Moving to Another Country with a Shipping Container

I love shipping containers. At first glance they seem like the world's lamest invention, and yet they save billions of dollars in shipping each year.

For adults and families who are packing up an entire house and moving to another country overseas, I recommend using a 20 or 40-foot shipping container.

I don't actually have any experience moving with one, but I spotted this 20-foot ZIM container outside of my neighbor's house and asked her some questions about her experience.

She is moving from Sacramento to Israel, and she's bringing 1,171 cubic feet of furniture and boxes with her. Her decision to move to Israel was in-part based on a lack of affordable religious education within Sacramento.

She got help from the Jewish Agency, an organization which helps people immigrate to Israel. They showed her some options for moving, including options with a shipping container. She contacted Isaac Kotev at Aris Export.

Aris let her know about three options, wooden crates, 20' containers and 40' containers. With Mr. Kotev's help she estimated that a 20' container would be sufficient.

Next, Mrs. Elliot got quotes from 5 different moving companies. She had to make some decisions before she could get quotes:

  1. Where-to-where:
    • Port to Port: She could fill the container at the ocean port in Oakland, California and have it shipped to the port in Haifa, Israel.
    • Door to Port: She could fill the container at her door in Sacramento and have it delivered to the port at Haifa.
    • Door to Door: The container would be picked up in Sacramento and delivered all the way to her new house in Karmiel, Israel.

  2. Loading help:
    She could fill the container herself, or pay a small team to pack her house and load it for her. Professional packing brought a $3,000 charge. Because she opted to pack and load it herself, they parked the container on a trailer in front of her house. The time allowed for packing it yourself is much looser than with a U-haul or other Rental Truck: Four days.

  3. Insurance:
    Two types of insurance are available, "total loss" and "by item". Both types of insurance require you to submit a complete inventory of the container contents. Mrs. Elliot bought insurance for $200.

Armed with five quotes, she negotiated a price with Isaac and decided on Aris Export. For pack it yourself, door-to-door service, the shipping price was about $5,000.

She was advised that the container will be loaded onto an Israeli-bound ship and that it will arrive at her house in 6-8 weeks. Dockworker strikes and natural disasters can delay delivery. Also, she will have to pay a $500 port fee at the dock in Haifa. Import taxes for her container of goods will be waived because she is a Jew moving to Israel under their "Law of Return".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Return

She also warned me that any container left unclaimed at the docks for more than 4-5 days will start accumulating steep storage fees.

Mrs. Elliot's tips:

  1. You can ship almost anything except for alcohol and drugs. Cars are possible but automotive import laws are complex (see Rainman for more information). If you do move a car, you can pack the interior of the car with luggage and stuff.
  2. If you are moving to Israel, especially if you have kids, pack every nook and cranny with new paper towel rolls, toilet paper and baby wipes. There is no weight limit on the container and Israel is not known for its paper.
  3. You can share a container if you connect with someone else with the same source and destination ports.

How Much is Inside a Shipping Container?


Joe

How much to just live in the container?


Gort
Sunday 28th of June 2009 3:40 pm


Bill

Joe, it is possible to purchase a container and have it delivered. You would want flat, level ground to put it on. I think you\'d probably pay around $2500-3000.


Bicentennial Man
Sunday 28th of June 2009 3:57 pm


Ben

20, 40 foot? I would think a non-American company such as Zim would use a metric unit for length.


R2D2
Sunday 28th of June 2009 4:37 pm


unsituated

will they let her bring her flak jacket with her? How about an explosives detector? People tend to get blown up over there.


Wall-E
Sunday 28th of June 2009 4:38 pm


Eli

Mazal Tov on her Aliyah!


Aibo
Sunday 28th of June 2009 4:53 pm


Juan

You can also make pretty cheap homes out of them too! That\'s what I\'m doing anyway. Shipping containers really are pretty awesome.


Bender
Sunday 28th of June 2009 7:17 pm


Tom

I always wanted to make an office or conference room out of a shipping container. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of not finishing projects and this seems like one of those project where I would buy the giant shipping container, cut a hole or two in it and then never touch it. The world doesn\'t need a shipping container with a big hole in it, so I would be sunk. Nice work though Rob. I too am fascinated with shipping containers.


Roomba
Sunday 28th of June 2009 8:19 pm


Ben

Can people buy shipping containers and just put them somewhere? You always see people in movies drive out to a shipping container in the outskirts of town, unlock it, and it\'s full of guns, office equipment, bodies, or other way cool stuff.


