Shipping Vehicle Tips

Ten things to know before shipping a vehicle overseas to avoid delays, costly fines and unexpected charges.

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10 Things To Know

Thinking of sending your car, motorbike, truck, bus or tractor overseas? Shipping a vehicle can be daunting if you don't have the help of an industry expert. This guide aims to illuminate the process with eight helpful tips to know before you commence the process.

1. Transport

The method used to ship vehicles is commonly determined by the sea freight services available from origin to destination and overall associated costs.

  • Shipping Containers: Most vehicles are small enough to fit inside a standard 20ft or 40ft shipping container.
  • Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO): The vehicle is physically driven on and off the vessel. The service is subject to availability which can be limited depending on the origin and destination.
  • Out of Gauge (OOG): If RORO services are unavailable and the vehicle is too large to fit inside a 20ft or 40ft shipping container, out of gauge shipping is required. Oversized cargo is typically placed on a flatrack container (a shipping container without sides or top) and secured for transport.

Pickup and delivery (i.e. door to door or port to port delivery) is an additional transport and budget consideration. Where the hire of a shipping container is required, shippers commonly opt to drop-off the vehicle at an agreed packing location for onward delivery to port. Similar considerations are required at destination.

Pickup and delivery considerations (i.e. door to door or port to port delivery) are an additional transport and budget consideration. Where the hire of a shipping container is required, shippers commonly opt to drop-off the vehicle at an agreed packing location for onward delivery to port. Similar considerations are required at destination.

2. Taxes

Government taxes, duties and tariffs are country/state specific, with consideration to the following (amongst other factors):

  • Vehicle's purpose (i.e. personal or commercial use, sale, etc.).
  • The year the vehicle was manufactured.
  • The value of the vehicle.

Some tax exemptions are available depending on the country. For example, in New Zealand non-commercial vehicle importers may be asked to sign a deed agreeing not to sell the vehicle for at least two years to avoid Goods and Services Tax (GST).

3. Insurance

A variety of optional insurance packages are available. Costs are typically based on the price of the vehicle (either agreed or valued) and the level of insurance required (restricted or full). We recommend you take detailed photos of the vehicle prior to shipping in order to document any pre-existing scratches and dents which can be used (if required) to make an insurance claim.

4. Customs

All vehicle imports and exports must be cleared by local customs and other regulatory agencies (i.e. Ministry of Primary Industries) before delivery can be permitted. Applicable local forms and permits are required in order to facilitate clearance in addition to successful inspection (if carried out). Regulatory expenses are a further cost consideration.

5. Documentation

The satisfactory completion and supply of transport documentation is required by carriers and regulatory agencies (amongst possible others) at various points of the shipping process. Submission errors or delays can result in fines and delivery suspension.

6. Left Or Right-Hand Drive?

Depending on the destination country, restrictions can apply to the import of left-hand drive cars and trucks where right-hand drive vehicles are permitted (or vice versa). In some instances (typically depending on the age and classification of the vehicle), it may need to be converted at the owner's expense before it can be driven on local roads. In most cases this is either too costly or impractical, especially if the vehicle has modern airbags and crumble zone protection installed.

7. Preparing The Vehicle

Ensure your vehicle is physically ready and safe for transport.

  • Remove all personal items from the vehicle.
  • Thoroughly wash and clean the vehicle. Pay particular care to remove any build-up of soil around the tyres and beneath the chassis which can be classified as a biosecurity risk in some countries.
  • Disconnect the battery.
  • Turn off or disable any vehicle alarms.
  • If the vehicle is stowed in a 20ft or 40ft shipping container for transport, ensure the fuel tank is empty. Champion Freight can arrange this at the time of packing if required. Alternatively, roll-on roll-off sea freight services require the fuel tank to be minimised, allowing just enough to drive the vehicle on and off the vessel.

8. Shipping Terms

If you're shipping for the first time it won't be long before you hear industry jargon and acronyms that make it difficult to understand your bill and provisioned services. Please see our glossary of terms for an explanation of words commonly used by the industry.

9. Invoicing

Whether it's a bill from a freight forwarder or a carrier, logistics industry invoices can be difficult to discern and understand what services have been charged. For example, you may incur a fee for BAF. What's BAF? For the record, BAF stands for Bunker Adjustment Factor which is a floating sea freight charge accounting for oil price fluctuations. The point is, there are other charges like this which, at first glance, seem ambiguous and make it hard to determine if they have been charged correctly. What's more, transport invoices are commonly charged prepay, which requires some trust on behalf of the shipper.

For this reason we recommend you consult a reputable freight forwarder who can explain the charges and guide you through the process. That includes discussion around customs related fees, which can seem inflated and unexpected if the container requires further inspection and processing (i.e. fumigation). Such charges are often beyond the control of the logistics provider, and are simply passed on to the shipper at a rate charged by the relative government agency. It's one of the key reasons why transport terms and conditions are notoriously long and comprehensive.

10. Overall Costs

Costs vary depending on a variety of factors, such as carrier expenses from origin to destination, taxes and tariffs, regulatory expenses (i.e. customs clearances), documentation, etc. As a result, it's impossible to offer even a ballpark estimate, but it's likely to be more expensive than you think.

We recommend transport overheads are weighed against the value of the vehicle, keeping in mind the loss on selling locally and buying at destination if you forgo shipping.