Bringing Classic Cars to Europe

Thanks to the internet, classic car enthusiasts can find the car of their dreams with just a few quick clicks on a sales site or by joining online classic car groups where others may have vintage cars for sale. This means that whether you are already in Europe or a returning European citizen or are planning to make a move across the ocean from the USA to live in Europe, you may need to find a reliable way to move your classic overseas. Bringing a classic car to Europe can be a daunting task, but one that can be handled easily with the proper plan in place. The Classic Car Company works with some of the top transporters worldwide to assist our customers with bringing those classic beauties to Europe safely and as quick as possible. 

Whether you already own a classic car or you are just now purchasing one, you need to make sure you have all the proper sales and ownership documentation in order before trying to have it imported.




One of the first things ever asked by a classic car owner is “What will it cost to ship my classic car to Europe?”. While this is an important question, the answer will depend on various factors.

One of the most important will be how the car is shipped. If you plan to ship by air to get the car delivered fast, you can expect to pay anywhere from €5000 and €10000 depending on the port you ship to and from. For container shipment, you may pay between €2000-€4000 or more and for standard RORO shipment, you can often find services ranging between €800-€2000 or more depending on the size of the car and the distance it will ship.

A word of advice on shipping from the port. If a price seems a little steep to you, ask your agent if there may be a less expensive port option and if it is possible to have your car delivered to the less expensive port to save a little money. Bear in mind however that there may not be a port with a lower cost, but it surely does no harm to inquire about it when possible.


U.S. Exit Ports


There are many ports along the U.S. east and west coast, but here are some of the busiest that ship to Europe:

  • Los Angeles, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Oakland, California
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Houston, Texas
  • Miami, Florida
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • New York City, New York
  • Savannah, Georgia

If you have easy access to one of the ports, you can save a little cash by driving the car or hauling it to the port on your own. The Classic Car Company can also help you with arrangements to have a local auto transport company right in the USA deliver it to the port for you so you won’t have to worry about taking time from your already hectic schedule or other travel plans to shuttle the car to an exit port if it is not convenient to you to do so. 




Classic car owners will need to supply some important documentation before they can bring a car overseas to Europe. These documents include:

  • Bill of Sale
  • Vehicle Title
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Proof of Insurance
  • License Plates (Be sure to remove the plates from the car prior to shipping as US tags are a hot commodity in Europe for collectors and they tend to get swiped from cars when a chance arises)
  • Passport
  • Declaration of Dangerous Goods
  • Direct Representation Form (This one is only necessary if you are having the car shipped through an importer)
  • Customs Exemption of the import duties (This is necessary if you are moving and will have your household goods imported at the same time as the car)
  • Shipper Export Declaration

You will also need to pay your import duties and taxes to have the classic car imported into Europe.


Classic Car Import Duty Cost


You are in luck if you are importing an American classic car to Europe. While most cars will incur a 10% import fee, American classic cars can be imported without paying a duty at all. To qualify as a classic, the car must be at least 30 years old and no longer be in production. The car must also be in original condition with no modifications to the steering, chassis, brake system or engine.


Types of Overseas Transport


Now that you understand that there will be taxes and duty fees and that you will need to supply some specific paperwork to have the classic car moved to Europe, you should also know the different types of overseas transport that will be available to bring your car across the ocean. Be advised that it can take between 10 and 20 days or possibly longer to have the car delivered from the U.S. to Europe. This varies depending on the coast that the car ships from as well as weather and sea conditions and the overall mechanical soundness of the ship itself.


Roll on-Roll off


When it’s time to have a car transported to Europe from the United States, a large majority of people try to find the most reasonable rates available to make sure shipping is as little cost as possible.

Roll-On Roll-Off, also called RORO, is the cheaper alternative to bringing a car to Europe. The car is driven on and off the ship, which makes it easier to load than when using a container and RORO loads can be unloaded and inspected at customs quicker than cars inside containers.

RORO is the most popular choice for many car owners when bringing a car to Europe. There are some disadvantages to RORO however and that includes the car being fully exposed to the elements during shipment including wind and water as well as people. To use RORO, you will need to see if the port you are shipping to accepts RORO vessels or if they only accept container ships. Some accept both but there are others that only accept one of the two.


Container Shipping


Container shipping can be an ideal option for shipping if you need to pack household goods and ship them at the same time. They are also ideal for cars, such as classic cars, that need a secure shipping environment to keep salt water, animals and possible thieves or vandals from viewing the vehicle. While container shipments cost more than RORO, you will have the ability to load personal goods and the car will be secured from danger during the move overseas.