Bicentennial Man
Sunday 28th of June 2009 8:32 pm


Blorch

\"20, 40 foot? I would think a non-American company such as Zim would use a metric unit for length.\" Feet and inches are the de facto unit of length in many international industries just because a lot of these things got their start in America. Machine shops everywhere in the world work in thousanths of an inch.


Bender
Sunday 28th of June 2009 9:08 pm


fa

My parents, aunt and uncle, and whole lot of other people have used containers to move back to the Philippines. My aunt and uncle had a Jacuzzi in theirs.


Aibo
Sunday 28th of June 2009 10:34 pm


Ian

I\'m currently living in a converted shipping container, its pretty sweet. http://www.flickr.com/photos/71545011@N00/828112818/


Aibo
Monday 29th of June 2009 1:03 am


Ian

\"Can people buy shipping containers and just put them somewhere? You always see people in movies drive out to a shipping container in the outskirts of town, unlock it, and it\\\'s full of guns, office equipment, bodies, or other way cool stuff.\" Yep, they are pretty easy to buy. Hardest part can be getting them delivered depending on where you want them. I\'ve used them at quite a few remote work sites for storage, machine shops, garages etc.


K9
Monday 29th of June 2009 1:05 am


Dalek Emperor

EXTERMINATE!


Dalek
Monday 29th of June 2009 1:39 am


MikeB

We (your US military) use the crap out of them in deployed locations. Not just to get our stuff over here but also for offices and living quarters. We also have prefabbed bathroom and shower containers that we just hook up to power and water and go. We call the shipping containers connex\'s, don\'t know why.


Gigilo Joe
Monday 29th of June 2009 1:54 am


Nick

Handy to know! I\'ll be moving from Boston to Sweden in a year, I\'ll likely par my stuff down to a few crates.


Metropolis
Monday 29th of June 2009 6:04 am


Tom Carlson

\"Her decision to move to Israel was in-part based on a lack of affordable religious education within Sacramento.\" Amazing. It is cheaper to move your family and home halfway around the world than it is to find affordable and acceptable education? After the kids graduate do you move back to San Fran?


Tom Servo
Monday 29th of June 2009 9:18 am


Bad Move?

Bad move. Why Isreal, especially at a time like this?


Bicentennial Man
Monday 29th of June 2009 9:20 am


I\'ve actually done this. I packed my parents\' family home into a 40 foot container. I\'d add the tip of having a couple of box fans set up at the door of the container to move air around in there while loading, they get really hot.


Aibo
Monday 29th of June 2009 10:37 am


G Bopper

That is cool, and I need a place to move to, can I live in the container during the move?


Lore
Monday 29th of June 2009 12:05 pm


p

where\'s twiki in my robot choices?? hello?? is this thing on??


Aibo
Monday 29th of June 2009 12:14 pm


Dan

They have done amazing things with shipping containers as dormitories in Amsterdam. My friend lived in them for a few years and she has nothing but fond memories. http://gcaptain.com/maritime/blog/shipping-container-dormitory/


Bender
Monday 29th of June 2009 3:30 pm


Doc

Say, I have that exact same company\'s shipping container! I consider myself the advance force for Invader Zim. (Btw, why no option to have GIR as my comment robot??)


Gort
Monday 29th of June 2009 5:18 pm


Cockeyed

do an experiment and see how much styrofoam can fit in a container before too much pressure builds :p


R2D2
Tuesday 30th of June 2009 6:20 am


Had a friend that did this and wondered how much it cost.


Bender
Tuesday 30th of June 2009 8:07 am


Sharon

Shipping in a cargo container is not quite so easy. I\'ve had two out of two TERRIBLE experiences with it, despite researching companies for months before choosing one. I moved from the UK to Missouri in 2001, and Missouri to Istanbul in 2007. Both times, the estimate for my carefully packed/weighed/measured stuff was $3000, and I was told it would take 4-6 weeks to get there. Both times the actual cost was $6000, and it took 6-8 MONTHS to get there. I\'ll continue in the next comment...


R2D2
Tuesday 30th of June 2009 12:50 pm


Sharon

These companies operate via extortion. Once they have your stuff, they can ask for nearly any amount of money they want, knowing you\'ll pay anything they ask to get back family photos and other irreplaceable stuff. They start out by slapping on an \"excess gasoline\" charge the second it\'s loaded on the ship--$500 over their estimate. Then once it\'s in the host country, they charge a bunch of other fees of around $2000 to release it. If you don\'t pay, they charge a $100/day storage fee.


R2D2
Tuesday 30th of June 2009 12:54 pm

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