Not everyone moving from to Australia will want or need to ship their household goods with them.
Other options include starting afresh by buying new or secondhand items or renting a furnished apartment or house, meaning you don’t urgently need household goods of your own.
Before we moved we had no idea how much shipping would cost and whether it was going to be worthwhile. Would it be better to take all our bits and pieces with us, or just the bare minimum and spend an afternoon at IKEA (in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide) buying all the stuff we left behind?
In our case it turned out to be well worth shipping items over (like a good bed and a decent work desk) that would have cost more than the shipping cost to replace. We also shipped a number of sentimental items along with kitchen items, which meant we could create a homely home quickly and without splashing too much cash.
We were on a pretty tight budget for our move, so we got 3 different shipping quotes before deciding on an option. This was well worth doing and ended up saving us over $700!
Based on the inventory below, we ended up paying NZ$1,600 (insurance was an additional $530) for our shipper to come to our home and pack everything for us, ship it to Melbourne, clear it through Australian Customs, and deliver it to our new home and unpack everything.
Here's the inventory of items we submitted to different international moving companies for a quote:
So you can see we didn't take heaps of stuff, but it still cost us a reasonable amount of money to take our belongings with us - although less than to replace it, for sure.
As part of your shipping quote you will need to decide whether you intend to pack your belongings yourself or have professional movers do it all. Note that if you intend to pack your belongings yourself, you might find it a lot harder, or impossible, to get a reasonable insurance premium for your valuable items. This was what we found at least.
To get an accurate quote to decide if it might be cost effective to pack things yourself, you need to give the moving companies a good idea of the volume and types of things you are going to be moving.
We started researching shipping about 2 months before our move and were still getting quotes 1 month before we needed to get our items collected.
In hindsight that was probably leaving it a bit last minute, but mainly because we didn’t allow much time to get rid of the items we weren’t taking with us, which was by far the harder task!
When we organised our shipment we didn’t actually know where in Melbourne we needed it to be delivered, as our plan was to find an apartment to rent after arriving in Melbourne.
This is something shipping companies are used to dealing with.
In our case we had 3 weeks up our sleeve from the time we arrived in Melbourne, Australia before the shipment arrived and was processed through Customs. During that time we were able to find an apartment and then provide the shipping company with our address.
However, if you don’t have a delivery address by the time your shipment lands, your shipping company can arrange storage until you are ready (although this may have an associated cost).
It can take between 2 and 8 weeks for your shipment to arrive in Australia, depending on where you are moving to and how much you are shipping. Our shipment took just over 3 weeks to get from Christchurch to Melbourne, which was faster than estimated.
Unless you have bucket loads of cash, shipping the majority of your stuff by air isn't going to be an option. Besides, container ships don't take that long to get from New Zealand to Australia (our stuff took just over 3 weeks in the end).
Here are the options for freight:
If you are shipping your entire household over this will generally go in a full container (there are various sizes available). Having a full container usually means faster processing and can take approximately 6-8 weeks to arrive in Australia.
Transworld say a full container load costs between $11,790 and $13,290.
This was the best option for our size of shipment. Our items was put into a crate inside a container that also held other people’s crates. This was estimated to take 6-8 weeks but ended up arriving in 3 weeks. It cost us $1600 at the time (2007) + insurance - today it would be more like $3000.
This is a cheaper option where your items are consolidated with other people’s into a container. You can typically pay around $450 - $850 per cubic metre, according to Transworld. Transworld estimate between 7-10 weeks for a consolidated shipment to arrive.
Airfreight is the fastest option - and most expensive. Your items can arrive within 1-2 weeks.
For our move we used UPS to airfreight two computers to Melbourne, as we needed to start work shortly after arriving.
Your shipper will explain all the costs involved upfront and their quotes will be for a door-to-door service including all associated charges, precisely to ensure you aren’t surprised by anything during the move!
Your shipment cost will include insurance, covering damaged and missing items. Your shipper will also talk to you about Customs and Quarantine inspections and fumigation costs, as these can be steep.
Tip: When we spoke to NZ Vanlines a few years ago they mentioned that this cost means it's best not to ship cane or rattan furniture, as they will definitely be fumigated!
Note that you generally don’t need to pay duties on items you’ve owned for more than 12 months. You can’t bring plants or seeds into Australia but most other things are fine as long as they are clean.