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automobile: to ship or not to ship

 
jbeckmeyer
(@jbeckmeyer)
Active Member

Hello All,

I'm planning a move from California to the USVI (St. Thomas probably) arriving either late March or early April 2010.

I'm on the fence about what to do with my car...probably because I don't have enough info. So far, I hear two schools of thought: 1) why go through the hassle of shipping your car when you can sell it, save the shipping costs/hassle, and buy on Island? and 2) shipping was much less hassle and $$$ than I thought, and I'm so glad I have my car on Island!

So what's the story about buying on island vs. shipping? What are the most important points to consider? My car, if it matters, is a 2007 Honda Fit. It's tiny, gets great gas mileage, and is very practical.

Thanks for any insight you can provide!

Jim

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Topic starter Posted : December 17, 2009 5:51 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

i brought my care down when i moved in 2004, total cost of all shipping registration etc. was about equal or less than buying a car here. besides that, it was my car and one i knew all about and trusted. it was the correct choice for me.

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Posted : December 17, 2009 5:54 pm
popflops
(@popflops)
Advanced Member

Since I'm currently in the process of arranging shipping for both of our vehicles from Ohio to STX, please allow me to give my "2 cents" worth. First, since a Honda is a foreign car (or at least the chassis was made overseas), you'll pay 6% of the value of the vehicle as customs duty, in addition to the $.16 per pound road tax, the in-land transport and the ocean freight costs. And that's not all! Once your car arrives on island, you'll pay for licensing, registration and plates. To give you an idea, my husband's 2005 Chevy Avalanche (which apparently was made at least partially overseas) is going to cost $4,187.56 to bring to STX. My 2003 Jeep will cost $2,783.40. Quite expensive in my opinion, but we still owed more on them than they were worth in order to be able to sell them before moving. Another potential snag in your plans if you haven't already researched it is that, unless you've already paid off the Honda, you'll have to get permission from your bank to allow them to be transported off the mainland. We were very lucky, but I understand that is not always the case. Good luck in your planning, and remember to do lots of research first!!

Lisa

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Posted : December 17, 2009 6:47 pm
AllMashUp
(@AllMashUp)
Advanced Member

We brought a newer Honda Civic down to STX, I only enjoy driving it on three roads the "highway", the southshore autobahn, and the northshore road (after the recent paving). Driving everywhere else is a slalom course to avoid bottoming out on pot tubs, speed ramps, or my favorite speed ramps immidiately preceeding pot tubs ( I floor it and try to jump those). If we were invited over to someones house we had to ask the condition of the driveway lest we leave our oil pan along a unpaved rill. If it happened to rain heavy my wife would leave the Honda at work since the road would flood. Two months ago we parked it and bought a Jeep, we are very happy with our purchase and I don't mind the lower fuel efficiency because we drive about 1/4th less than we did in the states. I don't think St. Thomas roads are in much better shape.

My recommendation is if you moving and unsure if you are going to stay leave the Honda in storage or give it to a friend/family until you decide.

If you plan on making the VI your home sell the Fit and buy an older Jeep or SUV and ship that OR prepare to rent a car for a week while you shop for a used one here....used car prices vary wildly and sometimes you just have to be in the right place or know the right person.

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Posted : December 17, 2009 7:42 pm
Exit Zero
(@exit-zero)
Trusted Member Registered

You are getting some fine info - let me say that the roads in STT would be fine for a Honda Fit -- in about85% of cases - maybe even more but a Fit is pretty low clearance. Does it have the power to go up steep hills with passengers would be a concern - some driveways are very hard to negotiate if they are wet is another.

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Posted : December 17, 2009 8:04 pm
jbeckmeyer
(@jbeckmeyer)
Active Member

thanks popflops.
i think since I owe much less on the car than its worth, it might be more cost effective to sell it and buy on island. i can't justify spending what I owe on the car just to ship it!

and to AllMashUp, you pretty much put the nail in the 'ship it' coffin. my honda fit, as much as i love it, is probably not well suited to steep, curvy roads that flood! when i decided to make the move, my initial impulse was to buy exactly what you did: a jeep. the last thing i want out of my car is to not be able to use it when it rains, or not be able to visit someone because my car can't make the trip.

thanks to all!

Jim

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Topic starter Posted : December 17, 2009 8:05 pm
jbeckmeyer
(@jbeckmeyer)
Active Member

thanks, Exit Zero. I think the Fit stays in Cali. the clearance on it is low for the Oakland Hills much less St. Thomas. and I have doubts about the Fit's ability to manage the steep hills. thanks for your advice!

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Topic starter Posted : December 17, 2009 8:10 pm
terry
(@terry)
Expert

The reason I brought a car to the island is that I know the condition of the car. Used cars on island can be a real crap shoot. Everything including the electronics suffer in the salt climate. Some people have had good luck buying a used car but others have had nightmares. Beth and Tabra bought a used Jeep from a dealer for around $5K and it never ran right. It would just quit. They spend several thousand more dollars and never got it right. They finally sold it for $1K(?) or so as is to a guy who is trying to get it corrected.

I am buying a on island truck from my neighbor when he leaves island, so I know the truck. Otherwise I would ship again.

Caution, when I shipped, I had the freight company on STX send a carrier to my place in AZ. I signed the papers. The mainland shipper charged me $500 more than the freight company was going to charge. They were only supposed to charge to take it to FL. then I was to be charged by the local company.
When I called the mainland company to complain, they said tough, "you signed the shipping papers". Be sure to check out what you are signing.

I would have a on island company "pull" the vehicle down instead of having a mainland company "push" the vehicle down. That way there is someone with knowledge looking for it to arrive. I shipped another crate and it went to STT by mistake but the STX company was looking for it and knew where to look and had it brought over. I would have been days trying to figure that one out.

