How COVID-19 is Affecting International Vehicle Shipping


In the age of COVID-19, international vehicle shipping has undergone an unprecedented transformation. Travel and tourism have both been hard-hit industries when it comes to the movement of passengers from one location to another. But what about the impact on moving vehicles internationally? Here are some ways the industry is evolving to meet challenges and still meet consumer demand.

How Are Shipping Companies Mitigating the Risk?

The shipping industry has taken many similar measures as other sectors to help mitigate risks for their employees. In the midst of ever-evolving border restrictions, the risks are hugely dependent by geographical area and how you plan to move your vehicle. Shipping via sea, air, and land all have their own caveats and considerations. Additionally, each local situation will hugely impact the delivery speed and logistics on the purchases of new vehicles.

Shipping Vehicles By Sea

Shipping by sea has traditionally been the most affordable and smoothest way to transport a vehicle between continents. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the industry has taken a huge hit, with reduced global demand for some products and many interrupted routes. Shipping a vehicle by sea vessel is still possible, but keep these things in mind:

  • Expect to do your research, or hire a company to do it for you.
  • Be flexible with your timeline and anticipate possible delays.
  • Consider insurance, doorstep delivery and the sanitization of your vehicle when it arrives.

In some regions, shipping by sea and entry into local ports is business as usual. But in countries or states where COVID-19 spread is successfully under control, strict screening measures or barred port entry is possible.

Transportation by sea is particularly affected due to the tremendous volumes of cargo generally carried by each ship. An ocean-based shipping service that may typically quote 10-12 weeks for delivery may now take 16 weeks or longer.

Shipping Vehicles by Air

Typically, shipping your vehicle by air would come at a premium regardless. Historically, this type of transit means fewer interruptions, quicker shipping times, and a greater range of destinations.

The current pandemic situation has brought with it some interesting transitions in the air industry and in shipping protocols. With fewer passengers flying internationally for leisure, one may conclude that shipping a vehicle via air is the way to go. Don’t make assumptions too quickly:

  • Due to the demand of PPE, air freight capacity has dropped, leaving prices sky-high for shipping by air.
  • Expect to pay a premium for this type of transport as passenger planes are being converted into cargo planes at additional expense.
  • Many other buyers like yourself have opted to switch from ocean to air transport – increasing demand for space.

Shipping by air could mean fewer interruptions, but may come at an even steeper cost than before.

Shipping By Land

COVID-19 has forced a mass migration of people back to their ‘home’ countries or states, attempting to reunite with family; college students, military workers, snowbirds, and employees on extended business trips all fall into this category. Many quick departures have forced people to leave vehicles at their previous residences in hopes of transporting them back safely later on. Shipping by land seems simple enough, but borders still stand in the way.

What About Land Border Closures?

The closure of the Canada-U.S. border is one example of a hurdle caused by the emergence of COVID-19. Luckily, transportation is deemed an essential service in many countries, and border closures like this often have exceptions to the rules for truck transit and other essential services like picking up a car or other personal items. In short:

  • It’s still possible to ship your car, truck, RV or motorcycle across borders in many places, even during a COVID-19 outbreak
  • Precautions will need to be taken both in terms of sanitizing your vehicle and protecting workers who may be helping you move it via truck or other transport
  • Small delays should be expected, but be patient as each area is different

As the situation unfolds, many of these groups are trying to access their vehicle safely and transport it to their new location. You are not alone.

Is there an Upside?

We reached out to contacts at Enjuku Racing Parts for an impression on how COVID-19 has been affecting their business and shipping. Here is what they had to say:

“The demand for automotive parts has increased tremendously during the epidemic. We’re busier than ever and constantly trying to keep up. The growth has allowed us to build stronger relationships with our suppliers and dealers. It has been a learning opportunity as we fine-tune our internal processes to better assist customers,” explained Ramón Russe, Enjuku Racing Parts.

Should You Hire a Professional for Vehicle Shipping?

During regular times, dealing with customs laws and legal documents when you ship a vehicle can be overwhelming. Luckily, an experienced international auto importer could be just what you need.

COVID-19 will continue to affect international vehicle shipping for some time. Some countries have completely shut down auto manufacturing and shipping while others proceed as though nothing happened. Be prepared.

Buying and Shipping Internationally: The New Normal

While some manufacturers and dealerships are in big trouble, others have found a hidden opportunity, leaving shoppers with some interesting choices as they embrace a new normal in the auto industry.

Expect a huge movement to online car sales and some massive changes in how manufacturing and shipping of cars evolves in the future.

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Jordan McDowell
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