How to Buy a Car in the USA and Ship it Overseas

A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re planning on buying a car in the USA and then shipping it overseas, there are many steps you should be aware of. Ship Overseas can be your partner in ensuring a smooth transition. That’s why we’re proud to offer you this helpful guide on how the process works.


Step 1: Find a Reputable Car Shipping Company


First, you have to verify if the international car shipping company you’re considering is legit. You must verify all three of the following steps for each company you want to do business with in order to reduce your level of risk, especially if you are located in countries outside the USA. If the car shipping company in question passes all three steps, you can be sure you are using a safe company!


  • 1: Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nationally recognized company that maintains an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. Go to the BBB website, then enter the Business Type, Name, URL or Phone under “Search For.” Click the box for “BBB Accredited.” If the name of the company you are researching shows up, this company passes the first step. Next, click the listing to view the details.
  • 2: Check with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), an independent regulatory agency responsible for the regulation of ocean-borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the U.S. Then go to the FMC Ocean Freight Forwarders page and select “Organization Name” under Search. Type in the name of the international car shipping company. If you see the company is there, they passed the second step.
  • 3: Check with Whois, which will give you the ownership information for a particular website. It usually shows the name of the company or person who owns the website AND what country they are located in. This is important because if you are in a South American country and want to ship a car from the USA, this site will show you if the website is based in the USA. For example, one of the top-ranking websites in Google for the keyword phrase “International Car Shipping” doesn’t even exist in the United States; rather, it is based out of the UK, which means this company does not pass step three. First, enter the website of the car shipping company, then under the tab “Whois Record,” you will see the Registrant information and where they are located. Under the tab “Registration” you will see the date when the website was created. Make sure the site has been around for more than a year. Under the tab “Server Stats” you will see what country the website’s IP Location. If the car shipping company’s name matches the Whois record and is located in USA, it passes step three.


Step 2: Know Your Country’s Import Tax (Duties), Permits and Regulations


We will approach this in two parts: People IN the U.S. vs. People OUTSIDE of the US. This part of our article acts as a guide for people who are exporting a car from the U.S. so they know the country’s import tax, permits, and vehicle import regulations.


Depending on the country and its trade agreement with the United States, import taxes can make importing a car virtually impossible. Meanwhile, other countries have free trade.


A general rule of thumb is this: the import tax is based off the value of the car using the Kelly Blue Book (KBB).


  • #1: If you are in the U.S.: Many people who live in the U.S. wish to send a car to their loved ones who live in another country. Since regulations vary greatly per country, you should always contact the country’s embassy. Most are located in Washington, DC. Example: A son living in the U.S. who wants to ship a car to Italy to his parent would call the Italian Embassy (Italian Consulate) located in Washington, DC.
  • #2: If you are OUTSIDE the U.S.: Many people in foreign countries buy cars off the Internet on websites like eBay Motors. Some people buy classic cars, and others decide to buy brand new cars. Some countries use the phrase “import tax” for “import duties.” Either way, no country will import a car duty-free.


How do you find out what government website to call? We will use Italy as an example, but this should work for any country. You want to filter the results in Google to display Italian government websites only. Type into Google: Italy import duty Make sure there are no spaces between By doing this search using the, we are telling Google to display URLs with .gov only. To be more specific, we are telling Google to search for “Italy import duty” for websites that have .gov in the URL.


Step 3: Protect Yourself While Finding a Car Online


Before starting your search, you must protect yourself from less than reputable sellers. A CarFax is used to show the background of a particular vehicle — similar to doing a background check on a person. It will show you:


  • Title Problems
  • Ownership History
  • Accidents
  • Car Service


Many online dealerships already have a CarFax available for a vehicle. Always ask for it. If they don’t, you must get the VIN# for the car you are interested in buying.


Here are some reputable websites to buy a car:


Try for a great deal, as many people who own cars post them here. Sometimes it’s an older gentleman getting rid of a car. Other times, it’s a college graduate who bought a new car and needs to sell the old one.




  • Search by “For Sale by Owner” which is where you can get the best deals.
  • Search by “For Sale by Dealer”
  • Search by both “Owner + Dealer”
  • There may be some desperate private sellers who need to sell their cars at any cost. These people will give you great deals because many don’t know the real value of their car.




  • You may run into some scams from Nigerian people asking for Western Union Payment.
  • People selling on here are not always expert car sellers.
  • There are not enough pictures, but you can have them email more.
  • Many “For Sale by Owners” do not include their phone number, so you will have to email them.


