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Shipping a Vehicle from North America to Europe

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The process of shipping a vehicle from North America to Europe is not nearly as difficult or expensive as people assume.

Step 1: Choose a shipping method
There are two options to ship, Roll-On, Roll-Off (RoRo) and inside a container.

RoRo is usually cheaper, but it means you must give the vehicle keys to the port workers who will drive it on and off the vehicle “ferry”. Some people have no problems, others report horror stories of almost everything not bolted down being stolen. It’s common advice to separate the rear cargo section with a steel cage and padlocks, and make sure the keys you provide can not open that section.
Lots of people wind up using chains and padlocks to protect their stuff, and even then there are reports of stolen or damaged items.
I personally was not willing to take that chance, so I was happy to pay a little extra and ship the Jeep inside a shipping container.

Most 4x4s fit inside a regular 20 foot container, though be sure you check the size of the door, it’s a bit smaller than the container itself. Remember you can always lower your tire pressure to gain another inch if needed. If you can find someone to share with, it’s much cheaper to put two vehicles in a 40 foot container and split the costs.
If your vehicle is taller than the door on a 20 footer, going with a 40 foot “high cube” container is an option – the whole container and door is quite a bit taller.

Step 2: Choose a port of departure
Choose a shipping port somewhere on the East Coast of North America, as it will be cheaper and faster than shipping around from the West Coast. Common choices are Halifax, Nova Scotia, Boston, New York, and various ports in Florida.

Step 3: Choose a destination port
It’s basically the same price to ship into any port in Western Europe or the UK, pick one that suits you best. Usual candidates are Antwerp in Belgium, Bremerhaven in Germany or various options in the UK.
I chose Antwerp because it’s further South so I will spend less in gas driving to Southern Spain, and I don’t have to pay to get it across from the UK on the train.

Step 4: Gather quotes from shipping agents

Usual suspects for quotes are Seabridge, Affordable Freight and weshipcars.co.uk among many others.
It helps to be a little flexible in your destination port if you want the best price, and ships usually sail every week or two.
Be sure to ask what costs are included in the quote and what costs are not. Make sure at a minimum everything on the departure side is covered. There will likely be fees on the destination side that can’t be perfectly quoted or included in the quote – you’ll just have to go with it. (For example, I was told they would be “A few hundred dollars”… more on that in a minute)

Lock in your best option, and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the departure port with days to spare. Rushing adds lots of unnecessary stress to the whole thing.

For paperwork the shipping agent will only need a scan of the registration and your passport. Also provide a list of everything in the vehicle (clothes, camping gear, tools, spares, etc.)

Step 5: Prepare the vehicle
Clean the vehicle until it’s perfectly spotless inside and out, especially underneath on the frame and anywhere else mud might be caked on.
Then clean it again until it shines like new.
There will be a customs inspection at the destination port, and you really want to avoid paying extra because it needs to be cleaned for agricultural reasons.
Empty the vehicle of all food.
Make sure it’s almost out of gas/diesel – shipping agents want less than 1/8 of a tank at most.

jeep in container 720x480

The Jeep snug in the container

Step 6: Load the vehicle
You will have to load the vehicle at least a few days before the ship sails. It’s easy enough to drive into the container and climb out either the drivers window or out the back.
The loading company will secure the vehicle to the floor of the container, and likely disconnect the battery. Watch them seal the container so you know it’s safe, and take a photo or write down the numbers on the customs seal, and the numbers on the container.
Wave goodbye to your friend as it is taken away.

jeep container leaving 720x480

The Jeep and container pulling away

Step 7: Pay
Now the vehicle is loaded and on the way, you can pay for the shipping, and receive a receipt for that. You may or may not get your Bill of Lading now, which is the official document showing what’s in the container, and who owns it. You can get it later too, no worries.
Now it’s loaded, you can book your own plane flights. Doing so beforehand is risky incase there is an issue, and again will add to the stress of the whole thing. WestJet now fly direct from Halifax, NS to cities in Europe and the UK, it’s an extremely easy ~5 hour flight.

jeep lashed down 720x480

The Jeep lashed securely to the container

Step 8: Wait impatiently
Sailing time from Halifax, NS to Antwerp in Belgium is just under 2 weeks. Fly yourself to the destination, and do some touristy stuff as a backpacker for a while simple smile

