How to Use an International Car Shipping Calculator

What is International Car Shipping? Before we explain how international car shipping calculators work, it’s important to first understand what international car shipping is. The question can be answered with both a simple and complex answer. International car shipping is the ability to transfer a car from one country to another. But, international car shipping […]

What is International Car Shipping?

Before we explain how international car shipping calculators work, it’s important to first understand what international car shipping is. The question can be answered with both a simple and complex answer. International car shipping is the ability to transfer a car from one country to another. But, international car shipping is also the opportunity to migrate to another country without having to leave your car behind. It’s also the chance to import cars you cannot get in other countries. But even more than that, it’s a global discussion about what vehicles are, and aren’t importable to certain countries. Because as you’ll learn about how the cost of shipping cars internationally, you’ll also learn, certain cars are imported at an additional cost.

International Car Shipping
Cargo Ship

How Do International Car Shipping Calculators Work?

International car shipping calculators work by collecting data and providing you with an estimated quote for what it will cost you to ship your car to a particular country. The use of the calculator is fairly simple. You’ll share the details about your car: make, model, and other such details. Then you’ll indicate what country you’re located in, and what country you are trying to import your car to. The word trying is emphasized because you’ll need to make sure that the country you are importing your car to is willing to accept it. Some countries have very strict regulations for what cars are allowed into the country. If your car doesn’t meet certain criteria, it will either face additional taxes and duties upon arrival, or it will not be imported into the country at all.

After you provide the calculator with all the different details it asks for, the calculator will provide you with an estimate. The range for your estimate may be larger than you expect it to, but it’s because car shipping rates are dependent upon the services you choose to use. Like anything else, you can choose between economical pricing and premium services. Which of the two you choose will influence where you fall on the scale of your range estimate. We’ll discuss this more in an upcoming section.

One of the details you’ll be asked to provide when getting an estimate is your phone number and/or email address. The reason this information is collected is so a representative from the company can contact you and give you a finalized number for how much it will cost to ship your car to its destination port.

NOTE: Some of the calculators you use will only provide you with an estimate of what it will cost you to ship your car from one country to the next. The calculator won’t inform you if your car will be accepted or not. Be sure you take the time to read up on the rules for vehicle importation to make sure you aren’t going to ship a car that won’t be accepted into your destination country. 

As an example, this article provides an overview of what cars can, and can’t be imported into the US. 

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

How is International Car Shipping Calculated?

If you’ve completed the process of using an international car shipping calculator, you may be wondering how the calculator generates its estimate. The number you see on your computer screen is a general estimate that reflects both the current, and previous, estimates given to previous customers who were shipping a car to, and from, the same locations. The number you see also reflects the estimate provided by whatever company has developed the international car shipping calculator. This is why you can receive different cost estimates for every international car shipping calculator you use.

The good news is that the estimates you are provided with are all based on similar factors for determining cost. By looking at the different sections below, you’ll gain a better sense of what methods car shipping carriers use to estimate the cost of shipping your car overseas.

Size and Weight of Vehicle

One of the primary factors that determine the price you’ll pay is the size and weight of your car. The bigger and heavier your car is, the more you’ll be asked to pay. Some carriers choose to charge flat rates depending on the type of car you have: standard, SUV, truck, and so on. Other companies use a more precise method and charge for every pound your car weighs.

Typically, your car shipping carrier will also ask for you to not place any personal belongings in your car. The reason for them doing this is because they would have to charge for the added weight, and, depending on your chosen shipping method, they may not be able to guarantee the safety of your possessions. 

Distance the Vehicle is Traveling

Another one of the primary determining factors of what your overall shipping cost will be is the distance your car needs to travel. The distance your car travels does not only reflect how far the car travels from one port to the other but also can include the distance the car has travelled if you paid for Door-to-Port service. If your budget requires you to cut down on costs, you can elect to use Port-to-Port services instead.

Car shipping
Shipping Cars RO-RO – Roll-On/Roll-Off

Chosen Shipping Method

Distance, weight, and size are tall major factors that determine the price you’ll pay to ship your car. But you’ll also need to take into consideration the cost of the shipping method you choose to use. Door-to-Port or Port-to-Port services determine how your car will make it from one port to the next. But Roll on Roll off (RoRo) shipping and Container shipping will determine how your vehicle travels across the sea.

Roll on Roll off (RoRo) Shipping

  • This shipping method involves your vehicle being rolled on the ship at the main port, and then rolled off the ship at your destination port. When rolled onto the ship, it is placed in a designated area, and secured, for the entirety of the journey. This shipping method is the most affordable, but also comes with the risk of your vehicle being damaged by the elements as the ship travels from its starting point to its final destination.

