Advice for Americans Taking Their Car To Europe


Should you ship your own car or use a rental?

Read in this article:

Tips to Help You Plan that European Trip

You are planning a road trip to Europe from the USA and you're not sure whether shipping your own car to the other side of the Atlantic is a good idea. When you travel from the USA to Europe, European car rental is one way to get around - but some people may prefer to have their own car, especially if they are planning on spending an extended period of time there. When it comes to shipping a car from the USA to Europe, there is a lot of prep work to be done beyond just finding a decent car-shipping company. Considering how much of a hassle this can be, and the fact that a rental car in Europe is cheap enough, the simpler option seems clear. However, it is always important to weigh your options when you have the freedom to do so.

Road Trip To Europe

Doing a Road Trip to Europe: Take Your Own Car or Rent?

So, the first thing you have to do is to decide whether you are going to be arranging for your own car's transport to Europe or whether you are going to opt for European car rental instead. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of each of the options.

If you want to ship your car for your driving vacation in Europe, keep these in mind:

Pros and Cons

  • If you're sentimental about your car, this ensures the bond isn't broken
  • No worries about what happens to your stored car back home while you're away
  • You don't have to find a rental car in Europe - your car is waiting for you
  • You stick with what you're familiar and comfortable with
  • Getting your car to the port is extra trouble
  • You're going to have to pay for all the shipping and associated costs
  • The alternative way of transporting cars by air is even more expensive
  • Extra, sometimes hidden costs, e.g. shipping and travel insurance, and breakdown cover
  • There may be no European car-service and maintenance support for your model
Transport A Car To Europe

Renting a car in Europe has its own set of pros and cons:

Pros and Cons

  • Car rental in Europe costs little compared to shipping a car
  • You get something local that's easy to fix if there's a problem
  • Breakdowns are taken care of by the rental company
  • You don't put mileage, wear, and tear on your own car
  • You might not get a model that you're comfortable and/or familiar with
  • Manual transmission is the default in many places and automatics must be requested
  • You don't often have the option of some specialized vehicles such as RVs, if your were planning on caravaning
Europe Car Rental

Shipping Your Car from the USA to Europe

You've decided to take your own car and since you can't drive to Europe from the USA, your car has to go by ship, so here's a basic checklist of things to keep in mind:

  • How much would it cost me to ship my car from the US to Europe? For your car to travel by ship to Europe from the USA's east coast, the price may be anything from around $800 to more than $4,000 one way, depending on the size of the container. For example, it could be a 20-foot or 40-foot container, and you may have to end up sharing with someone else. The vehicle's dimensions and weight will also affect the price. Other factors influencing the cost include whether you're using a roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) vessel, which is cheaper than container shipping and requires no container handling, and which shipping company you use. Shipping a car from Europe to the USA again for the return leg won't necessarily double the costs if you can get a good deal, so remember to book it as a package.
  • Car preparation. This is very similar to preparing your car for any type of holiday, but with a few extra caveats. Make sure that your car has been serviced and that all pending repairs have been completed to ensure that it is reliable. Clean it, remove all personal items, and note all existing dents, scratches, and damage, taking photos of them, with a date stamp enabled on your photos. Check the health of the battery and the pressure of the tires. Strip all removable accessories such as roof racks. Your fuel tank should be one-quarter full at most.
  • Documentation. You require your car's original certificate of ownership and certificate of origin (the latter if it was bought new), a notarized bill of sale, and a shipper export declaration form. Your international shipper will have all the details.
  • Extra key. You have to give your shipper an extra set of car keys, so ensure you have a set and that any necessary remote batteries are fresh.
  • Insurance. Contact your vehicle insurer for overseas all-risk, total-loss, and shipping insurance. If your provider does not offer this, you have to buy international shipping insurance, which will probably cost around two percent of the value of your vehicle.
Shipping A Car From USA To Europe

Road Trip to Europe from the USA - In a Rental Car

By comparison, a rental car is a cheap and easy option. Stipulate clearly that you want an automatic vehicle, as manual transmissions are commonplace in Europe. Compare cars, making sure that you know how much luggage capacity you require and whether your rental will be big enough, especially concerning cars only available in Europe and not in the US. There are a lot more small cars in Europe and no full-size trucks such as the Ford F-150, only mid-size ones, such as the Ford Ranger.

Crossover SUVs such as a Toyota RAV4 are a versatile choice, as they're ubiquitous all over the world and more practical than a sedan. Europe is also home to the best station wagons since the body type is still popular there, and they provide lots of space and comfort. Try to avoid driving long distances non-stop, but if you must, follow these tips to stay alert, especially if you're traveling alone.

Conclusion - Parting Thoughts on Traveling Europe By Car

A tour from the USA to travel Europe by car is an unforgettable experience and you should put aside several weeks to get the most out of it. If you're taking your own car, ensure that you are aware of the European rules of the road and local traffic signs, observe social-distancing protocols, avoid very crowded places, and know how to drive a left-hand-drive vehicle on the right-hand side of the road in the UK if you have to. Your car must be compliant in all European emission zones, too. Have a look at our detailed checklist for a European road trip.

Remember that Europe uses the metric system, so they have kilometers and not miles. Make sure you know what speed to drive if you're using your own car with a miles-per-hour speedometer. With the right preparation - and if you follow all our useful tips - your European trip will be one of your all-time travel memories.


Which is the cheapest country to rent a car in Europe?

This can vary a lot, but generally, the Netherlands is among the cheapest countries for car hire in Europe. The most expensive countries include Ireland, Croatia, Switzerland, Portugal, and Italy.

What would it cost me to ship a car by air to Europe?

Shipping by air can run anywhere from $8,000 to $11,000 or more. It is many times more expensive than shipping by sea, although much faster.

May I pack my car with luggage when I ship it to Europe?

If you make use of a roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) vessel, then no. No items may be stored in any vehicles traveling to Europe on a RoRo vessel - their interiors must be empty. However, if you are shipping your car in an enclosed container, you are allowed to pack luggage in it.

How long will my car take to get to Europe if I ship it?

The trip from major ports on the USA's east such as New York and Baltimore to Europe usually takes around ten days, not taking into account any delays caused by the weather or mechanical trouble. Make sure you send your car ahead in time, so it's waiting for you in Europe when you arrive.

Was this article helpful?
Please rate it
This article is rated 4.5 by 154 readers
Top Tips For Driving Your Car Through Deep Water
Basic First Aid After A Car Accident

Related Cars

To Top