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Shipping an Overlander vehicle, motorhome or motorhome bus | How much does that cost?

You probably won't have missed it, but the USA will open its doors again for tourism, on November 8, 2021 (source† Provided you are vaccinated and can prove it… That said, we (Malou and Chris), are planning to ship our 2022×4 vehicle to the US in early 4 for overlanding in the US and Canada† We also considered moving the camper to Australië of South Africa but the corona restrictions in those areas are still too strict for us at the moment. We still have the quotes!

So what does it actually cost, shipping a car or camper to the US? And what does it cost to the other continents† And how do you arrange something like that? Because putting your vehicle on the boat is easier said than done. Such a trip requires quite a bit of preparation in terms of preparation.

Also, shipping our 4×4 motorhome not really standard because it does not fit in a sea container due to the height of three meters. But what is possible? So a lot of research…

Also read: overlanding in America and Canada | Everything about VISA and ESTA
Also read: overlanding in America and Canada | Insure your vehicle

De Wereldreizigers.nl 4x4 motorhome
De Wereldreizigers.nl 4×4 motorhome

In this series of articles I therefore take you through the orienting and preparatory process of our overland journey to the American continent. I'm trying to find out if our 4×4 camper might still fit in a sea container, and if not what options are left.

Over the past few weeks, I've been doing research and asked for countless quotes. I have listed the various options and results in this article, including the average cost. And because we were initially looking for options to ship for a trip to different parts of the world, I've included those options in this article, not just the US.

This is how you can do it with a 4×4 overlander, camper or #vanlife camperbus immediately see what your options are and what it might cost you. Anywhere in the world!

Also read: #vanlife DIY | Which campervan do you choose if you are 2 meters tall?


Plan your vacation to America here


Our journey through the United States and Canada

This article is part of a major one-year journey that we (Chris and Malou van Wereldreizigers.nl), are currently making by the United States en Canada† We started in New York City and are through Washington DC en Baltimore (where we shipped our RV), first traveled south (Florida) and then made a full round of the country.

Organizing this trip took a lot of time and energy. So we had to US B1/B2 visa of one year and we spent weeks working on it renovating our 4×4 camper† Then we got to work on the RV to America to ship and in hindsight it turned out to be a Dutch vehicle insurance in America to be one of the biggest challenges.

When that was all over, we could finally focus on the anticipation: figuring out and planning all the beautiful places we want to visit. I built the ultimate roadtrip route through America and Canada of roughly 50.000 kilometers in Google maps and we are now making our dream come true! The interactive map can be viewed below.

More blogs from our trip through America and Canada

Shipping RV / Van / Overlander

To be able to travel in your own vehicle on another continent, it will in most cases have to be shipped first. There are various options for this and below I have made an overview of all options. In short, you can ship your vehicle by boat, or by transport in a cargo plane.

You can read the details per type of transport below.

Transport by plane

Yes, it is also possible to transport your 4×4, camper, overlander, van or truck to another continent by plane. Even a huge expedition truck fits in a freight vehicle. However, the costs of this are so high that I don't think it's worth investigating really. It's not the target audience for Wereldreizigers.nl =) Correct me if I'm wrong!

Transport by sea container

If your RV or overlander vehicle fits in a shipping container, this is a good and popular option. Your vehicle is safely locked and locked in a steel box and you have full control over the loading and unloading of the vehicle if desired. Loading and unloading is possible at many logistics companies in the Netherlands, you can be there yourself if desired.

Many 4×4 roof tent overlanders fit in a 20ft (20 foot) shipping container. The larger/longer vehicles usually fit in a 40ft (40ft) shipping container.

There is also a possibility to be transported in a sea container for (motorhome) vans that are slightly higher. This is possible in a 'high-cube' sea container, which is 30 centimeters higher than a regular sea container.

To find out what fits and what does not fit in a sea container, we first take a good look at the dimensions of the sea containers.

