So you're planning a move out of the country. You've got the paperwork sorted, done the scouting trip, know where you're heading and are about to make the big jump, but what about your stuff? It's not all going to fit in your suitcase, so what are your options?
First, a few questions to ask yourself, as this may not be a cheap/easy process:
- How long are you going for? If it's just a short trip, say a year or 6 months, then going through the stress and cost of shipping may not be worth it.
- How confident are you it's going to work out? This is a tough question to answer, but if you don't need your stuff right at the start it might be worth holding off shipping until later. That way you won't go through the expense of getting it all over, only to send it all back. (Remember that you can rent furniture on an interim basis in Canada. Indeed, you in any case may need to do that while you wait for your goods to arrive.)
- What are you planning on shipping? If you are only shipping a few things, it may be worth looking at replacing rather than shipping.
Keep in mind that good quality furniture in Canada is expensive. Also, good quality furniture tends to hold up quite well under shipping conditions. So, if you own good quality furniture, shipping it tends to be worthwhile. IKEA-type furniture, on the other hand, tends to hold up less well when it is moved (notwithstanding the fact that you're supposed to be able to dismantle and re-assemble it). IKEA-type furniture also is relatively affordable in Canada. So, if that's the kind of stuff you have, there may be merit in replacing it in Canada.
People usually find that, even if they don't ship their furniture to their new destination, they really do feel more at home if they are surrounded by familiar odds and ends -- a favourite painting, a sentimental ornament, photos of family members and friends, etc. You probably will find it helpful to take to your destination at least a few things that mean a lot to you.
If shipping is an option you want to consider, then start by getting some quotes. This will quickly give you an idea of the options and costs involved for your volume.
- There are several companies available for shipping and most will be able to provide a free no obligation quote.
- A simple Google search will pull up several companies to request a quote from.
- To get a more accurate quote most companies will try to organise a visit to your house and will then evaluate the volume you're likely to ship.
- If this isn't an option several companies also offer online quotes, these will generally require you to enter the amount and type of things you have to ship and they will then base their estimate on this.
- As with anything like this ensure you get several quotes to compare, costs can vary quite surprisingly for a very similar service.
- Ensure the quotes you are comparing are like for like, do they include packing and un-packing, do they include insurance, are they for a sole container or groupage.
Choosing your shipper
Costs are obviously a primary concern for most people, but other things should be taken into consideration:
- Company reputation - There are lots of advice and horror story threads with people's experiences. Read some of these to get an idea if the company you like is going to be a good choice. Bear in mind though that most companies (like people) have good and bad days.
- Company type - Some companies have operations on either side of the Atlantic and so can be more reliable as you are then only dealing with the one company. Others will sub-contract out the foreign part of the trip, which can be a good/bad thing. The final type of company is a broker that will organise both parts but not actually be a shipper, again there are positive and negatives to this.
- Shipping time - Shipping in your own container makes the trip a lot quicker than shipping groupage, but is generally more expensive. Weigh up time and cost in terms of importance to you.
All professional removal companies will optionally quote for shipping insurance to cover your goods while in transit against total loss and damage (subject to a modest standard 'excess' per claim). Whether you choose to insure your goods or not is entirely your decision. Removal companies will still arrange the shipping for you whether the goods are insured or not, you carry the risk if not insured, including the risk of total loss (shipping containers have been known to fall off of ships before and will continue to do so).
Removal companies will often charge at a rate of 2 - 3% of the estimated value of the goods being shipped (plus UK Insurance Premium Tax).
However, you can also arrange your own shipping insurance direct with a specialist insurance provider. One such provider that offers excellent rates and whom a number of people have used and raised claims which have been settled quickly are Letton Percival. They typically charge 1.4% of the estimated value of the goods being shipped (Plus IPT).
Please see the BE Wiki article entitled Goods To Follow List.
Packing to Unpacking
- Groupage - This is the term used when a shipment is wrapped and prepared for shipment, then loose-loaded into a container with other small shipments. Sending goods by Groupage brings about considerable cost savings, however transit times may be longer and less predictable than sending by Full Container Load because the container is unlikely to be shipped until it is full.
- Full Container Load - You get your own container to fill, generally a 20ft or 40ft depending on the amount of things you are loading. Costs are generally higher for this, but shipment time is lower.
Advice/Tips & other threads
- Don't ship more than you need to. It may sound obvious but all costs are based on volume so the less you ship the cheaper it will be. This is particularly true if shipping groupage and so that extra chair or few boxes could add a few hundred quid. If you are shipping in your own container then you will have some more flexibility on volume
- A BE member posted their experience in a very detailed and informative post here: http://britishexpats.com/forum/canada-56/shipping-uk-canada-our-story-advice-882682/
The original author of this article did a great job in many respects.
He was, however, someone who belonged to the Every Stick Of Furniture That You Place In Your Shipment Has To Earn Its Keep school of thought.
There are other people who disagree with that approach.
Furniture, and particularly average quality furniture, is expensive in Canada. However the quality of the top of the line furniture from specialty stores in Canada is of exceptional quality, solid woods, such as maple or cherry.
Canadian houses tend to be bigger than UK houses. When you get to Canada, you may find that you need furniture for a lounge / living room as well as a family room. You need tables and chairs for a dining room as well as a breakfast nook.
You may need to buy a new set of furniture for your living room and use your living room furniture from the UK in your Canadian family room.
On the other hand, it's true that, because of the difference in electrical voltage between the UK and Canada, you should leave behind major appliances, such as stoves, fridges, washing machines and clothes dryers.
For more information about the differences between electricity in the UK and Canada, please see the Wiki article called Compatability of Goods.
Almost all houses, townhouses and apartments (flats) have bedrooms with built-in closets.
In some jurisdictions a room cannot be called a bedroom if it does not have a built-in closet. In those jurisdictions a spare room that does not have a built-in closet has to be called a den.
Because of the wide presence of built-in closets in Canadian houses, it rarely makes sense to ship wardrobes to Canada.
It still makes sense to ship chests of drawers to Canada, though (if you have decided to ship your furniture).
If you have a wardrobe that is particularly attractive and/or has sentimental value, you could consider using it as a television armoire in your living room or family room when you get to Canada.
There have been a zillion and one threads with recommendations for shipping companies. Please do not start multiple threads on the same subject if you are just looking for recommendations. Here are some threads where this has been discussed.