If you are moving to another country, you may want to bring your car with you. Or perhaps you have been living overseas and you want to bring your car back to the United States. Before loading your car into a shipment container, however, it is important to understand a little more about how the international shipping process works. As with most things having to do with an international move, there is paperwork involved and you need to be properly prepared since your car will need to be transported through customs. With thousands of tons of cargo coming in and out of countries each day, it is the responsibility of Customs and Border Protection to pay close attention and regulate all shipments. As a result, there is a chance that your car will be subject to a full search and exam, which could result in delayed shipment. In order to prevent your car from being held up by customs, it is important to have proper documentation so your shipment is not delayed. However, should your vehicle be randomly selected and flagged at customs, you want to know how to go about getting it back as quickly as possible. Here are a few important tips for how to handle and avoid a hold up with customs.
Gather Your Documents
In order to ship a vehicle internationally, you will need to have several important documents prepared. These documents will need to be provided to the U.S. Port of Entry that your car will be shipping out of at least 72 hours before the date of transport. These documents include:
- Vehicle information: year, make, model, VIN #, and estimated value
- If owned: vehicle title (original plus one copy)
- If recently purchased: vehicle title and bill of sale
- If financed: a notarized copy of the title and a notarized lien authorization
- A filled out U.S. Customs and Border Protection Vehicle Export Cover Sheet
- Personal information: two forms of government issued ID (driver’s license or passport)
- Shipper and consignee information- name, address, phone number, and email for both sender and receiver
- Individual ports may have their own requirements so be sure and check with your shipper and the port to make sure you are not missing and of the required documentation
Failure to provide adequate information and documentation could result in your car being held up in customs. Preparing your paperwork in advance will help to reduce the chances of your car being held in customs.
What To Do if Your Car is Put on Hold by Customs
If customs holds your vehicle, two things may happen: an agent will perform an inspection at the arrival of the destination or your vehicle could be transported to a Centralized Examination Station. Unfortunately, there is a risk of additional fees if your car has to be inspected. If your car does in fact get put on hold, someone from customs will contact you directly or through your shipping company. If your vehicle is flagged, an agent has to perform an examination. This could take several weeks or even longer to be completed. You should inquire about the date of examination when you are contacted by customs. If you are having difficulty getting information about your vehicle, you should contact your shipping broker and ask them to help you sort through any additional paperwork that might be required for your shipment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Honest Answers to Your Car Shipping Questions
Yes, we always ask for your specific pickup and delivery addresses, if the carrier can get right to the addresses you provide, they will. If the addresses that you give us are not safely accessible for a Multi-car carrier, however, you will need to make arrangements with the driver to meet at a nearby location where the carrier can safely get in and out.
People do it all the time (rarely for free) but the official answer is no.
Not what you wanted to hear, we know, but that is the honest answer.
We are not licensed to broker the shipment of household goods and, likewise, no car carrier that operates in the USA is licensed to transport them from state to state either. Despite what you might be being told by other car shipping companies you may speak with.
Remember, at the end of the day we're all salespeople, and the true answer to this question is not a great selling point.
You will hear a lot of companies tell you that you can put up to 100 pounds of items in the trunk, but that is not entirely true. That fact is that items of that amount are fairly common and the department of transportation is probably not going to split hairs and fine the trucker over items of that amount, provided they are not over their weight limit. They could fine them, however, if they see a vehicle stuffed full of personal items so the car carrier will most likely try to negotiate something with you to cover themselves against any costs they could incur. It's not something we can build into your contract though.
We have a short and helpful video on this topic in our user videos.
Only in rare cases and car carriers will usually charge a premium to make it happen.
All dates given by car carriers are typically estimates and projections.
For this reason (and to keep your cost down) we ask that you build in some flexibility and give us the earliest possible date you would be WILLING to release the vehicle, even though it may not be your preferred date.
We'll put you in direct contact with your car carrier and the driver will also typically call you the afternoon or evening before your pick up and delivery (they won't just show up unannounced, and if they do we want to hear about it). However, car carriers are out on the road battling traffic, weather and any number of other factors that can and do throw them off of their pickup and delivery projections from time to time.
If the projected dates we give you come and you are unable to make contact with your carrier, please call our office immediately so that we may help resolve the situation.
The average transit time from pick up to delivery on any vehicle going coast to coast will average 7 to 10 days. From there you can figure your transit time based on how far your vehicle is traveling, i.e. from either coast to the Midwest might average 3-7 days.
Even better, we do not even ask for payment until we have you confirmed for pickup by a safe, reliable, fully insured, direct car carrier. If for any reason you do not ship your car with the carrier that we arrange for you, there is no fee.
The fees paid directly to the carrier however, (in most cases, their fees are not paid until your vehicle is delivered) are not directly controlled by us, so any requests for a refund of the carrier's portion would need to be addressed with the carrier directly.
Of course! And you are always backed by our Damage Free Guarantee policy.
Part of what you pay us for is to verify that the car carrier that we put you on is covered by the proper amount of insurance and that everything is up to date.
There is never any additional cost to you for this coverage, and their insurance is always primary.