Making moving abroad easier
“Do you want to come live and work in Australia?”
That was the message from an old colleague appearing on my computer screen one night. At the time, my wife Sharon and I were happily living in New York City. I’ll admit my first reaction was to scoff. Sharon and I had talked about living abroad before, but never seriously, and it seemed ridiculous to pick up and move to the other side of the world. We had never even been to Australia!
But it didn’t take long for the wanderlust to set in and we were sold. After some awkward conversations with our parents (“Yes mom, I said Australia…. I don’t know how long we’ll be there.”) a few months later we moved to Sydney sight unseen and spent several amazing years there.
What wasn’t amazing, however, was the logistics of moving to a new country, particularly when it came to hiring an international mover (international removalist for you Brits). That led Sharon and I to start GoodMigrations, a company with a mission to make moving abroad easier.
We’ve been in business for a couple years now and we consistently see people automatically gravitate to the cheapest mover they find online. I want to share a few tips on why this isn’t always the best strategy and this post should help any soon-to-be expats and repats look at the big picture.
So here are the three main reasons why price isn’t everything:
1) You get what you pay for (also known as “If it’s too good to be true…”)
When we first had to find an international mover for our move to Australia, we (very) naively did a Google search. Bad idea: shady movers are just as proficient at appearing at the top of search results as good movers. The first quote I got from a moving company was, in retrospect, extremely cheap. When I told a second mover that their quote was more than double the first one so they wouldn’t be considered, they warned me that “the first quote is not economically possible; the mover would actually be losing money at that price. You don’t have to go with us, but whatever you do, don’t use them.”
I’d heard of shameless companies lowballing potential customers to win business and then drastically increasing the price once they’d picked up your stuff. The warning was good motivation not to get scammed and I spent hours researching moving companies. All of the reputable ones that I got quotes from were in the same arena as the second quote I received.
If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are plenty of horror stories on expat forums of people who were scammed by moving companies. There’s not much recourse if this happens, particularly if you’ve already moved. This means you’re better off paying more for peace of mind with a reputable company than going with a super cheap option. This doesn’t mean you should never choose the most affordable option, of course, but you should be wary of any major differences in price between quotes.
2) Consider your total costs
It’s important to consider your relocation costs in total and not simply focus on the cost of the mover. For instance, let’s say when you get to your new location you need to stay in a furnished apartment because you won’t be receiving your shipment for a while. Furnished homes generally cost significantly more to rent than unfurnished homes. So although one mover may be more expensive, if they can get your things to their destination a month sooner than the more affordable mover your relocation might cost less: you’ve paid more for the mover but now you don’t need furnished accommodations for that extra month.
As a real life example, my wife and I paid about 4,500 USD to relocate most of our two-bedroom apartment’s furniture from New York City to Sydney. One of the moving quotes was for 5,300 USD, but it specified the ship and sailing date. I went for the cheaper option, which didn’t have a guaranteed departure date. They delivered our stuff over a month late because it sat in storage for weeks before leaving New York. And while I wasn’t paying extra for a furnished apartment, we had signed a lease based on the expected arrival date and ended up spending an unhappy month in a home with only an air mattress and a couple plastic chairs. In hindsight I would have paid more to have a confirmed arrival date (and our bed, our sofa, our dishes, and our pots and pans…).
3) Think about the level of service you want
When you move abroad there are many options that can increase or decrease the overall price: full container load vs groupage; ocean freight vs air freight; the inclusion of packing materials; clean-up of these materials at your destinations; disassembly and reassembly of furniture; dealing with customs…the list goes on.
You need to consider what you want the movers to do and what you want to do yourself. For instance, door-to-port service, where a mover picks things up at your house and delivers them to the port nearest your destination, is cheaper than door-to-door. But it also means you’ll have to navigate your stuff through customs in a foreign country and somehow get it to your house. What’s that going to cost you in time, aggravation, and money?
I get it: we’re all price conscious. That bias is especially relevant for an international move, which can be the most expensive part of moving abroad. Each scenario and each person’s individual needs are different: price may not be as big a deal if your company is paying for your relocation and might be a huge deal if you’re moving on your own. Either way, it’s important not to focus exclusively on the price or you might end up paying more than you bargained for.
Good luck and happy moving.
Sponsored article by Adam Vagley of GoodMigrations
Adam Vagley grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has lived in London, New York, and Sydney. He currently resides in Los Angeles. GoodMigrations provides free international moving quotes from a network of reputable movers around the world, lets you compare them side by side, and makes it easy to book the right mover for you. We also offer expat city guides, moving tips, and more. You can reach Adam and Sharon at @GoodMigrations on Twitter and Quotes@GoodMigrations.com on email for any questions you have about moving abroad. We’re always happy to help.