Top Moved Items 2016


Moving items internationally, are you doing it right?

The cost of moving items internationally can be quite high depending on the distance between locations and the volume of your move, so what you take with you when you move to another country, matters greatly. Hence the question above, are you doing this right?

Our team aims to highlight the decisions of expats by showing the Top Move Items of 2016 along with some vital information about the volume of moves, all to help expats optimise the cost of moving items abroad.

Top 10 Moved Items

According to our report, the top 10 moved items in 2016 were:

  1. Suitcase
  2. Picture
  3. Dining chair
  4. Bin liner of soft clothes
  5. Occasional chair
  6. Television/computer
  7. Bedside table
  8. Rug
  9. Double bed
  10. Bicycle

“Our findings have identified a worrying trend for the global mobility function – expats seem to be placing far less thought into practicality during their moves and what items should be left behind. There could be many possible factors driving the average overseas assignee’s tendency to ‘hoard’ their possessions as they move and these could range from a matter of convenience to sentimentality to the desire to fully maximise whatever relocation benefits provided by their companies,” said Sébastien Deschamps, CEO and Founder of

The report also shows that large boxes (24”x18”x18”) are the most used box size, followed by the medium box (18”x18”x18”) and the XL box (24”x24”x24”). This may suggest that expats are still shipping large items which they can otherwise purchase in their host country.

One of the most important things to know when you’re packing for your move is if this item is cheaper to ship or to buy brand new in your new country of residence. If you want to be practical with moving, you would have to check the price difference factoring the inconvenience of possible shipment delays and mishandling of items to see if it’s worth it to ship your items or just get a new one. To learn more about shipping costs read our full guide about it here.

Planning the size your move

“Too often we move suits and gowns that we eventually never put on again, or we move merely old furniture with no real value just because we have a sentimental leaning and we underestimate the possibility to sell, donate or renew. My advice is to leave behind anything that has not been used in the last two months, unless it has a special emotional content. If you want to start, put an ad on a peer-to-peer platform and find the next charity who would take all the stuff you no longer need,” said Mr. Marco Leonardo Sorgetti, Director-General of International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA)

Once you’ve decided what items you’re definitely going to take with you, you should understand the volume of items, like how much you can fit in certain sizes of containers and how much volume you can fit in different sizes of household.

Our infographic shows the most common move volumes for international removals. The standard move, which is also known as the minimum volume of move for most international moving companies, is five cubic metres. If you’re unfamiliar with how much that is, picture this, in a five cubic metre volume, you can fit the following:

  • 1 standard size washing machine
  • 1 medium size refrigerator
  • 1 computer workstation
  • 1 medium sized couch

If you want to picture it in a different way, 5 cubic metres can fit 40 medium sized boxes. It might seem like a lot, but when you start packing your items, you can very easily see why this is called the “standard size”.This volume gives you just the right amount of valuables to take in an international move.

For bigger moves, there are two frequently used large containers, the 20ft container and the 40 ft container. These are usually used when you’re moving entire households including furniture and even vehicles. Read more about shipping containers in our full shipping containers guide here.

Move volume of each container:

  • 20ft – 25 cubic metres
  • 40ft – 55 cubic metres

The prices for these move sizes can be different depending on the distance of the move, but they are usually quite expensive. It’s usually recommended if you’re doing a full immigration to a new country or a long-term assignment.

To see how you can use these containers the best when you’re moving, we’ve checked how many containers you need to fill up different sizes of households.

These are the average volume of each common households:

  • 1 bedroom – 14 cubic metres
  • 2 bedroom – 30 cubic metres
  • 3 bedroom – 41 cubic metres

As you can see, in most household sizes, you don’t really need such a big container to fill it out, especially because most houses for expats abroad are rented fully furnished, or with furnishings provided by the company through assigned housing. So unless you will move into a bare house and intend to live there for a very long time, it’s not really very advisable to move huge volumes in your new country of residence.

What you should move

There are a number of factors that contribute to why most expats are still not very practical when it comes to moving items. Sentiment is definitely one of the most popular reasons why we take items we want to move. As expats abroad, building a home in a foreign country is important. Taking familiar items or maybe a few things you can’t find anywhere else in the world makes it easier to battle culture shock, and it’s like taking a part of your home country with you. But you have to draw the line if you want to be cost efficient in your move. Consider the length of your assignment, the cost of living in your new country of residence, the cost of moving the items etc. Do your part in making the most out of your move. Read more about efficient packing tips in our guide here.

“The traditional long term career expat is slowly disappearing, to be replaced by many more young professionals going on short term assignments, travelling with less goods and actually also lower expectations for their relocation package.  This is a trend of over 10 years now, where we see the usual large allowances being replaced with lower volumes and shorter stays.  In fact, the number of expats is increasing but the average volume is steadily going down.  Obviously this changing expat profile is triggered by the globalization of the corporate customers, with global sourcing through procurement groups, looking for cost savings and rationalization.  Combined with an ever increasing need for short term decisions, this does put a lot pressure on the movers in respect of pricing and planning.  We do believe that this global economy will continue to require more and more staff willing to travel around the world, whether for short or long stay.  The movers are adapting to this changing profile.” – Jesse van Sas, General Manager of FIDI (Fédération Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux) a global federation of international movers

Based on the data we’ve seen, in our top moved items and box sizes, it looks like more people are just not very informed on whether it’s more efficient to but new items rather than ship them. Again, it’s important to do research on the country you’re moving to, and to get quotes from different moving companies to check the prices and compare them with the cost of buying new items in your new country of residence.

You may need items in your suitcases and boxes, but dining chairs, occasional chairs, and television are items you can most likely find and buy in your new country. Pack essential items you absolutely have to take when you move to avoid hassle and to save some money when you move to a new country.

Full infographic: