Car transport to Europe

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Once you have all the correct documentation in order, the next step is to get your vehicle home. You have several possibilities when transporting US cars from America to Europe. Do you prefer to ship by sea or air? CARFAX’s U.S. Import Guide can help explain the benefits and costs of both options.

How to get your car from America back home

Transporting US cars to Europe by sea: Methods and Costs

Transporting cars to Europe by sea is generally the most cost effective method available. Ships heading to Europe depart daily from all major U.S. ports. When leaving from the main East Coast ports (e.g. Baltimore and New York), it takes about 10 days to arrive in Europe. From the West Coast (e.g. San Francisco or Los Angeles), the trip normally lasts around 20 days. Arrival times can of course not be guaranteed due to weather conditions and potential mechanical trouble which may cause delay. However, in most cases, delays are rare as most ships are run on a very tight schedule.

Roll on-Roll off

When transporting US cars to Europe using the Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) method, your car makes the trip overseas on a ship specially designed to carry vehicles. One main advantage to using Ro-Ro is that destination charges are cheaper than with container shipping. This is because your car is simply driven off the ship, rendering the use of a crane to move containers unnecessary. The vehicle will then be cleared on the quayside for admission into your country.

One disadvantage of using Ro-Ro when transporting cars is that you are not allowed to pack any personal items into your car. Additionally, not all ports are able to accommodate this type of shipping vessel.

This shipping method is perfect for transporting vehicles that are simply too large to ship in a container, such as: campers, recreational vehicles (RV’s), and motorhomes.

Container Shipping

While the destination charges are somewhat higher for container shipping, you have the ability to load personal items into your car. There are several different options to choose from when using container shipping for transporting cars to Europe.

40-Foot Container:

It’s possible to book a shipment where your car is shipped in a container with other vehicles. The shipper then decides how and how many vehicles are shipped within the container. This method is normally the most price-efficient and is suitable for normal used cars and motorcycles.

For a little more money, you can also choose to have the car shipped with a maximum of 2 cars per container. Using this option, you can ensure your vehicle is loaded and locked down on the floor of the container. This will limit the potential risks of unforeseen damages. This may be the right choice when transporting cars that are new, expensive, special, or classics.

20-Foot Container:

If you are particularly cautious when it comes to your car, it is also possible to reserve a small container just for you. This method is expensive, but much quicker as there is no need to wait for other vehicles and cargo to be sourced and loaded into the container. If security, speed, and quality is more important than cost, this method may suit you.

Regardless of which method you choose, you can follow your car’s shipment by using the name of the boat to track its progress.

Typical costs

The cost of transporting cars to Europe from the USA usually begins around €650 for a compact and can get up to around €1,800 for a full-sized SUV. If you’re booking an individual container, the price begins around €2,900 for a 20-foot container or around €4,200 for a 40-foot container. Note: every shipping company has their own cost schedule. It’s recommended to shop around and negotiate. Be sure to also ask if there is a less expensive U.S. / European port available.

Shipping US cars by air

Transporting US cars by air is very expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere between €6,500 and €9000 from the East Coast (e.g. New York City) to a major European airport. The only real advantage to this method is that it only takes about two days to arrive. This is the way to go if time is a serious matter of importance for you and money is not.

Shipping Insurance

The final step in the process of transporting US cars to Europe is to obtain shipping insurance for the vehicle. There are many options to choose from when insuring your shipment and they are generally available directly from the shipper.

All-Risk insurance

This essentially covers pretty much any possible problem that may occur, including: fire, theft, scratches, dents and other damages.

Total-Loss insurance

This type of policy only covers “Total Loss” damages that are caused during transport, for instance if your vehicle's container falls overboard or is damaged in such a way that the vehicle is declared a total-loss by an official inspection. Other damages, such as scratches and dents, will not be covered.

A note about General Average

This principle is as old as shipping itself. What it means is that if there are any additional costs required to save the ship and its cargo in an emergency, these costs are shared proportionally among the shippers with cargo on the ship. This applies to all shippers, regardless of whether your cargo suffered damages or not.

Additionally, even if you’re using a full-service importer for transporting cars to Europe, you (being the end-client) are always recognized as the shipper and will be held accountable in the case that General Average is declared. Thus, taking out an insurance policy would save you a substantial amount of money if this happens.

Typical Costs

You can estimate paying around 1.5%-2.5% of the estimated value of the vehicle. For example, if you purchased a car for €20,000, you can expect to pay about €300-€500. Note: some personal auto insurance policies also cover transport. Be sure to check with your insurance provider at home whether or not this is the case.

It’s important to inform yourself of all local regulations regarding importing vehicles into your country.  Be sure to carefully examine prices, taxes and import duty, shipping costs, etc.

Transporting US cars to Europe is just one step in the often times complicated process of importing U.S. cars. Following this U.S. import guide should help to simplify the process. For more information on how to import a car from the USA, continue reading Part 4: Customs Fees and Import Taxes.