International Moving Costs: 11 Common Costs to Navigate in 2023

If you are planning an international move then one of the key questions you will have is “how much does it cost to move internationally?“. There are many different costs that will contribute to the overall cost of moving abroad and no two moves are the same. International moving costs can vary significantly depending on where you’re moving to and from, the volume of personal effects which you’re shipping, your packing requirements if you require storage at the origin or destination, your insurance needs if you will be requiring immigration services and/or settlement and relocation support services at your new destination.

Quick Takeaway: As a rough estimate, the cost of an international move can range from $2,500 to $10,000 or more for a full household move. However, smaller moves with fewer belongings can cost significantly less. To get a more accurate estimate for your specific move, it’s best to contact multiple international moving companies and request quotes based on your individual needs and circumstances. Keep in mind that the cheapest option may not always be the best, so it’s important to consider factors like reputation, experience, and customer service when making your decision.

Here we present and explore the 11 most common international moving costs you will need to budget for your overseas move:

1. Origin services

Origin services include all the services performed by the moving company where you’re moving from. The standard services provided by international movers include:

  • Pre-move survey: This is either done in-home or remotely via video and is generally free of charge
  • Provision of packing materials
  • Packing of all cartons
  • Export wrapping of all furniture items (these are the items that don’t fit into a carton)
  • Creation of a detailed inventory listing (this is important for insurance and customs regulations)
  • Export customs clearance
  • Shipping (discusses further below)
  • Marine transit insurance (further details below)

Whilst the above represents the typical services at origin you can expect from your mover but there are many additional services they often provide which can include custom crating of specific items, storage prior to shipping, pet transportation, and vehicle shipping, and may offer value-added services such as international currency transfer too.

As a rule of thumb, origin costs generally comprise around one-third of the total moving cost. On average you can expect to pay around US$1000 to US$5,000+ depending on your specific requirements and where you’re moving from. You will want to find movers near you to avoid additional travel time and potential overnight accommodation costs.

2. International shipping

One of the biggest costs of an international move is the international shipping cost. Whether you’re shipping via sea freight or air freight this cost can be significant. Whilst we are seeing freight rates decline from their peak of the pandemic they remain elevated above their pre-pandemic levels. It’s important to request the actual freight rate the moving quote is based on in the event of any potential increases. Many movers will have contract shipping rates which select shipping lines too.

Air freight is cost prohibitive for large volumes and is only recommended for small time-sensitive shipments.

Groupage (shared container) shipping is the most cost-effective if you’re not moving the volume of a 20′ sole-use container (the smallest shipping container size). With groupage shipping, you’re only paying for the space your shipment occupies. However, groupage services are only available for destination countries with high demand.

LCL (less-than-container load) shipping is a viable option if you’re shipping volumes of household effects less than 10 cubic metres / 354 cuft as beyond that you’re likely to find that a 20′ sole-use container is more economical due to the exorbitant destination terminal handling charges (DTHC) which freight forwarders charge for LCL shipments.

Shipping costs vary significantly by the route and you can expect to pay on average anywhere from US$1,000 to US$10,000.

International shipping costs
International moving costs can vary significantly depending on where you’re moving from and to, the volume of your move, and what services you require.

3. International marine-transit insurance

There is really no point in shipping your prized possession abroad only to find them damaged upon arrival and/or lost in transit. You will want to ensure you have arranged for comprehensive marine transit insurance to ensure you have complete peace of mind.

The average cost for all risks marine transit insurance is around 2 to 3% based on declared value. Most movers will offer insurance as an additional service and whilst there are independent insurers who will offer marine transit insurance it’s generally best to insure with your mover as you will have more recourse in the event of a claim.

If you are looking to reduce costs you can consider taking out a restricted or “total loss” insurance policy which can generally be purchased much cheaper at around 1% of your sum-insured value.

4. Storage

When it comes to moving abroad there are two types of storage available:

Storage-in-transit: this is when your consignment is stored whilst awaiting shipping, customs clearance, and/or delivery. Ideally, you will be able to find a sailing schedule that coincides with your move dates and the shipping container will be loaded directly at your residence but this is not always the case and your effects may need to be temporarily stored prior to shipping. When your container arrives at your new destination it will often take around 7 to 10 working days for Customs (and Quarantine – if applicable) clearances to be processed too.

Long-term storage: this is when you may look to store your effects prior to export shipment or delivery as your travel plans may necessitate this. Storage in the US is around US$300 per month based on a 20′ sole-use container.

5. Customs import duty and/or Taxes

Depending on where you’re moving to whether your quality of concessionary entry (i.e. duty and tax-free) you may face import duty and/or taxes (GST, VAT, etc.) too. This varies widely by country and you can find country-specific regulations by visiting the FIDI Customs Guides.

Whilst your international mover should be able to advise you on the specific Customs requirements for your destination it’s important that you do your homework prior to moving as import duty and/or taxes can end up costing you thousands of dollars if you don’t satisfy the criteria for concessionary entry.

6. Vehicle Transportation

If you’re planning on shipping your vehicle this is another cost you will need to budget for. The cost of shipping a vehicle overseas will be determined by the overall size, origin, and destination country and whether it can fit into a standard ISO shipping container.

Ideally, you will want to be able to ship your vehicle together with your household goods as the cost savings are significant as the freight rate is spread across your vehicle and personal effects.

Shipping a vehicle by itself is quite expensive. If you are looking to ship a vehicle by itself then a RORO (roll-on/roll-off) service may be more economical.

