International Shipping: Moderately Large, Heavy and Expensive Edition.
February 22, 2021 6:17 AM   Subscribe

I am in the USA. A friend in the Netherlands would like a product (actually two related products) which are available here but not there. Is it feasible for me to help her out?

The two packages in question would be:

*18 pounds, 14"x11"x11", value $400 US

*15 pounds, 38"x4"x4", value $179 US

Shipping calculators kick out wildly different prices, many from companies I've never heard of. Neither of us understand what taxes or duties might be added to the cost, or whether they'd be paid on my end or hers. Cost being more important than shipping speed, what would be the best way to get these things to her? What would it actually cost? What am I neglecting to consider?
posted by jon1270 to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
nice that you are willing to help, but maybe they would get greater benefit from a shipping proxy? I use when I order from the US to denmark. their website is very clear with instructions and prices.
posted by alchemist at 6:37 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Duties might vary based on what you're shipping. Your friend will pay, not you. Here's the Dutch government's page on how this works. You/They can also call the Dutch customs folks on the numbers on this page.

If you're mailing this stuff yourself, the USPS will take quite large things at quite heavy weights for less than DHL, UPS, etc. I looked up what it would be like to mail a 33-pound box that would hold both objects (not sure if this is possible, but can you consolidate the parcels into one box?) using their postal calculator and got a total of around $200 for Priority Mail International. Here's the USPS's Postal Explorer set of regulations for mailing things to the Netherlands - there are some interesting notes and exceptions on there worth paying attention to.
posted by mdonley at 6:42 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

As a person who ships things internationally on a fairly regular basis, I can answer some of your questions, in handy bulleted format!

- I would use a company that constantly ships things internationally and is well-versed in collecting duty, like DHL. (They are my go-to when shipping to Europe.)

- The shipping cost does not include taxes or duties. Those are calculated on the receiving end by customs and will be charged to the recipient, not you. DHL makes this fairly easy by notifying the recipient and collecting the duty before delivering the parcel.

- On preview, USPS will also ship these parcels for a lower price. It will take much longer to get there, in my experience, and may be a bit more convoluted in terms of customs duty since it will get handed off to a local postal carrier. One of the benefits of using DHL/UPS type shippers is that they collect the duty and pay it directly to customs, which is generally faster.
posted by bedhead at 6:49 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]

More on customs duty and VAT:

Here's the Dutch tax office's page for individuals receiving goods from abroad from other individuals. For an item sent from a non-EU country, the limit above which tax is payable is €45.

Here's the page for calculating the tax, and a worked example.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:54 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Something to be aware of when shipping internationally is that there may be brokerage fees that get paid to the shipper by the recipient when you use couriers such as DHL/UPS that can be fairly hight. They are the cost for the company to get the thing through customs but if price is a concern they can be a nasty surprise and may not be disclosed to you when you send the item.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:55 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

I use a cheaper package forwarder, - they've been stellar so far. You might need a little Google Translate since they're mostly geared towards Polish customers, but whatever freight service they use, it's scarily cheap - my last package with them was 15 x 15 x 13 inches, 10lbs, and cost all of 25 dollars to get to me airmail. I didn't declare value, and somehow between that and the fact they use used boxes for repackaging, I haven't been hit with duties and/or VAT on those packages yet. They use DHL or DPD for last mile delivery in Europe.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:13 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

Thirding the recommendation that she should look into package forwarding services (assuming she's planning to order these items new from an online store).

I used to sometimes ask my brother in New York to reship things to me in Canada -- until I looked into package forwarding services (the one I used is MyUS) and realized that it's really about the same price as the shipping costs my brother was paying, without all the hassle for him.

YMMV, not sure if $$ situation is the same for shipping to the Netherlands but from US->Canada it's very reasonable.
posted by mekily at 8:09 AM on February 22 [1 favorite]

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