Motorhome shipping to America

You want to ship your RV to America, but don’t know exactly how to go about it, even though you dream of traveling around America with your own RV for an extended period of time? We did this with our family and it was a great success! Did you know that shipping your RV instead of renting an RV in the United States can pay off as little as 4 to 5 months? In addition, the great advantage is that your own RV is a familiar place for kids to live and sleep while traveling. In this blog, we try to give you as much information as possible on how to ship your RV to the USA.

Visa application for America

As a first step before taking a long trip to the United States, make sure you arrange your visa properly! Before our departure, we applied for a special visa (B1/B2) at the US embassy so that we could stay in America for longer than 90 days (the ESTA visa). When we had to apply for it, the waiting period was 1 year. Currently, the waiting time is 39 working days (May 2024 level), so it can change very much.

Well before your trip, check how long the waiting time is for this application. We would leave in less than a year, but knew that if we logged in every day we would eventually get an earlier spot. If you have the time, don’t take that gamble ;-). In our case, it worked out well. Suddenly a spot was vacant earlier. We quickly called Grandma to babysit and so a few weeks later we were able to go to the United States Embassy with the necessary papers.

Before you can make an appointment, you must fill out a D160 form. Completing this application in advance will definitely take you 1-2 evenings and we found it to be a very time-consuming process. Each visa cost us $160 per person, so the cost for our family of 5 for this was $800. So you like to do this right, also because your visa may be rejected. You can find your visa application and all the information about waiting times on this page

What we ran into is that we could go last- minute but the extract of our marriage certificate was not in on time. You must also bring an excerpt from the birth register of your kid(s). Those were fortunately in on time with us. In addition, they would like to know some kind of itinerary that you will be driving with the motorhome, how much money you are taking with you and whether you are really going back to the Netherlands.

Our plan was not at all fixed yet, but we quickly printed out an itinerary of sorts. We also brought our wedding album, because we didn’t have our certificate (yes really, we were that afraid of rejection, haha), brought the birth records extracts, and finally after an hour we were outside without passports.

In fact, if your visa is approved, you must leave your passport behind and it will be sent to you within two weeks with the visa to the United States.

Motorhome shipping to America

Motorhome insurance

Then the insurance of the RV, because of course you want your RV to be properly insured even in America. We insured our RV with the insurance company Thum. We searched for a long time to see if there were better and cheaper options, but ended up coming back to this insurer. Options we explored were:

  • Buy/rent a mailing address in Florida and get US insurance.
  • Running our insurance through the mailing address of friends from the USA.

With both, it seemed that if something really went wrong we might not be covered anyway. America is a country where the phrase “I sue you” is known to lurk in the event of an accident (or, “I’m dragging you to court”). Rather pay a little more and be well insured so than get into trouble if something really happens was our thought.

You cannot cancel the insurance in the Netherlands, but you can get a discount (just call your insurance for that and they will send you the papers you need). In addition to motorhome insurance, we also purchased travel insurance from the insurance company Allianz

Motorhome shipping to America

Shipping the motorhome to America

We did the shipping through “Seabridge. We requested several quotes from different companies, but Seabridge ended up being the cheapest and has a lot of experience shipping RVs (you can also ship to South America or Africa). They are super helpful. You can call or email them for all your questions.

We shipped our RV from Antwerp to Baltimore. You can also ship your RV to the place Halifax and this is slightly cheaper than to Baltimore. We will eventually ship our motorhome back from Halifax, so we can do a nice tour of America and Canada.

Motorhome to America shipping costs

The cost you pay to ship an RV to America depends on the height x length x width of your RV. For a regular motorhome, count on a price between 3000 and 5000 euros (price level February 2024) one way. Included in these costs are port charges in Antwerp and some other things.

Once you have an actual date to ship, Seabridge will send you the forms to ship. Among other things, you have to provide your green card, declare what you are shipping with your motorhome and purchase marine insurance. The cost of the latter depends on the value of your RV (in our case, the insurance was 600 euros).

You may stuff your RV as full as you want, as long as it looks empty on sight. Also, no food or liquids are allowed. We all packed 1 suitcase once we were ready to leave for the first time and the rest of the clothes went with us in the camper. So are all the supplies you would otherwise have to buy or rent additionally when you rent an RV.

Think plates, cutlery, cups, camping chairs, towels and all the other stuff you need for camping. But also, for example, our SUP went with us at the bottom of the camper. Also, the kids’ school supplies were all stored in the cabinets of the camper, so we wonderfully did not have to lug them around in the suitcases.

Motorhome shipping to America

Taking motorhome away to port

When you take the camper away to the port (in our case, this was the port of Antwerp), there are a number of things to think about. The camper must be completely spotless on the outside. So that washing of the campere is best done just before the port. We wrapped the beds and chairs in plastic so we wouldn’t have customs dogs’ paws on our pillows.

They also recommend this and you can do it just fine with construction plastic from the hardware store. We had the cleaning of the camper done at Truckwash (Zomerweg 30b in Antwerp). They take the time to professionally clean your RV, and you can call them in advance for information if needed. They are super understanding and helpful and also take good care of skylights for example that they don’t damage them.

Delivering your RV to the port is relatively easy. You have to fill out some paperwork and your passport and driver’s license will be scanned. You are given a string to hang your keys on, your camper is weighed and you leave your camper open. Pretty exciting, but it’s in a secure area.

We had arranged for someone to pick us up at the port, which is convenient because there is no public transportation near the port. You can follow the ship with your camper through various apps. Vesselfinder is an example of such an app (good for the nerves). We flew to New York on KLM a few days after shipping.

Motorhome shipping to America

Motorhome pickup at port of America

We were very glad we flew with KLM. The kids were immensely pampered and it was truly a party for all of us after all this preparation. After 5 days in New York, we traveled to Baltimore on the AmTrack. There we spent 1 night in a hotel and took a rental car and stayed in a little apartment in Maryland for a while.

From there we did day trips to Washington, Pensylvania and surrounding areas. Finally (3 days later than planned) we got the message that we could pick up the motorhome. In Baltimore, go to the port building (you will clearly get the information for this from Seabridge) and pay the port fees. Then you can use a forwarder to pick up your motorhome at the port. This went very easily in our case.

Finally, your great journey across America can begin. We celebrated when we finally got back on the road with our camper. How cool it is to spend the first night back in your own house on wheels all the way on the other side of the ocean!

Motorhome shipping to America

About the author: this blog is written for Ilse Stelma on IG to follow under traveling_stelmafamily. Ilse has been to 34 countries and she loves to travel with her family. In addition, they love nature, (wild) camping, occasional luxury and places not yet frequented by many tourists.

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