You’re in the final stretch. Even though your car is still under government control, but this is where things get easier. There are still some common misconceptions about picking up a car at a port, and you need to understand how this goes so you save money and stress.
Chapter 5: Arrival to America
Step 1: Who Should Transport My Car?
No, you shouldn’t drive down to the port expecting to drive it away yourself. 1.) Your car might not run (this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a realistic expectation). 2.) You shouldn’t drive an unregistered and uninsured car with no plate (unless you have to, but you’ve made it this far without breaking the law, so don’t start now).
So what do you do? You probably don’t have a flatbed or a trailer that can fit a car (but if you do just go ahead to the next step), so you can’t transport the car yourself and you can’t drive it away. At this point it’s time to hire someone to transport it. The internet is a beautiful thing when it comes to things like this, but your situation is tough. Most shipping companies need an exact pickup and drop off time, and you have no control over when your car will be released from customs. There are useful sites like https://www.uship.com/ and http://eshiptransport.com/ , but again, this situation is special. Here’s my suggestion:
Use these online shipping websites to find highly rated transporters in your area. Most shipping companies can accommodate distances, but you’ll get a better deal if they’re nearby. Doing this allows you to see smaller companies that can ship your car. You don’t have to settle for a company that ships thousands of vehicles every month. While that may be an alright option, you’d rather have someone that has a flatbed/trailer that’s only shipping your car. Once you find some transporters you trust, contact them directly (not through the website). Tell them your situation, tell them when the car will be ready (just estimate a week after the delivery date and you should be safe), and ask their price.
You don’t have to have a personal friend or relative pick up the vehicle. You don’t even have to be there. You just need to make sure whoever picks it up knows what they’re doing. Also, make sure the transporter has a winch. This is big. It may cost a little more, but if your transporter gets to your car and it doesn’t run, they’ll probably leave and charge you a dry-run fee. This sucks. Not only does it cost you money, it also costs you time and hassle. Setting up transportation on a days notice isn’t fun, so make sure you do it right the first time.
Step 2: Creating a Delivery Order
Your car is released from customs and you have a transporter scheduled to pick it up, so now you need to create a Delivery Order. A Delivery Order is essentially just something that tells the rest of the port when your car is being picked up, and who is picking it up. This makes sure your car isn’t picked up by the wrong person, and this allows the port to have you car ready on the pickup date. Creating a delivery order is simple. In short it goes like this:
Also, there’s a big incentive to hire a driver that owns a TWIC card. Think of this card as a special port access card. Essentially, when a driver has a TWIC card they can drive into the port without an escort. Why is there an incentive? An escort costs $100. So, if you show up to the port with your trailer, you better have $100 CASH on you, or they won’t let you in. In the end, it may be cheaper to hirer a driver even if you have access to a truck/trailer. An escort also only lasts 2 hours, so if you’re having trouble hooking up your car then you’re at risk of having to pay for another escort. Make sure you clear this with your driver beforehand, because he’ll need $100 cash on him if he doesn’t have a TWIC card (which he’ll add to your bill). Thankfully, most drivers have TWIC cards.
What You Should Do Before the Car Leaves the Port
Take pictures. Take a lot of pictures. If you’re not there have your driver take pictures. A LOT OF PICTURES. If your car leaves the port without pictures, something’s wrong with it that happened during transportation, and you have no pictures, you’re screwed. Make sure pictures are taken of at least everything you have a picture of before it left Japan. Body panels. Interior. Engine. Trunk. Carpet. Under the carpet. All of the glass. All of the wheels. Anything that looks rusty. Anything you can think of. You only have one chance to prove the shipping company did something wrong, and trust me, shipping companies are huge. They’re not afraid of some guy that imported one car and he thinks it got messed with. You need proof.
This part is pretty simple. Once the delivery order is in place all you (or your transporter) has to do is show up and take the car. You’ll have to have the information stated above, but other than that (and the escort fee, if you need it), the pickup is easy. Just make sure you check as much as you can before it leaves, and make sure you know where you’re going. The address for the port isn’t the same as the address you’re using to pickup our car. Ask whoever created your delivery order where you or your driver needs to go to pick up your car, and you’ll be good to go!