Shipping cars overseas? Discover your options with K International!

Shipping cars overseas? Discover your options with K International!

Having choices is often perceived as a synonym for being free, and today’s hyper-constellated market for international shipping services, with its seemingly countless options, allows for a sense of agency that we could hardly have imagined for ourselves only a few decades ago.

Multiplying at a mushroom-like pace, international transport companies are faced with the challenges generated by fierce competition for survival, which, in logistics, can be – and often is – fatal for those players who do not have true in-depth knowledge of the components and processes that constitute this type of business. But while your choices for worldwide car shipping companies may appear unlimited, there are not that many answers that can be given on how to ship a car overseas.

Basics of International Vehicle Shipping

Vehicles of all kinds – cars, trucks, busses, boats, heavy equipment, etc. – can be shipped by either RO/RO (roll on/roll off) or container service, so long as they meet certain requirements established by the steamship lines and/or imposed by the equipment needed to perform the transportation. So, what are the main differences between these two types of services?

While most people are somewhat familiar with the concept of container, RO/RO sounds cryptic to many the first time they hear it. In fact, RO/RO is probably the easiest and cheapest way to ship self-propelled and towable units by sea, as they are literally driven (or towed), parked, and secured into the hull of the ship, until they reach their destination, where they will be driven once again – this time off the vessel – for the owners to pick them up at the port of discharge.

Photo by Tobias Tullius
Photo By Tobias Tullius

Some, however, prefer to have their vehicles put into a container, particularly when these are either new, customized, or vintage units with a high value. This type of service is usually more expensive than RO/RO, as it implies the use of professional warehouses to load, brace, and secure the car(s) into the container in the country of origin, and to unload it once it arrives at its destination.

Comparing RO/RO and Container Shipping Services

It is worth pointing out that, both with RORO and container service, the vehicles are not directly exposed to any type of weather conditions while they are on board the ship. RORO vessels are like giant, floating, enclosed parking lots, shielding their cargo from sunshine, rain, wind, snow, hail, and whatever else may come down from the sky. Containers, instead, can be transported as either under-deck or on-deck cargo. The latter option implies that the containers themselves will have to endure any weather conditions that the ship will encounter on its way, though the vehicles they contain will remain protected from direct sunshine or rain.

Photo by Markus Spiske

The table below provides a comparison of the main pros and cons of these two types of services:

RORO Container
  • Less steps-
  • Lower costs-
  • No need to hire anybody to unload your car at destination.
  • More ports worldwide-
  • Loose items/personal effects allowed both inside and outside the car-
  • Once the car is containerized, nobody will have access to it.
  • Less ports worldwide-
  • No loose items/personal effects allowed inside the car-
  • Higher risk of car damage.
  • More steps-
  • Higher costs-
  • Need to hire somebody to unload your car at destination.

Lastly, international vehicle shipping can be performed by air freight as well, but the extremely elevated costs limit its usage by car owners, who mostly choose either RO/RO or container service for their needs.

Here at K International, we have the capacity to move all types of cars, including non-running units, and we are always ready to advise on the best way to do that on a case-to-case basis. Have a chat with us over the phone at +1 (212) 267-6400 or send us an email at to find out how easy it is to ship your car with us!