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International Moving

How to Ship Household goods Overseas by Ocean Freight

By December 19, 2022December 12th, 2023No Comments
Shipping Household Goods Overseas
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Moving to a new country should be a time of rejoicing, but a lot goes into international moving. Shipping household goods overseas is one of them. 

According to, ocean transportation makes up 90% of overseas moves, for a good reason. It’s the cheapest way to transport household goods from one country to another. 

This article provides everything you need to know about shipping household goods overseas and the expected costs. 

Ocean freight rates for household goods

What is ocean transportation, and how does it work? 

Shipping household goods overseas using ocean transportation is standard for customers moving household goods and personal belongings to another country. You have the option of door-to-door delivery or port services. Below is a list of services that international movers offer: 

Door to Door

Door to Port

Port to Door

Port to Port

Residential Pickup

Residential Pickup

Packing & Loading

Packing & Loading

Packing Supplies

Packing Supplies

Ocean Freight

Ocean Freight

Ocean Freight

Ocean Freight

Customs Clearance

Customs Clearance

Delivery to Destination

Delivery to Destination

Off-Loading/Removal of Debris

Off-Loading/Removal of Debris

International shipping companies offer various moving services, so it’s best to speak directly with an experienced international mover. 


What’s the average cost of shipping household goods overseas? 

The average cost to ship household goods by ocean transportation is $1000 to $12,000. Your shipment size, destination country, and required services will make up the cost of your move. You can use the cost averages below for planning and budgeting: 

*** Door-to-Door shipping Averages***













South America












Australia/New Zealand




You can ship your goods by full container load (FCL) or less-than-container load (LCL). The size of your shipment will determine the shipping method. 

If you have a small shipment, say the contents of a one-bedroom home, you will most likely use an LCL shipment, a shared container. 

To get an accurate estimate, you should speak with a professional international moving company or use an international moving calculator to get a ballpark. 


How long does an international move take? 

On average, shipping household goods internationally takes 3 to 6 weeks via ocean freight. The size of your move, final destination, and service will affect transit times. If you’re shipping your household goods door to door, the shipping times will be longer. 


Door to Door

Door to Port


25-32 days

22-27 days


27-36 days

24-30 days

South America

18-25 days

14-22 days


22-28 days

21-26 days


30-40 days

25-32 days


7-14 days

5-10 days

In addition to service, the move size can also affect transit times. A smaller shipment will ship in a shared container, making it a bit longer. Lastly, you must find an international relocation company with experience and knowledge of your destination country; it can make the moving process much more manageable.


Should I use a freight forwarder or an international mover? 

A freight forwarder is responsible for arranging the transportation of your goods and must maintain a valid license with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and bond. However, if you’re shipping furniture abroad, it’s best to use an international mover who is also a freight forwarder. 

An international moving company will have more knowledge and experience with the logistics involved in shipping your furniture and household goods overseas. Additionally, a moving company can handle your move’s packing, loading, and customs clearance. 


Is ocean freight the best option for shipping household items overseas? 

Ocean freight makes up approximately 90% of international moves. The key reason is it’s the cheapest option. Ocean transport is the least expensive method when shipping anything overseas. 

However, if you’re on a tight timeline and the budget is of no concern, you can consider air freight shipping. Air freight is expensive but quicker than ocean freight shipping.

If you would like to compare both options, ask the international mover of your choice for both quotes. 


What is a full container load service? 

A full container load (FCL) service uses an exclusive 20′ or 40′ container. If you’re shipping the contents of a two-bedroom home or more, your international mover will recommend a full container load service.  


Full Container Load Dimensions

You can use the container for personal use, which means you can ship your household goods, personal effects, and a vehicle if needed. Additionally, you can self-pack and load the container, which can help save money. 

Container Type

Internal Dims 

Cargo Weight

40' Standard

12.05 x 2.35 x 2.36M


40' High Cube

12.05 x 2.35 x 2.69M


20' Standard

5.89 x 2.35 x 2.36M


20' High Cube

5.89 x 2.35 x 2.69M


Can I have a shipping container dropped off at my house? 

If you’re shipping a full container load (FCL), you can choose a drop & pick service. A drop & pick is when your shipping company arranges an empty container to be dropped off at your location for loading. 

Once you’ve loaded your personal belongings, the international mover or shipping company will arrange for your container to be picked up. 

