HomeThe Market35,000 classic cars shipped overseas from U.S. last year

35,000 classic cars shipped overseas from U.S. last year


An estimated 35,000 classic cars left the United States in 2017, shipped in containers to countries overseas, West Coast Shipping said in its annual report. The family owned company has been in business for more than 30 years and specializes in transporting vehicles of all kinds in specialized containers.

“Classic cars of all makes and models were a popular export around the world,” West Coast Shipping said in its report “Mainland Europe was the largest importer, followed by Australia and New Zealand. By our estimates, over 35,000 classics have left the US last year.”

Cars (and motorcycles) in containers, ready to head overseas

However, it continued, while classic cars are popular, what drove the market were storms and a weak U.S. dollar. 

The number of classics exported “pales in comparison to the hottest export from the US,” West Coast Shipping said. “Salvage vehicles were responsible for increased volume to nearly all countries that allow them to be imported.”

The company said more than 600,000 vehicles suffered enough damage during the 2017 storm season in the U.S. to have been written off by insurance companies. 

“A record number found new life overseas,” the report noted, “where they were fixed, or parted out. Upon arriving overseas, some salvage cars were again re-exported via ground transport to surrounding countries.”

The company also noted the weaker U.S. dollar as a factor that “attracted more overseas buyers to the states in search of their dream cars. Accounting for the exchange rate, European buyers were able to save up to 20 percent compared to the previous year.”

Classic and project cars often are sent to restoration shops in Poland, where they were restored and sold in western Europe.”

West Coast Shipping noted that statistics from IHS Markit Piers indicated that 640,000 cars left the U.S. last year in containers, a 25 percent increase compared to 2016.

Compared to the previous year, Europe imported 51 percent more vehicles, the Middle East 39 percent more, and Africa 20 percent more. Figures declined only for Asia, and then by only 1 percent.

The UAE imported more containerized cars from the U.S. than any other nation. Australia imported more vehicles despite enforcement of its anti-asbestos laws, and hybrid and electric vehicles were in such demand in Ukraine that West Coast Shipping termed it an export explosion.

The figures include new vehicles as well as classics, used and salvaged. For example, West Coast Shipping noted that BMW shipped 24,000 new vehicles form its assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to dealerships in Russia. Tesla exported 40,000 new vehicles, with top destinations of Germany, Netherlands and Australia.

The company added that classic and project cars often are sent to restoration shops in Poland, where they were restored and sold in western Europe. 

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. as the owners of classic cars become older and older, we’ll need to export more of these cars overseas. There will be no one left to love these rides in a one or two more decades. We all need to encourage younger folks to continue our love affair with our beloved old cars. Check out http://www.savethehobby.org

    • Very True The modern generation is not taking much interest in Vintage and classic cars we have to encourage the youngsters to take care of vintage and classic cars

    • I bought a 1930 Ford Model A and a 1965 Oldsmobile Jet Star 88 and shipped them here to Panama because I hate cars with electronics in them and which are uncomfortable and made out of plastic. They are extremely popular here in Panama. There is a market for them here because the government makes it hard to get them in and expensive. It is worth it to me. The USA has lost more than the cars. They have lost me because I will never come back. I don’t like how folks are treating each other.

    • As a Generation X’er please allow me to put in my two cents here. First of all the hobby is changing, that is a simple fact. The car hobby may have found its roots with the generation who was born in the 20’s and served in WWII and they took it in the direction they wanted. Then along came the Baby Boomer generation who took it in another generation. Now people of my generation are getting to the age where we are starting to have some disposable income to spend on a collector car and we are taking it yet another direction. I view them as forks in the road. My generation seems to be collecting domestic and import performance cars of the 80’s and 90’s: 3rd gen Mustang’s and Camaro’s, Toyota Celica’s, Nissan 300ZX, Acura Integra, etc. Personally I am restoring the 1986 Ford Ranger pick-up that my dad and I shared when I was in high school and was eventually sold out of the family in 1997 for a worn out motor. It’s not the Fox-era Mustang I’ve always wanted but I’ve got a lot of memories in this old truck! Next up is Generation Y and the Millennials who seem to be going after European and Japanese imports, or they’re buying brand new performance cars such as the 2018 Charger Scat Pak that a friend of mine has and drives it only on really nice days and keeps it garaged and shined.
      My point is that we must adapt and allow the hobby to change with each generation if we want to remain relevant. Some cars are going to lose value and relevance, that’s inevitable. I don’t expect my Ranger to ever make me a millionaire, that’s not what it’s for. A first generation Ford Ranger pick-up truck is certainly no Model T in terms of relevance either. The question is, how relevant do you want to be? Do you want to be remembered as having made an impact on a young person’s life? Or do you want to be remembered as that grouchy old man who never let anyone photograph his car for fear the flash might damage the paint?

      • 1957 I was in high school, I fell in love with the 1932 Packard phaeton that was road tested in comparison to a 57 DeVille in Popular Mechanics. In 1964 I graduated college and wanted to buy one, but price was too high at $6000 in restored condition. Today the price is prohibitive. But today I can afford to collect 50s and 60s convertibles and have several. Many GenXers and millennials would love to cruise that sleek 57 Biarritz or 60 Impala convertible they see at the shows, but it is all about price and affordability that the young folks don’t have yet.

      • blah blah blah.. we must let and we gotta do this.. milarky on both sides.

        First off.. There is nothing muscle, period.
        Second, they made millions of them.


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