International Moving / Relocation Basics
So, you’ve decided to relocate overseas. This is a huge life change,
not one that most Americans will experience. Right now you are juggling
preparations related to immigration, work, leaving family, maybe
a house. On top of all that, you have more stuff than you can take on
the plane with you and you don’t have a clue how to get it to your new
home. Hopefully our experience will reduce some of the stress in
figuring it all out.
We will discuss:
- How it works
- How to prepare
- How to find a good
mover and negotiate the details
- How to handle the move
With a basic knowledge of the process, you can make your way through
three basic steps of the process without worrying that you are missing
something or getting ripped off.
international moving works
When we started planning our move to New Zealand, we had moved many
times before. Since this was our first overseas move, however, it
was the first time we had ever had to deal with a moving company. We
were well aware that movers have among the lowest reputations of any
industry going, having seen countless exposes of horrific fraud or
monumental negligence. We had also heard some pretty unsettling first
person accounts ranging from manipulative estimating to wanton
destruction. Although we held the strong belief that it was best to
avoid them if possible, we knew of no other way to get our
belongings from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Nelson, New Zealand.
Having never used a moving company before, let alone shipped overseas,
were not at all clear on
how the process worked. Most of the time, people use the term shipping
generically to mean
transporting stuff from one place to another but shipping belongings
overseas literally involves ships- stuff is packed into a
container and put onto a transport ship in a local port then delivered
to a port near the destination. To anyone but a longshoreman,
this all can be rather foreign and mysterious. And since we
living in New Mexico, thousands of miles from a ‘local
port’, we needed a moving company to get our stuff to the
shipping company who would take it to New Zealand. In New Zealand,
another moving company would take it from the port to our home.
That all sounds logical enough, but we really wish we had understood it
that clearly when we started.
All we knew is that we couldn’t rely on our usual moving process of
renting a van, cramming all of our stuff into it and driving it to our
new home. We would have to contact a dreaded moving company and pay
them an exorbitant amount to mishandle
our precious belongings and hopefully deliver them eventually to New
Zealand. Specific things we have heard repeatedly about moving
companies which had made
us avoid them are:
- Items are broken or missing. In particular, large items not
are scratched, dented or broken. Water damage is very common.
- Estimates are wildly wrong. Typically, the packed load ends
larger than the estimate.
- Delivery dates are missed, often by weeks.
- A variety of unexpected fees are added, increasing the
far above the estimate.
- Really bad companies might steal the entire load, or hold
ransom for an exorbitant fee.
In our move to New Zealand, we were most focused on avoiding
bad estimates, inadequate insurance, unexpected costs and
generally an overall lack of control. We quickly learned that
all moving companies will move you overseas, and so we then focused on
finding an International Mover. In hindsight, we should have
more time finding out about overseas moving and understanding each of
the parts of the process. Let’s break out the basics of movers,
shippers and international movers.
We had heard friends and family going through encounters with
movers, but we
hadn’t ever witnessed or participated in the process. In case you are
like us, here is an overview of how it is supposed to work:
- You determine when you need your items delivered.
- You contact one or more movers to come to your home to give
- They walk through the house with you and estimate the
packed size of
every item in your house. You point out any item you don’t plan to take.
- They calculate a non-binding move price based on the
estimated size of your
household converted to weight using a formula.
- You select a company from the estimates based on
insurance options and contract terms.
- The company gives you a pick up
This is can be several weeks before delivery, as several households may
be combined and so it won’t be moved until the truck is full.
- On the pick up date, the moving team comes and packs up
Small items are packed into boxes. Large items are wrapped. The truck
- The actual price of your move is finalized based on the
and weight of your stuff.
- On the delivery date, your items are unpacked under your
into the appropriate rooms of your new home.
(Note: Although the most common scenario is a non-binding estimate, see
Negotiating below for other estimate types.)