Wondering how much your move overseas could cost? Need to know how much you'll need to budget for shipping? The answer is not as simple as it may seem, but don't worry, we're here to help.
In this article, we will explain how international removal costs are calculated, why the cost between different removal companies can vary and share some tips so you can keep your costs as low as possible and get the most value out of your investment.
IN THIS ARTICLE
- How are removal costs calculated?
- What factors affect cost?
- Getting an individual quote
- Why are some international movers so cheap?
- Why are some international movers so expensive?
- Packing costs
- What can increase the cost of shipping?
- What can I do to save money?
- Other costs to be aware of
- Unexpected costs
How are removal costs calculated?
The costs of International Removals are made up of 3 elements:
- Origin Services - packing, wrapping, loading and any other assistance you may require.
- Transport (Freight) - moving your shipment from origin property to the destination by road and sea (or air).
- Destination Services - customs clearance, delivery, unpacking and any other set up support you've chosen.
We will explain these in more detail below.
What factors affect the cost of an international move?
There are many factors that go into the cost of international removals including:
- Volume of goods
- Method of shipment
- Type of goods
- Speed of shipment
- Origin and destination
- Move plan
- Special requirements
- Move Dates
- Type of company
We'll break each of these down below.
1. Volume of Goods
The quantity and size of belongings you're moving has a big impact on cost as it determines how long it will take to pack and load; how many removals crew needed; quantity of packing materials; space needed in a container and cost of freight; how long it will take to unload etc.
This is assessed during a pre-move survey and often determines the method of shipment you will use too.
2. Method of transport
Typically you will either use an exclusive container or a shared container to ship your household goods.
- Exclusive Shipping Container: A 20ft container holds roughly the contents of the average 3-bedroom home and is about the size of a single garage. Exclusive shipping is best value for moves that fill most of a container.
- Shared Shipping Container: Smaller moves or customers who are happy with a slower transit time might be better suited to a shared shipping container where you only pay for the space you use. This will either be a 'groupage' shipment with items loaded into a container with other shipments for the same destination, or an 'LCL' shipment where items are put into a crate and sent by a freight consolidator.
3. Type of items you're moving
Most household goods are simple to ship, but there are some items that can add cost to your move e.g.,
- Fragile items that need crating or extra packing protection.
- Heavy/awkward items that need special handling.
- Large items that require dismantling/reassembling.
- Restricted items that require additional processes to be completed to customs clear them.
4. Speed of shipment
Typically quicker = more expensive.
Exclusive containers are the quickest method of sea shipping, followed by LCL shipments then groupage.
Air freight shipments are the speediest mode of transport and are sometimes used in addition to a sea shipment for important items like baby equipment or clothes.
5. Origin and Destination
Cost of sea or air transport (aka freight) varies for routes between different countries, so removals from the UK to the USA will have different transport charges to removals from the UK to Australia.
The distance of your homes from the port of departure and arrival will also impact cost due to the time/fuel to transport your shipment ready to sail, and collect it from the dock.
6. Services included
Most international removals quotes will include loading, transport, customs clearance and unloading (always wise to check this though!). You can often choose additional services on top to make your move easier so consider if you'll need to add this into your budet.
- International standard packing services
- Crating of fragile items
- Handyman services to dismantle items or take down pictures/shelves etc. ready to move.
7. Move Plan
If you have any specific constraints for packing and loading or delivering your move this might impact the cost. Your removal company will plan and recommend the most cost-effective way of carrying out your move and the associated schedule. If this doesn't work for you they might be able to amend this to suit but it may cost them more to do so.
8. Special requirements
Special requirements such as out-of-the-ordinary items or additional collection or delivery points can add to the cost of a move as these may take additional time, equipment etc.
Most properties have suitable access but if you've got any challenges this could add to the cost of your move for example:
- long carry from the front door to the nearest large vehicle parking.
- narrow lanes or low bridges that prevent a removal vehicle from getting close to your home.
- lots of internal or external stairs.
- doors/hallways that are too narrow for larger items.
Access restrictions can usually be overcome but might require additional time or equipment to handle, for example, hiring an external elevator, extra crew or a shuttle vehicle.
10. Move dates
Peak periods (for example school holidays) can affect pricing as demand is higher than usual. Moving on a weekend or bank holiday will usually mean higher charges as companies typically have to pay their staff more to work unsocial hours.
If you can be flexible on your move dates ask your removal company what dates they can offer the best price for.
11. Type of Removal Company
Quality standards vary between different companies and you may pay more for a higher quality of service. Companies that have achieved quality certifications and professional accreditations have invested in their processes, staff and resources to reduce the risk of anything going wrong during your move, so always ask what their qualifications are and look for FIDI FAIM-certified companies.
