Vehicle Shipping Tips

March 3rd, 2015

If you are planning to ship a car overseas, here are some tips that can help you avoid some common scams.

Too many things can go wrong when shipping a car internationally – the vehicle can get stranded at the port due to incorrectly filed paperwork, seized by customs on either end, damaged or even taken into possession by a car shipping company via lien sale. There are many horror stories about shipping companies holding a customer’s vehicle hostage until outrageous storage charges are paid, container sitting at the port due to forwarder’s negligence or unpaid shipping charges etc.

Don’t let any of it happen to you. Don’t be a victim of car shipping scams! Hopefully, the few tips below will help you to find a small reliable car shipping company with a high safety record that is ready to do business with you.

Things to do before shipping a car internationally:

  • Verify if the car shipping company you are going to use is registered with DOT (for domestic auto transport). DOT website can be found here.
  • Confirm the car transporter has current cargo insurance, with minimum liability exceeding value of your car.
  • If shipping a car internationally, check with Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) if your car shipper is registered with FMC as a freight forwarder or non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC). Also verify if this particular car shipping company has a current bond and shipping license. If the company is not listed there, it means they cannot legally provide shipping services whatsoever and you should avoid using such companies.
  • Avoid using domestic car trucking companies for international car shipping. Many truckers will offer their customers a “package deal” that includes car transport and overseas car shipping as well. Frequently they would offer “savings” and “discount” through their preferred car shippers. You should avoid using such companies by all means – international car shipping is complex, and often customers, after paying the trucker for “the whole package”, end up paying extra fees to the actual car shipping company.
  • Before committing to shipping your car internationally with the car transporter of your choice, make sure to get the shipping quote in writing. Read the fine print – many car shippers will hide extra charges behind it. Make sure the quote includes the following: origin (shipper’s door or port), destination (consignee’s door, port or unloading warehouse). Also, typical car shipping quote must clearly outline services tendered – door pick up, delivery to a certain place (point of export, be it transporter’s warehouse, port or dock), marine shipping insurance, shrink-wrapping (boats), crating (motorcycles), loading, fumigation, container drayage, all necessary paperwork, customs clearance, export declaration, bill of lading, etc.
  • If possible, get a Shipping Contract drafted between you and the shipping company – it should include all of the above in a more formal way, on shipper’s letterhead, signed and dated by authorized person.
  • Ask if there will be someone (an agent, or customs broker) who could assist with customs clearance and unloading at the country of destination. Also, do your homework on customs duties and taxes that may be due at the country you are shipping the vehicle to.
  • Do an internet search for reviews on a particular shipping company. There are specific websites, such as that may be worth checking.
  • Make sure to dial the auto transporter’s telephone number found on the company’s website and talk to your customer service rep in person. If your calls are left unanswered, or you cannot get straight answers on shipping and arrival dates, transit times, specific requirements for shipping a vehicle overseas, you should probably look for another car shipping company.
  • Always use your common sense (i.e., beware of making payments in advance via Western Union or cash, sending important paperwork (titles, payment) via regular mail, etc)


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