Transport by sea container
Transport by sea container

20ft sea container

A 20ft sea container is six meters long. Many 4×4 overland vehicles (excluding trucks) are less than six meters long and therefore fit perfectly in a 20ft sea container. Do you have protruding parts, raised your 4×4 vehicle and/or a large roof tent? Then it is good to know exactly what the dimensions of your vehicle are before you even consider shipping it. You must of course be sure in advance that your vehicle will fit in the sea container.

Dimensions 20ft sea ​​container:

  • Exterior: L 6,06 x B 2,44 x H 2,59 meter.
  • Inside: L 5,89 X B 2,35 X H 2,39 meter.

Suitable for: Many 4×4 vehicles, overlanders and small camper vans. Think of Toyota Land Cruisers, Land Rover Defender, various Jeeps, Volkswagen T1 / T2 / T3 / T4 / T5 vans, Mercedes Vito and many other brands and types, as long as the height remains below 2,39 meters and the vehicle is no longer than 6 meters.

There is hardly any normal vehicle in the Netherlands wider than 2,35 meters, except for buses and large motorhomes. However, they do not fit in a sea container anyway, so more on that later.

Malou and I in America with the rented hippie camper (2016). A van of this size fits in a sea container!
Malou and I in America with the rented hippie camper (2016). A van of this size fits in a sea container!

40ft sea container

The 40ft container is no less than 12 meters deep and can ship two vehicles of a maximum of 6 meters, or one vehicle longer than 6 meters, possibly supplemented with extra material (such as a roof rack or trailer) and/or other items.

Dimensions 40ft sea ​​container:

  • Exterior: L 12,2 x B 2,44 x H 2,59 meter.
  • Inside: L 12,02 X B 2,35 X H 2,39 meter.

Suitable for: Many 4×4 vehicles, overlanders and small camper vans. Think of Toyota Land Cruisers, Land Rover Defender, various Jeeps, Volkswagen T1 / T2 / T3 / T4 / T5 vans, Mercedes Vito and many other brands and types, as long as the height remains below 2,39 meters and that be taller than 6 meters.

Ship vehicle by sea container
Ship vehicle by sea container

40ft High-Cube Shipping Container

The 40ft High-Cube sea container is comparable to the regular 40ft container, but the High-Cube variant is 30 centimeters higher.

Dimensions 40ft High-Cube shipping container:

  • Exterior: L 12,2 x B 2,44 x H 2,89 meter.
  • Inside: L 12,02 X B 2,35 X H 2,69 meter.

Suitable for: the higher dimensions of the 40ft High-Cube sea container make the container not only suitable for 4×4 overland vehicles and small (homemade) camper vans, but also for many factory campers in the middle segment that are often just a bit higher than 2 meters 40 and are longer than six meters. There are also factory campers in the more luxurious segment that fit in these sea containers. However, the maximum width of 2,35 meters must also be taken into account, which can also be a challenge in this case.

✔️ Advantages shipping sea container

  • Safe, your vehicle is in a sealed steel box.
  • Loading at a logistics company in the Netherlands, possibly even close to home.
  • You can take other items with you in the sea container.
  • Provided you can share the container costs with someone, it can be the cheapest option.

❌ Disadvantages shipping sea container

  • Cumbersome loading and unloading. Also in the country of destination you first have to go to a logistics partner for unloading. The container may not be opened in the port.
  • Generally more paperwork and customs issues.
  • When only one vehicle per container, it is the most expensive option.

Tips for loading / unloading sea containers

Important tip from a reader with experience: The door frame height of containers is about 11 centimeters lower than the height on the inside.

So even if the inside is, for example, 2,39 meters, you will not be able to get a car of 2 meters 30 'without fuss'. Also because the threshold ensures that you usually drive in at an angle.

What you could do, for example, is to completely deflate the tires and re-inflate them once inside. Or that you take the wheels off and roll in on the brake discs. It also helps to have a long ramp so that the angle you enter is minimized.

What does transport by sea container cost?

