a general sense of what duties and taxes you’ll need to pay for the car to enter the country.

Additional Charges

It’s hard to read about shipping costs, duties, and taxes, and then find out you may need to pay additional charges. Depending on what country you are shipping your vehicle to, you may have to pay fees both before and after your vehicle’s arrival.

Some countries will require your car to be pre-inspected by a shipping official. And you’ll need to pay for it. The inspection of your car will be conducted in order to determine if it meets all the guidelines the country’s government has set for inspecting cars. If your car is not pre-inspected, it will oftentimes be inspected when it arrives at your destination country.

How your car is inspected is dependent on where you are shipping your car to. Some countries perform a basic inspection, to make sure the car is up to code. But, other countries may perform a more detailed inspection of your car depending on whether they can confirm you are, in fact, the owner of the car, and are only transferring the approved items for the shipment.

Understanding Cost

As you’ve learned from the above sections, the cost of shipping a car is determined by multiple factors. You’ll need to determine what shipping method you’ll use for your vehicle as well as what additional services you’ll choose to pay for to simplify the shipping process. You’ll also need to determine what features mean the most to you. Do you want real-time tracking? How important is it for you to have an agent who can answer each and every question you have about the shipping process?

Every decision you make will influence the overall price you pay. And don’t forget to learn about the invisible costs of shipping your car. Shipping cars has its highest demand in the summer and its lowest demand in the winter. But, to offset the cost, you’ll end up paying higher prices in the winter. You’ll also need to keep me in mind and frugal ideas you have, other people will have to.

Here’s a general table that shows how much it costs to ship a car from the United States to another country.

From El Paso, Texas, USAPanamaUnited Arab Emirates GeorgiaGermanyFinland
Distance (miles)2337.74mi8349.80mi7042.85mi5583.02mi5514.97mi
Sailing Time3 – 4 days25 – 35 days30 – 40 days25 – 35 days25 – 35 days
To departure portEl Paso, TX – Houston, TX –$683.00El Paso, TX – Houston, TX – $683.00El Paso, TX – Houston, TX –$683.00El Paso, TX – Houston, TX –$683.00El Paso, TX – Houston, TX –$683.00
Destination portHouston, TX – Manzanillo, Mexico –$1,350.00Houston, TX – Dubai (Jebel Ali), UAE $975.00Houston, TX – Poti, Georgia – $875.00Houston, TX- Bremerhaven, Germany –$1,025.00Houston, TX – Kotka-Hamina, Finland –$1,100.00
Quote (USD)$2,033.00$1,658.00$1,558.00$1,708.00$1,783.00

Shipping Travel Time

Like all things in life, as soon as we choose to do something, we ask ourselves: how long is it going to take? Shipping a car is no different. You’ll want to know how much time it’ll take for your car to arrive at the destination port. And the answer, to your question, will vary.

On average, shipping a car from one country to another takes anywhere between 30 to 60 days. But some shipments will take only two to three weeks. It all depends on where you’re shipping to and from and at what rate.

You’ll need to consider the distance between the two ports. The further away the port is, the longer it will take to get there. The ship will take a set route to the destination port, but it may also need to stop and refuel, drop off other vehicles, or wait out bad weather. Weather, unfortunately, can cause delays.

Beyond these factors, you’ll also need to consider the shipping schedule for the carrier you use. Commercial carriers typically ship cats every week, whereas local small businesses may not be able to ship as regularly.

The length of time it takes to ship your car to its destination port will also be determined by the type you’ve chosen. As mentioned earlier, the service you receive depends on how much you pay. Standard service will always take longer than a rush delivery.


After reading this blog, you’ve learned how international vehicle transport works. You’ve discovered what factors determine how much you’ll pay to ship your car as well as what additional charges you may face when your car arrives at its destination port. You’ve also learned the importance of research, how the seasons influence car shipping prices, and what happens from the time the ship leaves its port of origin and arrives at its destination port.


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