The Essentials

Choosing A Shipping Company

Some advice in the hope that you can learn from our mistakes. Any other tips or comments welcome.


1. Choose a big company with an international reputation. There are no guarantees but it might, just might, reassure US customs and prevent an X-ray or search, causing delays in receiving your furniture and incurring extra costs – you’re the one who pays for X-rays.

2. Once you have received your quotes, bargain – companies will undercut each other to get your business and expect you to play them off against each other.

3. Pay the extra to allow the company to pack. They use special techniques and materials and they know what might cause problems at the customs end – who knew those two giant bags of dishwasher powder could give rise to suspicions?

4. Similarly, although at around 3% it’s more expensive, it’s probably a good idea to insure your stuff with the shipping company rather than with a separate independent insurer. The shipping company should cover you for storage costs caused by customs delays – a not infrequent occurrence.

5. Before you commit yourself to any one company, ask if there are likely to be any additional costs. If they don’t warn you about possible X-ray costs then don’t go with them.

6. If you’re using a 40ft container (or even if you’re using a 20ft one) ask if your stuff will be able to be taken to your apartment in that container. We found out too late that the US end of the operation were going to charge us to transfer our goods from the shipping container to a removal truck – an extra $900! – because they weren’t prepared to take the container through Manhattan. We’re still not sure exactly why.

7. Bear in mind that you don’t know who you’re going to be dealing with at the US end. Once your container leaves the UK your at the mercy of a new contact who could be less than helpful. Find out all you can about who you will be speaking to in the US and, if possible, make contact with them before you commit.

8. Make sure you make arrangements with the shippers well ahead of time to book your goods on a crossing. Be aware that they will collect your furniture 10 days to two weeks before it sails.

9. When they say it takes 6 to 8 weeks they mean it. Be prepared for a 2 month wait.

10. If you are moving to a Manhattan apartment building, you will have to book the use of the freight lift ahead of time. To speed things up, befriend your building’s Super and explain that you will be wanting to book the freight lift at short notice. It’s important to get him on your side. Also, get the US movers to fax their insurance certificate to the building’s management company well ahead of your goods clearing customs.

11. During the period between your arrival in New York and your furniture’s arrival, the airbed is your friend. Happy camping!

4 Responses to “The Essentials”

  1. Have just stumbled upon your website. As a dog loving Londoner with a deep affection for New York .. it’s a total joy. Please do keep posting. x

    • Thanks Jane. That’s very much appreciated. There’s lots more coming on dog action in New York. Elaine

  2. This is an absolutely amazing guide – thank you! I literally last night began getting shipping quotes, and only came across your blog from Twitter. I think a few places offer storage on the NYC end if you’re not sure where you want your stuff to be delivered, which at this early stage might be something I need to do.

    • I’m really glad you found it helpful. Feel free to get in touch if there’s anything else I might be able to help with. Be careful re storage – it can be very expensive. Also I’m putting together a guide re what it’s not worth bringing eg which electricals will work here and which won’t. Thanks for your lovely comment. Elaine

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