How to Move Cars, Boats, and RVs

Annie Erling Gofus - Sep 29 2022
Published in: Mobility
Some of our largest possessions require extra planning—and money—for both domestic and international moves.

Moving an entire household across borders—whether state or international—can be a logistical headache. Recently, we wrote about how moving abroad with pets is a complicated process. But moving becomes even more complicated when it includes items that are far too large to fit the average moving truck.

If the employee is moving across the country or around the world, transferring cars, boats, and RVs to their new home can be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive and requires careful budgeting and planning. Here are the basics about moving vehicles, boats, and RVs to a new location.

How to Move a Vehicle

There are many businesses that provide vehicle transportation, so careful research is required when selecting the best option for the relocating employee’s needs. Any company that is hired for this task should be properly licensed, bonded, and insured and should only work with third parties (such as freight carriers) that are also properly licensed, bonded, and insured.

If the vehicle is being shipped internationally, it is important to understand and obey the traffic, safety, and consumer protection laws of the destination country. Shipping a car from one country to another is more complicated than shipping it between states.

The first step is to get the paperwork in order. The vehicle title needs to be up to date, and the original title needs to be handed over to the shipping company, so it's a good idea to make copies. Lastly, if there is a loan on the car, the vehicle owner will need a notarized letter from the lender that gives them permission to ship the car out of the country.

It is also vital for the vehicle owner to understand what import/export limitations exist in the nation to which they are shipping the automobile. Some countries have additional rules that limit the age of a vehicle that may be lawfully exported to them.

When it comes to transporting a car across land (without having to cross an ocean), there are two primary options: an open carrier truck or an enclosed one. Typically, enclosed shipping is more expensive, but the car will be better protected against damage that might occur during shipping. Open carrier trucks are often the most economical way to transport a vehicle and, in most cases, the car will arrive in great condition.

When relocating overseas, the employee may save money by selecting consolidated vehicle delivery, which combines vehicles traveling to the same destination into one container (where the car shares a container with other cars going to the same place). Because the shipping firm will have to wait for the container to fill up before sending it, consolidated vehicle delivery might significantly extend the arrival deadline.

Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) transportation, in which the car is securely strapped down inside a ship without the protection of a container, is another option. Imagine an immense ship with a parking lot in its hull. There are a variety of cars in the parking lot, including motorcycles, minivans, SUVs, and sedans. That is where the vehicle will be when a RORO shipping service is used to transport it overseas. 

The car is driven into the hull of the ship with all the other cars that are being shipped. The vehicle is secured in place so it will not shift during transit and then it is driven off the boat at the receiving port. Next to container service, this is the most popular method because it is both fast and cheap; however, the car will have less protection.

RORO is a shipping method that can be used for very large vehicles. If the vehicle is rather big (for example, an SUV), this might be the only option. RORO is typically quicker than consolidated moving container shipping. This is also usually the most budget-friendly shipping method. It is important to note that the car will not be as well protected as it would be in an individual shipping container.

The quickest and safest method to transport an automobile internationally is through air freight auto transport. Unfortunately, it is also the most costly.

If the expense can be covered in the relocation budget, air freight might be worth it to have the vehicle shipped quickly (a few days by plane rather than weeks or months by boat). There are several advantages to shipping a car by plane, such as convenience and speed. If the car is also valuable—say, it is an antique or luxury vehicle—then flying will be the best option to protect it.

If the employee does not have a unique exotic automobile, they may be better off choosing a cargo freighter for their international auto transport needs.

How Much Does it Cost, and How Long Does it Take?

The cost of shipping a car overseas varies depending on the company that is hired and how far the car needs to travel. In general, expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 to send one automobile across borders.

The average cost to ship a car in the U.S. is approximately $1,290. Shipping a car several hundred miles on an open carrier can cost as little as $630. The cost of transporting a vehicle across the country in an enclosed truck could be as much as $1,810.

The Amtrak Auto Train runs along the East Coast, and it costs less than $500 to ship a vehicle one-way from the Washington, D.C., area to Florida. The average cost to ship a vehicle to Hawaii is in the $1,500 to $2,000 range. Curiously, the shipping cost is higher if the car is being shipped west to Hawaii rather than being shipped east to the mainland.

This is not the only expense associated with shipping an automobile to a different country, but it is the starting fee they will have to pay and the cost of the automobile's storage during transit. The fees for shipping vary between shippers and can include:

  • Destination charge to receive and hold the vehicle at the final location
  • Agent fees
  • Taxes
  • Import fees

The amount of time it takes to ship a car by ocean transport largely depends on the car's final destination. To be safe, allocate three to 12 weeks for this process. The shipping company will be able to give a good estimated time of arrival for the car, which should be accurate.

