Expat Transport of Personal Vehicle Costs and Process

If you intend to relocate to a foreign country and you hope to bring your personal vehicle along with you, there are many things to consider before you decide the best course of action.  Every country has a different set of rules and regulations that apply to the vehicle you are planning to import, but there are also a great number of taxes, fees, and tariffs associated with this lengthy process.  Despite the wide variance in requirements and cost, there are general guidelines that are fairly constant across all the different countries, especially those popular to American expats.

Documentation Required

  • Passport & Driver’s License
  • Purchase Invoice or Bill of Sale
  • Title, Registration, and other pertinent vehicle documents
  • Proof of Residence
  • Certification from the Consulate showing that the vehicle’s owner has been living in the country of origin for at least a year (mandatory)
  • Pre-Shipment Inspection Certificate
  • Bill of Lading- 2 sets (cannot be combined with other items being imported)
  • Power of Attorney (if necessary, for instance, if there is a Destination Agent clearing shipment)

Steps of Procedure

  1. The first step after deciding to ship your vehicle to your destination country is to contact the American Consulate for your destination country in order to let them know your intent and find out the details of the process. Each country will have its own strict rules on what vehicles are allowed.  Argentina, for example, is an extremely popular country for American expats, but you must be able to prove that the vehicle has belonged to the owner for a minimum of 3 months before the arrival of the client and vehicle in Argentina.  There is also a limit of one vehicle per adult, with a maximum of 2 per family member allowed.  The good news with Argentina is if the value of the vehicle is less than $15,000 USD, the vehicle will be exempt from taxes and import duties, but if it is above $15,000 USD, you can expect to pay 80-100% of the vehicle’s value in taxes and import fees.
  2. The next step is to research and select an auto transport company. Although boundless options abide, make sure to take your time to find the most reputable one possible, with the best track record.  If you can get a referral from a trusted friend or family member, that would be ideal, but there are plenty of other resources you can use to ensure the company you select is trustworthy and reliable.  The Better Business Bureau is a great place to begin determining reputation and standing, but make sure to cross-reference the company you consider with other online review websites for a more complete picture.
  3. Finally, you will need to prepare your vehicle for shipment, which means you will want to remove all valuables, make sure there is less than a quarter tank of gas remaining, and take off any after-market items or add-ons, such as antenna that could be damaged during shipment.

Above all, whether you have a deep sentimental attachment to your vehicle or there is another reason altogether, you need to weight out the costs and benefits of transporting your vehicle.  Because of the great costs associated with foreign importation, it is definitely imperative you determine that the investment is something that will pay off in the long run.


Jason Mueller is a Canadian expat currently living in Costa Rica, working for A-1 Auto Transport International.