How to use Craigslist: Many people filter the Craigslist results. This will save time for people who do not want to see certain results. For example, a person wants a 2005 Honda Civic and needs to ship a car to Saudi Arabia, but cannot import a salvage title vehicle. This person would filter the results to eliminate all ads that have a salvage title by typing a minus sign before salvage, like this: -salvage. This would also apply if someone is shipping a car to the UK.


eBay Motors Ship Overseas, Inc.


eBay has many customers who are international car buyers. They purchase through eBay Motors and have Ship Overseas ship their cars to another country. eBay Motors is a popular and safe website to use.




  • Shows the Kelly Blue Book value right on the results page
  • Shows the feedback left from previous buyers for each seller
  • Shows a lot of pictures of the vehicle
  • Easy to communicate with
  • Free AutoCheck for many cars
  • Search by “For Sale by Owner”
  • Search by “For Sale by Dealer”




  • Most sellers can’t quote international car shipping rates.
  • Payment must be made in full.
  • Immediate payment is sometimes required by sellers to make sure an item is paid for before they ship it.


Here is a quick tip when searching for cars on eBay Motors: Use the minus sign before a word to filter it out (refer to the example in Craigslist). If you want to see results for a 2005 Honda Civic without a salvage title, type: 2005 Honda Civic -salvage.


Recommended Online Car Dealerships


At Ship Overseas, many car dealerships ask us to ship cars overseas to their customers abroad. Many of them have been using our service for years.




  • Lots of pictures
  • Professional and reliable service
  • Works with international car buyers
  • Open on weekends




  • Less of a selection (except for Enterprise Car Sales & CarMax)


We recommend the following companies:


  • Streetside Classics, a Classic Car Dealership with 2 large showrooms
  • Louis Car Museum, an Online Vintage Car Dealership. They sell many high-end vintage cars going back to 1911.
  • Thiel Motors is an online car dealership selling many types of cars.
  • Enterprise Car Sales (owned by Enterprise Rent a Car) is a used car dealership, featuring fixed pricing on all cars.
  • CarMax sells new and used cars, usually to people in person.



Step 4: Arrange Payment for the Car


There are many companies you can go through to arrange payment for the vehicle. Here we will go over a few of the most reputable ones.




This is one of the safest ways to make a payment, especially for Craigslist purchases. It protects the buyer because the seller of the car must provide the Original Title of Ownership. If the seller cannot produce this, a case can be opened and PayPal will give the buyer back ALL the money.


Bank Transfer


This is also a safe way to make a payment, but only to a reputable online car dealership. Make sure you obtain a copy of their business license. Only transfer money if the name of the company on the business license matches the name on the bank account.


Escrow Company


Another form of payment can be made through an escrow company; however, using an escrow company will cost more because it charges fees. Most sellers don’t like this option because the car has to be sent first without receiving payment.


NOTES: No financing is offered for international car buyers.

International buyers do not have to pay any sales tax in the United States.


Step 5: Consider International Car Shipping Rate Factors


There are many factors to consider when obtaining international car shipping rates. For the optional services, a person must decide if these additional costs will save them money later on. Here’s a look at those factors you must take into consideration:


  • Year, Make and Model: The cost of shipping will depend on the type of car. Generally, the larger the vehicle is, the higher the cost. A car with a higher value, like an exotic or classic car, will also cost more to ship. The miles on the car don’t matter.
  • Transport Truck (optional service): You can use a transport truck to get a car from anywhere in the United States to one of the major shipping ports departing for your country. If you live near one of the shipping docks, you can save the cost of getting a transport truck by taking the car yourself. Many people are located far from the shipping ports or are in other countries. In this case, a car transporter would be the solution for getting a car to the departure port of choice.


Taking the Car Yourself? Here are a few things to consider:


  • Gas, Time, Loss of Pay, Airfare, Hotel, Food, Miles on your car. These costs usually total more than having a transport truck deliver your car. Paying for the transport truck may be an upfront cost, but in the end it should save you money.
  • Distance to Destination Country: When a professional buyer purchases a car over the Internet, they normally try to buy in an area closer to the destination country. This only applies if time is a factor. If you are not in a rush to ship your car overseas from the US, then it doesn’t matter if you are shipping from the East Coast or West Coast. Some countries, like South Africa and Switzerland, are landlocked. People from the surrounding countries would pick up their car at the arrival port and drive it back to the destination county. This eliminates the cost of having it put on a container and trucking it back.
  • Marine Insurance (optional service): While marine insurance is not required, it is highly recommended, especially for luxury and exotic cars. All cars will be blocked and braced before shipping occurs, but there will be movement while out at sea. If there are large swells in the ocean, such as during hurricane season from June to November, the car is subject to higher risk of damage. It’s rare that damage will occur to the car, but it’s good to have the insurance for peace of mind.


