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Return on vehicle and cars investment in shipping cars from the united states

When thinking in terms of purchasing a car at an auction in the United States and sending it abroad for sale, one of the key considerations involves return on investment or ROI. ROI is an approach for evaluating the financial consequences of business investments, decisions, or actions. If an investment has a positive ROI, and there are no other opportunities with a higher ROI, then the investment should be undertaken. A higher ROI means that investment gains compare favorably to investment costs.

To calculate return on investment, the benefits (or returns) of investment are divided by the costs of the investment as follows:

Return on Investment = Net Profit After Interest and Tax / Total Assets

Net profit is calculated by taking revenue minus cost of goods minus operating expenses and all other expenses, such as taxes and interest paid on the debt. (1)  In the context of selling exported vehicles abroad, the ROI calculation would consider shipping costs, taxes and duties related to export and import and shipping insurance. The material below outlines these major considerations more in depth.


When purchasing an investment vehicle for the export market, shipping costs can quickly cut into a seller’s profit margin. Given the number of variables that enter into the calculation of maritime transport costs, there is not a “one size fits all” shipping cost a buyer can use to estimate their return on investment. The methods of shipping, the type and the number of vehicles, and the destination port can all affect the cost of shipping.

When exporting a car from the United States there are two methods of shipping a vehicle by sea: in a container or ship via Roll On Roll Off (RORO).


RORO shipping is considered the simplest and cheapest method of shipping for vehicles. An RORO ship allows vehicles to be driven directly into the vessel and secured to multi-level car decks. Cars are secured inside the vessel, shielded from wind and water.

Comparatively, shipping a car by RORO comes with lower destination port charges due to the fact there are no charges for the use of port crane facilities to unload a container from the ship, and other container unloading services. For exporters, sending some vehicles RORO shipping can offer a more cost-effective option.

The only drawback with RORO shipping rests in the fact that most RORO shipper has limited geographical coverage. For that, some smaller countries may not have facilities able to accommodate international RORO transport.


  • Baltimore, MD
  • Charleston, SC
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • New York, NY
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Galveston, TX
  • Port Hueneme, CA
  • Tacoma, WA


Container shipping may provide a better solution given the limited number of RORO ports worldwide. For shippers who may extra goods to ship with the vehicle such as spare parts or may be sending two vehicles that can fit into a larger container this may be a more viable option.

Standard containers come in two sizes; 20′ and 40′ in length. A 20′ container is suitable for shipment of one vehicle  whereas a 40′ container provides sufficient space for two average size vehicles.


One of the more important considerations in planning an export strategy involves getting the vehicle from the site of purchase to the port for shipping. Obviously, the longer distance the car must travel to reach a cargo ship the more cost will be incurred. The following is a list of all container ship ports in the United States:

  • Port of Long Beach, California
  • Port of Los Angeles, California
  • Port of Oakland, California
  • Port of Seattle, Washington
  • Port of Tacoma, Washington
  • Port Miami, Miami, Florida
  • Port of Tampa, Florida
  • Port of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Port of Boston, Massachusetts
  • Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, Maryland
  • Wilmington Marine Terminal, Delaware
  • Port of New York and New Jersey
    • Howland Hook Marine Terminal, Staten Island, New York
    • Port Jersey Marine Terminal, Jersey City, New Jersey
    • Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, New Jersey
    • Red Hook Marine Terminal, Brooklyn, New York
  • Port of Savannah, Georgia
  • Port of Charleston, South Carolina
  • Port of Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Virginia Port Authority, Virginia
    • APM Terminals, Portsmouth, Virginia
    • Newport News Marine Terminal, Newport News, Virginia
    • Norfolk International Terminals, Norfolk, Virginia
    • Virginia Inland Port, Front Royal, Virginia
  • Port of Houston, Texas
    • Bayport Terminal, Houston, Texas
  • Port of Galveston, Texas
  • Port of Mobile, Alabama
  • Port of Anchorage, Alaska
  • Port of Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico


The actual costs of shipping can vary by carrier, how many vehicles being shipped, the mode of shipping (container/ RORO) and time of year. As such, it is difficult to provide accurate estimates for shipping costs. The best practice, in this case, involves checking with shippers to receive quotes. 

Maritime Shipping and International Commercial Contracts Terminology

Here is a complete list of Maritime Shipping and International Commercial Contracts terminology.


When shipping a vehicle abroad it is likely an exporter may need a pre-shipping inspection. A pre-shipping inspection is a comprehensive inspection of goods, conducted by a customs agency or by a private firm. The inspector will look at invoices and other documentation to enable proper identification of goods being shipped. The scope of the inspection will look at the good’s quality. quantity, tariff classification, import eligibility, and export market price and/or valuation for customs purposes

This identification allows for the correct assessment of customs duties and taxes or the shipment value for foreign exchange control. Pre-shipment inspection is also key to helping governments maintain compliance with the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation.

Although pre-shipment inspections (PSI) are not a direct cost, they can cause a delay in shippingor result in a vehicle not being able to leave the country of origin.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administrationthe following countries currently require or request pre-shipment inspections:

Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guinea, India (see note below), Indonesia (see note below), Iran, Kenya (under review), Kuwait (see note below), Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico (see note below), Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uzbekistan. (2)

Most countries listed above require inspections for shipments above a certain value. However, in some countries inspections are required for all imported products, regardless of value.


Tariffs and duties can be significant costs when exporting and importing a vehicle for sale. First, it is important to clarify terminology. According to the International Trade Association:

“A tariff or duty (the words are used interchangeably) is a tax levied by governments on the value including freight and insurance of imported products. Different tariffs are applied on different products by different countries. National sales and local taxes, and in some instances customs fees, will often be charged in addition to the tariff. The tariff, along with the other assessments, is collected at the time of customs clearance in the foreign port.” (3)

Tariffs and duties increase investment cost and may affect your profit margin. Therefore, it is important to understand what your tariff and duty liability when calculating ROI on an investment vehicle. Furthermore, tariffs and duties are subject to change frequently as a way to protect domestic industries or encourage imports.

Tariffs and duties vary by country and are assessed based on the specific characteristics and value of an item being imported.


Shipping valuable goods abroad can be a risky duty to the many types of liability cargo may be subjected to. Therefore, it is important to purchase shipping insurance on vehicles shipped abroad. This type of insurance coveragetakes effect when the cargo leaves its place of origin and is in effect until the cargo is delivered to its destination.

The following tips can provide guidance when selecting cargo insurance

  1. If shipping overseas, be certain that your cargo insurance provider has a history of providing coverage for multiple modes of transportation, customs brokerage, and 

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