How much does car shipping cost?

Car shipping costs are calculated according to a car's measurements

Here we focus on the costs of car shipping from Japan to the UK.  I’m going to cover roll on, roll off shipping because this is the most commonly used method.  For more information on car shipping, have a look at this post on car transport.  If you’re interested in the costs of shipping cars in containers, feel free to let me know in the comments section below and I’ll write about it.

How is the car shipping cost calculated?

Shipping is calculated on the volume of space occupied by the vehicle, so is priced per cubic metre.  Prices are around $140 per cubic metre for shipping a car from Japan to the UK at the moment (summer 2023).

Car shipping is commonly invoiced in US dollars, so exchange rates and natural market fluctuations will influence the prices I’m about to describe.  They are correct at the time of writing, but please use them as a guide only. To illustrate this point, the current rates are nearly double those when I first published this article.

How many cubic metres does your car occupy?

Calculating the volume of your car is straightforward:  just multiply length, width and height (all in metres).  This will give you a number in cubic metres.  Then all that remains to do is multiply this by the shipping rate per cubic metre, as indicated above.

Picture of the Hoegh Maputo RoRo vessel - car shipping is commonly done by RoRo vessels like this.
M/V Hoegh Maputo by A Guy Named Nyal licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Worked Example – Toyota Alphard

Here is a worked example using a fairly large vehicle, the Toyota Alphard.  In particular I’ll focus on the first generation Alphard:  this is the most commonly imported one at present, due to many of them being over 10 years old (read more about this here).

A quick search tells us this car measures 4865 mm long, 1830 mm wide and 1935 mm high.

4.865 x 1.830 x 1.935 = 17.23 m3.

$140 x 17.23 = Car shipping for this vehicle from Japan to the UK would cost $2412.

Using the current rate of $1.26710 to £1 (this is from my Wise account), this would make a shipping cost of ~ £1915.

Things to remember

The above illustration is only a guide.

The price per m3 can vary.  Exchange rates can vary.  Both of these can influence the final price you pay.

The shipping company might use different measurements to work out the amount of space occupied by your car.

Container shipping may be cheaper, especially if you’re shipping more than 1 car.


  1. Hi Andrews,
    I ‘m impirting vehicle Toyota Estima 2003 model ACR30 from Japan. Could you please let me know that does it require indicators over finders or mirror? Secondly, do i need to change speedometer from kmh to mph? And what is a procedure to get registered with DVLA? Thanks

    • Hi Norman

      The indicators will be fine as they are, as long as they work.

      You don’t need to change the speedometer

      The procedure for registering an imported vehicle is described by the DVLA here


  2. Hi. Thanks for this very informative site.
    We would like to buy an Alphard but i’m finding some UK importers confusing and evasive to deal with. A couple are downright scary from a legal point of view and i’m considering importing one myself. I’ve read about buying directly from Japan but I don’t know where to start. Do you have a list of vehicle auctioneers and people who can arrange all the freight, legal and paperwork for me?
    Also, who is responsible for the correct condition and any issues which may arise to do with the importation of the vehicle if something is/goes wrong?

    Many thanks.

    • Hi Darryl

      Thanks for the questions and apologies for the delay in replying. Unfortunately I don’t have the type of list you mention. In terms of responsibility for the condition of the vehicle, this varies. The following is my understanding of the situation but I am not a lawyer! If you are paying your money directly to a dealer based in the UK, they are responsible for the correct description and condition of the vehicle. You may also be able to ask them to fix a fault with the vehicle after purchase, depending on the timescales and the type of fault involved.

      If you are paying for the vehicle by bank transfer to Japan, then you would need to approach the exporter in Japan if something went wrong with the vehicle. Being realistic, the chances of getting anything done about this are small, although there may be a small chance of getting something sorted if the exporter valued their reputation.

      This is why buying directly is cheaper – because it is a lot more risky. You don’t get to see the car before committing to buy it and if something goes wrong with the car or the transaction, most of the legal framework that would offer some protection if you bought the car in the UK, does not apply.

      Hope that clarifies things!

  3. Hello Andrew

    I got directed to your site though as struggling to find an answer. The Dvla / Uk customs is proving difficult.

    Slightly different from the other questions i’ve read thrown up.

    Do you know whether a temporarily imported car from Japan can be driven in the Uk – i.e. the license plates are acceptable ?

    The car is registered / insured / owned by myself and fully compliant in Japan – basically i am wanting to send the car to the Uk to use during a 3 month trip – the car doesn’t need to pay customs / tax as its my own car and it will be in the uk for less than 6 months and then sent back to Japan

    I am having some difficult finding out whether the license plate, a Japanese plate, is acceptable – as you know Japanese license plates have legible numbers unlike arabic plates so this fits the bill however it seems extremely unusual the Japanese send a car overseas (unlike is fairly common place for other nationalities)


    • Ignore the above. Problem solved.

      – We have to remake the Japanese plate but with the Kanji and hiragana showing romaji script

      – number remains the same

      – removing the official silver rear plate token (upper left fitment) before loading into container

      – upon return to Japan just need to pick up with temporary plates (the plates having the red stipe across them) and then get original plate officially ‘re-sealed’

      It seems for Japanese sending their own car overseas for using on holiday is very rare * rental wasn’t an option for us due to the type of car cannot be rented (collectible)


      • Hi Robert

        Thank you for updating your question with an answer. I’m glad it can be done and you’ve found out how to proceed. I’m sure someone else out there will find this information useful.

        Best wishes

  4. Wow, thank you for this amazing and helpful guide! It is definitely worth bookmarking.

  5. How i can contact By phone ,prefered speak spanish Did can contact with me By phone

    • Hi Gabriel

      Thanks for your message. I wish I could speak Spanish (and Japanese) but unfortunately I can’t!


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