You’re moving to Germany but what’s the best way to send your furniture, belongings or car? This guide explains air, shipping, road freight and customs for relocating to Germany.
Moving your belongings to Germany can seem like confusing business with a varied range of transport options available and a crowded marketplace of international relocation companies.
Whether you’re moving to Germany from Europe or farther afield, there are plenty of options to ensure your belongings arrive safely and on time. There are, however, many factors to consider before choosing an international moving option to make sure you keep costs down, minimise damage and breakages and receive your belongings in a respectable time period.
How can you decide which international moving option is best for the items you need to relocate to Germany? This guide explains the pros, cons, timeframes for delivery and relative prices so you can choose the best international removal option for your situation and belongings:
- International removals
- Air freight
- Shipping companies
- Road and train freight
- Hiring an international moving company
- How to choose an international moving company
- Customs and importing a car into Germany
When moving abroad a number of issues come into play, such as whether customs are payable or if there are restrictions or quarantine on products you import, alongside the usual factors to consider, such as safety of your items, how much work is involved in packing and picking up, and when you need your item. Cost is a big factor because certain relocation options offer substantial savings for large items, such as shipping your furniture or a car, compared to other relocation options that quickly add up for heavy items, such as air freight.
Another important question is whether you should hire an international relocation company. This question largely depends on how much time you have and costs, as international moving companies typically take care of any potential issue that may arise which is ideal for time-strapped expats – but maybe not for tight budgets. How, then, do you decide which is the best international moving company and relocation option for you?
It’s easy to send your belongings to Germany by air freight, with no shortage of major airports to choose from. Using an air freight company, you can send your belongings to the following destinations:
Air freight rates
Air freight is usually the quickest way of shipping your possessions from A to B, but it can be considerably more expensive than shipping or road freight.
Air freight costs are calculated by weight – although typically not size – and can vary from airport to airport. You’ll also need to factor in handling fees, minimum charges, insurance and any storage costs (if required).
Air freight transit times
If you’re in a hurry, air freight can be your best option. While shipping containers can take weeks or even months from some destinations, with air freight you can reasonably expect to get your belongings within a week.
How to find air freight for international removal
You first port of a call will be to compare quotes from different air freight or removal companies. You can do this using an online comparison service or often by filling in basic forms on the websites of each company. Once you’ve got hold of your quotes, you should follow up over the phone to get a clearer idea of the exact cost, including any extra fees.
How air freight works
This depends on the level of service you choose. If you are using a door-to-door service, most air freight or removal companies will visit you to survey your possessions before offering a final quote.
Once you’ve signed the relevant paperwork, you can agree on a date to have your items collected. Next, you should be told which flight your shipment will be on, and be given tracking information so you can keep an eye on your belongings.
Packing for air freight
You’ll usually be allowed to pack your belongings yourself, though most companies will offer a packing service for an extra cost.
With lots of airports around Germany accepting shipments, air freight can be a quick and straightforward way of moving your belongings. Due to the high costs involved, consider how urgently you need your belongings before jumping in.
Shipping your belongings by shipping container to Germany is a relatively straightforward task, especially if you choose a door-to-door service.
Despite this, it’s easy to get your belongings transported across Germany with many relocation companies offering services to deliver to main cities such as Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, Hanover, Dortmund and Frankfurt.
Alternatively, it’s possible to ship your goods by sea to elsewhere in Europe and continue the journey by road or train freight. As the largest port in Europe, the Port of Rotterdam is a great hub for those sending belongings from farther away.
Shipping freight doesn’t need to break the bank and can be a cost-effective way of moving your belongings, especially if you’re moving from far away or have large items. If you’re on a budget, it’s even possible to group your belongings with those of others to get a better deal.
Freight shipping transit times
The downside to shipping freight is it can take a while to get your belongings, depending on what type of service you choose and whether you book your own container or share with others. While you could get your belongings from North America in around a couple of weeks, if you’re coming from much farther afield this time period can stretch into the months.
Container ships: How the process works
First, you can use individual company websites or comparison sites to compare quotes from shipping and removal companies.
