Shipping Your Vehicle and Household Items to Panama, a Guest Post

Many people consider shipping household goods and/or a vehicle to Panama when they move, and questions about it come up on the forums and discussion groups all the time.

Jason has experience in auto transport and some great advice on moving to Panama. You can check out his facebook page: A1 Auto Transport, Inc. or his website for further information on importing your vehicle to Panama.

Before making your move, you should consider all that comes with the move. Panama has a wide array of things to do for fun. Whether you like spending time at the beach, getting to know your neighbors or heading out to spend time shopping or checking out the local restaurants and lounges, you’ll find many things to do here. It’s a good idea to learn Spanish before you make the trip if you don’t already speak it. The language is spoken everywhere and while many people speak English, you’ll find it easier to communicate when you at least know some basic Spanish.

Panama is a far move from the U.S., so you need to be sure that you’re moving the items you need, including your vehicle, with you. Without your own vehicle, you may find it a hassle to find reliable transportation with taxis or buses locally, especially if you live in a rural area.

What to Expect with Shipping Goods and Your Vehicle

When you want to know what to expect, it is important to note not only how it can be done but what the prices are going to be like. Enjoy more from the move when you choose a reputable, highly qualified shipping company to work with. You will need to provide documentation when moving items, such as a declaration of goods being shipped, title of the vehicle, insurance and government documents including your passport. You’ll also need to pay import taxes on the vehicle which can range between 50-60% of the value of the vehicle.

There are a few types of transport that you can choose from, depending on how you feel on each. The roll on and roll off (RORO), as well as container shipping options provide you with a way to get your items, as well as your vehicle to Panama. Containers generally cost more, but it protects not only your vehicle, but your items that are being shipped with it. Air shipping is usually reserved for extremely expensive cars and it can be costly to use. RORO is the most economical and is widely used and trusted for overseas transport.

When you need to ship household goods you need to have a detailed shipping list to show every item inside your container so customs will not have a problem with their inspection and clearance. Some people prefer to ship vehicles separately just in case the household goods are held up with customs and delayed for clearance.

You should expect to have your items around a week or two after you have them shipped. You may want to bring along some necessary household items when you fly over to start your life in Panama. Shipping times can vary depending on the shipping company you work with. It also depends on their shipping schedule and how far out they need to go.

Pros and Cons of Shipping Your Vehicle to Panama

There are pros and cons to everything and importing to Panama is no exception.


  • You can trust a reputable company to ensure that your vehicle makes it to the destination
  • You can travel in Panama without relying on the public transportation system
  • Enjoy the fact that the value of your vehicle is not going to go down when you move it, since they do not devaluate as fast as they do in the states


  • You may have to save some cash to move the items and your vehicle to your location in Panama as it can be a little expensive
  • When looking for the right company to move your car, you may go through a trial and error phase until you find the one that is best for you

The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to vehicle transport and a pro can help you get all your items from one place to the next without having to worry about a thing. Whether you are moving or simply taking a much-needed vacation, you will quickly find that Panama has much to offer visitors as well as residents and it’s a place you will find easy to call home.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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12 Responses to Shipping Your Vehicle and Household Items to Panama, a Guest Post

  1. I could not begin to imagine the planning it takes for such a transition.. Sounds like you knew what you were doing… And made the right choices All round. 😀


  2. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Bringing a vehicle has been on many forums and blogs. Almost everyone in Panama states that bringing a vehicle is not a good idea unless it is some special possession or special needs. Foreign (to Panama) made vehicles may not have parts in Panama, the dealers may lack the servicing equipment, or the personnel may not have the training.
    If the vehicle is a prized possession or a classic auto then probably the climate in Panama is not the best for maintaining the value. Certainly the roads are not kind to vehicles. The best idea would be to sell as many possessions as possible, bring the cash, and buy local goods which have a track record of working in Panama.
    One category I would recommend bringing if needed: TOOLS. If there are other special interests such as musical instruments, or cookware, ship those. Nena would probably want to bring all her sewing stuff (5 sewing machines!) so we would have to have an extra container for her!


    • I know, but if someone is considering bringing in a car this is some info on how it’s done. I know quite a few people who have shipped containers though, so that is much more common. As I said in the comment above, we didn’t bring much. I did ship my sewing machine though.


    • jim and nena says:

      I learned long ago that the sewing machine was the FIRST power tool in the home. All my stuff is second. (I tried justifying more tools to work on sewing machines but Nena called me out on that. I think it was the new floor jack?)


  3. Hi Kris – we’re making our first trip down to Panama in June (very excited) with the thought of checking it out to see if it might be a good retirement destination for us. We’ll be hitting Nueva Gorgona, Anton, Boquete, and David… it’s going to be a long trip!

    Good information in your post. We’ve already been superficially talking about the pros and cons of shipping everything down or starting fresh when we would move. Tough decision on which way we would go if it should happen. We end up changing our minds all the time! 🙂

    — Jim


    • Look me up on your trip. I’ll probably be here in June. As for what to bring, there is no right answer for everyone. Can your things be replaced here? Are your things suitable for this humid climate? Will you even need the same things in your new life? That’s the hardest one because you don’t know until you start living your new life. You’ll probably have a better idea after your trip here too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jim and nena says:

      Hola Jim,
      first trip, lots of traveling around; bring good walking shoes. Maybe 2 pair. At least part of the time you will probably get rained on but don’t forget the sunblock. Panama has always seemed to me to be the most varied place in the world.
      Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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