Complete Guide to Import a Car from USA to UK

Complete Guide to Import a Car from USA to UK

Importing a car from the USA to the UK does not need to be a daunting task at all. As a matter of fact, if you utilize the right resources, bringing a car to the UK from the USA can be less stressful than getting your passport, booking your flight and being stuck in a plane for over 20 hours to get yourself to the UK.

Whether you plan to import a classic car or even a Supercar, importing to the UK can be taken care of easily as long as you work with the right overseas auto transporter and have a little information on how to ship and steps to take to get the car ready for the journey.

Basically, you will have two ways to ship a car overseas and this includes container shipping and roll-on roll-off shipping, also known as RORO shipping. Both are considered safe ways to move a car to a new country, but the price varies greatly when shipping overseas. Out of the two, container shipping is going to cost more, but let’s take a quick look at the differences in the two as well as the pros and cons.

Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) shipping

Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) shipping

First, just so you are aware, when it comes to car shipping either on land or by sea, most automobile manufacturers ship with RORO trucks and ships. This should alleviate any worries one would have about whether RORO is a safe alternative for car shipping. It is also normally the cheapest way to have a car imported to the UK from the USA. To use RORO, you can either deliver the car in person to the shipping port to have it loaded onto the ship by being driven on board. You can also work it out with your transporter to pick the car up in the U.S. and deliver it to the port for you if that will be easier to do. Once on the ship, the car is parked and secured in place for the voyage. When it reaches the UK destination, it can be driven off the ship where you can meet with customs and pick it up to take home in the UK.

Car shipping container


Containers are a convenience for anyone who is planning a big move to the UK from the USA and wants to import a vehicle at the same time they import their household and personal goods. A 20-foot container can hold one vehicle as well as personal goods while a 40-foot container can hold up to two vehicles and personal goods. Some people don’t need a 40-foot container, but opting to share one with another customer can be a way to save money on a container. In general, to ship a car in a container, you can expect the rate for shipment to be around double what RORO will cost. It is however, a much safer shipping environment and will prevent the vehicle from encountering people as well as exposure to the sea water, weather and other elements during shipment.

Ports in UK and USA

Cost to Ship to the UK from the USA

Cost will vary depending on the port you ship from in the United States and the port you are shipping to in the UK. Some of the top US ports include:

East Coast Ports

  • New York
  • Charleston
  • Savannah
  • Norfolk
  • Philadelphia
  • Miami

West Coast Ports

  • Oakland
  • Long Beach

Gulf Ports

  • Houston
  • New Orleans
On average, cost will range from $1200 to more than $2500 based on the type of vehicle, type of shipping method (RORO or Container) and distance between the ports. Other factors that affect price include the company hired to handle the shipments, taxes and duty fees and whether you use the standard insurance provided within the shipping service or you purchase a marine insurance or other private shipping policy.

UK Shipping Ports

Some of the most popular UK shipping ports include:
  • London
  • Liverpool
  • Bristol
  • Birmingham
  • Sheffield
  • Nottingham
  • York
Car preparation

Preparing the Car for the Journey

One of the most important steps to importing a car to the UK is making sure it is ready for the long journey ahead. It can take up to three weeks to have the vehicle delivered, and during that time on the sea, the car needs to be in the best shape for shipment. You can have your car ready by taking care of the following:
  1. Clean everything out of the inside of the car.
  2. Lower the fuel to no higher than a quarter tank.
  3. Wash the exterior and be sure to clean the engine and underside of the car to remove all grease, grime and dirt.
  4. The car should be in running condition as it will not be allowed for import to the UK if it does not run.
  5. Have all maintenance taken care of including oil changes, tire replacement and brake work handled before the move.
  6. Take detailed photographs before the car is shipped.
  7. Shut the alarm off before the car is loaded as if it sets off during shipment it can drain the battery to have an alarm go off.
  8. Make sure the battery is fully charged.
  9. Top off fluids.
  10. Check for leaks and have repairs made before the car is loaded if any leaks are found.


Besides hiring the right overseas transport agent and determining whether to ship with RORO or Container transport, you will also need to supply some important documentation to the shipper as well as to customs agents to import a vehicle to the UK.

Some of the basic paperwork will include:

  • Passport
  • Import Document C104A
  • Insurance Certificate
  • Vehicle Title
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Bill of Lading
  • Proof of Paid Duties
  • Driver’s License
  • Proof of Vehicle Inspection
Vehicle owners must pay taxes and duty fees and in some cases, a VAT tax as well. VAT tax can possibly be waived under certain circumstances and these include:
  • People making a permanent move to the UK
  • Temporary non-European Union members who will be in the UK less than six months
  • Re-importing a previously exported vehicle
All motor vehicles imported to the UK must pass environmental and safety tests to be allowed in the country. You can check with the UK government to ensure the vehicle will pass individual approval by visiting this link: Once the car has been approved for import and has made its way into the UK, vehicle owners have two weeks (14 days) to have the car registered to drive.

You will also need to make sure the car is covered by UK vehicle insurance to be able to legally drive in the UK.


This article has been brought to you by A1 Auto Transport, feel free to contact them for a friendly quote.

Tags: uk, USA, transport, shipping, sponsored

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