Moving between duty stations is a common occurrence for anybody in the United States military. You rarely get to stay in the same place for long as your orders take you all over the country and, in some cases, overseas.
An international move presents more challenges than a domestic move. That’s especially the case if you’re shipping a car alongside your household goods (HHGs). Shipping a car to another country requires you to complete some very important steps to ensure your vehicle arrives safely.
So, you need to know how to ship a car to another country.
This article provides the answers you need with a step-by-step guide that helps you get your car to where it needs to go.
How to Ship Vehicles Overseas – The Key Steps
Nothing is stopping you from taking your car overseas when you’re assigned to a foreign permanent change of station (PCS). But before you can do that, you need to know how to transport cars overseas safely. These steps help you with moving car overseas.
Step No. 1 – Create A Shortlist of Moving Companies
You’ll need to work with a vehicle shipping company to transport your ride to another country. These companies may offer several services, including air freight and boat-based transportation. The odds are that you’ll choose a boat-based option, especially if you want to take advantage of the military’s offer to pay for vehicle shipping on your behalf.
So, you need to start researching companies that offer overseas shipping.
Start by talking to friends, family members, and colleagues. Anybody who has used an overseas shipping service before could point you toward a good company. Alternatively, they could steer you away from carriers that offer poor service.
These early conversations should give you a small list. Supplement that with online searches for companies that offer overseas transport for military members. A simple search for a term like “how to send a car overseas” should yield some decent results. It’s also worth speaking to your local Transportation Office to see if they have any vehicle shipping companies to recommend.
Step No. 2 – Dig Deeper With Your Research
Once you have a list of companies that may be able to help you ship car to another country, your next step is to research each of those carriers.
Start with the basics. Check that the carrier actually offers a shipping service from your current location to your destination. There’s no point in continuing with the company if it can’t get your car to where it needs to go.
Next, check the carrier’s licensing and insurance information.
Every overseas vehicle carrier needs to have liability insurance as a bare minimum. This insurance covers you against damages to a set amount. Note that most liability insurance won’t cover damage, loss, or theft to any personal items you leave inside your car. Some carriers offer additional cargo insurance if their liability insurance doesn’t cover your vehicle’s full value. Request the company’s Certificate of Insurance and copies of its insurance documentation to confirm it has the appropriate cover.
To check the carrier’s license, ask them for a USDOT, MC, or MX Number. Then, head to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER system. This online database allows you to enter any of these numbers into a search field. It then pulls up information about the carrier based on the number. You should be able to see what licenses your transportation company holds, as well as its current insurance status. Eliminate any carriers that don’t show up in this database from your list. The same advice goes for any that have expired licenses or inadequate insurance.
Step No. 3 – Check Reviews Online
Ensuring the carriers on your list are legitimate doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a high level of service. You need to dig even deeper with your research to find out whether the transportation company delivers on its promises.
Your friends, family members, and colleagues can all help here. If any have experience with one of the companies on your list, ask them about what it was like to work with the carrier. Did they do a good job? What was their communication protocol like? Would the person you’re talking to use the company again?
Build on this by checking reviews online. Social media, Google Business pages, and online review sites are your best ports of call here. Obviously, you’re looking for any company you research to have as close to a five-star rating as possible. But pay attention to negative reviews as well. Look at how the company responds to customer complaints. If it ignores the complaints or responds by placing blame on the customer, you’ve found a red flag that should warn you against working with the carrier.
Step No. 4 – Collect Some Quotes
Your research thus far should help you to whittle down your list to a select few vehicle shipping companies. You’re confident to each carrier on the list can ship car to another country. You may have even spoken to them to find out how do they ship cars overseas.
Next, you’ll turn your attention to your budget.
You obviously want to keep your costs as low as possible. But at the same time, be wary of paying too far below the average cost of shipping a vehicle overseas. Companies with very low prices may make up the difference with hidden or additional fees. Or, they simply may not provide the quality of service you’re looking for.
To ensure you don’t get caught out, gather quotes from every shipping company on your list. This gives you a good idea of the average cost of shipping your type of vehicle from your location to its destination. Eliminate any company that charges far more or significantly less than the average. As a brief guide, you can expect to pay anywhere between $900 and $2,000 for overseas shipping via boat. Use that range as your benchmark when comparing carrier quotes.
Finally, it helps to understand the factors that may influence the cost of shipping a car to another country:
- The make and model of your vehicle play a role because larger vehicles cost more money to ship. Vintage and luxury cars also often cost more as they require extra care and may need additional insurance coverage.
- The type of overseas travel you choose affects your price. Most military personnel opt for boat-based shipping to keep costs down. However, you have the option of air freight if you’re willing to spend several thousand dollars more than you’d otherwise pay.
