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Getting ready to move overseas can be an overwhelming experience. One of the things that stressed me out was the thought of shipping from the UK to Australia. We had a three-bedroom house crammed full to the brim with stuff (I blame having three kids under three as somehow these tiny babies result in you gaining tonnes of stuff!) and it just felt like too much to think about getting it all organised to ship to Australia. 

When we first thought about shipping a container to Australia, I didn’t know where to even begin. Thankfully, when you start taking action and you get focused, everything become clearer. You need to think carefully about what to take to Australia, and it’s a good idea to declutter thoroughly, but you can enjoy a (fairly) stress-free moving experience when you choose the best international moving company for your needs and you get organised a few months in advance. Let me tell you how…

Somebody packing up a box for international shipping

Here are my top 6 international shipping tips for moving overseas (without losing your mind!)

1 Think carefully about what you want to take to Australia

To get started, think about what you REALLY want to take with you when moving overseas. Do you need to take everything you own to Australia? Will your things suit an Australian home? Will the items even work the same in Australia? 

The number of people I’ve spoken to who told me they made a mistake with their overseas shipping by bringing things they’ve never used (or which were useless in Australia) is endless. 

Do you have a lot of great quality furniture, family heirlooms or large pieces of furniture that you really like and can’t part with? Or are you just going to be looking at shipping boxes to Australia if you just have a few small important bits and pieces? (If you don’t have much to send, maybe shipping a bag or two is going to be a cheaper option – you can get 5% off Send My Bag services by placing your order on any of the links on this page).

Get clear on what you want to take. And don’t be too brutal (I know lots of people who gave stuff away and then really regretted it later!)

Some important things to consider when shipping a container to Australia…

Most homes in Australia have fitted wardrobes so freestanding ones aren’t much use. Electrical goods will need their plugs changing when you arrive (not a big deal but it’s worth considering if it’s easier to just buy a new kettle and toaster when you arrive). Bed sizes can be a little different in Australia (so if you bring your beds, make sure you bring bedding too. And don’t forget they call bedding ‘Manchester’ in Australia just to confuse you!). Your TV might have limited functionality over here (and bringing your TV might cost you extra for a specialist crate if you no longer have the original TV box it came in). Houses here are bigger and more open plan – they need bigger pieces of furniture to fill them (so will your small two-seater sofa look out of place in a huge Australian lounge room?)

There really is a lot to think about!

2 Consider how much is overseas shipping versus replacing

As part of your decision about what to take, think about all of the costs involved in moving and compare the costs of buying similar items new in Australia. Check out stores like Kmart, Target, Big W, Harvey Norman and Ikea to shop around for the basics. You can also use Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree to buy second-hand things when you arrive, so it doesn’t all need to be brand new (we still have plenty of second-hand furniture from when we first arrived here seven years ago and it’s still going strong!). 

Container shipping costs aren’t cheap (it cost us £4000 to ship a 20ft container back in 2014). Would replacing all of your things when you arrive cost less than (or the same as) shipping your things? Would you rather have a house full of brand new things for your brand new life? 

If you decide to get rid of everything and start fresh in Australia at least you won’t have the hassle of cleaning and organising everything but you’re going to need to sell lots of things (which is also very time consuming) and give away and donate a lot of stuff. Then when you land in Australia, you’re going to need to prioritise shopping for the most important new things quickly ready for when you move into your rental. (Personally, for us the idea of dragging three little kids with jet lag around the shops was not appealing so that was one of the things that persuaded us to take all of our things with us). 

Considering the cost of shipping is important though – taking less costs less so consider what you really do need and if the shipping quotes come in higher than you’d like, consider leaving more things behind. 

3 Get multiple shipping container quotes 

This is so important. Don’t only get one or two international shipping companies to give you a quote – make sure you get three or more quotes. This allows you to compare shipping prices, but it’s not just about choosing the cheapest international removal company, it’s about choosing the international removal company you feel the most comfortable with to take care of your belongings and give you the best shipping service.