You can choose from 20 or 40-foot containers when shipping a classic car. 20-foot containers are great for a single car while 40-foot containers are perfect for two cars. Both options will also provide room for household goods that may be needed to import at the same time.




Many classic car owners need safe storage space once their cars arrive here in Europe. We offer access to specialist secure storage, so be sure to inquire about this before you have the car shipped.

During the time a car is in storage, it may be a good time to also consider some of the cosmetic or mechanical upgrades your car may need. We can assist with a complete restoration if the car is need of a little TLC before showing it off. Restoration of a classic car can be a magical time for the owner as they watch their prized possession transform into the beauty they knew it could be and The Classic Car Company ensures all work is handled professionally by qualified restoration pros throughout Europe. 




Classic car owners who have their car imported to Europe must register it before it can be driven. Classic cars, and most other U.S. made cars will need to be modified to conform to European vehicle safety standards. Again, The Classic Car Company can handle the registration on your behalf.

Restoring a Fiat 500L Part 5: The greasy bits!

With our beautiful shiny bodywork now complete, it was time to re build the car with all the new and rebuilt mechanical parts.

We started with the under side, fitting a new leaf spring, pair of king pins, drop links and shocks at the front, along with new brake cylinders, shoes and springs. The king pins are notorious on 500s, and even new ones have slight play in them. A new leaf spring does mean the car sits a little high for a few thousand miles, but the bouncy ride is part of the 500s charm!



The restored steering box and arm were next, as the front end began shaping up nicely.



Moving to the rear, new arms, springs and brake elements were built up.



At this stage we hit a very satisfying milestone – fitting the new wheels to the car and allowing it to sit on the floor!



Restoring a Fiat 500L Part 4: Its all down hill from here!

With the car already sandblasted, all rust removed, and new metal let in, the bulk of the time-consuming prep work had already been done.

A small amount of panel beating, filling, and rubbing down of the initial primer was done, before a good coat of epoxy primer was sprayed on. We used this as it’s a very versatile primer. Its compatible with most other coatings, and ideal for use over bare metal or existing coatings.

We started with the underside. All cavities were wax oiled, and the underside and wheel tubs were stone chipped.

On to the bodywork. After some blocking, and with all of the old dents, rust, and damage removed, we were ready to paint! We decided to use single layer paint, as the car would have had from factory. Single Stage paints still have UV resistance and can shine similar to a clear-coated vehicle if maintained properly. They also allow you to polish out scratches. All vehicles had a type of single stage paint up until the early 1980’s when the basecoat-clearcoat system was developed. We applied 3 coats of paint, to ensure the blue had a deep glossy shine. We chose Blu scuro. This is Fiat paint code 456 and was a paint code used by Fiat from 1957 (beginning of Fiat 500 production) until 1975. It’s one of the few paint colours that spanned all five generations of the 500.



Once the paint had dried in the oven, the team set about flatting and polishing. The job here was to get the paint as smooth and flat as possible by removing all the imperfections. A few runs and dust specks were removed using a nib file. The next stage was colour sanding, using a sanding block (flat form flat surfaces and curved for others), a bucket of soapy water, and progressively higher grit sandpaper to smooth out any minor imperfections in the paint including orange-peel. As we applied three good coats, we could start with a more aggressive sandpaper. At the end of this stage, the bodywork was pretty dull, but the panels felt flat and smooth to touch, with no imperfections. So, on to the final and most satisfying stage, cutting and polishing! The team used a multi-speed rotary machine polisher to gradually smooth out the finish and bring out the lustre in the paint. Similarly to the sanding, they worked their way up from an aggressive cutting compound and pad to a final foam pad and polishing compound. Finally, a coat of hard wax was added, and our little 500 was looking quite the part.

Restoring a Fiat 500L Part 3: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

mms_img504641652-copyWe love the Fiat 500 here at The Classic Car Company and back in early 2014, we were nearing the end of a number of Fiat 500 projects when our head technician quipped “you better get me the next one then”. Whilst the idea of sourcing another project car was a good one, the situation surrounding the search was far from ideal!

This is the third part of our series on Fiat 500L restoration. If you’ve not yet read part one and two head over there to read it now!

