Can you help? Moving cars around the world (and back again)

One of our regular readers, Sapan, lives in the United States and owns a Saab Turbo X. You’ve seen it before, in a post where we covered how he bought his first Saab ūüôā

Sapan has written to me overnight, with the following query. As it’s not a task I’ve previously investigated, I thought I’d open the question up to readers here and see if anyone has had experience with short-term vehicle relocations across oceans.

I am going to Europe for a month or so and I wanted to bring my car there to drive.

Here are a few factors I see as potential issues

  • Transportation (Someone Reliable and trust worthy)
  • Can I even drive my car in Europe for that amount of time legally? MOT Laws etc? Do I need to pay VAT Etc? Insurance etc.
  • Transportation back as well (Again this would be solved if I found a worthy carrier).

You may ask what my main goal is? Well, plain and simple, it’s tackling the Nurburgring.

I also want to visit both Maptun and Hirsch. Get my car ready to go fully functional with stock items and then head for the Nurburgring and see how fast a time I can set!

I know this sounds pretty crazy but I am just testing the waters to see if its even financially feasible at the moment!

This sounds like a more-than-worthy automotive quest, to me.

As mentioned, I’ve not looked into anything like this before, however a quick Google search of trans-atlantic car carriers did produce a few companies that might be worth looking into. If those companies are worth their salt, they might also have answers to the regulatory approvals you need to get along the way.


If you’ve embarked on an adventure like this before, maybe you can help Sapan get his Turbo X to The Ring and back again.

Comments are open.

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  1. I have looked into this a little bit. ¬†Shipping a car to and from Europe will probably cost about $1,500-2000 one-way port-to-port. ¬†Since you’re not importing the car, you should be fine to drive it there with American plates. ¬†You don’t have to pay any duties or taxes but you would need insurance. ¬†

    All Saabs are shipped with Wallenius and they also offer transport for individual customers.   Depending on the schedule and which port it is shipped from and to, it can take about 6 to 8 weeks.

    While it seems like a lot of fun, is also is expensive, quite a bit of hassle and you’re without your car for many months. ¬†But hey, driving your own Turbo X on the Ring is¬†priceless, right? ūüôā

    1. A rookie on the Nurburgring trying to go fast…..accident waiting to happen.

      IF you crash on the ring most insurance companies are likely to not cover it, say you hit the barriers you will be held accountable for the rescue of your vehicle, cost of barrier rails and the work to replace them. You should be able to cash out about $6000 on the spot if that happens.

      1. Not a rookie by any means when it comes to racing(Includes driving Ariel Atom at VIR, often trips to summit point west, va which has a carousel replica) But I am sure I will look like one at the nurburgring. Thanks for the comments and you gave me some information to look up and consider.

        1. What a lot of Ring drivers do to memorize the track is play Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo.
          Last time I went to the Ring I encountered an American with his Porsche. He had it shipped to Germany for a week of driving at the Ring specifically. He had temporary German plates fitted. Perhaps it’s also a good idea to contact the Ring itself and ask if they allow US cars on the Ring.

          About the insurance: it really does depend on the insurance company. A lot of German and UK insurance companies specifically outrule the Nurburgring. Dutch insurance companies tend to not rule it out. Since the Ring is in fact a one way motorway with toll, it’s covered by standard policies. There is jurisdiction saying that driving on the Ring is not something one does to get anywhere, it’s solely for racing purpose and therefor not covered by insurance despite the official characteristic as motorway. Perhaps it could be wise to get a special insurance for the Ring for the days you go on it. I am sure there are (German) insurance companies who sell this.

          Also: do let us know if and when you visit the Ring, perhaps we can get some Saabs to come over as well for an international meeting. Lastly: can I call shotgun when you take it for a spin? ūüôā

          1. Thanks for the Information if you know of any european insurance companies that you can post up information for that would be great.

          2. Looking into that. Appearently it’s not as commonly available as I assumed. And the temporary plates aren’t allowed (“Vehicles with transfer plates (red numbers), short-term plates (03 and
            04 numbers), and vintage car interchangeable plates (07 numbers) are not
            permitted.”. No idea how the Porsche owner managed to get on the track…

            Here’s some interesting info about the Ring from a US perspective:
            If you find that your insurance doesn’t cover the Ring, you might want to look into renting a car near the Ring.

            And here’s a british link about insurance with some links to trackdays insurance companies. But it seems to be expensive and not worth it.

  2. Someone from the UK brought a car to the US in 2005 and had a TV station settle the dispute.  

    Aldo Hanson: “I told the officer I felt that we were an exception to that rule because we are here temporarily. I am foreign, the car is foreign registered and there are rules covering that situation.”The officer didn’t buy that. And told Aldo to park the car or lose it.Aldo Hanson: “He told me defiantly not to drive it again and that if…it was now in the system and if I were to drive it again, the car would be confiscated and that there were several penalties that would be applied to me.”Not wanting to break American law. Aldo parked the Smart Car and then did what a smart Brit should do‚Ķ

    Aldo Hanson: “We’ll anyone that watches Channel 7 knows about Help Me Howard, and a lot of Brits do watch Channel 7 when they are here because it is a familiar format…the channel is familiar…a very lively channel.”…

    7 News Legal Expert Howard Finkelstein: “International treaties overrule local law and according to the International Convention on Road Traffic Treaty of 1949, if you are a foreign driver with a foreign car, you can drive it in another country for up to a year if both countries signed that treaty. Britain and the us signed the treaty so Aldo can crank up the Smart Car.”First we contacted the U.S. State Department who sent us a copy of the treaty. We then spoke to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department they agreed that the treaty applied to Aldo….

