Here's How to Export a Car from the United States

If you are planning to move outside the United States, you might decide that taking your car with you is the best option. Maybe you already live outside the country and want to have a car shipped to you from the US, perhaps one you found on a site like eBay or Bring a Trailer. Either way, now’s a perfect time to review the steps on how to export a car from the United States.


All vehicles follow the same steps

Did you know that the same process occurs whether you are exporting a car, motorcycle, ATV or snowmobile? That’s because U.S. Customs & Border Protection has decided that the requirements to ship a vehicle are the same, no matter what kind of vehicle it is.

Most of the regulations you need to follow are listed in the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984 which is now included in Part 192 of the U.S. Customs regulations. These are great resources in addition to this article.


This has all been done before

It’s not worth reinventing the wheel. When it comes to exporting a car, many shipping companies will know exactly what’s needed so you won’t have to sift through mountains of paperwork to determine what to sign. Their price is often worth the peace of mind that everything will be done correctly the first time.

Documents Needed to Export a Car From the US

There are several documents you’ll be required to have when you export a vehicle from the United States. It’s always best to get everything sorted before attempting to coordinate shipping, so here are the documents you will need.

Certificate of title

The most critical document is your title. To comply with regulations, you will need to submit proof of ownership at least three days before the export date.

Lien documents

If you don’t own your vehicle outright, you need written authorization from your lienholder that allows you to take the car out of the country. Provide these documents along with your car title.

MSO / MCO

The manufacturer’s statement of origin is required for all brand-new vehicles to indicate the car hasn’t been titled yet. You will need the original copy of this document along with two extra copies.

Bill of sale

In some rare situations, you would need the bill of sale. This would only apply if there was a good reason you didn’t have a title or MSO to provide. An example would be an antique vehicle that was never titled. You must present ironclad proof that the car isn’t stolen before Customs will allow an export to occur.


Can I Export a Financed Car?

It’s more difficult to export a car from the United States with an active loan, but it is possible. If you have an outstanding lien on your vehicle, the best thing you could do is have it removed. This requires that you pay off the loan and then have the lender submit a lien release.

You could also consider refinancing with an institution in the country that you are moving the vehicle to. Take out a loan there and pay off the existing lien so you can receive the title and provide it to Customs.

Otherwise, you will need a letter of permission from the current lienholder. Most companies aren’t going to grant authorization for you to export a vehicle you’re still financing, but it never hurts to ask. For such a letter to be considered legitimate by Customs, it must be on corporate letterhead and signed by an official. Supply this letter with a certified screen print of your title and registration.

What is the Automated Export System (AES)?

If you are a United States citizen, you will want to know about the Automated Export System (AES). This system is used by the government to collect data on all exports leaving the country. Before anything leaves, exporters are required to file all shipment information, otherwise known as Electronic Export Information (EEI), into AES.

As a citizen exporting a vehicle, you will need to create an AES account with your Social Security Number or company’s EIN before exporting. As a non-citizen, you would need a U.S. agent to file for you. Often, the company handling the actual shipment of your export handles all of this on your behalf.


Can I Export a Car from the US While I’m in Another Country?

Let’s say you don’t live in the United States but you want to export a car to yourself. The first thing you need to do is find the vehicle you wish to import and check your local laws. For example, countries like Saudi Arabia will not allow you to import a salvage vehicle.

Then, find and choose a shipping company that services your area. Some auctions and dealers already have companies in place to handle exportation. With the right shipping company, most of the hassle should be handled for you. They will provide a list of everything that is needed and you simply have to follow their instructions.

At that point, your only remaining obligation is to pick up your vehicle when it arrives. That, or you can hire a domestic ground shipping company to bring it to your door.

FAQ: Exporting Cars from the United States

As a titling company with decades of cumulative experience, here are some of the most common questions we receive about shipping cars out of the United States.

Should I ship a car myself or use a shipping company?

As we said earlier, it’s not worth reinventing the wheel here. The bulk of what goes into creating an international shipping company is figuring out processes like these. Consider the price of a professional shipping service as peace of mind that your vehicle will be shipped correctly.

What kind of transport is available?

When you export to Canada or Mexico, you have the option to use standard land freight to transport your vehicle. Shipping overseas requires you use either ocean freight or air freight.

Ocean freight offers two different shipment options. You can put your car into a shipping container or RORO shipping (roll-on/roll-off). Air freight is the most expensive form of transport and is typically only used for costly vehicles, or if you are in need of the car right away.

How do I insure a vehicle that’s being shipped?

There are two types of insurance you can get for your vehicle. The first option is All-Risk insurance which covers you for any type of damage during shipment. While this is the most comprehensive option, it is also the most expensive. The other choice is Total-Loss-Only. This only covers you if a total loss occurs such as these disasters at sea involving car carrying ships.

Shipping companies are required by law to carry insurance on everything they ship, but direct brokers and private parties are not. There are a variety of third-party companies that provide insurance for shipped vehicles. Shop around to find the best coverage for your needs.

How long does processing take?

Many ports require at least three days before the shipment date for processing. Keep in mind that the ports don’t process on weekends and holidays, so be sure to account for this.


Final Thoughts

Whether you are moving to another country or you’re living abroad and want an American car shipped to you, the same process applies to export any vehicle from the United States. To save yourself time, we recommend finding a trustworthy shipping company to help you through the process. They will provide everything you need to ensure that your vehicle arrives quickly, securely, and safely.


Title Gods specializes in recovering lost car titles and solving all kinds of title-related issues. We are not attorneys. This article is not legal advice.

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