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Posted : December 17, 2009 11:07 pm
Michaelds9
(@Michaelds9)
Advanced Member

I used VI Cargo to ship my 22 yr old S-10 truck and it went exactly as Don said it would. I drove it to Miami from Dayton, Ohio.
Why? Because it has less than 100K miles, as previously mentioned it is a known quantity, it never had the first cigarette lit in it which is a health issue for me. It cost about what he truck was worth on the mainland to ship but no way could I replace it here for the same money. From what I see you got good advice. Find a clean vehicle there that hasn't suffered the ravages of the road and climate here and make sure it has the "right" VIN code. Will also be bringing our Subaru Forester in January for all of the same reasons.

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Posted : December 17, 2009 11:40 pm
beachy
(@beachy)
Trusted Member

We've brought all our cars from the states....We refer to it as our car retirement program. I drive them to FL and they Tropical sends them over. For the most part, we have older cars/trucks, but they were brought here to age "gracefully". We know what we have and we know any issues, maintenance etc...the climate and the roads and the flooding and whatever do take a toll on the cars in the VI though.They seem to attract dents and scrapes from parking lots and such. Tires don't last, and I don't care how expensive the tire was, the rubber goes, or the pothole gets you...One car got really unhappy when it had to sit in the sun, and the interior door panels, headliner etc fell off....we maintain them mechanically though, and they keep on going...

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Posted : December 18, 2009 12:06 am
lovinlife
(@lovinlife)
Active Member

Does anyone know offhand the limit for the percentage of window tint on cars in VI?

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Posted : December 18, 2009 9:11 pm
skighee
(@skighee)
Advanced Member

I am debating whether it would be worth it to ship our 07 Toyota Tundra with 40k miles on it or buy a new Tacoma when we get down there. We are definately going to ship our 04 Toyota 4Runner down there, but wondering if the Tundra will be TOO BIG for STT? Any insight?

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Posted : December 19, 2009 3:55 am
specialk
(@specialk)
Trusted Member

Jim...

We've brought three cars from the states to St Croix. One during our original move four years ago. (We left it behind to be sold when we left island three years ago) And two during our return move this past summer. Here's how we figured it.

We owned all three cars - meaning no outstanding loans. (FYI: If you have a loan on a vehicle you may need to get a letter from your bank giving permission to take the vehicle off the mainland. Many won't allow this because it's virtually impossible for them to repossess it if you default on the loan. Some may accept a letter signed by a third party accepting liability if you do default)

We knew the condition of each vehicle and knew we could count on them. (Unless you have first hand knowledge of the history of a used vehicle on island you don't know if it's been properly maintained or abused)

Could we easily finds parts for them on island?

It would cost more to buy similar vehicles here on the island and what were the chances of finding them here and in the same or better condition?

If you sell your car in the states before you leave will you need to get a rental until you leave for the islands? What's that gonna cost you? And will you need a rental until you find a new car on island?

On our first move we shipped our vehicle in the container with our household goods. On our recent move we shipped one vehicle ahead via VI Cargo and the other in the container with our belongings. We arrived on STX on a Sunday and the VI Cargo ship arrived on Tuesday morning. By 3:00 PM Tuesday our vehicle was cleared through customs, registered, and on the road. We only had to rent a car for those last two days up north and the first few days on STX. We now had a reliable vehicle - a piece of our former life - to get us around island until the rest of our belongings, and our second car, arrived in the container. It's a neat feeling to drive your stateside vehicle here. At least I think it is.

VI Cargo ships out of Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), FL. Vehicles delivered to the port by Friday afternoon are loaded over the weekend. The boat sails on Monday and arrives the following Tuesday - eight days later. Unlike some shippers VI Cargo only needs a copy of your title/certificate of ownership. They will do the leg work to pay any taxes due (they'll add it to your bill) and then clear your vehicle through Customs. Don was very helpful throughout the entire process as were the staff in his STX office.

You're not supposed to drive a vehicle with stateside plates in the VI. You're "supposed" to obtain a moving permit which is good only from point A to point B (and back if need be) with no stops between.

One more thing. You car needs to be insured before its tires can touch an island road.

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Posted : December 19, 2009 6:21 pm
terry
(@terry)
Expert

When I shipped with Flemming they took care of getting the plates and registration so I just picked it up from them, no problems.

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Posted : December 19, 2009 8:25 pm
jbeckmeyer
(@jbeckmeyer)
Active Member

thanks, specialk,

To be honest, I'm still going back and forth on shipping the Honda Fit. It'd be great to have a piece of my mainland life on the island, but because I don't own it outright, and am coming from California, i'm not sure the hassle would be worth it. and it's little 4-cylinder engine and low clearance are fine for Oakland, CA, but the hills of STT? ...not feeling too confident about that. in the end, it probably comes down to what kind of vehicle i end up with when i'm on island: if i get a relatively dependable jeep for a good price, I'll be happy. If i end up with something that falls apart on me the first month i have it, i'll wish i'd shipped. i'm not concerned with what kind of ride i get on island, as long as it's dependable - as a Fit owner, i obviously don't need my vehicle to impress!

Also, i'm still working out the logistics of my PMV, which will probably affect my decision. i have a job all worked out because I work from home (website development & project management for companies in NYC) and will have my "office in a box" with me on the plane, so the day after i get off the plane i could conceivably be back to work. renting a car for a couple of weeks won't be a problem, so i'll have some time to look for something quasi-reliable. And i know this is probably not reality based, but i have it in my head that i want to drive a jeep when i'm there! not sure why...i'ts just the image i have in my head. lol.

ah well, thanks all for the great feedback...i'll figure it out eventually!

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Topic starter Posted : December 19, 2009 8:52 pm
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