To give you an idea of ​​the costs for shipping your vehicle by sea container, I have made a simple overview below with the average prices that you can expect per continent. The prices below are all calculated assuming that the sea container is loaded on a container ship in Rotterdam or Antwerp.

Ship vehicle by sea container
Ship vehicle by sea container

Side note 1: Below you see average prices for a one way† However, there is a fierce price war going on for sea containers in 2021 and 2022, which makes it difficult to say accurately what exactly it will cost. I therefore leave the price war out of consideration because this is (hopefully) temporary. I'll just go with the quotes I've received before.

Side note 2: There is also a considerable price difference in shipping to the east coast or west coast of America. I therefore assume the average price of the most common route (east coast). This is based on the average prices I received through the quotes I requested.

Side note 3: What is also not included in the prices below is that you can in principle share containers with other travelers. If you send a 40ft container, you can possibly store several cars in it, which could potentially significantly reduce the costs per vehicle.

How much does shipping to Canada cost?

  • 20ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Canada: +- 1200 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Canada: +- 1700 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Canada: +- 1900 euros

How much does shipping to the United States cost?

  • 20ft sea container | Rotterdam / Antwerp – United States: +- 1400 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – United States: +- 2100 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – United States: +- 2300 euros

How much does shipping to South Africa cost?

  • 20ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South Africa: +- 2000 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South Africa: +- 2400 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South Africa: +- 2600 euros

How much does shipping to Central America cost?

  • 20ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Central America: +- 1800 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Central America: +- 2200 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Central America: +- 2400 euros

How much does shipping to South America cost?

  • 20ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South America: +- 2400 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South America: +- 2900 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – South America: +- 3100 euros

How much does shipping to Australia & New Zealand cost?

  • 20ft sea container | Rotterdam / Antwerp – Australia and NZ: +- 3800 euros
  • 40ft sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Australia and NZ: +-4500 euros
  • 40ft HC sea container † Rotterdam / Antwerp – Australia and NZ: +- 4800 euros

Now that you know approximately what transport by sea container should cost, anywhere in the world, let's look at the other option: RoRo.

Also read: Traveling with the motorhome? These are the camping options

Transport by RoRo ship

Does your 4×4 / overlander / camper / van / truck not fit in a sea container of any size? Or do you just want the simplest solution? Then you can still choose Roll on Roll off, in other words RoRo† RoRo ships are in fact oversized ferries that can bridge oceans. The inside of a ship like this looks like a huge multi-storey parking garage.

And RoRo ship, intended for the shipping of vehicles.
And RoRo ship, intended for the shipping of vehicles.

What is RoRo?

RoRo stands for Roll on, Roll of† In essence, this method of shipping simply focuses on vehicles and not on the transport of containers. The vehicles must be able to independently drive / roll off the ship, which is also where the name Roll On, Roll off comes from.

Roll on Roll off Shipping is the simplest and in most cases also the most economical way of shipping single vehicles. Your vehicle will be driven directly onto the ship and secured on one of the various car decks in the ship (which are wind and watertight).

Roll-on-roll-off ships can handle almost all types of vehicles: motorcycles, cars, 4×4s, RVs, trucks, buses and expedition trucks.

The Expedition Truck from Family Everywhere - They will also ship this vehicle to the US
The beautiful expedition truck of @Family_Everywhere (Instagram) – They will also ship this vehicle to the US

RoRo shipping has the advantage that due to a simpler process, no additional transport is required from a warehouse to a port in a container and vice versa. So you have no extra costs for a logistics partner who arranges the loading and unloading of the sea container for you.

Normally, port and customs procedures are also less complex, making RoRo shipping not only more efficient but also cheaper, unless of course you can share a container with several people.

✔️ Advantages shipping via RoRo

  • No container, so you no longer need a logistics partner for loading / unloading / moving.
  • Fast and efficient loading and unloading, just drive on and off. Vehicle often already available on the same day of unloading.
  • Picking up at destination is easy – the cars are parked in the harbor after unloading. You pick up your keys with your paperwork and you can leave.
  • In most cases the cheapest option.

