Getting an old Porsche from the UK to the USA
Shipping falls into two main areas, container or RORO (roll on roll off). You can also fly cars in the hold on some airlines but this wasn’t something I looked into.
Port to door
Costs below are based on getting the car from the UK to Charleston, South Carolina, and then by road transport to an address in Tennessee. Getting the car from the port to an address 400 miles away is a significant part of the total price which could be saved by collecting the car directly from the port.
Allow plenty of time
While researching the trip I was alerted to a high chance the car would either not be at the port on the day it should be, or would be held up in customs for various reasons. The ship could be delayed by bad weather or more commonly something is missing with the paperwork at entry and delays I’d read about or been told about by the shipping company could easily be a few days or even a week. When planning a trip this big, covering huge distances on some of the days, most if not all of the accommodation is pre-booked – no one wants to be searching for a hotel to spend the night in when you have been in a car for 10 hours! So if the car is not ready when you want to start the trip you will be hastily trying to re-route plans and cancel and re-book hotels. You can mitigate this by planning to arrive at the destination city of the port a few days before your road trip starts, or allow for it to be at the port a week before you arrive and pay storage costs. If you have friends and family in the US you could also have it delivered there – which is what we did.
If the car is not ready when you want to start the trip you will be hastily trying to re-route plans and cancel and re-book hotels
What does it cost to ship a car from the UK to the USA?
Container shipping is where you put the car inside a metal shipping container which you can either have to yourself or share it with other vehicles. A container with only your own car inside it is the safest way to ship as it is less likely to be accidentally damaged, but it also costs the most. Another advantage of having your own container is you can ship personal goods with the car, if you need to take tools, wanted to ship some of you luggage with it or camera gear you can.
RORO (roll on roll off)
This is by far the most common way to ship a vehicle to the US (or almost anywhere). It works just like a ferry crossing the English Channel to France except that you don’t drive the car onto the ship yourself. There is an increased risk of damage as someone has to drive the car on and off the ship however the people doing this are doing it all the time so are used to low clearances and packing the cars tightly. It is probably more risky parking your car in a supermarket car park on a Bank Holiday weekend.
Outbound (UK to USA): £775.00
Inbound (USA to UK): £550.00
You can buy shipping Insurance to cover the car from port to port. For my car outbound to the US and return to the UK it worked out around £3,000. There is a standard £250 excess on any claims. I elected to self insure as I don’t feel the risks warrant the premium asked and suspect the most likely damage to be superficial scratches or perhaps a broken front lip owing to clearance issues. The car and modifications done to it have a replacement value of £75-90,000 depending on what base cars are available and a total loss is possible given ships can sink like the Italian merchant ship Grande America did off the coast of France in March 2019 with the total loss of 37 Porsches. I’m comfortable with the risk.
Marine insurance quote
Goods: 1 x 1997 Porsche 933
From Southampton to Charleston
Previous claims: None
You have the option of taking your vehicle to the port and collecting it from the port at the other end, or to get it picked up and taken to the port by the shipping company and collect it at the other end, or it can be delivered at the other end to an address in the US. I decided I wanted to drop the car off at Southampton myself but get it delivered from Charleston in the US to Tennessee where my trip would start. I also wanted it collected from Tennessee at the end of the trip but to pick it up from Southampton myself. Delivery and collection is on an open car transporter.
Delivery (Charleston to Knoxville, TN) $625.00
Collection (Knoxville to Charleston, SC) £475.00
The only other additional cost I noticed was for filling in the export forms. I did these myself but if the shipping company reviving the vehicle were to do them there was a fee of $150.
Providing the vehicle and your reasons for importing it meet the US requirements, and you remove it from the US within one year, there are no import taxes to pay. Shipping costs are also free from UK VAT.
Local charges and customs entry fees
Loading and unloading etc.
Outbound (UK to USA): $852.50
Inbound (USA to UK): £450.00
All the costs added together and converted to UK GBP – RORO shipping, port and organising fees, and delivery transportation costs.
Outbound (UK to USA): £1,908.00
Inbound (USA to UK): £1,475.00
Who to use
There are a lot of companies out there who do this. I used SeaKargo, a UK company based in Norfolk to organise everything alongside their US partners CFR Rinkens in California. I found the quotes reasonably similar from other companies but what I liked about the SeaKargo was people email and pick up the phone opposed to being automated forms and generic replies which made me nervous given the value of the car and the importance of it being where I needed it to be on time. Both SeaKargo and CFR have been a pleasure to deal with.