Looking to start a new chapter abroad? Learn the key steps of how to move overseas from America and embrace a new culture seamlessly with our comprehensive guid
Moving abroad for work, study or retirement? You’re probably wondering how to move your belongings overseas. Read on for all you need to know.
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So: how do I ship my belongings overseas? Firstly, you need a plan. Exactly what you need to do will depend on where you’re going and how much you need to take, but generally you’ll want to:
One valuable resource at this point is an online shipping quote comparison tool from a service like Movehub®².
You’ll be able to enter where you need to move your things from and to, and generate 6 different quotes from reputable international moving services.
This can help you get an outline budget pulled together with no obligation, so you can move on with your more detailed plan
|Learn more about finding international movers here - plus, if you have pets, get our full guide to pet relocation.|
There are different ways to move your belongings, from simply sticking most stuff in storage (or selling it in the US) and traveling with a backpack, to moving your entire life in a shipping container to your new home. Which suits you will depend entirely on the move you have planned.
|Consider the following to help you decide what to do with your belongings:|
We’ll look at the key considerations and options in more detail next.
The most common ways to move belongings overseas are sea freight or air freight. Here’s how they work.
Sea freight - also called ocean freight - involves putting your boxes of goods into a container, for delivery by ship.
It’s usually the most cost-effective option for large volumes of household goods - but it can be a pretty slow process, depending on where you’re moving to.
Depending on how much you’re moving you’ll have the choice of
- Less than Container Load (LCL)
- Full Container Load (FCL)
As the names suggest, FCL means you have full use of a container (20 ft or 40 ft), and can fill it entirely with your things. LCL means you share a container with others.
If you’re shipping smaller volumes, LCL may be the cheaper way to go, but as your container is shared it may take slightly longer than FCL because loads have to be consolidated, packed and unpacked from the container, and delivered to different destinations.
If speed and convenience is most important to you, you may prefer air freight.
Air freight will get your stuff where you need it in no time at all. However, as you may expect, it is far more expensive than other options, particularly for larger shipments.
It’s far cheaper to ship large volumes of goods by ship compared to by air. In fact, popular moving website Movehub states it can be 12 to 16 times cheaper to use ocean freight compared to air freight³.
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So there are your options. You’re probably still wondering: how to ship my stuff overseas on a practical level?
You can break down your choices into 2 broad categories - self packing and using an end to end moving service.
International moving companies offer different package options, from a full end to end service which includes packing and unpacking, delivery, and complete support with customs and other paperwork, to partial support services which can be cheaper.
Exactly what works best for you will depend on how much you need to ship and any time or budget constraints you’re working with.
The easiest way to choose a reliable international moving company is to start with a tool like Movehub’s quote generator which comes up with several different costing options for moving services.
Narrow down your options based on availability and price, and then look out for customer reviews and ratings on services like Trustpilot®⁴ and Google®⁵.
Bear in mind also that any company that ships household goods or vehicles from the US by sea must be licensed or registered with the Federal Maritime Commission⁶ - don’t choose any unlicensed provider and double check the credentials of any service you’re considering.
If you’d prefer, you can also look at packing and shipping your belongings using container shipping services. In this case you’re paying pretty much only for the shipping - you’ll need to buy your packing materials, and pack everything up, and then unpack at the other end.
There will also often be more paperwork for you to do, although this does depend on the exact situation and which provider you pick.
Self packing has the advantage of likely cost savings compared to an end to end service - plus you’ll also have more flexibility to get packed and organized on your own schedule.
Moving your stuff overseas is going to cost. But keeping the prices down is still possible - here are some options to consider:
Moving abroad is exciting, but does come with its share of practical challenges. Use this guide to how to move belongings overseas from the US to help create your move plan and budget - and take a look at how Wise can help cut the costs of life overseas, too.
- Movehub comparison and quote tool
- Movehub - cheapest ways to move
- FMC - international moving dos and don'ts
Sources checked on 08.21.2023
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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