You can do endless online research to try to find the best shipping company, but at the end of the day what really matters is that your shipping container company offers great customer service so they can deal with any issues quickly and easily. Good communication is so important and matters just as much as the cost to ship a container.  

Complete the form below to receive up to five free no-obligation shipping quotes!

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Smart Steps to Australia receives a commission on completed and processed form submissions at no cost to you. 

4 Give yourself time to get organised

If you’re going to ship a container to Australia, you need to give yourself time to organise things. 

You can begin contacting shipping companies for quotes a few months before your move. When we moved to Australia from the UK, we got four shipping companies out to give us a shipping quote about six months before our move to assess how much it was going to cost and this allowed us to choose which company we were going to use. It also gave us chance to ask lots of questions and work out which of our big bits of furniture to take with us. Knowing the shipping cost and the space we had available helped us to make informed choices about what to take to Australia. (It’s worth noting that quotes are only valid for a certain time period so they will expire but we found it helpful to get a rough idea of costs early). 

Don’t leave getting your shipping quotes much later than three or four months before your move though as you don’t want to feel like you’re being rushed into making decisions. There are a lot of admin tasks to cram into your last few weeks (if you’d like help figuring out what needs to be done when, check out my Ultimate Emigration Checklist which walks you through all of it one step at a time). 

5 Ask the right questions

When your shipping removal company comes out to visit you (or you meet them in a virtual online chat), it’s your chance to ask them everything! No questions are too small or too silly. My advice is to write yourself a list of questions in a notebook and ask the same things to all agents so you can directly compare their answers. There are so many questions you should ask (that is going to need to be a whole other blog post) but here are a few…

Will they bring a container to your home (is there space on your road?) or move your things in a truck or van to their depot where the container will be loaded?
Can you track your container online?
Will their costs cover door-to-door delivery?
How do their fees breakdown and does their quote include all costs – what extras can you expect to pay?
How does their optional insurance policy work?
Do you get any ‘free’ storage time at either end?
What happens if it takes you longer than expected to find a home – what extra storage costs could you incur? 

The shipping removal company representative is really there to offer a sales service so it’s down to you to do your due diligence and ask as many questions as you can so you can be sure you’re choosing the best international removal company for your needs. 

6 Compare your container shipping insurance options

I’m a big advocate for choosing an independent insurance company for your shipping container as it’s an easy way to save money without losing the benefits of the service. I know personally, we found it a lot cheaper to not go with the insurance provided by our shipping agent.

I was worried though. My biggest two concerns in not choosing our shipping company for shipping insurance was a) I thought it would be so much more complicated (as it involved coming up with costs for our belongings and listing the groups of types of items like bedding, kitchenware…) and b) I was worried how easy it would be to claim at the other end if we needed to. 

I needn’t have worried though. It wasn’t difficult to go around the house and group together types of items and come up with a rough cost for them. Actually, I think it probably just took me about 15 minutes. And then when our belongings arrived and some things were broken (some electrical goods, a mirror and some furniture…), it was so easy to claim. I just had to take a photo of the items and suggest similar replacement items and send it over to them and that was it. I was shocked at how easy it was!

It only takes you a few extra minutes to organise independent insurance for your shipping container, but it can save you hundreds of pounds so I think it’s worth that tiny bit of effort to find insurance separate to your shipping removal company. We used Insure Your Move and they were great. Letton Percival is another company that comes highly recommended for insurance of shipping from the UK to Australia in forums. 

Choosing your international movers and packers

It’s so easy to overthink the process of choosing your international movers and packers. I spent way too long in the forums reading reviews. The truth is you’ll find complaints and praise about all companies. Do your research but also know that you’ll be relying on whoever is packing/unpacking your house on the day. It’s not something you can control, but you can make sure you get the best price and choose the service you feel most comfortable with when you get a few different quotes

If you’d like to learn more about organising your belongings for shipping, be sure to check out this post about shipping a container to Australia and for more about getting a shipping quote, visit this page or complete the form in the post above and sit back and wait for shipping companies to come to you!