You’ll need to decide what size container you need because costs are based on size rather than weight. If you’re moving the contents of a relatively small (two to three bedroom) home, then a 20-foot container should suffice. If your property is larger (four to five bedrooms) or you’re shipping a car as well, you’re likely to need a 40-foot container.
If you aren’t sending a massive amount of belongings, you can save some money by having your possessions grouped with those of other customers. This isn’t the best option if you’re in a hurry, however, as you’ll need to wait until the ship is full before it’ll depart. It can also take longer to get hold of your shipment at the final destination.
Packing for shipping freight
Packing rules vary from company to company, so factor this into your research and quotes. While most shipping companies will offer a packing service at an extra cost, some will only insure you if they pack your belongings themselves.
Who should use shipping companies?
With major sea ports in Germany and in nearby countries and excellent road links available, shipping freight can be a sensible and cost-effective way of moving your belongings.
If you’re relocating from within Europe, you can opt to hire a vehicle or rent a man-with-a-van to take your belongings via road transport, typically providing an affordable option that is both quick and secure, especially if you’re moving from a neighbouring country.
If you’re moving from the UK, you can also consider transporting your things via the Channel Tunnel and completing the move to Germany by road.
If you don’t want your move to turn into a full-time job, consider using a relocation company to manage the logistics from door-to-door. A relocation company can take care of everything from calculating insurance and packing your belongings to delivering them to your door from the port or airport in Germany.
Relocation companies are particularly useful if you’re making a long-distance move or your move involves more than one form of transport (for example sea and then road or train), as organising each element yourself can be a stressful and expensive business.
Timeframes for booking a moving company
You’ll need to book well in advance if you want to use a relocation company for your move to Germany. While every move is different, if you’re looking at a full door-to-door service it’s best to allow up to three months between first looking for quotes and the move itself.
Packing and international moving companies
As mentioned earlier, the rules regarding packing vary from company to company, so ask about this when you’re getting your quote. Whichever method you choose, paying for the professionals to pack your belongings can reduce the chance of breakages – and in some cases will be mandatory to qualify for insurance.
DIY versus using a relocation company
If you’ve arranged an international move before or you’re confident of keeping on top of logistics, it is possible to arrange the move yourself.
There are some considerations you need to make first. Work out how much you’re actually likely to save by planning everything yourself (after insurance, any customs charges etc.). Next, consider your availability. Taking care of administrative tasks such as inventories and practical tasks such as packing can take up a lot of time.
When planning your move to Germany, you’re likely to encounter an overwhelming number of options. In such a competitive industry, it’s hard to differentiate one relocation company from another. When making your shortlist, check that the company is registered with an industry body, such as the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations or the International Air Transport Association.
You should also consider any personal recommendations and online testimonials. Once you’re down to a few options, speak personally to each company on the phone and ask the key questions about your move, such as what happens if something goes wrong, if an itemised quote can be provided and who your point of contact will be. If you’re not happy with the answers, choose another company.
Bringing your belongings into Germany needn’t be too much of a trial, as most personal items are allowed. To bring your items into the country, you’ll need to have owned them for at least six months and intend to use them for personal use only. You will also have to have lived in your country of origin for at least 12 consecutive months.
Most of the things you aren’t allowed to import are obvious (drugs, weapons etc.), but there are some exceptions. There are complicated regulations around pets, for example, and some plants need a ‘plant passport’ to enter the country. You can find full details on the German Customs website and read more in our guide to bringing your pet to Germany.
You should be able to import your car with no problems if you’re moving to Germany from another European Union (EU) country. However, this isn’t the case if you’re bringing it from outside the EU. Turnover tax (Einfuhrumsatzsteuer) is charged at 10 percent on items being imported, while there’s also a 19 percent VAT charge.
If you’re moving to be a German resident, however, you can sometimes avoid this charge if you can prove you have given up your residence in your non-EU country and that you are establishing a new one in Germany. You’ll also need to be able to show you’ve been living outside of Germany for at least 12 consecutive months.