The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly move interstate


The moving process can be difficult, and even more so when you’re crossing state lines. Successful relocations, no matter what the size, must be well planned to run smoothly. The secret is to be organised well in advance. And that involves having a realistic budget too. 

One of the most cost-effective ways to move interstate is using self-pack containers. Cargo containers which you pack yourself can make for an easier, hassle free move. Belongings are easily transported via rail infrastructure to your new location and kept together in the one space, eliminating the need for multiple packing boxes.

If you’re thinking about relocating and don’t want to spend a fortune, here are a few tips from the experts.

Image: Big Steel Box

Image: Big Steel Box

How to pick a good container removalist company

Finding the right removalist for the job can be tricky, especially when there are so many options. Searching online is a good place to start and allows you to get multiple quotes. Moving interstate can be an expensive task so if budget is a priority, start by searching for cheap container removals in your area. Check websites and social media reviews to confirm services are reliable.

Reputable container removalist companies will provide all the information you need on their websites. Look for testimonials and specific information about their services so you can be confident they specialise in what you need. Look for sites that make it easy to obtain a quote, offer contact details and an ‘about us’ page. 

Other considerations include customer support, storage options, whether packing equipment is provided and estimated moving time. 

What you need to know

A reputable removalist will be 100% transparent. As the customer, you want to be able to ask questions about the service before you commit. Key questions to ask are:

1. Do you offer insurance? You want to ensure your belongings are protected and transit insurance is included in the quote. 

2. What weight allowance is included? Containers are transported by rail so will have a weight limit. Make sure you know what weight allowance is included in the quote (check the fine print). Typically, an average container packed with household goods weighs between 5-7 tonnes. 

3. How long is transit time? Delivery speed can impact your relocation plans and the last thing you want is to be left waiting for essential household items. While delays sometimes can’t be avoided, a reputable moving company will give you an estimated transit time and keep you in the loop if there’s any issues along the way.

4. Is the quote for door-to-door delivery or depot-to-depot? Not all companies will deliver your goods to the new property. Check if your quote is only for delivery to the new location’s depot or to your home address. Read the fine print to ensure your container is being delivered to exactly where you need to avoid additional costs.

5. What extras are included? Packing materials to keep your belongings secure during transportation and furniture trolleys are essential for a stress and injury free move. Find out if these are included or if they can be sourced cost-effectively through a wholesale provider. If there’s conflicting dates with the move and getting the keys to your new home, you’ll want to find a company that offers storage too.

6. What are the hire times allowed? Check how long you’re allowed to have the shipping container in your possession to allow for enough packing and unpacking time. 

How container removals work

Easy! Once you've chosen your container removal company, book the date well in advance. The container will be delivered to your home and placed in a pre-agreed position, for up to 3 weeks, depending on the agreed upon timeframe. Once the container is loaded with your possessions, the company will pick up and transport it to the new location. 

You can unload in your own time and the company will return to pick up the empty container once the move is finalised.

What are the variations?

There are often variations to the basic container removals systems. If one of the properties in the move doesn’t have enough space for the container, it will need to be loaded or unloaded at the company’s depot. A quick load/unload can save time and money if your destination address isn’t too far from the nearest terminal. You may need the assistance of a professional removalist for this option.

If you do want to arrange removalist labour to load or unload the container, speak to the company to get their recommendations.

What size container do I need?

The common container sizes are 20ft and 40ft. 20ft high containers should comfortably fit the contents of an average 3 or 4-bedroom home. The weight allowance for this standard container is 8 tonnes, although most packed 20ft containers end up weighing around 5-7 tonnes. 40ft cube containers are ideal for people with larger than 4 bedroom homes.

How much do self-pack container removals cost?

Whilst self-pack containers are the most cost-effective way to move interstate, the prices between companies can vary.

For a budget-friendly solution, here’s an estimated guide. You’ll still need to get an exact quote based on your moving needs.

Moving from Perth to:

Adelaide Melbourne Sydney Brisbane Hobart Darwin
Cost estimate $2,225 $2,310 $2,380 $3,195 $5,060 $4,790
Transit time (days) 3 5 6 7 9 7

Moving from Melbourne to:

Adelaide Perth Sydney Brisbane Hobart Darwin
Cost estimate $2,360 $3,860 $2,425 $3,015 $4,410 $4,920
Transit time (days) 3 5 3 3 5 6

Moving from Sydney to:

Adelaide Melbourne Perth Brisbane Hobart Darwin
Cost estimate $2,720 $2,345 $4,210 $2,630 $5,095 $5,260
Transit time (days) 3 3 6 3 7 6

Moving from Brisbane to:

Adelaide Melbourne Sydney Perth Hobart Darwin
Cost estimate $2,665 $2,220 $2,220 $4,240 $4,970 $5,230
Transit time (days) 4 3 3 7 7 7

What can I pack in a container? 

You can transport just about anything in the container including your car, but there are some restrictions to be aware of. Hazardous items like fuel, gas, bulk chemicals, explosives and flammable materials shouldn’t be transported for safety reasons. Moving to Tasmania and Western Australia comes with quarantine restrictions too.

Packing tips

Packing is like a good game of Tetris. Distribute the larger, heavier items evenly throughout the container and make sure they’re secured to the sides. Create a moving house checklist with an inventory of items so the loading can be planned. Colour coding for each room of the house can be helpful at unpacking time. Ensure heavy items are loaded first, while lighter items can be packed on top. Use soft padding or blankets between items as padding.

As with Tetris, you want every inch of the container space to be filled. This will eliminate movement of contents during transit and ensure you can fit more inside.

How do I secure/lock the container? 

To keep contents secure, you’ll need to purchase a quality lock. Heavy duty or steel padlocks with a short shackle are the best locking options. Shrouded padlocks are protected in a steel case to prevent opening with bolt cutters.

Insurance considerations

Transit insurance is important to protect your belongings, but only covers goods while being transported. Self-pack moves mean you’re responsible for packing and loading your belongings correctly to prevent damage. Transit insurance only covers your possessions if damaged by natural disasters, an accident during transit or theft.

Shipping container storage

Not all self-pack container companies offer storage, so it may be handy to find one that does. If you need storage prior to delivery, secure storage options are important. Storage is an additional cost, but for shorter periods it’s minimal. Ask where the containers will be stored and the maximum time they can be held. Find out if you’re able to access your packed items from storage.

Do I need to fill out quarantine documents? 

Yes. Every state in Australia requires an Unaccompanied Personal Effects Quarantine document to be filled out. Tasmania and Western Australia have the strictest quarantine regulations. Potentially dangerous items like fruits and vegetables, plant products, nuts, hay, honey, animal skins and used vehicles and machinery will need to be declared. 

Moving interstate doesn’t have to be stressful or break your budget. With the use of a reliable self-pack moving container company and practical moving tips, you’ll be settled in your new location in no time.

For more advice before undertaking the big move check out 4 things to do before moving interstate, our moving and packing survival kit and 5 lessons from someone that just moved house.

Author bio:

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Budget Self Pack Containers – Australia’s top interstate shipping container removalist with shipping container solutions for your next move or storage requirements. You can catch Jayde on Google+. 

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