Container Shipping

  • Container shipping is exactly what it sounds like. Your vehicle will be placed into a container on the ship, where it will be secured and kept safe throughout the entirety of the journey. The pace of the 

Door-to-Port Shipping

  • Door-to-Port is one of the most convenient ways to ship a car overseas. An agent from the carrier will come to your home, collect your car, and then take it to the shipping port for you. From there, you’ll only be responsible for picking your car up from the shipping port. Door-to-port is more expensive than Port-to-Port, but comes with the benefit of not having to find your way back home after you drop your car off at port.

Port-to-Port Shipping

  • Port-to-Port shipping requires you to drop your car off yourself for shipping. Depending on how far you live from the shipping port, this method may, or may not, be in your best interest. After you drop off your car, you’ll need to figure out how you’re getting home.

NOTE: Depending on your timetable for shipping your car, some carriers allow you to travel by your car to your destination port. This option isn’t always available, and, as you can guess, comes at an additional cost. The vessel will have to be equipped to provide you with room and board.

Shipping Speed

The speed you ship your car at will also affect your overall price. The wider your window is, the more flexible the carrier will be with the price they quote you. Expedited shipping is always guaranteed to come at a much higher price.


When you ship your car overseas, it’ll be important to make sure your car is insured. Some shipping carriers include the cost of insurance in the number they quote you. Others don’t Be sure you know whether or not you’ll be expected to pay extra for insurance.

Shipping Season

Something you may not stop to think about is how the season is affecting the price you pay to ship your car. The summer season is the busiest time of year to ship a car. The winter time is the off-season for shipping cars. Both come with added costs.

Because the summer season is so busy, you may find yourself having to pay additional fees. Some carriers charge fees to offset the congestion on the seas. The high activity of the season often results in shipping delays or vessels having to remain at port longer than expected because of how many ships are out making deliveries.

Winter, on the other hand, also comes with added costs. Since it’s the off-season, many carriers charge higher prices because there is less supply and demand. However, since many people know that winter is the off-season for shipping cars, there are still times the seas remain congested and carriers charge accordingly. 

Import Duties and Taxes

Sometimes the estimate you receive from an international car shipping calculator will factor in the amount you’ll have to pay for import duties and taxes. Other times, it won’t. 

When you’re preparing to import your vehicle it’s good to have a general idea of what additional costs you’ll incur once your car is in the process of being imported. Most countries charge a general fee for your car entering the country. Other countries have more specific charges that relate to the quality of your car. 

For instance, some countries will allow you to still import your car even if it doesn’t meet all of the criteria outlined in the country’s laws and regulations. However, in order to have your vehicle accepted, you will need to pay additional duties and taxes.

You may also be made to pay additional taxes depending on the car you are importing. Certain countries have taxes for vehicles that are considered to be gas guzzlers.

Inspection Fees

Another cost you may incur during the shipping process is inspection fees. The car shipping carrier may charge to do a detailed inspection of your car before they prepare it for shipment. Your vehicle may also be subjected to different forms of inspection when it’s being imported to your destination country.

Document Fees

Though not as large of a cost, you will have to pay for the documents you need to import your car. The forms you need are specific to the type of vehicle you have and the country you are shipping your car to. It’s recommended that you contact a customs’ agent for the country you are shipping your car to in order to find out exactly which forms you use.

Some shipping carrier services also offer to fill out this paperwork for you at an additional cost. You may want to take them up on their offer if you find governmental paperwork to be stress-inducing.

Cost to ship a car
Background of different American dollars bills and coins

How to Plan Within Your Budget

By reviewing the detailed breakdown of how international car shipping estimates are determined, you can begin to plan within your budget. If your need to ship isn’t time-sensitive, you may be able to avoid the high costs of the summer season. And if you get inventive, you can cut out the cost of using Door-to-Port service and container shipping. The key is to determine what your budget is and what you value most. Then you can build your shipping plan accordingly.


There’s a lot of benefits to understanding how international car shipping works and how international car shipping calculators get their estimates. After reading this post you’ve learned about each step of the car shipping process as well as what factors determine the cost you have to pay. International car shipping isn’t as simple as putting your car on a boat and then picking it up on the other side. You have to make sure the country you are shipping to will accept your car, and at what price. You also have to decide whether you prefer RoRo shipping or Container shipping. But, most importantly, they have to decide who will be left to do the paperwork when you decide to ship your car overseas.


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