Unless you’re selling your house, shipping can be one of the biggest costs when moving abroad, with quotes coming in at anywhere between £500 – £15,000. However, there are economical ways of making sure your things arrive home in one piece, and you don’t bankrupt yourself in the process…

How shipping costs are calculated:

Sea freight companies use a metric called the CuFt (cubic foot). It doesn’t matter so much how heavy your stuff is, it matters how much room it takes up. So you probably don’t want to ship your bean-bag and foam mattress collection.

How to save money on shipping quotes:

You should shop around for your quote – a shipping quote for the exact same move can vary by £2,000+. You can also use companies which can provide quotes for you, which will save you time as you won’t have to fill out thousands of itemised forms. You can save extra money by opting for the home-to-port or the port-to-port service, but the extra hassle of moving your stuff yourself and storing it at the other end means most people opt for door-to-door, where the shipping company comes to your home, loads up, and takes it all the way to your new house.

Check what’s included:

Most companies will include a free packing service, although some do charge for this. The next biggest expense will be insurance, as this is typically a percentage of the total value of your goods. It can cost between 1-5%, depending on what you’re shipping (so if you’re planning on taking your your Mum’s chandelier, expect a 5% charge) and which company you go with.You should also check if your shipping company absorbs the following costs, or if they expect you to pay them:

– Custom inspection fees

– Import duty

– Unconventional delivery costs (i.e. delivering to the 5th floor, or on a narrow street)

Air Freight vs Sea Freight:

Each has their benefits. Sea freight is cheaper, and you’ll be able to move big things like cars, motorbikes and wardrobes – however, you will be waiting 2-8 weeks for your stuff. Air freight is a lot more expensive per kilogram, but you can expect your belongings quickly (often within a week). You may even want to air freight a few essentials, then ship the rest of your stuff by sea.

Shipping vs Buying New:

There comes a point where it may be cheaper to buy new at the other end than ship the old. This is typically true large objects that are relatively inexpensive such as sofas, beds and wardrobes. You can also ship your car abroad, but you might want to reconsider if you’re taking a right-hand drive car to a left-hand drive country and vice versa.

Prohibited items:

You will need to be aware of what you can and can’t ship to your destination country. For example, you can’t ship toy guns, used clothing or any media inciting treason, rebellion or subversion to Manilla, in the Philippines. You also can’t ship most radio controlled aeroplanes to India, and you can’t ship Brazilian cigarettes or alcohol to Sao Paulo (weird right?). Always check restrictions with your shipping company – and don’t be tempted to try and bend the rules, as you’ll almost certainly be caught out.

Max Holloway writes about shipping and travel for MoveHub.com, who have just launched a free Q&A platform for expats. Click here to find out more.

Find out more about the shipping companies that TNT works with here.

For more shipping advice, please click here.