1) Get a recommendation
Google is not a good resource. There are hundreds of companies willing to give you a bid. You need to make sure you find one that’s not going to rip you off. You’re looking for a bid that accurately quotes the cost, as well as shipping time.
We asked some of our international friends and ultimately turned to our current company for a recommendation. They have moved lots of people internationally and were able to recommend Nor-Cal Moving in partnership with Allied International.
2) The bid
No matter who gives you a bid, you need to ask the following questions:
What kind of service are you buying? (ex: are they moving it door-to-door or do you have to deliver/pick it up from their facilities)
What do the costs include and—perhaps more importantly—not inlcude? (ex: imported items have to pass through customs and there is a fee involved in that)
How much is insurance? (should be 2-3% of your declared value)
Are you using a consolidated or private container for shipping? How long is it going to take to arrive at the final destination?
If someone is quoting you less than $5,000 to move across an ocean, be skeptical. Some people initially quoted us as low as $3,000 but once we started to probe on what they had actually quoted us on, we learned that it was not a very good service.
3) The options
First, there is the “cheap” option which will cost about $5,000 for 500 cubic feet of stuff (about a one-bedroom apartment). This is called a consolidated move which means you will share a 40′ crate with other people shipping to the same location. It’s a great way to split costs but there is a big catch: they won’t ship the crate until it’s full. In the US, they don’t fill 40′ crates as often as they do in, say, the UK. The the problem with this option is that it could take up to 3 months (and we read some online reviews of people having to wait as long as 6 months).
Second, is the “fast” option which will cost about $8,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and will get there in 40-50 days. In this move, you get your own 20′ crate. It really doesn’t matter how many cubic feet you’re moving; the bulk of the cost is in the private crate itself. But with this option, you’re also buying reliability in time.
Ultimately, we decided to go with Allied International’s 20′ crate option. Even though it’s $8,000, we have peace of mind knowing that our belongings will get there on time, all in one piece. Plus, the $8,000 includes a door-to-door service which means they’re actually going to come to our apartments and pack up everything for us (reason being, since they’re insuring it, they want to make sure they pack it correctly… yay for us).