You can also check the reviews of different providers on independent review sites like Trustpilot.
How much will MY international move cost?
The overall price of removal services is dependent on a whole range of issues unique to each customer and their specific requirements. That's why we always recommend booking an in-home move consultation to get your personal, free, no-obligation quote.
Every customer, every move and every removal company is different.
Why are some international movers so cheap?
We’re often asked how different companies' prices can be so different. It's important to compare like for like, that's why we've put together a guide to Comparing removal company quotations.
Any company should be willing to explain how they reached their costs, but here are some of the reasons some movers might be cheaper than others.
Your volume has been assessed differently
If one company has done a home survey and another hasn't then one may have priced the move on an inaccurate volume of goods. Even if both did a survey, someone might have missed or misjudged something. The impact of getting the volume wrong on an international move can be huge - from the financial impact of additional charges for freight or delivery to logistical nightmares if not everything you want to take fits in your container on move day. These situations can be stressful.
How to avoid this risk:
Ask each company what volume they quoted on, or if they can provide an inventory list to make sure it's accurate.
Different Freight Options have been used
Freight cost (the money a mover pays to a shipping line to transport your container port to port) makes up a large part of your move price. If one company has chosen a cheaper freight option then this can change the cost by £100's. Cheaper freight options can simply be because different shipping lines charge different amounts, but they can also be because a lower quality shipping line is being used (one that provides poor service), or a slower sailing time has been selected.
How to avoid this risk:
Check what transit time your shipment is based on to make sure it suits you and ask if the shipping line is one that your move regularly uses.
They aren't regulated by a professional body
In many industries, particularly trades, there are professional bodies that certify a company is competent in performing their service. For example plumbers should be Gas Safe registered and Electricians should have an NVQ. The same is true of international movers.
FIDI FAIM is the only quality standard specifically designed for international moving. Certified companies are inspected on over 200 metrics to ensure they have everything in place to minimise the risk of anything going wrong during your move, and are following best practice to give you a great move experience.
Meeting those standards costs certified companies money (for example investing in secure warehouses, roadworthy trucks, holding the right insurances and training staff) and these costs can make their prices slightly higher. That being said, you get what you pay for and there is a lot of value in working with a high quality company, and a lot to be lost if something goes wrong when you don't!
How to avoid this risk:
Get your quotes from a FIDI Certified International removal company - you can check the FIDI website for verification.
International movers have can sometimes offer you better rates when there is an added benefit of booking your business. For example:
- If you’re the last customer that fills up a groupage shipment the company might discount your quotation to encourage you to book with them so that they can fill the container and get it shipped to improve service times for all customers or avoid losing money by sending a container with empty space.
- If they already have a vehicle in your area to do the collection they might be able to split some of the transport costs with the other customer(s) to allow everyone a discount.
- If the removal company has a quiet week or day they might discount your move as they’d rather do a move at cost than have to pay staff who have no work to do.
- Alternatively, if it's peak season or one company is already fully booked you may have to pay a higher premium to get your company of choice.
They don't provide appropriately qualified staff
Packing and loading for an international move requires specialist skills compared to local moving as there is more risk of damage - for example: ships moving around as they are battered by rough seas; containers being lifted by crane onto the dock and again onto a lorry for delivery; vessels moving through different climates as they travel from winter in one hemisphere to summer in another. These additional risks mean the right packing materials and methods need to be used to prevent damage as far as possible.
Training for those skills takes time and requires companies to invest in their removal crews, that's why companies who provide experienced staff who have been professionally trained for export packing and loading may be a bit more expensive.
How to avoid this risk:
Ask your mover if they use their own staff and how they train them specifically for international moving.
Size of company
Economies of scale often mean that companies moving lots of volume can do so slightly cheaper as some jobs can be done more efficiently (like picking up lots of small shipments on one day rather than making a special journey). This can make bigger companies cheaper for small shipments. If cost is important to you and you're happy with the service level and support the company is offering you then this isn't typically a problem.
Why are some international movers so expensive?
As well as most of the above in reverse, pricing between companies that meet the same standards and offer the same service can also vary. This can be for a number of reasons:
- Availability - Companies with a great reputation are frequently in high demand and can charge higher prices as customers see the value that is hard to evaluate on paper.
- Extra value services - Some companies also provide extra services to make the move run smoothly, for example, a dedicated move manager to help plan and support you through the move (which is really helpful when there is lots of paperwork to complete or things change last minute) or VIP services to help you with extra tasks on move day like arranging shopping, changing utility companies etc.
International packing costs
When you ship your belongings internationally it's a good idea to get your removal company to do the packing for you and include the cost in your budget.
Packing services are charged on the amount of time it takes to pack and the materials required.
Why do I need professional packing?
