International Moving Costs | The Complete Guide 2018

The chance to live and work internationally is a key life experience to not miss out on as an Australian. Nothing quite compares to experiencing another culture in daily life, where everything is a new and challenging experience. After all who doesn’t love our quirky accents and obsession with vegemite!  

But before you get to the fun part, there is a bit of thinking and planning to be done. A major consideration is, where does one begin to know and understand the overall cost of moving internationally?  

We are here to help, to guide you through the 12 key international moving costs to consider when you make that epic step overseas! 

  1. Moving your furniture internationally
  2. Packing and unpacking costs
  3. Insurance costs for your international move
  4. Customs charges & tax when moving abroad
  5. Visa costs when moving overseas
  6. Buying or renting
  7. Money transfers when moving internationally
  8. Buying your flights
  9. Storage hire costs when you move abroad
  10. The cost of moving your pets
  11. Moving abroad means new furniture
  12. The cost of moving your car internationally

1. The cost of moving your furniture internationally

It seems fitting to begin with the most likely thing you should be thinking about when moving, shipping your belongings and getting an estimate of moving it all internationally. 

Moving overseas almost always involves bringing your belongings with you. The stuff you choose to bring with you can range from a couple of boxes, to the entire contents of a five-bedroom house. Of course, this cost can be completely forgotten if you just take a suitcase or two with you. But it’s rare that someone sets off on a life changing experience like moving abroad empty handed. Most likely you have those treasured belongings you cannot live without.  

There are five key influencers that determine how expensive your shipping costs will be: 

  • How much you bring (the volume or weight of your goods) 
  • The destination port (customs duties vary per country) 
  • The journey distance (the further they travel the more it costs) 
  • The type of transportation (sea freight or air freight) 
  • The time of year (peak season vs low season) 

Estimated cost: Want an idea of how much on average it costs to move your home contents overseas? Based on the top moved to countries and the five key variables listed above, here are the average international moving costs: 

Moving To Estimated Cost 
New Zealand$7,600 – $10, 300 
United Arab Emirates $9,100 – $14,900 
Hong Kong $9,300 – $12,500 
Philippines $9,300 – $12,600 
Indonesia $10,200 – $13,800 
Canada $12,000 – 16,200 
United Kingdom $12,700 – $17,100 
United States $14,200 – $19,300 

To receive an exact cost break down of your move, fill out our form to compare removal quotes. Fill in your details and you will receive personal and accurate quotes from shipping companies.  

Compare up to 5 removal quotes!
Request 5 free quotes

 2. Packing and unpacking costs for an international move

Packing for a holiday can be a lengthy task but the excitement behind it almost always outweighs the chore itself. When you have to pack up your entire house however, you may be less inclined to get the job done. Of course you want to shift through those long lost items in the back of your cupboard and happily throw away the clutter accumulated in the shed. But you also need lots of strong materials to pack everything right, as well as a detailed plan and some strong arms.  

Fortunately for you, most shipping companies provide all the materials you’ll need, from bubble wrap to good old-fashioned cardboard moving boxes. Even better, most shipping companies offer packing and assembly as a part of their service (along with the loading and unloading of your container).  

The option is always there for those who wish to pack and load everything themselves in order of saving some money. But be aware there are professionals who can do it for you too, at a cost. 

International Moving Costs

Estimated cost: The cost of having your belongings professionally packed/unpacked and loaded/unloaded by a shipping company begins from $180 for half a 20ft container (15 cubic meters). More cargo means a higher cost.  

By packing everything yourself, you can cut costs by over 50%. You can get large cardboard boxes for as little as $4 per box, while things like bubble wrap, packing tape and locks, can cost somewhere between $50 to $100.

3. What will insurance cost for my international move? 

Whether you are moving your entire home or a select few prized possessions, we recommend spending the money and protecting your cargo on its journey. Unless you are a risk taker or have extremely good luck, it is always better to be safe than sorry.  

A shipping container can tilt up to 30 degrees during its journey by sea. If you think about it, that is a lot of slipping and sliding around if things aren’t packed properly.   

Most shipping companies include a basic insurance cover as a part of their service, but make sure you check what it covers exactly. That is why we recommend paying that little bit extra or taking out an extra policy when you ship everything internationally.  