I am not going to pretend otherwise, the extent of the work needed to return this ‘cinquecento’ to the road shocked us! An immediate solution or plan wasn’t forthcoming, so our focus moved onto other projects for a few months, and the stricken shell was protected with a light primer and rolled to the corner of the workshop.

mms_img-915144947One day, a few months later, the boxed up parts of the stripped car caught my eye and brought the project back to the top of my mind. I was still determined not to let this project beat us, so I began to tap away at a calculator in an attempt to cost the job! After some serious negotiations with our suppliers in Italy, we decided to revive the restoration! At least we could say this would really be a nut and bolt restoration with every panel of metal being new.

The shell went into the bodyshop, along with all the new body and floor panels. Our welder called us all the names under the sun, some in English, some in Italian, all understood, and claimed he would never get the car straight!

All four wings and arches were removed, along with both sills, floors, and the whole front. The actual shell that we were left with was in pretty good shape. The only area that needed attention was the rear window surround. A section of the bottom offside corner was cut out and replaced with new metal.

mms_img-1222246262-copyAfter that the front was rebuilt. Starting at the front is the key to ensuring that the bodywork lines up straight on a 500.

A new inner front panel & battery tray were let in, followed by the outer front panel, arches and wings. This then allowed the new sills to be lined up correctly, and critically, with the new doors in situ as well.

After that, the pair of half floors and the rear quarters and arches followed suit, and that familiar 500 shape was back!

There was, as always, some skilled lining up to do. But this is the difference between a good job and a fast job. As our welder always says ‘any idiot can fit new panels – the skill is in lining them up and this takes time’. The right amount of time was taken, and eventually, we had a body to move into the paint shop!

mms_img-1369079277-copyWe’ll be posting more about this restoration project in the coming weeks so make sure you are following our posts on Facebook and check back regularly for updates.

Restoring a Fiat 500L Part 2: What have we done?

We love the Fiat 500 here at The Classic Car Company and back in early 2014, we were nearing the end of a number of Fiat 500 projects when our head technician quipped “you better get me the next one then”. Whilst the idea of sourcing another project car was a good one, the situation surrounding the search was far from ideal!

This is the second part of our series on Restoring a Fiat 500L. If you’ve not yet read part one head over there to read it now!

The next morning we unloaded all the parts, washed the car, and took this photograph that flatters the car to no end!

The car wasn't exactly as advertised

We were less than convinced by the ‘recent re-spray’, and what lurked beneath it, so decided to strip the car immediately and send off to the sandblasters.

Good job really, as what came back from the sandblasters was a car needing the following new parts:

  • Front outer panel
  • Front inner panel
  • Front battery tray
  • Front wings
  • Front inner arches
  • Inner and outer sills
  • A pair of doors
  • A pair of half floors
  • Jacking points
  • Rear wings
  • Rear inner arches
  • Rear engine bay corners

This is what we had to work withThe roof was good though!

Again, the second photograph to the right doesn’t really show how bad the car was.

So there we were with a car that needed far more work than we originally thought, and a project that had gone from a rebuild, to a total restoration. The main question at that point? Is this car beyond repair?

We’ll be posting more about this restoration project in the coming weeks so make sure you are following our posts on Facebook to find out more about how this restoration project turned out.

Restoring a Fiat 500L Part 1: Never drink and buy online!

Back in early 2014, we were nearing the end of a number of Fiat 500 projects, and our head technician quipped “you better get me the next one then”. Whilst the idea of sourcing another project car was a good one, the situation surrounding the search was far from ideal!

Lets just say that it was evening time, a few friends were present, the ale was flowing, and the eBay bidding was a little more frivolous than normal – the aforementioned technician may have been present too!

A few days latter, and an email drops into my inbox, congratulating me on winning an auction. What auction……..oh……..b****r……..what have we done? We were now the proud owner of a 1971, RHD, Fiat 500L. The car had recently been re-sprayed, and simply needed rebuilding with the complete and present array of parts, and an extra gearbox! At this point I thought ‘that could have been far worse, this will be easy’. The following day we hitched the trailer onto the Land Rover, and drove two hours north to collect our new project.

Needless to say, the freshly painted, complete car that we set off in search of didn’t materialise. In its place was a rusty, surely incomplete, heap! It was clear and immediate to see that the seller wasn’t prepared to admit that he had been a little ‘creative’ with his description or distant from the truth.

So we got back in the Land Rover, and prepared to head back down the M1. At this point the slightly more jovial seller realised we were really leaving, and reduced the asking price, eventually to a figure that was worth shaking his disingenuous hand for.

So we loaded the aforementioned heap, and headed back, vowing to never look at cars on the internet again beyond 2 beers.

We’ll be posting more about this restoration project in the coming weeks so make sure you are following our posts on Facebook and check back regularly for updates.