A Guide to US-UK Car Shipping: Options, Cost, Taxes and More

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A Guide to US-UK Car Shipping: Options, Cost, Taxes and More

First published on: April 19, 2024

Shipping a car from the US to the UK might seem like a daunting task, but it’s quite straightforward once you know the basics.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the process, from shipping options you have, how much it might cost, and some important considerations.

Whether you’re moving to the UK, returning home, or have just bought a car that you love in the US, we’ve got you covered.

Keep reading to get all the details for a smooth car shipping experience.

What Shipping Options Do You Have?

Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo)

Roll-on / roll-off, or RoRo in short form, is a shipping method where cars are driven directly onto a ship and then secured on the open deck of the vessel for transport. This option is highly demanded because it is less expensive and faster than other means of transporting vehicles to different destinations.

However, there are some factors you should take into consideration with regard to this method.

First, vehicles should be in running condition as they will be driven on/off the ship. It may not work for non-running vehicles, or that need restorations. However, there’s one possibility of using a crane for loading/offloading the vehicle, but that will add up to the overall shipping cost.

Secondly, since during the journey, a car is exposed to weather conditions all through while being carried on an open-air deck of a ship, such exposure may not be favourable for expensive cars.

Thirdly, personal belongings cannot be left inside the vehicle during transit – which could represent a disadvantage for someone who wants to move their things together with their vehicle.

Container Shipping

The safest way to ship vehicles internationally is through container shipping. Here, vehicles are loaded into a 20ft/40ft dedicated container which can hold one/multiple cars respectively. However, you have the option to either book a dedicated container for your vehicle alone or a shared one.

In the dedicated container, you can also add some personal items inside the car or container, while in shared containers you cannot.

This method is especially appropriate for high-value, or vintage cars that need to be protected from the vagaries of weather during transit.

Furthermore, a car shipped in a container generally stands a better chance of being safe from atmospheric conditions while on board and minimising the chances of getting damaged.

Which Option is Best for Your Needs?

When choosing the best option to ship your car from the US to the UK, you must consider several factors to enable you to choose wisely.

The difference between Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) and container shipping greatly depends on your situation.

For instance, if you have a drivable vehicle and are looking for an affordable and direct way of transportation without having to move any other personal items then RoRo would be the most suitable option. It is good for standard vehicles as well hence giving convenience at an affordable price.

On another hand, considering that it offers more security as well as shielding from external weather conditions, container shipping becomes ideal for high-priced or vintage cars which may be delicate to such elements.

This also becomes a practical option, if you want to ship your belongings together with their car since things can be carefully packed inside containers while being transported alongside them.

Though it is more expensive than the RoRo service, this added investment may be worth it due to increased safety plus the ability to carry extra goods during transit.

Either way, you’ll need a dependable shipping company to ensure the safety of your vehicle and belongings during transit. One such company is A1 Auto Transport,  which has years of experience in shipping vehicles from the US to the UK. They provide instant quotes, transparent pricing, and excellent customer service to make your car shipping experience stress-free.

Estimated Cost and Time

The cost of shipping a car from the US to the UK can vary on various factors such as the departure port in the US (which can be California, New York or any other), and the type of shipping service you opt for. 

The charges for a vehicle’s shipment may range between £400 and around £3,000, or even more for specialised transport services or extra ones including express transport or additional safeguards for luxury or classic cars.

To take care of these variables, it is highly recommended that you have an accurate estimate tailored to your specific shipping requirements.

As far as the time frame is concerned, this period ranges from a few seven days to thirty-five days.

These spans are influenced by factors such as the port of choice at the departure point, its destination in the UK and method used in shipping. 

The Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) method is usually considered as being faster and less expensive, potentially reducing both the duration taken during transit and the expense involved if any.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that there could be some additional days needed when processing documents which can extend the total time from pick up to delivery.

Considerations When Importing Vehicle to London

When importing a vehicle to London, it is important to ensure that the car abides by some UK regulations which include Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989 and Road Vehicle Regulations 1986.

For a permanent importation of a vehicle, adherence to these rules on current safety, emission levels and environmental standards is necessary. This can be accomplished through the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) scheme – an essential step towards legalising driving of imported car within UK roads.

Value Added Tax (VAT) as well as import duties are payable for all imports before any such vehicles are allowed to be driven in the city.

But there are specific situations when tax exemptions may apply, which would help save a lot on the import costs.

These tax reliefs are available in three main cases:

  1. If you plan to settle down permanently in London
  2. If you come from a non-European Union country and you do not plan to stay longer than six months (temporary admission)
  3. Or where you are bringing back into the UK an already exported vehicle

Due regard should be paid to these reliefs, particularly for anyone considering car imports into London whether for personal or moving purposes.

Payment of Taxes in The UK

In cases where you are not eligible for tax exemption, there is a requirement by law to pay taxes, duties and VAT after your car arrives in the UK. Accordingly, within 14 days of arrival, HM Revenue & Customs should be notified through an online ‘Notification of Vehicle Arrival’ form.

Thus, after completing this procedure you will be told to pay fully for the relevant VAT. If you don’t pay VAT penalties will apply.

In order to legalise the procedure, several indispensable documents have to be handed over such as;

  • A clear title deed for the car without any lien on it
  • Car insurance, purchase invoice of the vehicle
  • Bill of lading (if applicable)
  • Proof of ownership
  • Emission/road safety inspection certificates

Before the initiation of your vehicle importation, obtaining the ‘Vehicle Import Pack’ is mandatory, necessitating contact with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). 

Importantly restrictions do apply on vehicles exceeding ten years. Therefore, if you plan to import an older vehicle, it is essential to verify its eligibility for import by consulting with a DVLA agent. 

Upon your vehicle’s arrival, prompt registration is crucial. You may be mandated to transport your vehicle directly from the port to London, as driving an unregistered vehicle is illegal. Throughout the transit process, maintaining possession of the original documents, as well as copies, is vital, as you will be required to submit these copies during your vehicle’s registration.

For more information, you can also check the GOV UK guide on importing vehicles into the UK.

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