Highway A9, toll station Como Grandate, Italy via Wikimedia

Transporting your used heavy machinery and vehicles within and into Europe

So you’ve found the perfect used excavator, truck or tractor on Tradus. Great! Now all that’s left is to bring it home.

Buying used construction equipment and heavy machinery vehicles from abroad may seem like a challenge at first, but so long as you’re well informed and well prepared, borders shouldn’t get in the way of a good deal. There are certain costs involved in transporting heavy machinery internationally though, so keep these in mind when budgeting for your lifter or loader. Many Tradus users pay extra for an end-to-end machinery shipping company to take care of the entire process, but with a little know-how, it’s possible to do it yourself – and save some money along the way.

If you’re planning to self-transport your newly purchased heavy machinery from one country to another, here are some of the factors and extra costs to keep in mind.

Before you read this

This article should give you an idea of various import regulations. It must not be treated as (binding) legal advice. Note that regulations are prone to change every now and then. Always seek professional advice when exporting goods to countries that have their own import regulations.

Know your import taxes and tariffs

In addition to VAT, you should consider import taxes and customs duty if you’re buying machinery or a vehicle from outside the EU. In this case, some additional paperwork is required and all goods need to be declared to customs. Trading with buyers and sellers within the EU is a simpler process thanks to the common customs tariff, and no import fees (other than VAT) apply.

Paperwork for transporting heavy machinery

Getting your documents in line will add some extra costs to your transaction, and if you’re buying from outside the EU or importing into non-EU countries then there are a few more boxes to tick. Keep this in mind when weighing up the full price of your chosen item. The checklist below includes the main documents needed to transport your purchased machinery or vehicle to its new home, but remember that rules and regulations can change, so please always consult the official import/export advice for individual countries first.

Both the seller and buyer are based within the EU. What documents do I need?

  • Eur-1 Certificate gives the buyer a discount or even exemption from import duties. It’s valid in all countries covered by the EU’s trade agreement.
  • Insurance. If your purchase is drivable, it needs to be insured before hitting the road.
  • Temporary license plate. If you plan to drive your newly purchased vehicle home, you’ll need a temporary license plate. Make sure that it’s valid in every country you pass through as not all rules are alike. The temporary license plate will be in the name of the seller, so you should arrange it together – or ask the seller to arrange this for you. Hauling a car, van or truck behind a licensed vehicle does not require a temporary plate.

Seller or buyer is based outside the EU. What documents do I need?

  • Certificate of origin proves which country a truck or trailer was produced in.
  • Homologation/type approval document includes technical details about the vehicle, needed to register a non-EU vehicle in one of the EU member states.
  • Commercial invoice – a record of the purchase.
  • Customs Value Declaration must be presented to the customs authorities if the value of the imported goods exceeds €20,000.
  • Freight documents. Any documents that are provided by the international shipping service, including bills and transport contracts.
  • Freight insurance to cover you in case of any loss or damage to your goods in transit.
  • Packing List (P/L) provides information on the imported items and the packaging details of each shipment (weight, dimensions, handling issues, etc)
  • Customs Import Declaration (SAD) must be drawn up in one of the official languages of the EU.

Cleaning and packaging up construction equipment

Sometimes a vehicle needs to be disassembled to fit into a container that is cheaper to transport than the fully constructed machine, like a crane or excavator. And some countries require all construction machinery and commercial vehicles to be taken apart and cleaned before import, in order to prevent organic dangers from finding their way into the country. Check the rules of the countries you’re transporting between, to see if you can save money by combining the two tasks.


Remember that from 31 December 2020, the UK will no longer be an EU member state covered by the EU common customs tariff. Any items purchased from the UK will come under non-EU import laws.

Using a transportation company

Many traders prefer to hire a professional international shipping company to handle the entire heavy hauling process. It’s a smart move: it may cost a bit extra, but these companies are fully up to date on the changing rules and regulations for different countries within and outside the EU, and have good relationships with customs and port authorities. Transporting companies will normally take care of insurance and all the necessary paperwork, so all you need to do is sit back and wait for your new equipment or vehicle to arrive. A popular company is RMR forwarding.

If you’d still prefer to handle the machinery shipping yourself, then with some proper research and groundwork, importing your new purchase should be a smooth process. Just make sure you list out all the costs of heavy equipment transport to avoid any unexpected surprises, and ensure you can put your newly purchased machinery to work as quickly and safely as possible.

Please note:

This advice is intended as an overview and is not exhaustive. Rules and regulations can change. So do always check the official advice before arranging to transport your new equipment. You can read more about export regulations for the Middle East and Africa and importing into non-EU countries in Eurasia on the Tradus blog.

Search TRADUS global marketplace for your next used construction vehicle or heavy machinery.

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