- Distance plays an obvious role. The further you have to ship the vehicle, the more you’ll have to spend.
- You may find you pay more when shipping a vehicle during the winter due to difficult weather conditions. Alternatively, some carriers charge more in summer because of high demand.
Once you’ve chosen your quote, get in touch with the shipping company to arrange a time and date for pickup and delivery. When you’re scheduled, you can switch your focus to dealing with the journey itself.
Step No. 5 – Collect Your Documents
Once you’ve found a shipping company, you need to prepare your vehicle for the shipping process. That starts with collecting the documents you’ll need to present along the way. If you’re in the military, your official orders need to be the first documents on this list. You’ll need those orders to get into your new PCS and to prove that you’re allowed to bring your personal vehicle with you.
On a more general level, you’ll need to know the answer to the question what do I need to ship a car overseas? Make sure you have these documents:
- A completed U.S. Customs & Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet. This may be done for you by your vehicle shipping company.
- Government or state-approved photographic identification, such as a passport or driver’s license.
- Your vehicle’s registration. Note that you may need registration for your destination country too.
- A notarized bill of sale if you’re transporting a new vehicle overseas.
- The vehicle’s bill of lading.
- Either an original or certified copy of your vehicle’s title.
It’s also possible to ship leased vehicles and cars that are subject to a lien. In both cases, you’ll need a letter of authorization from the appropriate party to approve the transportation of your vehicle overseas.
Finally, you have to consider the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) and Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) requirements for shipping vehicles back into the United States. Your car may get held up in customs if it doesn’t have the relevant EPA and DOT stickers. If your stickers are missing, make sure you complete EPA Form 3520-21 and the HS-7 Form to confirm your vehicle can enter the United States. Of course, you may have to complete other forms to receive approval to drive your car in another country.
Step No. 6 – Prepare Your Car for Travelling
With your documents collected and ready for use, switch focus to the vehicle itself. You need to ensure it’s in the proper condition for shipping overseas. If it isn’t, you may find that the answer to the question “can I take my car overseas” is a stern “no!”
Start by removing any personal items from your vehicle. This is particularly important for military overseas car shipping as you’re only allowed to keep items directly related to your car or traveling in your vehicle. If it’s a personal item that you can’t secure, remove it and pack it with your HHGs.
Next, speak to your carrier to learn about any specific preparations they’d like you to undertake. You’ll find that most carriers want your vehicle to be in full working order and have no more than a quarter tank of gas. It may be worth having your car serviced to ensure it has no hidden issues. For example, a service could spot leaks you haven’t identified. Those leaks could cost you a lot of money if fluids from your vehicle damage the carrier’s equipment or any other vehicles they’re transporting.
Cleaning is your next task.
Most countries, including the United States, expect you to meet stringent cleaning standards. Any muck, grime, flora, or fauna attached to your vehicle could lead to delays at customs. To ensure that doesn’t happen, clean both the interior and exterior thoroughly. Pay particular attention to nooks and crannies where grime might accumulate, such as door jambs and wheel wells. It’s often a good idea to have a professional cleaning company handle this job for you, though you’ll need to leave enough time for your car’s interior to dry off if you use a full cleaning service.
Step No. 7 – Document and Ship
Once your car is clean and ready for shipping, grab a camera and start taking photographs. Your aim is to document every aspect of the vehicle’s interior and exterior. Take timestamped pictures of any scratches, scuffs, or similar damage, as well as pictures of the whole vehicle. These photographs act as evidence if your car gets damaged during transit. For example, your car’s door may get scratched when it’s transferred into a shipping container. Your photos can prove the scratch wasn’t there before, allowing you to claim on the carrier’s liability insurance.
With your photos taken, all that’s left to do is wait for your shipping date. Some carriers send an inspector ahead of time to take their own inventory of your vehicle. If that’s the case for you, make sure you’re present with the inspector so you can see what they find. You’ll be expected to sign a document confirming the inspection’s results. Once that’s done, the carrier takes possession of your vehicle and you won’t see it again until it arrives at its destination.
Find an Overseas Shipping Company You Can Trust
The seven steps discussed in this article explain what is overseas shipping, how to find a good carrier, and what you need to do to prepare your vehicle for its journey. Follow them to increase your chances of transporting your car safely to an international territory.
Now you know how to ship cars overseas, it’s time to start your search for a carrier. At Military Car Shipping, we specialize in helping military personnel transport vehicles domestically and overseas. Our professionals have worked with military movers for over 30 years, meaning they offer experience as well as quality.
Would you like to learn more?
Call 910-889-1993 or contact us online to ask questions or get a free no-obligation quote for overseas vehicle shipping.