What’s the best way to move your belongings, furniture and car to Spain? This detailed guide explains the pros and cons of each relocation option for moving to Spain.
Whether you’re moving to Spain from another European country or farther away, there are many options for shipping to Spain to ensure your belongings arrive safely. There are, however, many factors to consider such as keeping your costs down, avoiding damage and breakages and receiving your belongings on time.
With a range of airports, shipping ports and an extensive road and train network, moving your belongings to Spain doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out the best international relocation option for you by following this essential guide on moving to Spain:
- International removals
- Air freight
- Road and train freight
- Shipping companies
- Hiring an international moving company
- How to choose an international moving company
- Customs and importing a car into Spain
When moving to Spain a number of factors come into play, such as if customs are payable or if there are restrictions or quarantine for items you import, besides the usual issues to consider, such as safety of your items, how much work is involved in packing and picking up, time period for delivery and so on.
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. How, then, do you decide which is the best international moving company and relocation option for you?
Shipping your belongings to Spain by air freight is relatively straightforward, with a range of airports dotted across the country. International removal companies service the following airports:
- La Palma
- Palma de Mallorca
- Tenerife South
Air freight rates
Generally, air freight is the most expensive way of moving your belongings to your new home. With air freight fees sometimes costing several times that of sea freight, it’s often best reserved for people who are either in a hurry or simply want to send some of their more urgent possessions to Spain.
As air freight costs are dependant on the weight of your shipment, it’s rarely the most cost-effective way of sending furniture and white goods.
Air freight: Transit times
Shipping by air is almost always the quickest way of relocating your belongings to Spain, and whether you’re moving from elsewhere in Europe or the US, it’s not unreasonable to expect your belongings to arrive within a week. You can also pay to take extra baggage on your flight for items you need immediately.
How to find air freight for international removal
Assuming you’re not able to simply travel with some of your belongings as excess baggage, you can use the websites of shipping companies or price comparison tools to get a general idea of what your shipment might cost.
Keep in mind, however, that online estimates don’t usually include extra costs such as insurance, handling fees or minimum shipment charges, so it’s best to get a full quote over the phone.
How air freight works
Some home movers elect to use a door-to-door service to take some of the stress out of moving. If you choose this method, your chosen shipping company will usually visit your home to survey your possessions and give you a final quote.
After this, you can arrange a date to have your items collected and you should be given online tracking information so you can keep an eye on their progress.
Packing for air freight
You’ll usually be able to pack your belongings yourself, though most companies will offer professional packing services at an additional cost.
Who should use air freight?
If you’re looking for a speedy way of getting your belongings to your new home, or you’ve left it late to book, then air freight might be your best option. Convenience often comes at a cost however, so do your research.
Spain is one of the biggest countries in Europe for container shipping. Its five main ports, Valencia, Bahía de Algeciras, Barcelona, Las Palmas and Bilbao, account for over 80% of the shipping containers that enter and leave Spain.
Shipping to Spain: costs
Shipping by container is generally much cheaper than relocation by air freight. The cost of shipping freight is usually determined by the size of container you need and whether you group your belongings with those of other customers. If you choose this method, it’s possible to move on a low budget.
Freight shipping transit times
That said, shipping freight takes a long time, especially if you’re travelling from a far-flung location. If you’re moving from the UK, you could get your hands on your belongings within a week or so, while shipping from the US could take a few weeks.
Container ships: How the process works
You can usually get basic quotes by using online price comparison websites and the websites of international shipping companies.
Shipping freight quotes are usually based on size rather than weight, and you’ll usually be able to choose from two container sizes, or pay for part of a container:
- 20-foot container – usually fits the contents of a two to three bedroom house.
- 40-foot container – ideal for a four to five bedroom house and a car.
- Groupage: – if you don’t have enough belongings for a full container, you can pay for part of a container instead. This means your items will be grouped with those of other customers. This method is a great way of sending your belongings on a budget but can take longer as you will need to wait until the container is full.
Packing for shipping freight
Some shipping companies will only accept your goods if they’ve packed them, so check the terms and conditions before signing any paperwork.