7. Visa fees

Visa fees are often overlooked and may not even apply depending on what passport(s) you hold and where you’re moving to. If you need to hire an immigration lawyer these costs can run into the thousands of dollars. In the event that you do need visas, you may elect to save on costs by lodging the applications yourself too.

8. Destination services

As the name implies destination services are all the services you can expect at your destination country which include:

  • Customs clearance
  • Quarantine clearance (if required)
  • Payment of destination terminal handling charges (DTHC)
  • Container transportation
  • Delivery to residence
  • Cross-checking of inventory
  • Unwrapping of furniture items
  • Unpacking
  • Removal of packing debris

9. Pet Transportation

If you plan on taking your furry friend with you then this is another cost you will need to budget for. Once again, it’s important that your research your destination country’s requirements to confirm the specific rules and regulations around importing pets. We highly recommend working with an IATA-accredited pet transporter. You can expect to have the following:

Pet transport costs can range from around US$1,000 to the tens of thousands depending on where you’re moving to and the specific requirements.

10. Flights

Now that you have all of your international removal costs sorted you will need to book your flights. You may even plan a few reconnaissance trips before committing to the big move to go house hunting or just to explore the area to get a feel for the place. Flight prices can vary significantly and we have found Alternative Airlines to compare flight prices.

11. Miscellaneous

Just when you think you’ve covered everything off there will be other costs that you will want to keep in mind:

  • International money transfer: You can transfer your money abroad at great rates by using a specialist money transfer service.
  • Purchasing new furniture: Depending on whether you have shipped your full household contents or just a small amount of personal effects you may find you need to purchase new furniture upon arrival.
  • Rental accommodation costs: Perhaps you’re staying at an Airbnb for the first weeks whilst you look for your new home or maybe you have a rental house lined up already. You will need to factor in this cost too.

International Moving & Shipping Costs Calculator

You can calculate the cost of shipping household goods overseas (i.e. an international removal) by completing the below form which will provide you with up to five competitive moving quotes from movers who hold either the FIDI accreditation and/or IAM Membership.

Example International Moving Prices

Here is a selection of real international removals which have taken place in recent months to give you an idea of prices. It’s important to keep in mind that each move is unique though and the price for your specific move is likely to vary.

OriginDestinationMove volume (cu ft)Approximate cost
New York, NYLondon, UK1000US$8,000
Los Angeles, CAAuckland, NZ500US$6,500.00
Houston, TXBrisbane, AU2000US$15,000
Miami, FLSingapore600US$6,000
San Francisco, CARotterdam3000US$35,000
These prices were based on a door-to-door service but excluded transit insurance.

International Moving Terminology

It’s important to understand the industry jargon when you’re engaged in communications with your moving company:

  • Full Container Load (FCL): one of the most popular modalities for shipping personal effects due to security and reliability. You have the option of either a 20′ sole-use container (maximum volume 1060 cu ft), a 40′ sole-use container (maximum volume 2120 cu ft), or a 40′ High Cube sole-use container (maximum volume 2400 cu ft).
  • Groupage: As the name implies a groupage or shared container service is when your consignment is consolidated with other personal effects shipments. This service is usually only available for popular destinations and can take longer whilst container loadings are consolidated.
  • Less-than-container load (LCL): your shipment will be either palletized or placed into a wooden crate (lift van) and then shipped with general freight.
  • Door-to-door service (D2D): when your household goods and personal effects are uplifted at your residence and delivered to your new overseas residence. This is the most common service for an international move.
  • Sea freight: when your items are shipped via sea which is usually the most common transport modality and is the most economical.
  • Air freight: when your effects are transported via plane. This is often price prohibited for larger shipments and you may find it’s actually cheaper to take excess baggage on your flight too.
  • Customs duty: depending on where you’re moving to and whether you meet the criteria for concessionary entry you may need to be taxed on your personal effects shipment.
  • Duty-free: when you can import your effects without incurring any taxes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How much does it cost to move and ship furniture overseas?  

The cost of an international move will vary considerably depending on your specific requirements. On average, you could budget around US$5,000 to US$10,000 for international moving services offered via a professional international moving company.

What is the best way to move internationally?

Whilst there is no single “best” way to move overseas your unique circumstances and requirements will determine the best shipping methodology. However, the most economical method of transporting your effects is via sea freight. If you’re not moving a full house-lot of effects a groupage (shared container) service will be the most economical option. Alternatively, if a groupage service is not available for your destination LCL (less-than-container-load) is another viable option.

What does an international relocation package generally include?

Relocation packages can vary significantly You can expect to have your moving and shipping costs covered along with any visa processing fees. Generally, you can expect temporary accommodation costs to be included too.

What is the best way to reduce the cost of moving overseas?

The best way to reduce your overall moving cost is by comparing quotes from multiple international moving companies as the quotes can vary significantly between movers. We would recommend obtaining at least three independent quotes. You will want to carefully review the quotes you receive to ensure you’re comparing apples with apples so to speak. You can request quotes from up to five accredited international movers here.

How long does it take ship household effects internationally?

The timeframe varies depending on whether you shipping via sea or air and where you’re moving to and from. For example, a sea freight shipment from New York to London is likely to take around 25 days, on the water, but you would need to allow for one week at the origin and two weeks at the destination for clearances and delivery. An air freight shipment from New York to London would take around two weeks door-to-door.

by Maiane Cassanego
Maiane is the Founder of Expat Frontier. She is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Maiane has an extensive background in international moving, freight forwarding and logistics.