Are cars shipped in Containers? | Citizenshipper

Ulhas Sukhare Ulhas Sukhare · Updated January 16, 2024

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Car transportation is big business, and demand is fierce. That means most modes of transportation can be converted to carry cars: train carriages, freight containers, trucks, trailers, boats and even planes. Each type is specialised to achieve a certain sort of overseas car shipping: long distance, weather resistant, for delicate vehicles, multiple vehicles or for speed. Many use containers, many do not. What’s the difference?

Let’s break it down. All these kinds of overseas car shipping fall into two main categories: by container, or by Roll On Roll Off (RORO). Both options serve more than cars. Any vehicle – motorcycle, boat, truck, even gliders – can be transported by container or by RORO.

So which should you pick? Which option is right for your car, your timeframe, your budget and your destination? This guide has the answers. Let’s dive into the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Roll On Roll Off

As the name suggests, Roll On Roll Off is simple and straightforward. That’s why it is so popular with importers and exporters ever since it was developed by Japanese car manufacturers as a cost-effective way of shipping cars to the US and Europe. RORO vessels are specialised ships that require no containers, making embarkation and disembarkation of cargo much swifter than the prevailing method of packing and unpacking crates.

Since its inception, RORO vessels have widened their brief and can now transport any type of motorized vehicle you can name: trucks, boats, buses, motor homes, travel trailers, tractors, excavators, cranes and other high and/or heavy equipment and machinery.

It’s easy to see why RORO is the faster option, at least at the port. But it is cost-effective too. That’s because everything is handled by the port workers, meaning there are no overheads for shippers: no export warehousing, no crating, no container packing or flat rack loading. Cars (and other vehicles) are simply rolled on and rolled off by the workers already at the port.

RORO shipping is viable at most major US ports: Baltimore, New York, Galveston, Charleston, Houston, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Miami and Los Angeles. And around the world, ports that cater for RORO vessels can be found in Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America and the Mediterranean.

One major disadvantage, however, which particularly affects the owners of vehicles as opposed to manufacturers, is that you cannot ship personal effects by RORO. They must be transported separately, and must pass through customs separately. But spare tire and factory fitted accessories are permitted.

Container shipping

With the above in mind, you might question why anyone would choose to ship their car or cars by container. The answer is more targeted shipping. As the list above shows, not every port in the world can handle RORO shipments (although more are converting every year). Smaller countries in particular are less likely to be able to receive RORO vessels. That gives container shipping one big advantage: Availability.

Wherever your vehicle or vehicles need to go, you can rest assured it can get there by container. No sea-abutting nation in the world lacks the facilities to receive containers at port. Until every nation has an urgent economic need to cater to RORO vehicle shipping, container shipping will remain the industry standard.

What’s more, since container shipping is a long-established mode of vehicle transportation, the know-how to get your car/s from A to B is easily found, and every insurer, import/export broker, international shipping service or freight forwarder will have experience in every aspect of the process. More expertise means less chance of being held up at customs or encountering legal delays of any kind. From this standpoint alone, container shipping can be said to be more reliable, with an international understanding of procedures.

Although the crating process may take longer and require more labour than RORO, the trip through customs is often short. The contents of each container are a simple-to-process unit, with the nature of those contents labelled clearly on the outside of the crate. Customs formalities consist only of reading the labels and logging what they say, which is nowadays often done electronically. Personal effects can also be kept inside each container.

Non-international car transport

Thinking of shipping your car within the United States? Much easier to use an online shipping marketplace like CitizenShipper.

What sets CitizenShipper apart from other car-shipping firms is the ease and freedom they give to customers. Free to pick and choose the right driver. Free to browse quotes and select the perfect option that suits your schedule and budget. With hundreds of drivers on the books, vying for your shipment, you have the rare guarantee of freedom to select the perfect one. Covering the entire US, CitizenShipper’s vetted and trusted drivers are among the savviest car-carriers in the country.

For all their experience, your wallet doesn’t have to suffer as a result. A competitive online marketplace puts you in the driving seat, able to decide between competing drivers with different specialties, driving quotes down without sacrificing quality of service.

What’s more, the ease of posting the details of your shipment – type of car, destination, origin – takes less than five minutes. And you’re assured a number of experienced, certified drivers giving you quotes. You can contact each of them if you like, and ask for their experience or credentials. Mostly they will be exhibited on the driver’s profile.

And that’s it! Within minutes you’ll be receiving quotes from some of the safest and most reliable drivers in the industry. Simply post your shipment and let the market do the hard work for you.

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