International transport is riskier than a local move - your shipment is moved by multiple methods and can be moved by road, sea (or air) and rail all in one journey, with cranes or forklifts moving containers between each. Shipments can face rough sea conditions or bumpy air landings, and often customs inspectors may open and move items in a container whilst clearing your goods.
Having professional packing services may be required by some insurers OR reduce the risk of inspection fees on arrival at destination so it's always a good idea to discuss this with your mover first if you're thinking about doing your own packing.
What can increase the costs of international shipping?
Some examples of situations that might push up the cost of your move include:
- Poor access. If it will be tricky for a removals crew to move items between each room and the vehicle (i.e. tight internal staircases, high rise flat with no lift, or a narrow driveway) then it will take longer / require more people / smaller vehicles to complete the move and this will increase the cost.
- Special care packing. If you have lots of fragile/valuable items that need special care packing or crating there will be additional charges for materials and the time taken to complete this (don't be tempted to cut corners to reduce cost here, replacing items that need extra protection will cost you more in the long run).
- Extra services. If you need items dismantled or reassembled, washing machines disconnecting etc. example most removal companies can do this as part of your move for a small additional cost.
- Storage services. If you can't move straight into your new home when your shipment arrives then a removal company can usually offer secure storage to keep your items safe in the meantime.
What can I do to save money and reduce the cost of my international move?
Here are a few cost-saving ideas:
- Reduce your move volume: Declutter BEFORE you move to make sure you're only paying someone to move the items you really want and need.
- Be flexible with your move date: Some days are busier than others (typically school holidays, Fridays and the end of the month), and movers may be willing to give you a discounted rate to collect on a quiet day if possible.
- Be flexible with your schedule: If you're not in a rush for your items then a slower sailing can often be cheaper. For small shipments you might also get a better rate if the moving company can fit collection or delivery in around other work they have nearby rather than making a special trip.
- Be ready: Working with your move manager to get all your documentation complete ASAP means getting the green light to ship sooner, this might mean your shipment can be loaded directly at your home and travel straight to the port (access and schedule permitting) which can be cheaper than loading via a company warehouse.
- Get insurance: The cost of insurance will seem low compared to having to replace expensive items if they are damaged, or worse if there is a maritime disaster with your shipping vessel that could leave you liable for part of the costs of recovery under 'general average'.
- Move with a company that is FIDI FAIM certified (this will reduce the risk of any hidden costs if something goes wrong!)
Check out our blog "How to reduce container shipping costs for international removals" for more ideas.
Are there any other international moving costs I need to be aware of?
Depending on where you are moving from or to there may be other additional costs that your removal company should explain to you in advance of your move.
These could include:
- Customs inspection fees - sometimes these are fixed and applied for all customers, in other locations they may be applied for randomly selected customers or based on the length of inspection time.
- Duties and taxes - most household goods moves are free of duties and taxes, but depending on the contents of your shipment and your eligibility for duty free imports you may face additional charges from customs and excise. Your removal company should help you determine this in advance.
- Storage - if you are unable to take delivery of your belongings right away ask your removal company to explain their costs for storage.
- Insurance - it's important to arrange international removals insurance when you ship household goods abroad. The cost for this should be shown in addition to your shipping costs and is usually based on the declared value of your belongings.
It is always important to ask your removal company if there are any additional costs or exclusions you should be aware of in advance of booking your move. They should be open and transparent, and happy to explain these charges - nothing should be a surprise!
What are some of the unexpected costs of international moving?
- Last-minute cancellations: Although it's rare we do regularly see customers whose circumstances change and a move has to be cancelled or postponed. Most removal companies will reserve the right to charge scaling cancellation fees if the move is cancelled at short notice as they will have booked you resources which they may not be able to sell again to cover their costs. Some movers offer a cancellation waiver which is a smaller fee you pay upfront to ensure you don't have to pay cancellation charges if your move has to be cancelled or postponed at the last minute.
- Currency fluctuations: Typically container space on a vessel is charged in US$ or Euros, and destination services are charged in local currency, and movers will calculate the cost in £'s based on the exchange rate at the time of quoting. As there is often many weeks between a quote and a shipment loading things can change. Normally small fluctuations are absorbed by the moving company who will lose or gain profit if a rate gets better or worse, but where there are large fluctuations (e.g., in times of economic crisis) these changes in cost may be passed back to the customer. If the change is not in your favour this could mean additional charges once the actual freight or destination cost is charged to your mover.
How to avoid the risk of unexpected costs:
Unfortunately you can't always avoid the unexpected, so our top tip is to ensure you have read the terms and conditions of your removal company to understand the risk of any additional charges and any financial protection you might be offered.
Want to know more about International Removals?
Check out The Ultimate Guide to International Removal Companies to find out everything you need to know to find a great mover and have a smooth move.