❌ Disadvantages shipping via RoRo

  • More chance of damage and/or theft – your car is (albeit anchored) loose on a (dry) deck of a ship. In principle, anyone can access it, you don't have a steel box as protection.
  • You have to deliver the car yourself in Rotterdam or Antwerp, so possibly not close to home.

What does transport via RoRo cost?

To find out exactly what you will lose for shipping your vehicle, you will: the volume of your vehicle on the centimeter have to calculate. You do this simply by measuring the length, height and width of your vehicle (in meters) and multiplying them together. The result of this sum is the volume of your vehicle.

For example: L 6.0 x B 2.0 x H 3.0 = 36m3

Note: Protruding parts such as mirrors, antennas and winches do not have to be included in the calculation. Roof racks, suitcases and roof tents must be included in the volume calculation. Because it regularly happens that people try to tamper with volumes, many vehicles are checked on site for dimensions. Make sure to remove as many protruding parts as possible as a precaution to save volume costs.

Then you multiply the total volume of your vehicle by the freight rate of the destination. To give you an idea, I have listed the average RoRo rates that I could find on the internet and received via quotations below.

  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – Canada: +- 50 euros per m3
  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – United States of America: +- 50 euros per m3
  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – South Africa: +- 75 euros per m3
  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – Central America: +- 65 euros per m3
  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – South America: +- 80 euros per m3
  • Rotterdam / Antwerp – Australia and New Zealand: +- 110 euros per m3

If I use the example above (the 36m3 vehicle), and send it to the United States would ship via RoRo, this would cost me about 36×50 euros (= 1800 euros), excluding any port surcharges / customs fees and vehicle insurance. For the same vehicle to South Africa this would be 36×75 (= 2700 euros).

Note: Keep in mind that there are usually around 400 to 800 euros in port surcharges and customs costs, depending on your destination.

What additional costs can I expect?

With only shipping to another country or continent, you are not there yet in terms of costs. In every country and/or port you come to you will have to pay port fees and customs fees. It is also mandatory to insure your vehicle separately for the trip at sea (marine insurance). The company that will ship your vehicle will offer you this insurance.

Port and Customs Fees

These costs vary widely and mainly depend on the port. In the US and Canada you usually get away with about 400 euros to total port and customs costs. In South Africa and New Zealand you should rather think of about 800 euros.

Maritime Vehicle Insurance

Since you are shipping your vehicle by sea, your regular vehicle insurance will not cover the trip. When you transport a vehicle by sea, you therefore have to deal with a (often mandatory) maritime insurance. This does not cover damage or defects to your vehicle that may arise during the trip, but only 'total loss' of the vehicle. This means that if the ship were to sink, for example, then you are insured against it. All other damages are at your own risk, unless agreed with your current insurer.

A maritime vehicle insurance costs about 300 euros for vehicles up to 50.000 euros. Those who prefer to be insured up to 100.000 euros about 450 euros lost. These costs are also per one way.

Other information

Why ship your overlander or camper?

As you have read, shipping your overlander vehicle, camper or camper van to the other side of the world is a costly process. You will probably have doubts whether this is the solution for you. In addition to the costs for shipping, you will also have to deal with customs costs, port fees and maritime insurance.

So the question you will have to ask yourself is this: is shipping your vehicle worth the money?

Also read: Self-build motorhome | 5 things we'll do differently next time

If you look at shipping purely cost-wise instead of renting something on the spot, it can be said on average that when you travel longer (more than three months), shipping is cheaper. Every week or month that you stay longer on the other side of the world is then a profit.

In addition, you know your own vehicle like no other. You know what the vehicle can or cannot do and you have probably also furnished it completely to your liking and taste with gadgets and features that you find important. You may also be someone who, like us, works on the internet as true Digital Nomads, whereby Branding is also not unimportant. Your own vehicle with your name and logo on the other side of the world, that is also worth something.