How to Move a Boat

It can cost less than $1,000 to ship a small center console fishing boat only a few hundred miles. Moving a 97-foot megayacht, on the other hand, might cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Most people transport their boats by truck because it is cheaper and faster. Small boats may be carried on their own trailers, which are towed on a flatbed (flat rack) or step-deck truck. Many cost-conscious sailors have started hiring "hot shot" truckers to transport their tiny boats in recent years. Unlike their big rig truck counterparts, heavy-duty pickup trucks and little single-axle tractors typically drive these hot shot trucks.

The lighter the gross weight, the fewer federal DOT laws apply. Hot shots are frequently less expensive, more flexible, and faster to deliver, but because of their lower overall weights, they are subject to fewer federal DOT standards.

If the employee has a larger boat, they must prepare to spend more to transport it.

Most large boats and yachts cannot be towed by personal vehicles because they exceed the size restrictions. These behemoths, however, do not require their own trailers because they can frequently be carried on commercial 18-wheeler carriers. In situations like this, they'll transport the boat on a flatbed, step-deck, or specialized boat trailer supported by their hulls.

Between the trailer deck and the boat's hull, the driver and crew will deploy custom cradles to prevent harm, usually in the form of robust timber blocks or mechanical jacks topped with heavy-duty nylon or rubber covers. To load the boat, the movers will use a giant forklift or davit crane. Once the boat is on the trailer, they will secure it to the deck using straps and chains.

Shipping by sea is the best method to move a superyacht from one destination to another, especially for owners wanting to transport their boats across long distances. A freight forwarder that specializes in long-distance ocean transportation for oversized and valuable boats can assist. A freight forwarder can handle all the steps of the relocation process, from paperwork to customs clearance and finally transfer to the designated port or marina.

Small boats can also be carried inside an enclosed container, much like household goods are for international transfers. With a RORO boat transfer, a boat is towed onto the ship at the start and stored below deck. After they reach the destination, the company will deliver the vessel to their new home or marina.

This method allows clients to pack the boat with furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings. However, it is complicated to secure a boat on a trailer inside of a container. They are also susceptible to movement and shifting while in transit.

Another option is port-to-port service, which is cheaper, but the boat owner will have to move the product between ports at both origins and destinations. What this means is that the boat owner is responsible for transporting the boat to the departure port. The boat will be shipped to the destination port, and the boat owner will then be responsible for transporting the boat from the final port.

The last option is cruising the yacht, powerboat, or sailboat between locations. Depending on the destination, sticking to known rivers and coastlines may be the best way to travel. 

If the boat owner knows their way around a boat after years of owning one, it might not be an issue. However, for the majority of people, extended trips are out of the realm of possibility. The boat owner can also hire a professional delivery captain. They will need to ask for personal referrals and carefully vet candidates. For larger boats, they will most likely need additional crew members.

The relocating employee will also have to pay for the crew’s transportation to the homeport, as well as purchase fuel and supplies. When they finish the journey, the boat owner may be left with unforeseen expenses resulting from mechanical difficulties and unexpected storms.

How to Move an RV

Hiring a transportation company is the most secure way to move an RV long distances without renting a truck. These skilled businesses may be discovered via shipping marketplaces or through individual RV research. Keep in mind that any transportation firm must be licensed.

There are three primary methods used by RV transport businesses to move non-self-propelled recreational vehicles:

  • Flatbed: This option uses big vehicles and flatbed trucks to transport RVs. These trailers can carry many RVs at the same time and for lengthy distances.
  • Towing: This option involves professional equipment and trucks for the safe loading and transportation of an RV. The equipment and truck needed are based on the type and size of the RV being transported.
  • Drive-away service: This method involves an RV transportation company dispatching a driver to drive and transport the RV to its destination. This does not require any extra equipment or vehicles.

Before an RV owner can take their vehicle on a long journey, they must make sure it is safe and secure. Most transport carriers will provide clear instructions for how to properly ship a vehicle, and they will guarantee that all requirements are satisfied. By preparing the RV for shipping, the RV owner significantly reduces the chances of an accident or any damage occurring. Most places do not allow anyone to ship their RV with any personal belongings inside.

RV owners sometimes need to transport their vehicles internationally. There are carriers that provide this service by using shipping vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo. International shipping and transport fees can be expensive.

The process of hiring a company and readying a recreational vehicle for transport can be daunting, but it is important to pay attention to the details. However, if an RV owner does not own a truck or another means of transporting their vehicle, using a transportation firm is the most secure and efficient way to safeguard their investment in and maintain their RV.

Want to learn from experts about the logistics of relocation? Join us at Worldwide ERC®’s GWS2022 in October. GWS2022 will be the largest mobility industry gathering attracting over 1,000 attendees seeking connections and expert knowledge focused on domestic and international moves, immigration policies, tax issues, cutting-edge technology trends, hot topics, and much more.