Step 6: Arrange Payment to the International Car Shipping Company


There are four ways to pay an international car shipping company. Go back to Chapter 1 first to make sure the company you chose has met all three steps prior to making any payment. If they are, all four payment methods are viable. To further reduce risk, make sure the name of the company is the one you are making the payment to.


Here are the safest and most popular ways to pay the international car shipping company:


Credit Card


This is the safest method of payment. A professional car shipping company will run an authorization on your credit card to see if the funds are available first. Once the booking number has been confirmed, the car shipping company will charge your credit card.




PayPal is a third-party credit card processing company that will not give the shipping company any financial information. The car shipping company sends an invoice to the owner which has to be paid. The entire payment is upfront, and you will receive a booking number after.


Bank Transfer


With this method, all funds are paid upfront. To better protect yourself, make sure the name of the company is on the bank account you are depositing to.


Western Union


This form of payment is popular with people in third-world countries. All money must be paid upfront. If you choose to use this payment method, make sure the Western Union Money Order is made out to the name of the company and not to a person.


Step 7: Arrange Title of Ownership, Bill of Sale, Bill of Lading and Keys

Once payment has been arranged, everything else is simple. If you are in the United States, you shouldn’t have any snafus. However, if you purchased a car over the Internet through, eBay Motors or one of the recommended online car dealerships, the paperwork and keys must be shipped to the car shipping company. If the owner of the vehicle bought the car over the Internet and is in a country outside the U.S. prior to shipping the car, the Title of Ownership from the car dealer and a Bill of Sale indicating the amount is required.


The Title of Ownership must be sent to the international car shipping company in its original form and the Bill of Sale must be sent to the new owner. There can be no liens on the Title of Ownership. After the sailing, the international car shipping company will return the original Title of Ownership via FedEx Express International mail with signature confirmation.


These documents will be sent from the car shipping company to the owner or consignee. The Title of Ownership must be presented when the car is picked up. The Bill of Lading, which will be handled by the car shipping company, will show the names of the authorized people who can pick up the car.


A copy of the Bill of Lading will be sent to the owner or consignee. The person picking up the car will have to provide valid identification. Nobody else is permitted to pick up the car except for the owner or the consignee named on the Bill of Lading. The keys will be transported along with the car.


Many car dealerships only have one copy, but if they can provide two copies, the international car shipping company can mail a set back along with the Title of Ownership. Import taxes are normally paid at the arrival port. As each country has its own set of import tax and regulations, and the amount will vary accordingly.


You should know the amount of import tax already (see Chapter 2) but bring a little more cash just in case an unforeseen circumstance arises, especially if you are in a third-world country. Storage fees will apply so we recommend picking up the car as soon as possible. If you need any help acquiring the paperwork from any car dealership or private seller and you want us to get involved, contact us immediately.


Step 8: Sell Your Car


Once you’ve sold your first car, repeating the full process from buying to selling is super easy. The methods we have outlined in this guide are safe. If the car you bought is for personal use and you fail to sell it, you really have nothing to lose; just keep the car. The methods in this guide are also great for helping people build a business fast with nearly no risk. Many of our repeat customers started off buying one car and shipping it overseas. The U.S. is still one of the largest producers and consumers of motor vehicles in the world. Sell your car through Google by leveraging


Here are some helpful hints for selling your car:


You don’t need to create a website to sell your car. Don’t believe us? Write a fake ad and test it yourself to see how many phone calls you get. It is absolutely 100% free! We are going to leverage one of the largest website to get your car on Google.


  • Take photos and videos of the car.
  • Go to YouTube and create an account. Upload the video. Make sure it is public so anyone can watch the video of your car. Once the video is live, copy the URL.
  • Go to and create an account. You will need a valid email address and possibly do a phone verification to reduce spammers.
  • After selecting your country and city in, select the following: Post to Classifieds (top left hand corner), For Sale, Cars & Trucks – by owner
  • When writing the ad, fill in each area.


Once you click the “Continue” button, you will be able to preview your ad. You may need to verify the ad in your email if you didn’t set up an account with Craigslist. By following these simple steps, your Craigslist ad will rank in Google. If, for example, you post an ad on Craigslist in Germany, then it will show up on In other countries, like UK and Australia, they may have a similar website like You can repeat this process for motorcycles, heavy construction machinery and even boats.


We hope this guide has been helpful in showing you how to buy a car in the USA and ship it overseas. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to call us toll free at 888-805-4994.


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