What are the main costs involved in moving overseas?

Gabriela Peratello

While international relocation costs can vary enormously, having a budget is essential if you’re planning to move abroad. Use this guide to the costs of international relocation to start building out your personal budget.

We’ll also touch on how you can spend less when you move with a multi-currency account and card from Wise, to access mid-market exchange rates and low fees from 0.43%¹.


How much does it cost to move overseas?

The costs of moving overseas can vary a lot depending on where you’re going and how you plan your relocation.

Different cost categories include:
  • Costs involved in planning your move: getting a passport and visa and arranging a scouting trip to decide where to live, for example

  • Costs involved with physically moving your things: including shipping, storage, customs, taxes, insurance and agent fees

  • Costs to settle in: such as a deposit if you’re renting a new home, and daily expenses while you wait on your first paycheck

  • Cost of living differences: based on whether your lifestyle in your new place is more or less costly than at home

  • Costs of living across countries: including any additional tax burden in the US or your new home, and the price of managing your money across currencies

This guide breaks down some of the most important costs of moving yourself, your family, your stuff, and even your pets, overseas.

You can also get our guide to moving abroad from the US, step by step - or learn more about finding cheap and reliable international movers.

What can affect the cost of moving abroad?

Let's kick off with the costs of physically moving your belongings abroad, and the factors that matter here.

Distance and destination

As you’d expect, no matter which mode of transportation you choose, the distance and destination will make a significant difference to the costs of moving your things.

This includes how easy it is to get your belongings from your home to the point of departure - usually an airport or shipping port - and from the point of arrival to your new place.

How does the volume and weight of your belongings affect the moving cost?

Generally, shipping costs are based on weight and/or volume of goods. For ocean freight, you’ll usually have a choice of option based on the volume you need to ship:

  • Less than Container Load (LCL): you share space in a container with others, reserving space by square feet or box size/number
  • Full Container Load (FCL): you have an entire 20 or 40 ft container you can fill as much as you like

Air shipments are usually based on both weight and volume, with some fairly complex pricing calculations needed to work out what you’ll pay in different situations.

Mode of transportation

Your basic transportation options - as we’ve seen - are usually air or sea freight. It helps to know that it’s estimated to be 12 to 16 times cheaper to use ocean freight compared to air freight².

However, sea freight can be significantly slower than air - so you’ll need to weigh up which is best for you before you pick.

Moving abroad: cost breakdown

There are several different major cost categories involved when you move abroad. We’ll break them down one by one here, so you can start to think about which may apply to your personal circumstance.

Fees and prices for moving stuff abroad

The costs of moving stuff abroad vary enormously. However, it can help to get a selection of quotes for your volume and destination, from a comparison site like Movehub®³.

You’ll get up to 6 no obligation quotes from reputable moving companies, which can help you build out your ultimate move abroad budget.

Sending your money overseas

When you move abroad it’s inevitable that you’ll need to send and spend money in multiple currencies.

Sending payments from the US to your new country, to secure a property or pay your way in the first month or two, for example, can be costly due to changing exchange rates and high international wire transfers.

Do some research to find the best way to manage your money across currencies, including setting up a local bank account in your destination, sticking with a US bank, or choosing a non-bank provider like Wise, for multi-currency accounts and cards you can use in 150+ countries conveniently and with the mid-market exchange rate.

Learn more about Wise

Insurance costs

Give yourself peace of mind by investing in adequate insurance covering your move, your belongings, your health and any property or stuff you leave back in the US.

In particular, having good quality health cover is a must in many countries - which means building this into your budget is essential.

Settling down in a new country: housing, bills and more

When you plan your budget, don't forget your day to day living costs in your new place will change - maybe you’re headed somewhere where life is cheaper, or maybe you’ll find the costs of housing, bills and food go up.

A smart place to start when calculating your new budget is Numbeo.com®⁴, which aggregates cost of living information from thousands of users, looking at almost every country, and many major cities globally. This can help you compare the costs of your lifestyle in other countries compared to the US.

Move your money overseas with a Wise Account

Looking for an alternative to banking to keep your money without a minimum balance? Wise has you covered.

The Wise Account lets you:
  • Get local details to receive money in 9 different currencies

  • Spend like a local in over 150 countries with the Wise card

  • Send money across currencies with the mid-market exchange rate

  • Hold and convert money in 40+ currencies

  • Manage your money online with the Wise app or website

  • Opt in to receive annual percentage yield (APY) on your USD balance with Wise’s account interest feature (subject to change, certain limitations apply — see Program Agreement for more information)

Get a Wise Account
in minutes!

Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information

How much does it cost to move a car overseas?

If you’re attached to your vehicle, you may be hoping to take it with you on your new adventure.

Specialist auto shipping companies can help, but the costs may be fairly high, and the rules about car ownership in your new country should also be considered.

The cost of shipping a car internationally

There are lots of variables when it comes to shipping a car overseas, from the size and weight of the vehicle to the destination and the specific type of ship used to transport it.

However, it’s possible to get quotes based on your specific needs from auto shipping comparison services - expect the costs to be anything from 1,500 USD to 7,500 USD according to research from Forbes⁵.

Insurance and additional costs

As well as the cost of physically moving your car, there will be other fees to consider such as insuring it for the journey.

Bear in mind also that the costs of having and using a vehicle can vary enormously in other countries - you may incur fees to register or use your vehicle, or need to pay taxes based on use for example.

Weigh all these factors up before you decide to ship your car, based on the country you intend to settle down in.

Are there any unexpected costs when moving overseas?

When you move overseas it’s a smart idea to expect the unexpected. The same goes when planning your budget - add in a buffer of around 10% of the expected costs to give you some peace of mind that you won’t run short before you’re settled.

Here are a couple of commonly overlooked costs to remember.

Custom duties and taxes

Ask your shipping company about any customs fees or extra taxes you have to pay on your shipment.

These costs may be separate to any quote you get for your delivery - so make sure you know exactly what service you’ve paid for in advance to avoid unnecessary surprises.

You’ll also need to bear in mind that you’ll have to pay taxes on any income in your new country - and you may still have US tax reporting and payment obligations when you move⁶. Get professional advice to make sure you fulfill your obligations in your new country and at home.

Cost of living adjustments

The chances are that the cost of your daily life in your new home is going to be significantly different to at home. It’ll take a while to navigate the costs of living adjustments, based on your lifestyle in your new place and the average consumer prices and rent. Your earning power may also be different compared to in the US.

While you can plan for a lot of this prior to moving, expect there to be extra factors you couldn’t have predicted in advance - and keep some extra budget on hand just in case.

Bringing a pet abroad

Your pet is a family member, so assuming you’re not planning on leaving without it, you’ll need to include pet relocation costs in your budget. The costs here vary enormously, and can include multiple different fees.

You may need to look into:
  • Vaccination and health costs

  • Pet passport or similar document costs

  • Pet flight costs, including a vet approved crate

  • Customs and quarantine costs

  • Pet care or kenneling if you can’t travel at the same time

The sheer range of potential costs here makes it well worth getting all the information you can in advance, to help you plan. If you have pets, you can also read all about the costs of pet relocation in our guide.

Moving overseas is exciting - but it can also be expensive. Having a budget can help make the process easier and less stressful, and it can also mean you pay less overall thanks to some smart advance planning.

Use this guide to start building your overseas relocation budget - and check out Wise as another great way to make life overseas cheaper and easier.


  1. Please see Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise Fees & Pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information
  2. Movehub - cheapest ways to move
  3. Movehub comparison and quote tool
  4. Numbeo
  5. Forbes - cost of shipping a car internationally
  6. IRS - US citizens living abroad

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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