How to ship your car overseas

Shipping your car overseas

Shipping your car overseas is relatively straight forward, however, there are certain destinations which make importing your vehicle very difficult and prohibitively expensive, by applying very high import duty and taxes, so the most important first step is to check your destination for the specific rules on shipping your car

So, let’s assume you have checked the regulations on the country you are moving to and you have decided to ship your car overseas.

Shipping your car overseas from the UAE

You need to start by cancelling the registration of your vehicle with the authorities in the UAE, and then apply for an export certificate. 

To facilitate this the following is required.

  • Passport
  • UAE visa
  • Emirates ID
  • Release letter from the bank (if the car was acquired through finance)
  • Car License Plates

In order to export your car from the UAE, visit the RTA with the above documents and you can complete the process within 1 hour. The registered owner of the vehicle has to do this. You will be provided with an export certificate and a set of blue export plates.

The export certificate is valid for 14 days and the car must be exported within this time frame. Keep the export certificate safe. If you lose it, the process for obtaining a replacement is long and painful.

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Once the plates have been fixed to the car, you should avoid driving the vehicle. The car can be collected from your residence on a recovery vehicle or arrangements can be made for you to drive the car (once) directly to the selected mover’s office or to the port.

In order to restrict movement of the vehicle inside the shipping container, whilst in transit, your car is carefully loaded into the container and then blocked and secured in place using specialist transit securing straps

Shipping your car overseas - UAE export plates

Loading your car for export

During the loading process, the car is inspected by a customs official who will check the paperwork against the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car. Charges for this will be fully included in the quotation.

If you are shipping a car with household goods and personal effects in the same container, goods are generally loaded first, the goods are braced in position using a bulkhead and then the car is loaded nearest the door of the container. In some cases, a special frame can be constructed over part (or all) of the vehicle to maximize the space in the container.

Each country has separate requirements regarding the importation of vehicles. Your moving consultant will be able to provide specific information with regards to your destination country.

In addition to shipping cars overseas, it is possible to ship motorcycles; jet skis, quad-bikes and even boats. Please provide any requirements pertaining to this on your quote request.

So, let’s take a look at some common destinations and see what is involved if you decide to ship your car overseas as part of your International Move.

Moving a Car to the United Kingdom

You do not pay VAT or duty on a vehicle imported from outside the EU if you qualify for transfer of residence relief. To qualify you must meet all of these conditions:

  • You are moving your normal home to the UK
  • Your normal home was outside the EU for a continuous period of at least 12 months
  • You have owned and used the vehicle for at least 6 months outside the EU
  • You did not get the vehicle under a duty or tax-free scheme
  • You are going to keep the vehicle for your personal use for at least 12 months


To qualify for relief, complete form C104A and give it to Customs when you enter the country.

Moving a Car to France

Shipping a car to France is also possible.

You are allowed to import one vehicle, which will be duty-free. Any additional vehicles will be charged at standard VAT and duty rates.

  • The car must be correctly registered and been owned for at least 6 months prior to entry into France.
  • The owner also has to have lived abroad in the 12 months prior to moving to France. This can be proved when producing the Certificate of Change of Residence.
  • You will not be allowed to sell the vehicle on within the first 2 years of living in France.


Your vehicle will need to pass a complete inspection prior to being accepted as roadworthy and to ensure it meets the standards required in France.

You must ensure that the vehicle is included in your inventory, with detailed information such as registration number, chassis number (VIN) and horsepower along with the make and model of the car.

Documentation for the car must be shown, including ownership documents, purchasing invoice and the registration card, all of which must be the original documents.

You will need plate numbers and the insurance certificate from your French insurer proving the car is legally ready to be driven in France.

Shipping your car overseas - White sports car being loaded into container

Moving a Car to Switzerland

  • If you have owned your vehicle for more than six months, it is considered to be part of your personal effects. You simply have to fill in a clearance request form for moving purposes and it will be exempt from import duty and VAT.
  • You have the right to drive your car with foreign plates for a maximum of one year. The car is reserved for your personal use and cannot be loaned, rented or sold to a third party in Switzerland for a period of one year from the import date.
  • If you do not comply with this condition (by selling your car, for example), customs will charge you retroactive import duty. The amount is determined on a sliding scale according to the age of your vehicle. Make sure that you are legally insured to drive in Switzerland during this period.
  • About a month after you import your car, you will receive a letter from the motor registration office advising you that within a year your car will have to pass the official motor-vehicle inspection. The proper authority for this inspection is your canton (district) of residence. Each canton has an Automobile Service that conducts technical inspections and issues the vehicle registration.


If your foreign plates are temporary and non-renewable, your car has to be inspected to obtain Swiss plates. Once the test is done, you will have to pay the Swiss road tax, which is anywhere from 100 to 700 Swiss francs depending on your engine capacity. You will also have to pay for insurance and license plates.

However, you will not have to pay any import duty whatsoever, as long as you do not sell your car within the first 12 months following its import to Switzerland.

Documentation requirements and other details for other countries

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So there you have it. We have covered the areas you need to cover when shipping your car overseas. We hope this article has been some use to you, (why not share this with someone you know), and we wish you all the best of luck.

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