Who should use shipping companies?
If time is on your side or you’re looking to save some money, shipping to one of Spain’s major container ports can be your best option.
If you’re moving from within Europe, sending your belongings by road can be a hassle-free way of getting them to your new home quickly and securely.
Some road freight and removal companies offer regular grouped freight services to major cities in Spain, and it’s also possible to take advantage of door-to-door relocation services.
Using a relocation company: International movers
While it’s possible to sort out the logistics yourself, you can take the stress out of moving your belongings to Spain by employing a relocation company. Most relocation companies offer door-to-door services, covered everything from packaging your goods to picking them up from the airport (or container port) and taking them directly to your new home. This can be particularly useful if you’re undertaking a complicated or stressful move, such as involving a long distance or several forms of transport.
Time frames for booking a moving company
The best relocation companies book up in advance, so if you’re in search of a full door-to-door service, it’s recommended you start looking for a company around three months before your intended move date.
Packing and international moving companies
Relocation companies will offer a professional packing service. This is useful for several reasons. Firstly, it means you’ll be comprehensively insured (some companies only offer insurance on goods packed themselves). Secondly, a professional packer will be able to condense your items into a smaller space and, finally, you’ll have greater peace of mind that your belongings will arrive safely.
While some companies will allow you to pack your items yourself, consider whether it’s worth the extra investment to have this done for you to save time and hassle.
DIY versus using a relocation company
There’s nothing stopping you from organising the logistics yourself and skipping the middle man completely. Be aware, though, that organising a move isn’t for everyone and there’s a reason good removal professionals are high in demand.
If you’re thinking of going the DIY route, ask yourself the following questions before getting quotes.
- Are you likely to save a significant amount of money by arranging things yourself? You can get a relocation company to provide quotes to help you work this out.
- How much time do you have to spend on tasks such as packing and arranging insurance?
- How much of a hurry are you to get your belongings at the other side?
- Do you have a backup plan in case things go wrong?
Choosing the right relocation company is one of the toughest parts of the process.
First, check if your company is reputable by seeing if they are registered with a regulatory body. For example, some removalists are part of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations or the International Air Transport Association, while others will be registered with national bodies in their country of operation.
Once you’ve narrowed down the reputable firms, you’ll need to think about how to set them apart from each other. This isn’t always about cost, as the most expensive removalist isn’t necessarily going to be the best. If you know anyone else who’s made the move, seek personal recommendations. In the absence of these, look for online testimonials.
There’s always going to be an element of gut instinct in the process of moving home, so your next step is to call the relocation companies and ask them some key questions, such as the following:
- Can you provide a full and itemised price list for the whole move?
- Will I have a point of contact who will be available to help me throughout the process?
- What happens if something goes wrong?
- How many times have you carried out this type of move?
You won’t need to pay duty charges on your personal goods as long as you’ve owned them for a minimum of three months (or six if you’re a non-EU resident). You’ll also need to have lived outside of Spain for at least one year, and you won’t be able to sell the items for one year after moving to Spain.
You’ll also need to move your items over within three months of arriving in Spain. If you fail to do this, you’ll need to get a special permit.
When entering the country you’ll need a full inventory of your belongings (in Spanish), as well as a residence certificate and proof of employment. There are a few restrictions on what you can bring into the country. You’ll need a special licence for any guns being imported, certificates for any plants and you’ll need to pay duty on any new furniture worth more than €3,000. If you’re moving with an animal, read about bringing a pet to Spain.
If you’re moving from another EU country, you can take your car into Spain VAT-free as long as you’ve owned it for at least six months. If you want to import a new vehicle, however, you’ll need to pay VAT at 21%, while non-EU citizens will also need to pay an additional 10% import tax.
Non-EU vehicles must be registered immediately, while those imported from EU countries can be driven for six months before being registered in Spain. Read if you need to exchange your foreign driving licence in Spain and about Spanish driving and parking rules.
Regardless of where you’re moving from, you’ll need to pay Impuesto Especial sobre Determinados Medios de Transporte (registration tax). This tax is based on the value and emissions of the vehicle and a form can be accessed here.