I’ve found a car in Germany that interests me — a 1990s Mercedes. It is a nice driver, but not a concours example.

It’s been decades since I bought a car from Europe, and I would like your advice.

Millions of cars come to the U.S. each year ro-ro (roll-on, roll-off); is there any reason this one shouldn’t?

The nearest German port to the car is Emden, and the ultimate destination is Portland. But I know that where you want the car to be and where the ships go are not always the same.

Someone suggested I ship the car from Germany to New York and then overland to Oregon. Does that make sense? I am in no hurry.

I also have the option of using the customs broker in Seattle that Brian Baker, our Rising Sun columnist, recently used to receive his Honda S-MX from Japan.

This is a new arena for me, and I look forward to your thoughts on how to navigate this and what it should cost.

What’s the car? Well, let’s just keep that a secret until I get the deal done.


  1. Emden to Benecia and drive it up the remaining miles.

  2. To state the obvious, a container would be more secure. If the auto is newer, closed and less “exotic” (less tempting to sticky fingers), then a ro-ro might be okay. I assume it would be in the company with new European imports aboard one of the ships used for that purpose and not on a tramp steamer from the Jack London days.

    As far as driving it cross country…sounds like fun. I’ve done it, though I usually just go West Coast to the midwest. One of my favorite trips was driving my new (used) SL in Chicago and driving it to Idaho.

    However, it’s a new acquisition…. one you may not have inspected in person. Unless you have complete faith in the seller, you are asking a lot of a car on your first date.
    Unless you have a shop in NY to go over it and the time for them to rectify any unforseen issues, have it sent to the West coast. Then you and your shop can begin a proper unhurried courtship without and travel or time pressures.

  3. Contact Schneider Cargo directly, do not go through a broker. Schneider has the capability to containerize the car in a shared container and ship to a port near you. Once you know the port of entry you can make the decision to pick it up yourself or have a reliable transport company bring it to your final destination. There are plenty of brokers and you have to remember their job is not to transport the car, it is only to make the sale. Voice of experience.

    • I did it 6 years ago- container as it was vintage 60s Italian and I didn’t want anyone getting curious about the value of hubcaps, badges etc. Also didn’t want any chance of it sitting open to sea spray, elements, dock workers wallet chains while they lean against the car for a smoke.

  4. Simple process: Ro-Ro the 500E to the port of your choice, e-mail me where and when to be there, then the car shows up at your front door with a full tank of gas and a guy with sh** eating grin several days later. Easy process done from the comfort of your office.

  5. RoRo works ok, and if it half the price, that seals the deal. I have done it. As long as the car is fairly weatherproof. It will sit out on the docks at both ends and will likely be exposed to a lot of rain. I wouldn’t trust a convertible. Bring a jump box, a gallon of gas, and basic tools, just in case. So you can just drive it away. I had to hire an escort to take me down to the car when I retrieved it at the Port of Jacksonville. I even did the paperwork myself, paid the duty at the custom house (not near the port!), etc.

  6. 2018 I shipped my Porsche 997 RO RO from Bremen to Brisbane ,Australia. and previously my SL55 from Le Havre to Brisbane,with Heogh Autoliners. Both arrived in perfect condition. Half the cost of Containers.

  7. An acquaintance who regularly buys vehicles overseas ships them to the port of Baltimore, because there is someone who specializes in individual vehicle imports. (The pictures he posts suggest they are ro-ros) This person or company has their own pier. Once you or your designee takes delivery, getting your vehicle home is up to you… driving it to Portland would be one option, if you think the car will make it.

  8. I’m doing a shared container from Rotterdam to NY, with truck pickup in Madrid, then from NY to VA. About 20% more than RO/RO but more secure and I can load up the car with spare parts. Yes, it’s Italian… No, they never imported them…