International Car Shipping: Everything You Need To Know

Planning an international move? If you’re bringing your car along, you’ll want to start figuring out how to ship a car overseas in a way that makes the most sense for your move and your budget. And while shipping a car to another country isn’t cheap, it’s more cost-effective than buying a new car when you arrive.

Cars are significant moving items — especially across an ocean — but transporting a car overseas is surprisingly straightforward. We’ll walk you through everything that you need to know to make it go as smoothly as possible so you can focus on your other significant tasks, such as getting your pets ready for an international move and purchasing international health insurance.

Note that we will focus on shipping a car overseas by boat. We will cover international air transport for cars but know that it’s costly and not advised for standard moves unless you’re shipping a very rare or valuable car.

International car shipping by boat

Start your (research) engine

Many companies offer international car shipping, so you will want to do plenty of research when choosing the right one for your needs.

As with most things nowadays, start with the search engines. A simple search for “how to ship a car overseas” or “international car shipping” will pull up plenty of companies for you to begin your research.

When hiring a company for this task, make sure they meet the following requirements:

  • Provides service from your current location to the new one
  • Licenses, bonds, and ensures its activities appropriately
  • Only works with licensed, bonded, and insured third parties (like freight carriers)

If a company doesn’t meet all three requirements, cross them off your list. If you’re unsure about licensing and insurance — particularly when it comes to any third-party shipping companies they work with — ask directly. Don’t just take a “yes” for an answer; ask for their licensing numbers to verify them yourself.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of options to those that meet those criteria, you can begin making more direct comparisons. Look up companies through the Better Business Bureau and read online reviews. From there, you can narrow your choices by asking for quotes and choosing the most reasonable one.

Gather your documents

As with most things related to an international move, paperwork is involved when transporting a car overseas. In this case, you must provide export documents to the U.S. Port of Entry. Your car will ship out at least 72 hours before the transport date. Not all of these documents will apply to your situation, but, generally, they include:

  • The completed U.S. DOT Vehicle Export Cover Sheet.
  • Two additional copies of either the original certificate of title or its certified copy, plus an original certificate of title
  • Photo ID
  • Vehicle registration (including foreign)
  • Bill of lading
  • Notarized bill of sale
  • They are correctly completed and notarized Export Power Of Attorney (POA), allowing someone to make legal decisions or filings for the person granting the POA.
  • Completed EPA forms to show emissions compliance. Per EPA, “For exports of United States-version vehicles or engines, you should check the requirements of the country to which you are importing them.” You’ll need the EPA form 3520-21 if you’re returning (and therefore importing your car back into the U.S.).
  • Completed DOT forms to show safety compliance, depending on the car safety laws in the country you’re traveling to. (You’ll also need to present the HS-7 form if you’re returning to the U.S. with your car.)
  • If your car has a lien, you will need an official letter from your lien holder permitting you to take the car out of the country. The letter must include your car’s model, year, make, and VIN, along with a clear statement allowing you to transport it overseas.
  • Vehicle documentation of any kind