expat network

Sell, Store Or Ship When Moving Abroad?

customs requirements
There are many questions when you are moving abroad and for many there is no right answer.  One of these will be whether to take things with you or buy or rent when you get there. The answer is, of course, it all depends…

The first point is how long you are going to be living abroad. For most short-term stays overseas it will not make sense to take more than a few personal items with you. These can be shipped using excess baggage services. This can generally be done less expensively by using a specialist provider rather than paying for an excess luggage allowance.

Shipping large quantities can be expensive and so it is important to consider all of the options and decide what is worth taking with you:

  • What do you plan to do with your home while you are away? Do you plan to sell it or retain it for your return? If you are holding on to it, do you want to return to your home or merely hold it to retain an interest in your home property market? Based on your answers to this you can decide whether to rent out the house and identify whether there is an option to offer it for rental furnished, which would save you storage costs, but may put your favourite chair at risk of being damaged while you are away. If you would need to put anything you leave behind into storage that gives you the first part of the cost equation.
  • Your planned destination will be another factor. Furniture that is ideal for a northern European or north American environment may not be appropriate for a tropical, Middle Eastern or Asian home. The size of your new home may be different or you may be moving from a house to an apartment, from country to city living etc. All of these factors will determine what is worth taking with you (alongside the cost of doing so). There may also be the option of renting a furnished property.
  • Another issue to consider is whether furniture can be purchased cheaply locally. Are there options like IKEA or local providers that would enable you to furnish more cheaply than paying for your household goods to be shipped there (and back) plus any storage costs at home? Is it an opportunity to buy a lovely new rosewood dining table to replace the tired table you have had for many years?
  • Electrical goods raise other issues:
    • The first thing to establish is whether the voltage in the new country is the same as your home country. The United States and Canada use a 110-120 volt, 60-cycle system whereas Europe and most of the rest of the world use 220-240V, 50 Hertz (cycles). You can obtain transformers, but they are not always appropriate for long-term use and can be difficult to use with items like vacuum cleaners that have to be moved from room to room.
    • There are travel versions of some items, such as hair dryers and irons, but they may not be the best option for long-term use. These smaller items are generally lower cost and can either be left behind in the loft or replaced when you return.
    • White goods will have the same issue with voltage, but you should also consider whether any guarantees or service agreements are international and how you will be able to make a claim in your new location. As these are bulky items, careful evaluation is sensible.
    • Consider whether to sell items on eBay or Gumtree before you leave to give you a fund to contribute towards buying new when you arrive.
    • Computer equipment is generally set up to work with different voltages and an appropriate adapter or a new lead may be all that is required.
  • If you have a car that is almost part of the family, it can be tempting to consider taking it with you. Before you do so, however, you will need to consider the cost of shipping (there and back potentially), whether there are import duties on the type of car you are taking with you and whether there are emission, safety and other standards that it will need to meet.
  • Advice from friends and future colleagues already living as expats, ideally in your planned destination, can be a great source of advice and information and sometimes answer questions you had not thought of. If you do not have access to them, there are many expat forums online where you can get your questions answered. Thinking it through can save you a great deal of money and ensure that you have the right furniture and equipment as you take up your new life abroad.


Once you have decided what you plan to ship abroad you need to choose an appropriate experienced and professional moving company, and the easiest way to ensure you get the best deal and service is to get several free moving quotes.

You can compare prices and services from up to five carefully selected international moving companies here – all our partners are members of OMNI, FEDEMAC, LACMA, IAM or FIDI