17 February 2012

Shipping A Car Overseas

Since I used to work in Export Shipping from the USA, and I know this question sometimes comes up, I thought I would share what I've learned about shipping a car overseas. 

Prices range from port to port of both origin and destination. 

Any price you might see will not be accurate in most instances.  You have to call a shipping company/freight forwarder to find out the prices.  And the price you might get today won't be the same price as what you would pay if you wait to ship 6 months from now. 

Shipping prices fluctuate.  They have to.  Gas prices change. 

Also, because shipping prices fluctuate from month to month, what someone paid in 2008, say, from NY to Gdansk for a 20'container is not going to be the same price as someone doing it now.  Or from a different port.  Or door to door versus port to port.  It can't be. 

Think about it, airline ticket prices change daily, for different flights, to different airports and with different airline carriers.  Why wouldn't shipping prices change?

There are also different ways to ship your car overseas:

Ro/Ro service

In a container (and whether you are shipping it in a 20ft, 40ft, or even 40fthi container)

Ro/Ro service is Roll On/Roll Off service.  In other words, the car by itself. 

In my personal experience and opinion, if choosing Ro/Ro service, you never put belongings in the car unless you are prepared to have it stolen

Ro/Ro service involves the following:  You hand over your car & key, the key stays with the car at all times, the car sits unlocked at the port until it's time to go, then gets rolled on the boat where it sits unlocked the whole time, gets rolled off and sits at the port of destination, again, unlocked and key in the car.  No, the car won't get stolen.  And no, this has nothing to do with Polish security at their ports, or the security at any other ports.  This has to do with common sense.  And no, they cannot keep the car locked and the keys in some special location just for you. 

If you choose Ro/Ro service, ship the car empty

And get shipping insurance because no insurance policy you have, or think you have, will cover anything happening to the car.  No, the port, shipping company, ship, crew, etc. do not carry insurance that will cover your "lost" goods that were sitting in your unlocked car for several weeks.

The other option is in a container.  Personally, if I was moving overseas, this would be my number one choice.  And if I was moving to a country in which I hold citizenship, I would definitely choose this option.

If you choose to ship your car in a container, you are required to do the following:

  • You must tell the shipping company you are using that there will be a car inside ahead of time.  They have extra paperwork that they must legally file. 
  • You must also own the car outright and not have any liens on your vehicle. 
  • You must have the title to the car.  The shipping company will need this to present to the customs officials of the port of origins (where the car is being shipped from).
  • You must run the car until it is basically empty of fuel.  The container is not allowed to have hazardous or combustible items inside.  Fuel is combustible.  The container will be subjected to extreme heat in the summer and frigid containers in the winter, in the middle of the ocean on a huge boat. 
  • You must have the title of the car to clear customs at the port of destination.
  • The VIN must be easily readable by customs officials.  They will not climb like little monkeys in your container to view it.  Back the car into the container and keep that area of the car completely clear.  Also, do not pack items on top of the car, on the sides, or on the drivers seat.
  • Another reason the shipping company needs to know there will be a car is because they must build braces around the tires of the car to keep it from smashing around the inside of the container during shipping and then become a moving hazard at port, or even while at sea.
  • A wall is highly recommended for separating household goods in the back of the container.  The container will be moved by a crane onto a boat that will be in the middle of the ocean.  Things shift and fall.  A wall would prevent catastrophes, both of your possessions and the safety and equipment of those handling your container.

Remember, if you have questions, ask your licensed freight forwarder.  They are there to help you and don't know what information you know, think you know, or don't know. 

And don't assume that someone else's shipping experience will be exactly like yours, experience wise, cost wise, or regulations wise.

I hope this helps you with your shipping questions.  I've decided I'll be sharing other tidbits of information like this that I learned during my several years career in Export. 

Na razie...


LMG said...

Very interesting. Can you give a ballpark figure of what it costs to ship a vehicle overseas? We didn't even look into it when we moved to Gdansk for a year.

olivia said...

Very timely post for us! We will be shipping our car and have been back and forth with several companies recently. I am just now writing a whole post on this very thing!

olivia said...

Also, out of curiosity, why would you choose the container over the Ro/Ro?

Unknown said...

Hi Olivia D, that's a good question. For one, in theory at least, the car is less likely to be damaged in transport. Also, you would be able to ship other items with the car, whereas, as you read in the post, I absolutely do not recommend shipping a car Ro/Ro with belongings inside, based on my own personal experiences working in the industry. You would have to compare prices to see how much the different prices work out. I'll talk more about it in the next few posts about shipping overseas. Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

LMG, I don't like to give ballpark figures simply because I can't factor in a few key points. One, gas prices are about to climb. How high, I have no idea. Two, it's been about 5 years since I personally used to give quotes, I know the prices involved each freight forwarders individual contracts with the ship lines and each contract involved quantity, frequency, origin and destination. Three, I don't know where you are shipping from. You could easily call a freight forwarder and ask, however. Good luck!

autowin said...

hello, I am planning on shipping 2-3 SUVs to Nigeria, Africa. Would you know of any trustable and good rates for freight forwarders to Nigeria (Lagos/Togos). It is a bit rare to find a company who will contain risk of shipping there for decent rates, and it is also our first shipment going to this country... any help for minimizing cost/time/risk in finding this would be appreciated.. your blog is most definitely the truth!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great write-up. Nowadays, nothing is impossible in the new technology. Shipping all items are easy anywhere worldwide. But sometimes there are things that needs to know to other consumers especially on how to ship things correctly.