Also read: DIY bus camper | The 7 camper features you want too

So you will have to weigh up for yourself which is more important. Comfort, convenience, costs, benefits, disadvantages, and so on. Sometimes renting is simply the better option! Take a critical look at your own situation and make the decision that feels right.

How long can your vehicle stay in America?

As a tourist, you can drive your vehicle tax-free in North America (US, Canada and Mexico) for 12 months without complying with strict US rules and regulations. A Carnet of passage,  or technical adjustments are not necessary for this. If you want to stay in these countries for more than 12 months, you will have to pay tax for the vehicle and have the vehicle inspected.

We went camping (legally) in the woods near Grand Canyon, USA (2016)
We went camping (legally) in the woods near Grand Canyon, USA (2016)

I want to ship my vehicle, where can I go?

Now that you know the approximate cost of shipping your vehicle to all corners of the world, you can start requesting quotes. I approached several companies for this article and requested several quotes. In terms of price, it was reasonably similar, however, with one company everything is included (port fees, customs, insurance) and with another not. Sometimes the price per cubic meter works off a few euros.

It is therefore important to request several quotes yourself and to compare them well with each other. Below are some companies that allow you to transport your vehicle by sea, in no particular order:

  1. ivssuk.com – Worldwide – go to website
  2. Belgaco.com – Worldwide – go to website
  3. Sea-Bridge.de – Worldwide – go to website
  4. Sclrotterdam.com – Worldwide – go to website
  5. Schumachercargo.com – Worldwide – go to website
  6. Roroshipping.nl – Africa – go to website
  7. Portofrotterdam.com – Europe – go to website
  8. Rorousa.com – Worldwide – go to website
Our rented hippie bus camper in the US - Death Valley (2016)
Our rented hippie bus camper in the US – Death Valley (2016)

Conclusion – what am I going to do myself

Now that I know the advantages and disadvantages of the different options and what the associated costs are, I choose the RoRo option when shipping our vehicle. With a height of three meters, our 4×4 camper will not fit in a sea container, unless we remove the demounting unit from the car and load it loosely in the container. In addition, there are all kinds of new challenges, because you can't just move the 800 kilo descaling unit. The demounting unit will therefore have to be loaded separately with a forklift, which greatly increases the risk of damage. In addition, it is quite a hassle to put on and take off the demounting unit, it is not a caravan.

However, what are the main two main reasons is the price and the convenience. For a single vehicle of the dimensions we have, RoRo shipping is simply the most economical. We can also simply pick up the vehicle in the port after unloading the ship and drive it off immediately. This is all a lot more complicated with a sea container.

In short, I'm out. And hopefully after reading this article you will also have a better idea of ​​the possibilities, perhaps you have already made a choice!? If you have any questions or comments, feel free to put them in the comments.

Greeting!

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Chris

Owner of Wereldreizigers.nl † Discover the world!

✔️ January 2021 - Friesland
✔️ February 2021 - Dordrecht
❌ March 2021 - Hard lockdown
✔️ April 2021 - Roadtrip Switzerland
✔️ April 2021-Elsloo, Friesland
✔️ May 2021 - Eijsden & Maastricht, Limburg
✔️ May 2021 - Breda
✔️ May 2021 - Achterhoek
✔️ June 2021 - Mallorca, Spain
✔️ July 2021 - Roadtrip Croatia
✔️ August 2021 - Roadtrip Slovenia
✔️ August 2021 - Kenya Tour
✔️ September 2021 - Round trip Uganda
✔️ October 2021 - Ostend, Belgium
❌ November 2021 - Home
❌ December 2021 - Home

➡️ 2022 - 1 year United States & Canada

0 comments

  • Hey Pete,

    It must indeed 'look empty', so everything is stored in cupboards, etc. In terms of steam cleaning: nonsense. You do have to clean it PROPERLY and then cover it with thin plastic. No sand, mud, etc. may be visible, they are strict about this, both inside and outside. Go to the car wash just before you dock it!