Estimated cost: Insurance companies base your cargo quote on the monetary value of your goods, not on the volume or weight. To insure your belongings, you will spend anything from $200 to $1000 depending on the value of your items. If the value of your goods is lower and its end destination is closer, naturally the price premium will be cheaper.

4. Do I need to pay customs charges & tax when moving abroad?

Whenever you bring something into a country, there will be duties charges and you must pay taxes on it. As Australians we understand the importance of customs, they protect our beautiful country in many ways. However we also know they can be a major pain, especially when you’re paying for it yourself it.  

Of course, rates vary between countries and they’re rarely included in the shipping companies’ prices. So you need to consider there may be additional fees when looking at sea freight quotes. There are always a bunch of specific requirements (that vary from country to country), but fortunately, most countries have duty-free policies for people who are importing their used household goods. Motor vehicles on the other hand never escape customs taxes.  

Estimated cost: Everything is dependent on an item’s purchased value. The customs tax charges can range anywhere between 0% – 100%. It may sound a little uncertain, but for customs duties tax the global average is around 1.8%. 

5. Visa costs when moving overseas 

Getting yourself into your new country is just as important as picking an international mover and your stuff clearing customs. Your visa is of course something you would need to arrange before you begin planning your big move.

Every country has specific visa requirements. Even though there are certain visa exemptions between countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, they are mostly only beneficial for short-term travellers. You are in luck if you or your family member is from the country you wish to move to; most family visa options are much easier to get your hands on than work visas.  

Estimated cost: As you can imagine the cost of a visa can vary greatly depending on the type of visa and country you are applying to. However, the cost of a skilled working visa for the United Kingdom is around $1,350 for up to five years. Whereas the equivalent skilled visa for one year in the United States is around $267.75. 

6. Do you buy or rent when you move internationally?

An unavoidable and essential cost when you move to another country, would be to either rent or buy a house. You would already have a city, and maybe even a suburb in mind where you would like to live. The next step would be to do your research. Find out where the local supermarket is, see if there is a school close by and check out if you live near public transport. Another tip would be to chat with people on Facebook groups and expat forums. Use their experience and expertise to get an initial summary.  

In addition to renting or buying a property, there are also additional housing costs that should be considered: 

  • Bills (e.g. plumbing and maintenance) 
  • International bank transfers 
  • Legal advice 
  • Phone and internet connections 
  • Security bond (renters)
  • Translations (documentation) 
  • Utilities (water, electricity, gas) 

Estimated cost: As you can imagine, estimating the cost of a typical house around the world is impossible. Expectations per person can differ, as well as prices and markets are continually fluctuating. Our suggestion is hiring a local real estate agent to help. Whether you are looking to buy or rent, they can give you an expected estimation of costs. Real estate agents obviously also come with a fee, but the security of a home is priceless.  

7. Money transfers when moving internationally

International Moving Costs

It is always a safe option to have some cash with you when you travel. But in today’s electronic society, when travelling overseas and paying in a different currency, your best option is to convert and transfer money electronically. There are some amazing money transfer options that out-date an international money transfer through your bank, and it pays off to look around.  

You may love your bank and trust them, however they will always either charge you high fees or give you a crappy exchange rate, or both. We recommend using services like N26, Revolt, TransferWise, Global Reach or Currency Fair (plus many many more). These services give you exchange rates in real time, you get a bank card that can be used anywhere in the world. They come with an app that’s super easy to use and in most cases you only pay for the currency conversion and a significantly lower rate. Honestly, it’s a no brainer. 

Estimated cost: Transferring funds overseas via your bank will insure local and foreign transaction fees, as well as currency exchange rates. In contrast, the services mentioned above charge no margin on the exchange rate, are free to open and have lower fees on currency exchange.  

8. Buying your flights for your overseas move

When you relocate to a new country, you are likely to visit maybe once or twice before the big move. You may like to visit, get a feel for things and start your transition from foreigner to local. You may want to meet with a real estate agent to check out houses before deciding to buy or rent. Likewise, if you are relocating for work, you may have to visit for an interview.  

You’re right it sounds expensive, because it is. However, flights are a necessary evil when calculating your international moving costs. And who doesn’t like flying, after all you are moving overseas. 

