As a freight forwarder, our customers occasionally have to deal with the hassle of clearing US Customs. Customs clearance has to be obtained whether shipping containers or using the Roll on Roll off (RoRo) service.

It is much easier to clear US Customs vehicle inspections when using RoRo shipping because the customs agent just needs to look through the window to see what’s in the car. Sometimes they will look in the trunk, but it’s easy to inspect a car that is visually easy to inspect. What makes the process fast is that nothing is permitted to be in the car when shipping via RoRo. The trunk can only have the spare tire and jack. This is mandatory for all RoRo shipping lines.

Containers are much harder to inspect for customs agents when people are doing international car shipping. The one disadvantage is that containers can be withdrawn from the port if there is a suspicion of illegal goods being in the container, which costs the sender of the container money. You can learn more detail here about what happens when your car gets inspected by US Customs.

Roll on Roll off, if stopped by US customs for whatever reason, does not involve the sender in as heavy an expense and if at worst there is a delay, terminal handling charges for storage may occur at approximately $8.00 per day.

Containers are generally used if goods are loaded into vehicles or if there are only goods to be shipped. Containers are used when multiple vehicles, 3 or more, are required to be loaded. This is NOT always the cheapest option as if destination charges are taken into account, then roll on roll off shipping usually works out to be the cheaper option.

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Important info to Ship a Car Overseas:
  • No car can leave USA if it has a lien on it. What does this mean? Your car must be paid in full. The only people who can ship a car overseas and still carry a lien on the car are US Military and Government employees/contractors. For those people a letter of authorization from the lender will need to be issued to pass US Customs. Otherwise the car may be considered stolen.
  • A clear Title of Ownership with no Liens on the Title.
  • If you bought a car new, then your name must be listed on the front of the Title as the registered owner.
  • If the vehicle has been sold, then both the Seller and Buyer have to sign the back of the Title in the spaces as detailed on the back of the Title.
  • For safety reasons, the vehicle cannot have more than a ┬╝ tank of gas.
Import Duty for Destination Country:
  • Import duty is NOT collected by Ship Overseas. It must be paid at the arrival port by whoever is picking up the car. We wrote a blog post about vehicle import duty here. It talks about how to find out import duty for your country.
Travel & Living Abroad:
  • Most countries will allow a traveler to temporarily import their car for up to 6 months. After the 6 months is up, import duty will be charged. For many travelers going to Europe and taking their car, a deposit is paid up front. When the car goes back to it's destination country, the deposit is refunded. If a person has lived in USA for 1 or more years, most countries will allow that person to bring their car back duty free! The car must not have any liens on it. Please check with your Customs Department first.
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