A drop & pick service is a great way to reduce shipping costs. However, you are responsible for packing and loading the container.


Live-load service and how it works

A live load is when an international shipping company brings a container to your location, and you’ll have two hours of free loading time. If you exceed the two free hours, you will be charged an hourly rate of $75. 

A live load is used when shippers have their goods packed, prepped, and easily accessible. It’s a same-day service, so everything must be loaded and in the container before the driver leaves. 

Most international movers offer live load services. However, it’s best to double-check. 

Shipping an LCL overseas

How does less-than-container (LCL) load shipping work? 

If you’re shipping only a few pieces of furniture or boxes, you should use an LCL service. An LCL service is when an international moving company consolidates your household goods with others shipping to the same destination. 

LCL freight is a common transportation method for shipping household goods overseas. The average transit time for a door-to-door shipment is 6 to 8 weeks. Your destination country and service will be the most significant factors in shipping time frames. 

LCL freight is palletized and shrink-wrapped before loading. Your goods will be unwrapped once they reach the destination country. A smaller shipment tends to ship as LCL unless you request a full container load. 


How to calculate the volume of your move?

Ocean transportation is based on the volume of your move in cubic feet. A 20′ container is 1172 cubic feet, and a 40′ container is 2350 cubic feet. You can follow the below method to calculate the volume of your move. 

To calculate cubic feet, you’ll need to take measurements of each item and multiply the length, width, and height in inches or feet. If you need to multiply the length, width, and height in inches, divide that number by 1728. If you’re working with feet, you can multi[ply the feet, giving you the cubic feet. 

Example (Inches): One medium box 24″x24″x24″ divided by 1728 =8 cubic feet. 

Example (Feet): One box 2’x2’x2′ = 8 cubic feet. 

You can also speak with an international mover who can walk you through the process. They can also take an inventory list and calculate the volume for you. 


Shipping household goods by air freight

Although this article is geared toward shipping household goods using ocean shipping, many customers enquire about air freight. The speedy transit time of air freight makes it attractive, so let’s get into it. 

The average cost of air freight is $3500 to $15,000, making ocean transportation more expensive. However, shipping by air is an option if you need to get your household goods quickly. 

Unlike ocean transportation, air shipping is based on the cubic feet (volume) or the weight of your move, whichever is greater. If money is of no concern and you need your stuff immediately, you can request an air freight quote from international movers. 


Warehouse and storage service options

If you’re shipping your household good with an overseas moving company, you can store your items at your origin or destination locations. Here’s how storage works: 

Origin: An international mover will pick up your household goods and store them at their local warehouse until you’re ready. Once you give the green light, they will ship your goods to their final destination. 

Destination: If you’re shipping your household goods door to door, you can store them at the destination location. Once you’re ready, they will deliver them to your final destination. 

Long-term storage: If you need more than three months of storage, you should ask for a temperature-controlled storage unit. Keeping household goods and furniture in hot temperatures can cause damage. 

It’s always best to speak with the international mover or freight forwarder of your choice regarding storage, warehousing, and how it works. 


What are the best ways to reduce my international shipping costs? 

There are several ways to reduce the cost of shipping your household items overseas. Below are common ways where shippers reduce their overseas moving costs: 


Self-packing your household goods is an option? 

Self-packing is one way to reduce the cost of your overseas move. However, it can come with risks. Before committing, you should weigh the pros and cons of self-packing for a move. 

  • Time Consuming: If you’re on a tight timeline, consider having a professional international mover pack for personal belongings. Packing for an international move takes careful planning and prepping. 
  • Labor-Intensive: Packing can be labor-intensive, so if you have a bad back, you should consider having professional movers handle the packing. 
  • Buying Supplies: You can purchase packing materials at any local Home Depot or Walmart. However, you will need to know what supplies to purchase and the best type of boxes for an international relocation.
  • Insurance: Packed by owner shipment can only get total loss insurance coverage. It will cover the complete loss of your shipment, but not single items. 

You should consult an international relocation coordinator if you’re still considering self-packing for your overseas move.


Choose a less expensive international shipping option

Shipping household good via ocean freight is the most economical route. However, you can ship your household goods door to door or choose a port service. The least expensive way to ship furniture items overseas is a port-to-port service. 

A port-to-port service is the same as a warehouse-to-warehouse service. You will need to drop off and pick up your household goods at both port warehouse locations. 