    And just buy a roll of plastic from the range so you can wrap everything after washing and delivering it.

    But certainly with an overlander 'car', it will hardly be feasible to be 'empty', but they absolutely do not want loose containers that want to slide in all directions. The car must be seaworthy.

    I myself shipped with SeaBridge, not the best experience by the way, a lot of misery and even stuff stolen… I do hear a lot of good experiences about Belgaco.

  • Chris/Jean Paul,

    I am also planning to leave my car (land cruiser 90) in Mrt. to ship to the USA or Canada.
    I am looking into this and have heard from a number of carriers that in the case of RoRo the car must be COMPLETELY EMPTY and that it must be steam-cleaned inside and out. Shipping your car under these conditions is of course not an option! I can't imagine that your car was completely empty during the RoRo transport. I would therefore like to know the name of the carrier that shipped your car.

    By the way, thank you so much for all the information you have collected and shared!

  • hello world travelers

    how are things in the usa?

    at the beginning of 2023 I want to do the roro crossing with my toyota hilux with roof tent, I already know a lot and all news is therefore welcome!
    I'm going to put it on the boat from antwerp to baltimore in mid-march i guess, then i'll have it back at the beginning of april.
    I have read at sea bridge that a car insurance is quite expensive ... in my case for six months USD 3500 since I already have an omnium in Belgium, do you know a better alternative?
    so hopefully some news from you and have a nice trip !!!

  • Thanks for figuring this all out and then putting it back online!
    After several trips with a camper in North America and Canada, we are considering either buying one locally or here (Belgium). The latter gives us the advantage that we can also use the camper in Europe afterwards and so our children can use it more easily. borrow once. Curious about how it went with the shipping.

  • hey tessa,

    That EPA form is mandatory and I think the company you ship the bus with to the US will gradually send it to you. This was also the case with us.

    If not, you can also request it yourself. In the US, the point is that your car leaves the country after 1 year. The EPA form is a matter of ticking and signing some things.

    Greetings,

    Chris

  • Hi,
    Just a question. We are already busy with our trip and are going to ship the bus to America from South America.
    Have you heard of an EPA letter of approval?
    We don't come here whether we have to or not.

  • hey charlotte,

    Thank you for your enthusiastic response. That sounds like a great plan, do it! We are now in the USA indeed, in Baltimore where we can finally pick up our camper tomorrow (!) after a three-week delay… We didn't go on the boat and luckily because that crossing had bizarre delays because the ports have major congestion due to the Ukraine/Russia war. Everything that was/is intended for those countries is now piled up in ports all over the world.

    Anyway, tomorrow it will be there, all's well that ends well 🙂 Unfortunately, we were thrown off Instagram (long story..) so unfortunately we can't follow you there. But if we can meet somewhere sometime, we think it would be nice!

    Have fun in Fuerteventura

  • Hey Chris!

    Thank you very much for this delightful blog. We were due to ship our box truck (IG @offthemainroad_) to Halifax in June 2023, for a six month road trip in Canada followed by hopefully 6 months in the USA!
    You are now safe and sound?! With us, the RoRo is the only possible option. Did you go on board yourself? How was that experience? Not so long ago we took a 32-hour ferry from Spain to the Canary Islands, and we have to admit that we are really dreading it haha! Would be nice to get in touch. Thanks again and wish you a lot of fun traveling! Belgian greetings from Fuerteventura ?

  • Hey Zoe, thanks for the kind words. And you're welcome of course! It will indeed take a lot of time. With regard to your question: the transport to (eastern) Canada is the shortest possible, because the boat stops there before it goes to America. Depending on the type of ship, this will take approximately 7 to 9 days.

    For Australia you should think about 4 to 6 weeks.

    Best regards,

    Chris

  • So thankful you put this online! Saves a lot of searching!
    How long does the transport to eg Canada or Australia take?

  • Thank you! I've been looking forward to this for a year to find out .. so great this knows enough immediately 2 quotes requested??

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