Should You Ship or Not Ship Your Stuff Abroad?
I recently saw an article that compared the average house size in USA in the 1950s to an average house size in the 2000’s – it was eye-opening. House sizes in the America grew more than 50% in the last 60 years, while the number of people living in them shrunk.
Why then do we need such big houses? Well, the obvious answer is….our stuff.
Let’s face it – as Americans, we love our stuff. Our entire society is built on consumerism and we work hard to get more stuff.
Like all other average Americans, Tim and I began this journey of early “working” retirement abroad with a lot of stuff.
Since then, we’ve reduced our foot print by nearly half. We sold our house that was nearly 2,000SF and moved to a townhouse of a little over 1,000SF. We also got rid of at least 50% of our possessions and we now rent instead of own. Nonetheless, even after all that, we still have stuff.
What stuff? – you may ask.
Well, we have furniture, electronics, Christmas decorations, camping equipment, a couple hobby collections, books, kitchen gadgets….. and the list goes on.
So, naturally we asked ourselves:
What should we do with all this stuff when we move? i.e. Should we ship it abroad?
That is the big question everyone moving abroad ultimately has to consider.
And then, of course, it is followed by many more questions:
- How does shipping abroad work?
- What can you take?
- How much does it cost?
- What are the taxes?
The answers to these questions vary greatly and are dependent on where your destination is. But since we are researching Puerto Rico, and it is a territory (so in theory it should be an easy thing to ship there), today I will talk about shipping abroad to Puerto Rico (from U.S. mainland).
Shipping Abroad to Puerto Rico: How it works
Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, this process is a little bit easier than shipping, for example, to Panama. I say this because both USPS and UPS operate in Puerto Rico. This is not true in Panama. There really is no regular postal service and mail/parcel delivery to your residence in Panama.
Depending on the volume of stuff you have, you have many options for shipping to Puerto Rico:
US Postal Service – delivers parcels of smaller weight (up to 70lbs) to your residence; the same shipping rules apply as to shipments within the continental U.S.
UPS – delivers both small parcels (up to 150lbs) and freight to Puerto Rico. Their prices are not cheap but they are convenient.
Moving Companies – I found that UPack – ships large and small containers (ReloCubes) to Puerto Rico – think Pods. They have a nice website for moving to Puerto Rico: UPack
They also do online quotes, which is great. They will store your stuff and then ship it to Puerto Rico whenever you want.
Freight companies – There are many companies specializing in shipping large containers and cars. Some I found are:[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]
Companies specializing in car shipping :
- Crowley – these guys also ship other items.
- Puerto Rico Car Transport – cars only[/ezcol_1half][ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””][/ezcol_1half_end]
Airlines: nearly all airlines that provide services to Puerto Rico, also provide air cargo shipments – the shipments are likely only to their ports of entry, like San Juan or Aguadilla. I was surprised to find that even some of the budget airlines like JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, provide some shipping options.
Bottom line is that if you decide to ship your stuff to Puerto Rico, you need to do your homework and get as many quotes as you can. There many shipping options and they vary greatly in prices; so do your homework before you decide on one.
Shipping Abroad to Puerto Rico: What can you take?
You can ship any personal, non-essential items like household goods, sporting goods, tools, toys, electronics, furniture, rugs, clothing. And of course, cars.
You absolutely cannot ship:
- Narcotics without a prescription
- Items of extraordinary value, like jewelry, collections etc
- Plants and vegetables
- Plants and Animals on the endangered species list
- Firearms without proper permits and documentation
- Pirated materials – software, books, etc.
- Lottery tickets (this one I don’t understand)
Here is a list of regulations and requirements from Atlas International.
Shipping Abroad to Puerto Rico: How much does it cost?
Again, this depends on the size of your shipment. I will tell you that shipping a container full of your stuff (furniture and more) will cost you in the range of $4,000 – 8,000 or even more, dependent on size and weight.
Shipping a car is not as expensive as you may think, my Nissan would ship for around $1,200 by Puerto Rico Car Transport – however watch out for the taxes, more on that below.
Airlines will allow you to ship stuff for pretty reasonable prices and even bring extra “luggage” (in boxes) on your flight, with fees in range of $75 – $200.
USPS – you can calculate the price by using the Postage Price Calculator – expect to spend over a $100 for a 70lb, non-rectangular package via USPS.
UPS – Check out the UPS Time and Cost Calculator
UPack quoted me just under $4,000 for shipping a ReloCube container from Ohio to San Juan and $125/mo to store the items until I was ready for them. You can request an online quote yourself here: http://www.upack.com/moving-companies/puerto-rico
Request quotes from freight companies and auto-shippers, both on their websites and by calling them directly. I found that calling freight shippers was faster than requesting online quotes.
Shipping Abroad to Puerto Rico: What about taxes?
Everything shipped to Puerto Rico is subject to Excise Tax and it can be killer expensive! Most household goods will be taxes at 6.6%; however, the Vehicle Excise Tax is much higher. You can look it up here: http://www.hacienda.gobierno.pr/vehiculos/eng_index.html.
For example, I was shocked that we could ship our 2011 Nissan for around $1,200 but the tax on it would be over $5,400! That means that for us to take our car to Puerto Rico, we’d have to pay about $6,600 – OUCH!
Shipping Abroad to Puerto Rico: Our plan
We have gone back and forth on what we want/need to keep and in the end we decided to get rid of everything, except the few things we can’t live without. I hate to say it but it’s probably cheaper to sell it all here and re-purchase on the other end. The taxes, simply don’t make it worth it and the car excise tax is just ridiculous. So, we will not be shipping the car either.
We will bring our clothes and a few essential things with us via the airline, we will pay the luggage overages for those things and they will fly with us. Everything else, like some art and other things that mean a lot to us, we will pack up into a few smallish boxes and have them be shipped to us by our family once we get settled.
Besides, we can find a used car and used furniture, if we need it, for really reasonable prices in Puerto Rico. Check out their classifieds at: ClasificadosOnline – use Chrome browser to translate the site, if you don’t speak Spanish. You can buy just about anything there.