Moving abroad?

Moving abroad – how complicated can it be?

If you think moving across town or a few states over is hard, consider what’s involved with moving to another country.

As exciting as a move abroad can be, it’s also complicated — with a seemingly endless number of issues thrown at you as you make your way from Point A to Point B across the globe. 

You already know about the visas you need to arrange, the vaccinations you need to schedule, the new language you need to learn, but what are some of the things you might encounter?

flyingFurniture fitting

The golden rule of packing for an international move: If in doubt, leave it out. Most apartments in other countries are nowhere near as big as ones we find here in the States. It’s a good idea to have your agent send you true measurements and photos of the rooms so you can plan accordingly if you can’t see the space beforehand.


Some electronics, such as desktops, will let you switch the voltage from 110-120V to 220-240V, but many others, such as hair dryers and appliances, won’t work at all — and trying to plug them in anyway could ruin your device or even start a fire. 

Before you take anything electronic, look for “input” or “power source” on the back. If it doesn’t list 220-240 and you’re moving to another country other than Canada, leave it behind.

Not everyone speaks English

Go over all the details with your movers ahead of time and make sure you have someone you can speak with if a problem arises. 

Don’t assume you can just bring your pets

There are several factors to consider before trying to bring along your pet. You’ll want to take into account the pet’s age and health and how it will do on the journey, especially since it may need to be quarantined for as long as six months going into a foreign country — and may need to be quarantined again upon your return to the U.S. 

And then there’s the price: Quarantines, vaccinations, special equipment to transport your pet, and the cost of transporting the pet itself can add up.

Consider hiring a pet relocation service to help with the logistics.

The stuff you leave behind

Make digital copies of everything just in case that secure location in your mother-in-law’s or friend’s basement suffers a catastrophic incident. If an item is furniture or clothes make sure you have insurance and the spot is above ground.

Renting or buying online

Purchase housing assistance from a destination services provider to help with legal issues and make sure everything is aboveboard.

Shipping a car

Few aspects of moving are as tricky to figure out as how to ship a car. If you aren’t able to drive it to your new destination, how does it get there?


Short trips, like interstate, may cost a couple of hundred dollars, while cross-country can go over a thousand.

Smaller is cheaper; SUVs and trucks will cost you more to transport.

Because open trailers can carry more cars, it’s generally less expensive to ship your car on one, but if you have a fancier car, you’ll want to pay the extra $300 to $400 to ship it in an enclosed trailer.

You’ll pay more for door-to-door service, less if you’re willing to somehow drive to a company’s designated pickup spot.

There are websites and apps, such as, that will connect you with brokers for quotes. Just type in the make and model of your car and the date you want it shipped, and within minutes you’ll have numerous calls and emails from shippers on the cost.

How long does it take to ship a car?

Not long ago, it used to take as long as a month to ship your car cross-country, according to major car-selling website But now, with the advent of a central dispatch service to which most shipping brokers are connected, your car can go coast to coast in about seven days.

How to ship a car so it arrives in one piece

Even though almost all auto shipping brokers use the same national dispatch service, there are differences in cost, quality, and degree of service, so you’ll want to take the following steps:

Before committing to a car-moving company, check out its reputation on

Most companies have liability insurance that will cover your car for up to $100,000. If you have a fancy car that’s worth more, you’ll want to ship it in an enclosed trailer, whose contents are typically insured up to $1 million. 

To be safe, it’s also a good idea to check your own auto insurance policy to see if it covers shipping as well. 

In case you were thinking you could pack your vehicle like a storage crate, know that if your car’s weight is substantially higher than what’s expected for your make and model, the shippers could charge extra or refuse to move it. And your contract will likely state that the shipping company is not responsible for valuables left in the car. 

Take several pictures of your auto and date them so if any damage occurs in transit, you can prove that it wasn’t there before. An honorable company will do a 21-point inspection before it loads the car on the trailer; make sure you go over it before you sign off.

Inspect your car again once it arrives: If you find nicks, scratches, or malfunctions that weren’t there before, you’re on your own for repairs once you accept delivery and sign on the dotted line.

Other transport options

Your alternative to shipping through a professional transportation service is to hire an individual driver to take your car to your destination. This can be an option for snowbirds or for people who want to transport their pets, but it can get expensive. 

In addition to the flat fee to drive your car you’ll also have to pay for the driver’s hotel and food en route, as well as the plane fare to get the driver back home. If you decide you want to go this route, you can find insured, vetted drivers on sites such as

If you’re relocating for a new job, you should ask your employer about covering your car-moving expenses — ideally you should negotiate it right into your contract. It’s always easier (and cheaper) to let someone else handle it, and many human resource reps at large companies should be well-versed in the process.

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Charles McDonaldBy Charles McDonald - Charles, and his firm, Charlottesville Solutions, are known locally and around the world for helping people relocate to the Charlottesville area. His background (running his own engineering firm for 20+ years in the Silicon Valley) has given him the skills to not only develop this site but also to manage a stellar group of agents!
Charles McDonald, REALTOR® and Principal Broker, is Licensed to sell Real Estate in Virginia. 434-515-1585
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