Step 9: Get European “Green Card” Insurance
You must have vehicle insurance to drive in Europe, and your vehicle won’t clear customs without it. A few options for foreigners with foreign vehicles are:

http://arisa-assur.com – Who quoted me €105 Euro per month for every country in the EU. (info@arisa-assur.com)

http://alessi.com – Who quoted me €249 Euro for one month, then €105 Euro each month after that for every country in the EU plus Morocco and a few others. (alessi@alessi.com)

jeep container seal 720x480

The customs seal on the container

Step 10: Get a freight forwarder at your destination port
When shipping inside a container you can’t walk into the port to get the vehicle yourself, you must pay a freight forwarder to do this for you.
Ask your shipping line for recommendations, there are always tons to choose from. Get as many quotes as you can, prices vary a lot. I wound up paying €1449 Euro to have my Jeep taken out of the container and to clear customs, which is extremely expensive and I was not happy out how much the price kept going up for seemingly no reason. That being said, everything was done perfectly the first time with absolutely no problems.

jeep in warehouse 720x480

The Jeep in a warehouse in Belgium

Total Shipping Costs – 1 Jeep Wrangler in a 20 foot container Halifax, NS to Antwerp, Belgium:

Departure Side
Shipping, 20 foot container Halfaix->Antwerp $1450 USD
Destination Side
Container inspection, Move, Intervention, Release, Unstuffing €1449 Euro
TOTAL ~ $3000 USD

Drive out of the port with a huge grin on your face, and enjoy your European adventure.
Just watch out for the extremely expensive gas!

expensive european gas 320x480

Gas in Europe – around $5.91 USD/Gallon

-Dan

28 Responses

  1. BDAllen says:

    Following your adventure and feeling a bit envious. I’m happy and relieved your noble steed made the trip ok.

    Best of luck to you. Have fun and be safe.

    Oh, and have you given your steed a name?

    B

    • Dan Grec says:

      Thanks!

      I had a Subaru that was a workhorse affectionately called “Rusty” who I miss every day.
      This Jeep is called “Sandy” to help remember Rusty :)

      -Dan

  2. Eric says:

    Do you need any kind of European license plates? I don’t think the Spanish police have to many Yukon cars!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Eric,

      Nope, I can drive with my Yukon plates into virtually every country in the world.
      It usually just takes some paperwork at the border, maybe buying some insurance, and I’m good to go.

      -Dan

  3. Matt Tipton says:

    Dan
    I came across your site on Reddit. I currently live and work in Morocco and was reviewing your plan of travel. I would love to connect and help you think through some serious challeng you are going to encounter.

  4. Robert Gillis says:

    And here I was thinking you were still kicking around the Yukon…

  5. Mike Manuel says:

    Dan, this is a great resource. My wife and I are kicking around the idea of this and it truly helps to understand the costs. Thanks for taking the time to make the website and update it so often!

  6. Ed says:

    Hi Dan, thanks for sharing the experience. I am currently trying to ship a car from Europe to Canada, but I struggle to find an affordable shipping quote. Would you be able to share other shipping agents than the ones listed in your post?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Ed,

      Those are the ones I called. I got such a good quote from Sandy I didn’t need to call any others!
      Good luck, watch out for fees on the receiving end, that’s where they made a killing from me!

      -Dan

  7. Aleks says:

    Hey Dan,

    Thinking of shipping my car from Halifax to Europe and then driving it around Europe for 2 weeks. After that I want to storage the vehicle somewhere for 5-6 months until I fly back to it and continue my adventure. What are the rules with customs for doing something like this? I guess what im asking is, are there countries in Europe where i am allowed to leave my vehicle for an extended period of time and leave the country myself by air.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Aleks,

      I am no expert, though I think that without a carnet de Passage The Jeep was permitted in Europe for 3 months, no longer.
      Also note some people have had to pay a huge bond to get a vehicle into Europe without a Carnet, which you get back when you leave. I was lucky and did not have to pay.
      I think if you wanted to do what you are proposing, you should get a Carnet de Passage. Google Boomerang Carnets.

      Good luck!
      -Dan

  8. Wail says:

    Hello Dan,

    We are heading the same way as you next month! shipping our Land rover Defender to the UK next week, ywe will be touring Europe for 3-4 mounths then head down to South Africa from the west coast.