Estimated costs: Flights are a tricky cost to estimate, but on average you can pay anything between 2,250 to $6,550. If you want to lock down some discount, check out Skyscanner’s new service: Best Time to Book. It calculates the best time to travel based on two years of flight booking data when it was at its cheapest. Another service to use is Hopper, their app notifies you when your intended flight prices are at their lowest.  

9. Storage hire costs when you move abroad

Think of storage as a new apartment you have rented for your furniture, to keep it warm and safe, except you not allowed to visit. There are two reasons you might need to hire a storage space. The first is if you fly out ahead of your shipment date and your cargo needs a place to wait till you are reunited. The second is, you decide to leave stuff behind that you want to keep for when you return, if you ever return.   

And there is always furniture that will come with you, stuff that you sell right away, and then the rest that sits in the annoying third category of ‘stuff you can’t bring or get of’. So unless you have great friends or family that will “look after” things for you, then hiring a storage space is your answer.  

Estimated cost: Prices for storage units are based on the size of space you need to hire. A 100sq ft storage space for example (approximately equivalent to a two-bedroom house) will cost anything between $200 to $400 a month, with most companies applying a discount if you use them for longer periods of time. 

10. The cost of moving your pets internationally

International Moving Costs

Along with the cost of their flight, you most also consider the follow costs when bringing your furry family member with you overseas: 

  • Health certificate from an AQIS approved vet) 
  • Timeline of medical tests 
  • Microchip 
  • Vaccinations (Check countries requirements) 
  • Pet passport (yes they exist) 
  • Quarantine 
  • IATA-approved travel crate 
  • Emergency funds for unexpected fees 

Estimated cost: Usually to move your cat abroad is cheaper than moving your dog, being man’s best friend does come at cost. Costs are dependent on several factors, such as the breed and size of your animal and its individual veterinary requirements. You can expect to pay around $200 to $500 depending on the number of pets you bring and the airlines policy. 

11. Moving abroad means buying new furniture 

As sad as it is to admit, you won’t bring every piece of furniture you own with you. Even if you want to bring it all, some things won’t be allowed, and some things won’t work where you are going. Each country has a different voltage system and plug type. That means certain electronic appliances (eg. fridges, washing machines) are incompatible once they move countries. For example, in Australia the voltage is 230V, in the United States it’s only 120V and then in the United Kingdom it’s the highest at 240V 

Of course, you can purchase yourself a voltage converter as a temporary solution. But as a long-term solution it’s probably best to leave your old stuff behind and buy something new/second-hand. Check out the site Worldwide Standards for your new countries voltage system and plug requirements.  

Estimated cost: The cost of buying new/second-hand furniture can significantly vary, depending on what you need to buy and where you are buying it from. If you want to save a little, then its worth checking out international sites such as eBay and Gumtree (yes, they exist outside of Australia).

12. The cost of moving your car internationally 

Just as furniture is irreplaceable to some, so are cars (or that speedy motorbike you own). When moving overseas you have two options when it comes to your car. The first is that you pay to ship it with you, simple. The second sadder or to some exciting option is, you decide to sell it and use that money to get an even sweeter ride in your new country. Both options involve additional costs that you will need to consider.  

If you cannot part with your car, you will need to secure it a spot alongside your furniture in the shipping container, which has its additional fees. If you see buying a new/second-hand car as an exciting adventure, or you just don’t want to be that person driving on the other side of the street (unless you’re in the UK), then selling your car is the option for you.  

Do remember though that with either option, there are additional costs associated with driving overseas: 

  • Car taxes 
  • Insurance 
  • International driving permit (IDP) 
  • Local driver’s license (at some point) 
  • Registration  

Estimated cost: A first on your list, would be to get yourself a valid driving permit no matter what you do. Whether you are from WA or NSW, the cost of an international driving permit is $39. Smart Traveller provide you with the necessary information about obtaining this permit and from where, depending on where you are in Australia.

In regards to import duties and taxes on your car, the fees differ for each country and whether your car/motorcycle is classic or not and from where. There are too many variables to give you an accurate estimate, so our recommendation is if you want to bring your car with you then ensure your international mover offers vehicle relocation. For a list of companies that offer this service, take a look at the International Removals: Top 10 Removals in Australia 2018.