Breaking Down the Costs of Moving Internationally

Breaking Down the Costs of Moving Internationally

A couple unpacking boxes in their new house after an international move

Moving internationally can be both thrilling and intimidating, especially when it comes to international moving costs. If you’ve dreamt of living in Paris, setting up shop in Tokyo, taking a job opportunity in New York, or even studying university in Australia, you’re probably wondering, “How much will it really cost to move abroad?” This article aims to break down the various expenses you’ll encounter, from shipping and packing to hidden fees and ways to save.

Understanding The Basics of International Moving

Why Move Internationally?

People choose to move abroad for a variety of reasons. Some are expats chasing career opportunities while others are international students seeking quality education. Alternatively you may find global professionals on short-term projects and families relocating for better living conditions.

No matter the reason, moving abroad is a major life decision that requires thorough planning.

Initial Considerations

Before packing your bags, some serious thinking needs to be done. But what do you need to consider? Well, one of the most important aspects is securing the right visa for your destination country.

Immigration laws vary widely, and it’s crucial to understand the requirements well in advance. The purpose of your move very much comes into play here. A study visa is very different from a working visa. Cultural differences also play a significant role.

Understanding local customs, language barriers, and social norms can make a big difference in how smoothly your transition goes.

Main Cost Components of International Moving

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs are one of the most significant international moving expenses you’ll encounter, the heavier your items, the more it will cost to ship. The two primary methods are sea freight and air freight. Opting for sea freight is generally the most economical method for transporting household goods overseas but it is slower. However, it’s a good option have time.

You’ll also need to decide between a full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL). FCL is ideal if you’re moving an entire household, while LCL is cost-effective for smaller shipments. LCL is cheaper since you share the container with other customers.

Two cargo ships sailing near city

Air freight, on the other hand, is faster and more expensive. Goods can be transported as palletized shipments, within unit load devices (ULDs) or as loose cargo. They need to stay within specific dimensions and weight guidelines per ULD or pallet and are also chargeable by weight.

It’s important to understand that all cargo has to be examined before export, go through customs, and pass through an x-ray machine. If pallets need to be repacked, the cost will be passed on to you. For this reason, your international movers have to carefully pack and itemize your belongings.

Packing Services

Deciding whether to pack your belongings yourself or hire professional packers is another important consideration. DIY packing can save money but is time-consuming and can lead to damaged items or the need to repack. On the other hand, professional packers will come as an added expense.

The weight of your belongings primarily influences the cost of packing. In sea freight, the weight and volume of your shipment will determine the container size for your goods and the rate per pound. In contrast, air freight is primarily packed to the size of ULDs or palletized limits so they can fit through an X-ray machine and be scanned.

Most international estimates will include professional packers to offer convenience and expertise in sticking to packing guidelines.

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Don’t forget to weigh the insurance costs when moving internationally. Basic coverage might be included in your shipping fee, but comprehensive coverage offers better protection.

The usual cost for international moving insurance is $0.60 per pound with a standard insurance fee for goods transported overseas at 2%.

Additional Expenses to Consider

Customs and Import Duties

Customs and import duties can vary significantly depending on the destination country. Some countries have higher fees and stricter regulations, which can add to your overall international moving costs. Additionally, there may be documentation fees for required paperwork, so it’s essential to research these ahead of time.

Boxes getting ready to ship internationally

International Storage Costs

Don’t forget you may need short-term or long-term international storage solutions depending on your moving timeline. Storage costs can average about $100 per month but vary based on location, size of the storage unit, and duration. Planning for these expenses can help you avoid unexpected costs down the line.

Freight Forwarding Costs

Don’t overlook the cost of getting to and from ports. Local transportation expenses can add up quickly, especially if you’re using relocation services that charge by the hour and that offer door-to-door or port-to-door options. Understanding these costs upfront can help you budget your international move more effectively.

Car Shipping

If you plan to bring your vehicle with you, car shipping is another substantial expense to consider. The average cost to ship a car internationally is about $5,000 and varies based on factors such as the type and size of the vehicle, the shipping method, and the destination country. Generally, there are two primary methods for international car shipping: Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) and container shipping.

Visa Fees

You’ll also need to deal with organizing the right visas which also attract fees. Visa costs can vary widely, from $100 to $3,000 based on type, destination country, and complexity. With the most common type being a work visa.

Travel Costs

At the end of it all, you’ll still need to make your way overseas with your family and any pets you may have. The average cost of a one-way flight is $1,400 and bringing pets into the cabin can cost an average of $300, while leaving them in cargo will be around $1,000.

These expenses associated with your journey can differ depending on the airline, country you are traveling to, and the number of people and pets moving.

Hidden Costs of International Moving

Customs and Import Taxes

Customs and import taxes are an often overlooked but crucial aspect of international moving costs. Each country has its own set of regulations and tariff rates, which can significantly impact your overall moving budget. Generally, you can expect an overall 2% tax on goods transported internationally.

Currency Exchange Rates

Currency exchange rates can fluctuate and not only impact your overall moving costs but the fees for getting your money out of your country and transferred into the destination currency.

Using specialized transfer services instead of banks can save you money on transfer fees and offer better exchange rates. It’s wise to monitor rates, plan your transfers accordingly, and be extra vigilant when dealing and transferring large sums of money.

Unexpected Delays

Unexpected delays can occur, leading to additional storage and handling costs. These delays can be due to various factors, such as weather conditions, customs inspections, or logistical issues.

With so many moving parts in the process of moving internationally, it’s fairly hard to predict an exact timeline. By preparing for these potential delays, you can manage your budget and expectations.

Miscellaneous Costs

There are several other miscellaneous costs to consider, such as passports, financial statements, academic records, driver’s license, child custody documentation (if applicable), health insurance proof, marriage or divorce certificates, medical records, vaccinations, and health checks (especially if you’re moving with pets). Temporary accommodation might also be necessary if your new home isn’t ready upon your arrival. Being aware of these costs can help you avoid unpleasant surprises.

Tips to Reduce International Moving Costs

Plan Ahead

Planning your move well in advance can save you money. Early booking discounts are often available, and moving during off-peak times of the year can reduce costs. The more time you give yourself to plan, the better your chances of finding cost-saving opportunities.

Reduce Your Volume

Reducing the volume of items you need to ship can significantly lower your international moving costs. Consider selling or donating items you no longer need. Digitizing documents and media can also save space and reduce the weight of your shipment.

Get Multiple Quotes

It’s essential to shop around and get quotes from several international moving companies. Comparison shopping can reveal significant price differences. Negotiating with movers using these quotes can help you secure better deals.

Brad Johnston of Movingle New Zealand


Moving internationally involves various costs, but with careful planning and budgeting, you can manage these expenses effectively. From understanding shipping options to considering hidden costs, we hope this article has provided you with a good understanding of international moving costs to help you prepare for your move abroad.

Remember to plan ahead, declutter, and get multiple quotes to keep your international moving costs in check. Before you know it you’ll be throwing the best housewarming party in your new home country! If you’re ready to take the next step, reach out to international moving companies for personalized quotes and assistance.

With the right preparation, your international move can be a smooth and exciting adventure.

Headshot of Ashlyn Cook, UniMovers' Community Outreach Manager

Ashlyn is a homegrown Iowan (go Cyclones!). She graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2023 with a degree in Business Administration, Marketing, Public Relations, and Communications. Now, she serves as UniMovers' Community Outreach Manager. In her free time, she loves to try new restaurants, travel, watch baseball, and spend time with her dog!

To get in contact with her regarding blog partnerships at UniMovers please email