    We are a family from Montréal (Québec) and we only have the rear license plate on the truck. I see it is the same for the Yukon plates… did you have any trouble crossing borders in West Africa with only a rear License plate?

    Thanks for the info and hope you are enjoying your trip!!!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Wail,

      Awesome, you will have a great trip!
      I drove with only one plate (Alberta) from Alaska to Argentina and it was OK, but it did mean more bribery attempts.
      To avoid that in Africa I had a plate made up at a sign writer and put it on the front, and I recommend you do that same. You will deal with enough bribery attempts as it is, you don’t need to give them another reason!

      All the best, I think you will find http://wikioverland.org extremely helpful – check each country!
      Let me know if I can help at all, I will do what I can!

      -Dan

      • MP says:

        What do you mean by ‘bribery attempts’? Did you mean robbery?

        • Dan Grec says:

          I mean Police and military checkpoints where they look for any excuse to say you must pay them money.

          i.e. it’s illegal to only have one plate in this country, therefore you must pay a $20 fine.

          -Dan

      • Wail says:

        Thanks for your response Dan! All the best for the rest of the trip..who knows we might come across each other in the comming year somewhere in Africa!!!

  9. Sorina says:

    Hi Dan,

    Great post and thank you for it. We are looking to ship our SUV to Europe from NY – do you know what are the costs to ship your car back to the states? Is it included in that original quote you paid of more or less 3k?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Sorina,

      It is most definitely NOT included – that is a one-way shipping price.
      I did not get any quotes to go in the opposite direction, but I assume it would be similar.

      Have fun!

      -Dan

  10. Daniel says:

    Hello,
    Great post. I am looking to ship my car to Germany then drive it to another country where I will register it. Can you tell me more on how to insure it and clear customs, and how long it takes to get your car back? Thanks so much and have a great day.
    -Daniel

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Sorry, I don’t know anything about registering a car elesewhere and all of that. I just pass through each country, so I don’t have to do that complicated paperwork or get inspections or anything like that.
      Good luck!
      -Dan

  11. Sien says:

    Hi Dan,
    My husband and I will do a very similar trip like your first one, the pan-american highway from Alaska all the way to Argentina. We live in Belgium and we’re trying to decide whether to buy a van (probably a Volkswagen LT or a Mercedes Sprinter) and build the interior in Belgium, ship it to the east coast of North-America and drive it all the way to Anchorage to be able to start our trip or to fly to Alaska and buy and build our van over there in Anchorage.

    Do you have any thoughts on that? Both options have advantages and disadvantages…
    I am also doubting if we can find a van like that (I mean especially one in which you can stand up inside) in Anchorage…
    Also, the company that you’ve used to ship your vehicle – Sandy, like I have read in a earlier comment – is that them: https://www.sandy.fr/12–shipping.html ? I cannot find another company called like that…

    We have been saving for this project (with some struggle along the way) for three years now and your website was the first information I saw from somebody else doing the same. Your website helped me a lot to make it from dream to a realistic project. Also for knowing how much we needed to save up. So a very big thanks for that, really!!! We will be leaving in May of 2019.

    Wow, this turned out to be a long comment, but I hope you are willing to tell us your ideas.
    Cheers and thanks!

    Alejandro and Sien

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Sien,

      The decision to bring your own vehicle or to fly in and buy one is a very personal decision and one that can go either way.
      You are right, it’s extremely unlikely you will find a Sprinter or any VW van in Alaska. Even if you find something suitable, you will have to fit it out – for that you need a shop and tools and things to buy.
      Also think about if you can register a car in a country you don’t live in, and how you will renew it once on the road.

      All of those things often make it more complicated that having one from home, and that’s why I have always taken a car from home.

      I wish you all the best, let me know if there is any help I can provide!

      -Dan

  12. Julian says:

    Hi :)

    Im looking for a company that will ship my RV to canada/US? Does anyone know any reliable companies that will help ship it ? 😀

  1. June 13, 2016

    […] all the details on how I shipped the Jeep from North America to Europe, including final price: http://theroadchoseme.com/shipping-a…rica-to-europe Let me know if you have any questions. -Dan Around Africa in a Jeep Wrangler JK @ The […]

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