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US Customs advice for cars

Customs Clearance & Duties
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There are specific guidelines to follow when looking to export auto shipment such as cars from the US. US Customs and Border Protection has very strict paperwork you need to submit when auto transporting your car via ocean freight.


US Customs paperwork: Auto transport


All the necessary documents listed below must be submitted to US CBP at least 72 hours prior to exportation. The container must also arrive at the port and be properly and securely gated in before the customs office reviews the paperwork. This gives them enough leeway to pull the container for inspection (if required) prior to sailing.


The following is a reminder of the list of paperwork needed for auto-shipments categorized by port in order to avoid shipping delay charges.


Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach


Regular vehicles:


  • Original title
  • MSO
  • Registration (does not need to be valid)
  • Salvage title

Motorcycles, dirt bikes & ATVs


  • Original titles

Vehicles financed (vehicles with lien)


  • Original and notarized authorization letter from lien holder (on company letterhead)
  • Three original notarized copies of title (both front and back pages)

Race cars


  • Original Bill of Sale
  • Photos of VIN of vehicles
  • Photos of actual vehicles

*Bill of Sale must include: vehicle description, purchase value, buyer & seller info and must be in professional format and notarized.


Port of Houston


Regular vehicles:


  • Original title
  • MSO
  • Registration (valid & transferrable)
  • Salvage title
  • Motorcycles, dirt bikes & ATVs
  • Original title
  • MSO
  • Registration (valid & transferrable)
  • Salvage title

Vehicles financed (vehicles with lien)


  • Original and notarized authorization letter from finance company (on company letterhead) specifically stating that subject vehicle may be exported
  • Certified title record from state-issued DMV

Race cars


  • Original Bill of Sale
  • Photos of VIN of vehicles
  • Photos of actual vehicles

Port of New York & Charleston


Regular vehicles:


  • Original title**
  • If without title, can be cleared with an original MSO which must be signed off to buyer or Bill of Sale linking buyer to MSO
  • Salvage title (original must be provided and signed off to buyer)

Motorcycles, dirt bikes & ATVs


  • Original title
  • If without title, can be cleared with an original MSO which must be signed off to buyer or Bill of Sale linking buyer to MSO
  • Salvage title (original must be provided and signed off to buyer)

Vehicles financed (vehicles with lien)


  • No longer exported via NY/NJ

USA military personnel


  • Copies of notarized military orders
  • Certified title record from state-issued DMV
  • Original and notarized letter of authorization from finance company (on letterhead) specifically stating that the subject vehicle may be exported

**If original title has a lien holder present though lien has been fulfilled, an original notarized lien release on finance company letterhead must be produced


Port of Miami


Self-propelled motor vehicles from the USA


  • Original title
  • MSO
  • Certificate of destruction
  • Bill of Sale (required only if vehicle is being sold)
  • Notarized export power of attorney signed in blue ink by buyer shown on title and Bill of Sale. This is required if client is not in the USA or on the list of countries acceptable to Customs Border Patrol. This must then be notarized by a US embassy.
  • Clear valid ID with a recognizable picture ID of person signing (if passport used for notary while physically in the US, it must be accompanied by a copy of visa showing entry & exit stamps and/or copy of i94 immigration document)
  • When owner shown on title appears as a company, you have to produce:

A.Statement (on company letterhead) showing that the person signing has a position or is employed by said company and is authorized by that company to sign on their behalf to export stated vehicle(s) from the USA;


B.This statement/letterhead must be notarized in the state/country of origin.


If exporting used self-propelled vehicles, you must:


  1. File your export information via the Automated Export System (AES) or Automated Commercial Environment (ACE).


  2. Present the vehicle to CBP for inspection 72 hours prior to exportation. This must be accompanied by the Internal Transaction Number from AES.



General advice:


  • US Customs require the exporter to submit all documents at least 72 hours prior to export.
  • Call ahead to make sure you’re on schedule; many land ports don’t process vehicle exportation on weekends.
  • Note that US customs** no longer accept notarized copies of the Bill of Sale**.
  • If exporting a US-version vehicle/engine, check the requirements of the country to which you’re exporting. Some countries require a copy of the vehicle/engine’s Certificate of Conformity and Certificate Summary Information (test data).

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