    To help out the sheriffs department then wrote this letter for Aldo to keep in the car. It ends by saying…Mr Hanson is free to enjoy his Smart Car in Monroe County.


    Germany observes the 1949 treaty but has not signed it.

    Besides the advice that  Frank gives below, perhaps someone in the Army stationed in Germany might know who else can ship your Saab.

  3. You may want to check out the World Freight Group, which is a conglomorate of sea and air freight forwarders, they know about these things.
    If your car is registered in the US, then I suggest you first of all contact your insurance company and see if your policy is applicable in Europe. I would suggest you take out a fully comp insurance covering every mishap. Do include a Home Relay system, should anything go wrong. There is a treaty within the European States, which allows citizens to freely cross and use their cars in other member states. A trip to the German embassy would be advisable to get yourself informed.

    Be aware that you are not allowed to let anyone else (a local) drive your car. This could get you into serious problems. Another idea might be to contact the Military Traffic and Management Command (MTMC), which is located in the Netherlands, in a city called Capelle aan den IJssel. They are in charge of shipping household goods from the USA to the whole of Europe and back for service personnel, including their cars. They would be able to exactly tell you which rules will apply to you using your car on this continent.

    Have fun, but be aware, Petrol is at a premium here, so make sure you have a large budget ūüėČ

    1. FW(L)IW: In Norway, a local is allowed to drive your foreign car as long as you accompany them and you both (!) have valid driver licenses. If caught, the local will be forced to pay import taxes for the car (a sum which in Norway would roughly equal or even surpass what the TurboX cost new in the States)

      I suspect these rules may be similar in other European countries, especially since the 1-year rule for foreign driver’s licenses seems to be the same all around. (But the import taxes in Germany and Sweden are child’s play compared to Norway)

  4. Thanks for all the help I knew what I was getting into financially I just wanted to see if it was actually possible legally. Germany wouldn’t be the only country I am driving it in I would want to go up to sweeden as well as as a bit thru the UK but again thanks for the information. I will keep everyone updated as to what I do.

  5. I have a customer with a 400++Viggen that has family in Germany.  We were discussing taking both of our hotrod Viggens over sometime..    I will see if he can help from that side.  He is over there right now.   Probably easy if its stock.  Less when prepared to high output. 

    1. Superb Thanks! =D My car is pretty much Bone stock aside from a few bolts ons (Exhaust, wheels, and intake).

      1. He mentioned bringing the car in through France. 

        Might be cheaper to rent one with that prep level.  If it was crazy mods where it would be more costly to duplicate than ship.     Either way !!  Good luck. Sounds epic either way!!!   Its all I drive on GT5   (Well till frustration sets in and I go grab the viggen or whatever hotrod I have at home and head to Arkansas on the curvy roads.  ) 

        1. Hmm Interesting Bit on France. I was actually looking at Dublin my self but I will check with the shipping folks and see what country has easier customs etc. As long as I get it into some european country I think I should be good going from one to another.

  6. This should be easy, the main part to look into is insurance. Get in touch with your insurance company and they will probably be able to offer you some kind of special insurance for this.

    I can drive to a lot of countries here in Europe on my insurance, but some are not regarded safe for cars, so that requires add-on insurances.Shipping is no problem, cars are shipped over atlantic all the time. Importing US cars to Sweden (where I live) is quite common. You need to find a carrier and you can either choose a cargo box or drive-on-drive-off (I think it is called) service. Expect around $1200-$1500 one way.You are not even importing, but bringing your own car for a trip, so you avoid all kinds of VAT,  duties and re-registration issues which are for locals. As long as you are with your car, have the registration papers showing you own the car and have valid VISA yourself, I do not see any reason anyone can deny you.I suspect the only potential issue may be customs that may not be used to this. If in doubt, I would try to contact the customs office where I expect to ship the car and just ask them what kind of papers they want to see.I have taken my car to Iceland (ferry), and I know about other Swedes that have driven down to Africa and Australia.

    1. Any Chance you can list your insurance provider or maybe send a link to their website? I want to see if they would insure my car.

  7. In responce to Nick T, the posts made previous are far more knowledgable about the subject than I am.  My trip isnt for a few more summers so I havent looked much into it.  The only thing Ive heard is that Germany is not the best place to ship my highly modified Viggen due to how loud the car is.  Ive heard France is a better place to ship a highly modified, loud cars.  All this info has been extremely helpful!  Keep it flowin!