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The Ultimate International Shipping Guide for your adventurous vehicle

Are you planning an around-the-world adventure by motorcycle, campervan, 4×4, school bus, Robin Reliant or maybe even a scooter and sidecar? At some point you’ll need to ship it. Get the shipping process wrong and it can be the most time consuming, wallet emptying part of your entire trip. But it doesn’t need to be; it’s often much easier than you might think, there are specialist companies who can do the leg work for you and this packed international shipping guide from our friends at Moto Freight will get you on the right track! Check out the guide below and for more information and expert advice from Moto Freight visit their website here or catch them at the Armchair Adventure Bootcamp!


The Ultimate International Shipping Guide for your adventurous vehicle!

Words and images from Kathy Wood, Co-Founder Moto Freight, first used at MadorNoMad where you can find a wealth of informational and inspiring blog posts including a cool interview with a couple of idiots who circumnavigated the globe by scooter and sidecar.

Where to start

There are so many things to consider when planning a big trip and it can be difficult to know where to start. Our advice is to pencil out a rough route with notes on which places and countries are most important to you. You will then need to do two things: find out what paperwork is required for each country and then look into how to ship your vehicle there.

Firstly, check out the government websites for each country and search for their Temporary Import requirements for vehicles. For example, travelling through the USA with your own vehicle will mean you need to apply for EPA Exemption a month before you arrive.

Keep in mind that some countries have physical restrictions too, for example both Australia and New Zealand require all vehicles (and items left with the vehicles) to be spotlessly clean. If any dirt, grime or evidence of flora/fauna is found on your adventure machine you can expect a very sizable fumigation and examination bill!

Secondly, there are a variety of options open to you when it comes to shipping your vehicle to another country, including airfreight, sea freight, road transport and even a combination of both. Your specific situation and route will dictate which is best for you at that stage of your trip.

Using a shipping agent to help

Making use of a specialist international shipping and freight agent can massively help remove the stress of the above two points. The right company will be able to work with you to best establish the transport method most suited to you and will also have the experience required to securely pack/crate your vehicle to best avoid damage along the way. They should also have knowledge of paperwork requirements both in the country of departure and at your destination, which is essential in any overland travel because it minimises the chance of delay, financial penalties and in the worst-case scenario – confiscation of your vehicle.

Using an agent is not a hard and fast requirement in all parts of the world, but there are some areas where relying on a specialist’s expertise is well worth the investment to ensure the success of your shipment.

Speaking to a trustworthy, experienced freight agent is a great starting point in planning any trip, as any such company should happily take the time to talk you through the ins and outs of what’s involved, and have the honesty to tell you where an agent is genuinely required.

Once you’ve got your proposed route down on paper, call a specialist freight agent and run your freighting route past them. They can let you know if there is anything specific that you might need to make provisions for. They will also be able to give you a shipping quote to include in your trip budget. A good agent should be able to foresee any potentially nasty surprises and make recommendations and slight alterations to your route that could save you a lot of money. For example, sometimes reversing your route could save you over a thousand pounds!

Air vs Sea freight

There is a time and a place for both airfreight and sea freight in the world of adventure vehicle shipping, and it’s vital to pick the right one for your trip. It is nearly always more prudent to choose airfreight for the start of a trip, or along a ‘bridging’ leg of a trip because the timings are so much more reliable than sea freight.


‘Jumping for joy’ – this is what it feels like when you get your vehicle out of customs, ready to hit the road!

Vehicle shipping using sea freight

Delays are common with sea freight and they tend to be for a week at a time as opposed to a day at a time with air freight. The last thing you want is to be stuck at the start of your trip waiting for your ride to arrive!

Similarly, in most countries the vehicle cannot clear customs without you physically being there, so you can’t just sea freight your vehicle to a destination with a few weeks to spare because if it does arrive as scheduled, it will incur storage charges. Those charges can be very high and are best avoided as they would negate any saving you made by choosing sea freight in the first place. A lesser known fact is that arrival and handling charges for sea freight are almost always considerably higher than those for airfreight. So, although sea freight itself is often cheaper than airfreight, the total costs may be comparable.

Don’t get caught out

The most important thing to take away from this section is that you should establish both freight and arrival charges at destination for any movement before moving forward. The arrival charges can sometimes be as high as the freight itself and you need to budget accurately to avoid being stung. A good freight agent should help you collate all costs, not just