Shipping a Car to Puerto Rico – Costs, Benefits, Drawbacks, and More

Shipping a car to puerto rico

Dreaming of sunny beaches and turquoise waters? Planning to make Puerto Rico your new home in the Caribbean? When it comes to moving to Puerto Rico, one of the challenges can be transporting your car to the U.S. territory. While purchasing a new car in Puerto Rico can be expensive, shipping your car from the mainland is a more affordable option. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the process of shipping a car to Puerto Rico, including costs, pros, cons, and everything you need to know.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Car to Puerto Rico?

The cost of shipping a car to or from Puerto Rico typically ranges from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on various factors. It’s important to allocate a significant portion of your moving budget to cover car-related expenses. The combined costs of overseas car transport and the excise and import taxes in Puerto Rico make the entire process quite expensive.

Factors That Affect the Cost of Shipping a Car to Puerto Rico

Several factors can influence the cost of shipping your car to Puerto Rico:

Total Shipping Distance: Vehicle transport companies calculate rates based on the distance your car needs to travel. Shipping a car from Seattle to Puerto Rico will cost more than shipping it from Miami. Consider the ports used by your preferred shipping company in both the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico to determine rates and availability.

Vehicle Drop-Off and Pick-Up Options: Most car transport companies offer door-to-port and port-to-port services. With door-to-port, the company picks up your car anywhere in the continental U.S., and you retrieve it at the Puerto Rican port. Port-to-port shipping involves dropping off your car at a mainland port and picking it up at the port in Puerto Rico. Door-to-port shipping is generally more expensive due to the longer distance involved.

Some companies provide door-to-door car shipping, which is the most convenient option but also the most expensive. In such cases, a third-party Puerto Rico transport company may handle the delivery from the port to your new home.

Vehicle Size: Larger and heavier cars cost more to transport. The model and age of your car typically have minimal impact on the final price, but luxury or collectible cars may require extra insurance or safety measures.

Enclosed vs. Open Ground Transport: For ground transportation, you have two options: open and enclosed. Open transport involves placing your car on a car carrier, exposing it to the elements. It is the most common and affordable option, but it does expose your vehicle to potential damage from weather and road debris. Taking thorough photographs of your car before handing it over to the transport company will help document any pre-existing damage.

Enclosed transport, recommended for expensive or luxury cars, protects your vehicle from the elements. However, it comes at a higher cost, typically around $1,500 more than open transport.

Roll-On Roll-Off vs. Container Shipping: For overseas shipping, you have two options: roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) and container shipping. RoRo involves driving your vehicle directly onto the ship and securing it to the deck. While your car is protected from the elements, it will be alongside many other vehicles inside the ship.

Container shipping involves storing your car inside a shipping container before loading it onto a ship. Single container shipping is more expensive than RoRo, but it offers enhanced protection for your vehicle. Some companies may offer containers that can accommodate multiple cars.

The Shipping Process

Shipping a car to Puerto Rico requires some preparation. While car transport companies provide detailed information upfront, here are the key points to consider:

Fuel Level: The car must have a fuel level of 1/4 or less before shipping.

Remove Personal Belongings: Remove all personal items from the interior and exterior of the car, and disable or remove car alarms. Manufacturer-installed accessories and permanent installations can remain.

Cleaning and Washing: Ensure your vehicle is clean inside and out before shipping. Puerto Rico has strict regulations to prevent the transmission of agricultural diseases, and your car will undergo thorough inspections upon arrival. Cleaning your vehicle is essential and may be required before shipping.

Repair Major Issues: Car transporters may refuse to ship vehicles with significant maintenance issues. Repair any major problems such as cracked windshields, broken brakes, and poorly inflated tires before shipping.

Prepare Required Documents: Shipping a car to Puerto Rico requires various documents to prove ownership, registration, and value. Although specific requirements may vary, prepare copies of the following documents:

Leased Vehicle: A copy of the title is needed when shipping a car from the mainland to Puerto Rico. If the vehicle is leased, include a notarized letter from the lien holder.

Driver’s License: Provide a copy of a valid driver’s license, and include a notarized letter if someone else is delivering the vehicle on your behalf.

Vehicle Appraisal: An accurate appraisal is required as Puerto Rico imposes an import tax based on the car’s value.

Bill of Lading: This official document issued by the shipping carrier confirms their authority to transport your vehicle.

Purchase Invoice: If you bought a new car, include the official bill from the dealer. For used cars, the sales receipt from the seller can serve as documentation.

EPA Form 3520-1: This form, available for download on the EPA’s website, is required by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for every vehicle being moved.

Registration: Ensure your car’s registration is up to date. Check the specific requirements for registration at the DMV in your state.

The entire shipping process usually takes one to four weeks, depending on the transportation method and your location. Delays can occur due to factors like ship schedules, truck rescheduling, or port closures. Make alternate transportation arrangements if you arrive in Puerto Rico before your car.

When to Ship Your Car to Puerto Rico

Consider the following factors when deciding whether to ship your car to Puerto Rico:

Age of Your Car: Determine the current value of your car, considering its age and condition. If the shipping cost exceeds the car’s resale value, it may be more practical to sell your car on the mainland and purchase a used or new car in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that cars in Puerto Rico are subject to an import tax, making them more expensive.

Local Public Transportation: While San Juan, Bayamón, and Ponce have reasonably good public transportation systems, the rest of the island has limited options. Although taxis and ridesharing apps like Uber are available, most residents rely on personal vehicles. Puerto Rico has one of the highest car ownership rates per square mile globally. Evaluate the public transportation network in your specific area to determine if owning a car is necessary.

Frequency of Return to the Mainland: If you plan to return to the mainland frequently, you may prefer to keep your car there and utilize it during your visits. Alternatively, you can leave your car with family or friends, rent it out, or store it in a long-term storage unit. Research insurance policies and explore the feasibility of each option to make an informed decision.

Bottom Line

Shipping a car to Puerto Rico from the mainland is generally more affordable than purchasing a new car on the island. While the process can be expensive, it allows you to bring your own vehicle and avoid the high costs associated with buying a car in Puerto Rico. Obtain quotes from multiple companies and compare different transportation options to ensure you find the best deal.

Note: The information provided is accurate as of the publication date. Please refer to current regulations and guidelines when shipping your car to Puerto Rico.


Shipping a car to Puerto Rico can be more cost-effective than purchasing a new car on the island. Consider the value of your car and compare it to the shipping costs to make an informed decision.

The cost of shipping a car to Puerto Rico ranges from $1,500 to $5,000. The total cost depends on factors such as the shipping distance, vehicle size, and transport method.

It is recommended to remove all personal belongings from the car before shipping. Car transport companies typically have restrictions on personal items to ensure the safety and security of the vehicle during transport.

The shipping process can take one to four weeks, depending on the method of transportation and your location. Factors such as ship schedules, truck availability, and port operations can affect the overall timeline

Open car shipping involves transporting vehicles on open car carriers, exposing them to the elements. Enclosed car shipping uses enclosed trailers, providing additional protection but at a higher cost. Open transport is the more common and affordable option.


  • Joseph Ferriolo

    Joseph Ferriolo is a seasoned entrepreneur and business consultant, who currently serves as the Director of Wise Business Plans. With his wealth of experience and expertise, Joseph is well-versed in a variety of business topics and frequently shares his insights and opinions with others. His written work has been featured in respected publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Bplans, among others.

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