How Do I Ship My Car From the USA to Tokyo, Japan?

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Shipping a vehicle overseas can be costlier than purchasing one in Japan.
Shipping a vehicle overseas can be costlier than purchasing one in Japan. (Image: car image by Brett Bouwer from Fotolia.com)

Shipping a vehicle to Japan from the United States requires that essential paperwork (Letter of Intent, Power of Attorney forms and order forms) be completed (most shipping companies will process and submit all necessary paperwork) before the car is successfully shipped to the specified port in Tokyo. Shipping via RoRo (Roll-On-Roll-Off) is the most inexpensive way to transport a vehicle. Your vehicle must be operable for it to be driven into a ship’s car deck and sailed in an airtight and watertight compartment to the Tokyo port. Most manufacturers use this method to transport cars overseas as well.

Things You'll Need

  • Spare set of keys
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Driver's license
  • Title of car

Contact shipping companies in the United States to research the best price (see "Tips" for shipping companies). Quotes are available either with a quick call to the company or by filling out a quote request form on their websites. Shipping companies have specific destinations to which they will travel, and some will not travel to certain countries. Some shipping companies require you to bring the car to the sea port yard, while others will charge a fee to pick up your vehicle.

Insure your car for the length of its journey to Tokyo, Japan, if it is not already insured. As your vehicle will be in transit for several thousands miles, it is important to insure it for potential damage. It is customary for the shipping company to do a walk-around the car with you to note any existing damage.

Remove all items from your car. Inner cargo is not allowed primarily for security reasons and to prevent damage (breakage could occur from items in the car moving about during transition).

Provide the shipping company with the title of the vehicle to prove you are the legitimate owner. Also bring your driver’s license to the pick-up facility when you pick up your car.

Clean your vehicle before taking it to the shipping company. Some shippers require that no dirt be on the outside or inside of the vehicle. The reasoning behind this is to prevent the possible transmittal of diseases.

Give a set of car keys to the shipping company.

Tips & Warnings

  • The only way to find out about specific restrictions is by contacting the consulate in Japan, a recommendation indicated in several shipping company websites. Be expected to experience compliance requirements which are enforced by inspections done by the authorities in Japan when your car enters the country. Plus, importation charges/customs fees are the responsibility of the customer.
  • Ship My Vehicle is one company that ships autos to Japan from the United States. The company will manage your export documents and the inbound customs clearance of the car. Before you ship with them, you will need to sign export instructions and and provide commercial invoices (see "Resources").
  • Shipping International offers auto shipping to Japan in either Roll-On-Roll-Off or in a metal shipping container. The company has Maritime Insurance available to ship your auto. Shipping International has restrictions: no gas in the car, the battery must be disconnected, and you need the original title of the vehicle (see "Resources").
  • United Auto Transport is a third shipping company that transports cars to Japan from the USA. The company requires the original title of the car. If the original title is unavailable, they require a copy of the title along with a lean holder's information and lean release letter from the lean holder (see "Resources").

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