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Exporting Cars Internationally: Which Customs Paperwork is Required?

How to Avoid Rejection at Customs

Failure to pass through customs can be frustrating and costly. The wait for missing documents can result in additional roll and storage fees, potentially much more than a minor inconvenience. For instance, containers are loaded while titles are being processed at customs. If an error is found, the car's clearance is rejected and an already loaded container has to be brought back to the warehouse for unloading.

Delays in payments or discovering missing bank lien clearances can also affect your total shipping costs. Finally, shipments can be subject to random inspections that result in a container being forced back to the warehouse. Even if nothing is found amiss, the bill for this goes to the car owner despite their complete compliance.

It only makes sense then to know as much as you can before you ship. While each individual port is likely to have its own unique requirements, there are general rules that apply to get cars through customs in most port cities around the world. Knowing these restrictions can help avoid customs rejections and potential cost increases.


1.   Original Title - All cars must enter their destination port with the car's original title in order to pass through customs. No copies. No exceptions.

2.   Title Assignment -  If the car has had more than one owner, there must be proof of proper reasignment each time the vehicle changed hands.

Read More Shipping Cars to Australia - What You Need to Know About Customs Duties 

3.   Proof of Payment - While not required universally at every port, it's smart to be prepared to show proof of payment in the form of a bill of sale. For instance, this is required at the Port of Oakland.  

4.   Lien Release - In international car shipping, if the title indicates there has been a lien holder attached to a vehicle, there must be an accompanying notarized 'letter of lien release' submitted along with the title.

5.  Export Power of Attorney - Many ports require vehicles to be accompanied by an export power of attorney. In the United States, the ports of Savannah, Oakland and Houston mandate that this be provided.

6.  EIN - Many US ports require EIN identification for a U.S. Principal Party in Interest (the Shipper) in the form of an IRS letter along with a copy of valid ID.

Read More International Car Shipping - IRS New EIN Requirements

Taking time upfront to know and understand what's expected in different port cities, can save a lot of headache and unnecessary expenses at the end of the voyage. West Coast Shipping's expertise with customs is one of our many advantages. 

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