Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Argh! Shipping Car to Croatia Part III

Why ship a US car to Europe? Simple - cars have always been insanely more expensive in Europe than the US. My US town's property tax department estimates my four-year old Passat is worth about US$6000. In Croatia or Serbia, that same car would be worth possibly as much as 10,000 Euros! Another example: a new BMW SUV that costs $60k at a US dealer would cost us 60k Euros in Croatia... that's a 56% increase.

If you live in a particular town in Europe, you don't absolutely need a car the way you do in most US towns. But, we have American habits (my bad) plus relatives and friends to visit who are scattered widely throughout the former Yugoslavia (my husband's fault.)

As you may recall, I tried shipping my car earlier this year, got burned, but finally got her back. So this time I was determined to find the most reputable and experienced shipper I could, and not be taken in by Google Ads or friendly Web sites. I doublechecked the Better Business Bureau records of each shipper, and doublechecked whether the company was just a broker or also an actual shipper. I also tried to find out how many cars each shipped, some only ship a few dozen, some ship thousands. Lastly, I emailed and phoned my final candidates to see how well they'd reply to both modes of communication. Nothing's worse than not being able to reach a human when you're panicking!

My results boiled down to three favorites: All Auto Shipping are remarkably knowledgeable and honest about shipping realities, but they don't ship to Croatia, just Germany. Rinkens are partnered with one of the largest UK auto shippers and boast decades of experience. DAS Auto are perhaps the largest international auto shippers based in the US (aside from government contractors) and have great customer service.

Four kinds of bad news:

1. Due to rising oil prices, shipping costs have gone up an average of $300 per car to all the ports I was quoted on since January.

2. Croatia is incredibly expensive to ship to. "It's not popular, so it costs more," one rep told me. Bremerhaven Germany is the cheapest port, currently at about $1,250 for an RORO (roll on roll off) vehicle. Italy and Spain are pricier in the low $2000s. Croatia is INSANE at $3850!

Partly it's because it seems no one ships RORO to Croatia currently, so you're paying for a 20 foot container. Unfortunately you're often not allowed to put anything else in the container, or the car, except for a car.

3. Ships are way overbooked. "It started in March when the dollar got so weak," one agent told me. "People are shipping way more cars to Europe than normally." In fact, DAS' Los Angeles shipments have been so overwhelmed that they stopped accepting new shipments seven weeks ago. They hope to have a few spots by early-mid-fall. You can still get a spot on some ships in New York/New Jersey ports luckily. However, you can't book ahead anymore. Your place is not assured until the car arrives at their offices in the port.

4. US Customs' spotchecks can slow delivery dates by as much as a month. I thought customs were focused on the security of goods coming into the US. Apparently though, our taxpayer dollars are also being spent on investigating shipments leaving US ports. Every single car going out mjust be inspected by US customs. They're looking for everything from stolen cars to possible bombs. The inspection can take anywhere from a few hours to three-four weeks... per car! The latter is for cars that are randomly pulled for spot checks, so nothing you can do besides crossing your fingers will help.

However, all the more reason to have your paperwork in perfect order for the car, including an original copy of the title and copies of your passport. (The latter is a new requirement.)

Tonight I foresee a math fiesta as my husband attempts to calculate the best port to send to. He'll have to figure out insurance costs, port hotel costs, flights, and gas/petrol back to where-ever we end up going next on our fall Serbia-Croatia trip. I'm glad I married a Serb because that kind of math would crush me like a bug. Genetically though, I think he's programmed to enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised your shipping agent forgot to recommend KOPER, SLOVENIA

Their prices should be reasonable, compared to Germany. But you won't have to go so far.

bathmate said...

very good posting. i liked it. :-)