International Moving Company Award

Look for an international moving company with experience

Looking for the best international moving companies with experience with ocean freight shipping to your destination is vital. The more volume a company handles to a destination, the cheaper the shipping costs. 


Who are the cheapest international moving companies? 

International Van Lines, Allied Van Lines, Atlas Van Lines, North American Van Lines, and United Van Lines are the best-priced international moving companies in the United States. 

Each company listed has years of experience and ships high volume, creating better international shipping costs for customers. 

They also maintain an excellent rating with the Better Business Bureau and online review websites. You should get up to three international moving quotes for comparison. 


How do I find an international moving company near me?

To find the best international moving companies nearest to your residence, you can use local guides like Google or check comparison websites like Forbes Home Services. Companies such as International Van Lines and Allied Van Lines have nationwide locations and can service any origin zip code. You can also follow the below steps: 

  1. Ensure a company is licensed: A global shipping and moving company must maintain a valid license with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). You can visit to validate their license information. 
  2. Check online reviews: Online reviews are a great way to get insight into how a moving company or shipping company handles complaints. 
  3. Ask for references: Ask your international mover for references from customers who have shipped to your destination country. 
  4. Ask the right questions: Ask your overseas mover about the customs process and potential charges at the destination port. 
  5. Look for experience: A moving company with experience with your destination country will provide a better ocean transportation service than a company with little to no experience. 

Follow these steps, and you will be on your way to locating the best international moving company near your location.


Insurance coverage, cost, and how it works

Most international shipping companies offer insurance through a third party. The average cost for ocean shipping insurance is 2% to 4% of the good’s declared value. Below are the insurance options: 

Packed by owner (PBO): If you choose to pack & load your household goods, you can get total loss insurance. Total loss insurance will cover the complete loss of your shipment but not individual items. 

Professional packed: Having an international moving company professional pack your household goods come with benefits. You’ll be able to add insurance coverage on individual items per their value. 

Damage to cargo is possible, so most removal companies suggest getting insurance coverage for your household goods. 

Ocean Shipping FAQ


What are the required documents to ship household goods overseas? 

First, you will need to fill out the shipping forms, inventory list, and insurance forms that your international relocation company provides. Then you’ll be provided a booking confirmation and Bill of Lading which will have your shipping details. 

Where are the main ocean ports located in the United States? 

Below is a list of the top 10 busiest ocean ports in the US. 

  1. Port of Los Angeles 
  2. Port of Long Beach
  3. Port of New Jersey and New york 
  4. Port of Savannah
  5. Port of Norfolk
  6. Port of Seattle
  7. Port of Houston
  8. Port of Oakland 
  9. Port of Charleston 
  10. Port of Miami 

You can check the customs website to locate the nearest port. 

Will I pay port and terminal handling charges?

Port and terminal handling charges are fees billed by the port, which cover salaries and other accessorial charges at the port. Port & THC charges vary based on the move size but average $300 to $800. 

Most international moving companies include port fees as part of their quote, but you should always double-check to ensure no surprises when your shipment arrives. 

What happens if my shipment gets a customs clearance inspection? 

Customs inspections can be random or intentional. Shipping a prohibited item can result in a customs inspection. A customs exam can result in a delay and customs inspection charges. It’s best to consult an international moving company regarding prohibited items. 

People also ask: 


Who are the best international movers from the US to Europe?

International Van Lines ranks as the best international moving company to Europe from the US. JK Moving & Storage, Rainer Overseas Movers, Allied Van Lines, and North American Van Lines are excellent choices. 

Should I get a virtual or visual survey? 

If you’re shipping more than the contents of a one-bedroom home, consider getting a virtual or visual survey. It will help with accuracy. 

How long does it take to ship household goods to Australia? 

The average time ocean transportation takes to Australia from the US is 6 to 8 weeks, door to door. 

Can I ship a container of household goods to the Middle East? 

Most international moving companies offer ocean transportation to the Middle East. 

How to ship household goods overseas – Summary

The cheapest transportation method for international moving is shipping household goods overseas by ocean freight. Your circumstances and budget will determine the international moving service you need. 

It’s best to research overseas moving companies experienced in shipping furniture to your destination country. Make sure you ask the right questions and feel comfortable with your choice of movers. 

International Van Lines is a licensed freight forwarder and moving company offering ocean shipping to over 140 countries worldwide. 

To request a moving quote, you can fill out an online form or contact one of our international relocation coordinators. 



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