Saturday, July 12, 2008

Moving Stuff To Canada

You'd Think It Would Be Easier

Here is the challenge: Get me, about 1000 pounds of stuff (just stuff, no furniture), and our Ford Explorer moved from the United States up to Canada. Yes, Canada. If this were a move within the States, it apparently would be easier - no shipping duties, no barriers to one-way moving truck rentals, no dealing with 'international' moving companies. For crying out loud, Calgary is like 200 linear land miles north of Montana. So close.... and yet so far.

But, I know it will be well worth the effort in the long run since it involves.. (yes, you guessed it)... moving to Canada. So this is a documentation of what we tried, and what we ended up choosing and why. How would you do it? For Roy and I, we didn't have a clue. But soon enough, we would....

Here are the options we came up with:

Option One
Go For Broke: Use A Real Moving Company

The plan: Give my email address away willy-nilly to spammers by asking for free quotes from various moving companies. International moving companies, that is. Yes, those companies who also rent space on freight boats to move folks to New Zealand. A little overkill for Calgary, if you ask me, but that's life.

The results:

  • Quotes ranged from $2200 - $2700 for 200 cubic feet of space (for full service moving)
  • Add on top of that about $150 for crossing the border
  • Add on top of that tip, plus the little costs they never say (like a 'surcharge gas pumping fee'...)
Advantages include the obvious: with a full service move I can just pack up and let them take care of the rest.

Disadvantages include some minor, yet important, points: I won't be with my stuff at the border (which makes me nervous), I don't know the distribution of the 200 cubic feet they'll give me (1 x 1 x 200 feet?), and insuring the stuff whilst being moved is extra.

Not to mention that I got automated calls from moving companies every day for a week. I mean really, do you actually think I'll call you back if you call me with an automated message with no information other than to call you back? Anyway, this inspired me to have a bit more control over my stuff, which led to the idea of simply taking it all with me....

Option Two
Drive North at 55mph: Cargo Truck Rental with Towing

The plan: Rent a moving truck, and tow the Ford behind it.

The results: After many company inquiries, this didn't seem to be the best option. Here are the major companies I contacted and their answers:
  • Uhaul: Ford Explorer 'too heavy' to tow.
  • Penske: Great Customer Service, said Ford Explorer can be towed, but truck needs to be returned in the USA (adds about 16 hours of driving)
  • Budget: No inter-USA/Canada moves
  • Ryder: No one-way moves
As you can see, truck companies are probably great for moving within the US (we used Uhaul ourselves for our last move, with mixed opinions) but not to Canada. But maybe we don't need a truck, maybe we just need a little more space....

Option Three
Kill Your Gas Mileage: Trailer Rental

The plan: Rent a trailer (one way) to tow all my stuff behind the Ford.

The results: The only place I found to rent a trailer one way is Uhaul, and they have a vendetta against Ford Explorers. Feh. At any rate, ten days of trailer rental would almost cost as much as buying a utility trailer, which led to the idea of....

Option Four
Kill Your Gas Mileage And Your Driveway: Trailer Purchase

The plan: Buy a trailer here to fit all my stuff, tow it up there, sell it up there.

The results: The best place to look for trailers seemed to be Craigslist. There are a few new trailer dealers in the area such as Carson Trailers, but there are few better ways to see what people buy than to see what they sell. Here's what I found from a couple of times of searching:
  • Quality open utility trailers (to hold about 200 cu feet or more) run $700-$2000, but then my stuff is open to theivery.
  • Quality closed locking trailers (to hold about 200 cu feet or more) run $2000+
Which meant, oddly enough, that buying a trailer would cost the same as renting the same space in a moving company truck. So, as Roy said, we could just trash the trailer afterwards and come out more or less economically equivalent to if we'd used a moving company. And of course we wouldn't trash the trailer, but you get the idea.

The main thing is that then I'd have a trailer to deal with. Licenscing down here, selling up there, what a headache! It would be pretty cool to own a trailer though...just think of all the stuff I could haul around with it, eh?

But not to be deterred, I examined this option to its fullest. I found a place north of Calgary where I could store the trailer when I arrived. I also contacted the Alberta Ministry of Transportation via email to inquire about the importing and selling of a trailer. They got back to me in (no kidding) four hours with the following:
Trailers that are brought into Canada must have a completed Vehicle Import Form (Form 1) and proof of ownership (such as a US title) to cross the border. Please see the Registrar of Imported vehicles website at for more detailed information.

To sell a vehicle in Alberta, the owner must complete a bill of sale transferring ownership to the buyer, and the buyer would then use that document as their proof of ownership. Bill of sale forms are available on the Motor Vehicles website at

If you are not going to be keeping and using the trailer in Alberta, it does not need to be plated, however if it has no plates it may not be on any public roadways, it must be parked/stored only on private property, such as in a yard or in a private driveway.
Not too bad, but yet another thing to be done. Plus the purchase of a ball mount and a ball (we already have a 2 inch box hitch on the Ford), making sure the electrical connections work (knowing our Ford that may involve more than just a plug), and then actually driving the thing 2200 miles... you can see how this option gets pretty complicated. So I thought maybe I just want to ship everything and be done....

Option Five
Give My Stuff The Roughhouse: Shipping

The plan: Drive with bikes, fragile stuff, and other heavy items, ship everything else.

The results: At first, this seemed pretty good. After all, it basically involves packing it up.... and off it goes. Sort of like full-service moving, only hopefully cheaper. However, asking Dan, my new and never-before-seen roommate, to put 1000 pounds of stuff in my room for me is not the best first impression.

But, an option is an option, so it got investigated.

I figure as a conservative estimate (i.e. guessing high) that I would need 20 boxes at 50 pounds each. Here are the estimates from each of the companies I tried:
  • DHL: 2 x 10 packages at 50 lbs = 2 x $2090 = $4180 (Yikes!)
  • UPS: $990 (20 packages at 1000 lbs total)
  • FedEx: For the life of me, I couldn't get their site to work for large boxes. They'd transfer me to the 'freight' section of their site, and it would break.
  • USPS: 20 x $90 per box = $1800
With that, UPS seems to be the clear winner. However, keep in mind that I truly don't trust UPS. In the past, they've delivered boxes to addresses on the wrong street, the wrong address, they've marked them as 'undeliverable' after days of waiting for them and them never showing, you get the idea. Not just one incident. Many incidents. But $990 versus $1800 is a lot of money.

So I kept it in mind until the 200 cubic feet measurement appeared as a standard moving capacity quote. Then I kept the weight the same, but I tried again with actually putting in box sizes rather than just weights (2ft x 2ft x 2.5ft apiece) to approximate the volume on UPS. Then...lo and behold, UPS wanted to charge me a size differential cost which bumped the price up to... (you guessed it) $1800.

The Bottom Line

I hope that this summary will help others going through the same thing. Everyone has their own reasons for choices, and hence the reason I posted every option in-depth.

But we're probably going to choose the purchase-a-trailer option. I will update this post as we continue to refine our plan. Wish us luck!


Alvin Gul said...

What a good blog you have here. Please update it more often. This topics is my interest. Thank you. . . Colorado Movers

Asim Alvi said...

Thanks for sharing this article post. I was looking for something like this. Your articles have inspires me a lot. I have new idea about the same topics in my blog. Thanks
moving trailer rental