Understanding International Shipping & Finding a Reputable Mover
One of the most stressful aspects of moving is the physical act of actually moving all your stuff. Finding a company that can transport your goods safely, timely, and in your budget can be daunting. Here are some tips to understanding your shipping options and finding a reputable moving company.
The price of moving depends on the how much is being moved, the value of the goods, and the distance to be moved. If possible, ship only the truly indispensable items and try to buy when you arrive to abate some of the cost.
Basic shipping costs are calculated on the amount of volume (Cubic Feet) that your packed goods will take up in one of our shipping containers. Volume is calculated by multiplying the length x depth x height.
An example would be a full size refrigerator/freezer that is 3 feet (.91 meters) wide, 2 feet (.6 meters) deep, and 6 feet (1.8 meters) high would be 36 cubic feet (1.01940 m3).
20 foot (6 meters) container total cubic capacity = 1172 cubic feet (33.2 m3)
40 foot container (12 meters) container total cubic capacity = 2392 cubic feet (67.7 m3)
A standard 2 to 3 bedroom house or condo should fit into 1 x 20ft container. A larger 4 to 5 bedroom house would need 1 x 40ft container. One benefit of a larger shipment is that the greater the overall volume for shipment, the lower the rate per cubic foot, and vice versa.
Removal cost also depends on the point of origin and final destination. Certain regions are expensive despite a shorter distance. For instance, Europe tends to be relatively expensive to ship to. A full load from the UK to Spain can cost £5000. For comparison, a full load from the UK to Australia is £6700.
Note that the final price is almost always more expensive than even the best estimates. Be knowledgeable about basic costs and budget a buffer between what you think it will cost and what you can pay.
Common Additional Costs:
- Access at collection or delivery may be difficult so a smaller van has to be brought in or hired.
- Collection or delivery on higher floors, with or without a lift. This requires extra men and additional costs.
- Parking permits may be required at collection or delivery addresses (customer usually has to arrange these - local council will advise if they are necessary).
- Delivery may be made to several hundred miles from the port at the destination country.
Shipping Options: Ground, Sea or Air
Moving with only ground travel is uncommon unless moving a short distance. This is much slower then flying, but much less expensive. This method is often done in conjunction with sea or air shipping.
To move by sea takes about 6-8 weeks, but costs less then traveling by air. If moving by sea, your household goods will be packed into containers that are usually loaded at your residence. Once your home is packed into the containers, they are then shipped by rail or transport to the port where they are then loaded on to a steamship container. The container is then loaded on the boat as cargo. Once your goods have arrived in the new country, the container is unloaded and must pass through customs. International movers will be able to help you with the custom forms and are responsible for clearing your goods.
Moving household items by air is becoming increasingly popular, despite a much higher price tag. Heavy cardboard boxes are normally used to pack your goods, although some air freight companies will use containers. You may find that shipping items by air is less expensive than renting a furnished place or living in a hotel.
Airfreight is calculated on either the actual gross weight of the consignment or the volume weight, whichever is the greater. Weight is expressed in kilograms. To calculate the volume weight of a given item we multiply the length, breadth and height in centimeters and divide by 6000 to obtain the volume weight in kilos. For household goods the volume weight generally exceeds the gross weight.
Evaluating Shipping Options
Some basic factors in determining the best shipping method are:
- Volume - This is important for road and sea shipments
- Weight and Volume - Evaluate the weight of items for air shipments.
- Final Destination - If you are moving across the globe (e.g. from the USA to Australia), you might want to ship the majority of your personal belongings by sea container and a small portion of things you will need upon your arrival by air.
- Moving Schedule - How soon do you need to receive your personal belongings at your destination? Do you already have accommodation (temporary or permanent)? Will you need to store some items until you find permanent accommodation?
- Budget - Who is paying for your move? Your company or yourself? What is your allowance for the move?
To save money, you can ship your items with other people's belongings. Known as "groupage", your personal belongings will be shipped with the personal belongings of one or more customers. While this offers considerable financial savings, it can take much longer. Usually, the shipment is sent a central location warehouse with later shipments being made to a country specific destination.
If your shipment is large, or cost is not an issue, direct shipping is a better option. The truck will contain your personal belongings only and will go directly to its final destination without stopping at any other warehouse.
You-pack / We-drive Service
Another option when moving your goods is to do the packing yourself. This can save you money, and ensure your items are given the care they deserve.
The process is simple:
- Find a company like Upack, 123 Movers, Moving Orbit
- A moving truck or storage container is delivered to your house for you to pack at your leisure
- Once packed, you arrange for the company to pick up the truck or container
- The company moves the truck or container to the new residence
- You unload the truck and move into your new home
- The company pick up the container or truck
Finding a Reputable Company
Feedback from people who have used the company are invaluable. While online reviews can easily be found by googling a company, or through review sites like yelp, qype, & MoverReviews.com, speaking with people you know can yield the best results. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family can all be a valuable resource. Ask around to find out which companies have the reputation as the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Though there are many offers for movers online, but it is often in your best interest to establish face-to-face contact with your moving company. This will help you avoid the most common scams. In addition, most companies offer an online estimate, but that number is only a rough idea of the final cost. By working with a company in your area, you can set-up appointments for a house visit to do an in-home estimate that will be far more accurate.
Establish if the company will be doing the move themselves, or if they will be sub-contracting out the job. In general, avoid hiring a moving broker. Most consumer protection laws related to the movement of household goods only apply to Motor Carriers and not to Household Goods Brokers.
Basic Questions to ask during your Meeting:
- How long has your company been in business? While a new company isn't necessarily a bad choice, experience is valuable.
- What is your safety record?
- Can you put me in touch with former customers? Good tour companies should have no problem supplying references.
- What is the full company name, address, phone number, and website?
- What equipment do you provide? How many movers am I guaranteed?
- Can I see proof of your local/interstate/international moving license and insurance?
- What paperwork is necessary? Do they handle customs for all items?
- What is your cancellation and refund policy?
It is advisable to get at least three estimates in writing. A verbal agreement is not enforceable, so make sure to have the estimate and details written down. By comparing multiple estimates, you will find what an average price for your move will really be, and find a company that best matches your expectations. It will also inform you of the different offers and advantages different companies offer. This can provide you room to negotiate with the company of your choice.
After choosing a mover that fits your needs, the next steps are getting ready for your new life abroad. Be as prepared and flexible as possible because it will likely take a little bit of both. Good luck!
- U.S. Department of Transportation "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move"
- MovingScam.com - Informs consumers of popular scams and provides info on how to protect yourself during a move
- Better Business Bureau - Resource for reputable businesses in the United States & Canada
- Trading Standards - Provides complaints lodged against businesses in the UK
- SaferSys.org - A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) web site to search for motor carrier license information
Know of another important resource for International Removal Companies or have something to share? Add it in our comments section!