Planning & Organising Removals to Spain

Car boot with cute pug and luggage - ready to move to Spain
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One of the easiest ways to deal with moving your belongings to Spain is to hire an international relocation company.

Planning home removals to Spain
Planning you home move to Spain

International moving companies usually provide a full package of services to make the process easier. These include packing, dismantling/assembling furniture, storage, insurance, and dealing with customs. Many also offer pet transport as an additional service.

Choosing a removals company

When choosing a removals company, check that they have at least one of the following accreditations:

  • They are members of the FIDI Global Alliance, accredited by the FIDI Accredited International Mover standard (FAIM)
  • They are members of the British Association of Removers Overseas Group (BAR OVERSEAS), which is covered by the IMMI (International Movers Mutual Insurance) Advance payment guarantee scheme for your financial protection.

Most removal companies offer online quote calculators. These are very useful for your initial research, or you can just phone around to collect a few rough quotes. Remember that you will only receive the final quote after a company representative speaks to you and visually inspects the items you want to move.

Also, online estimates don’t usually include extra costs such as insurance, handling fees, or minimum shipment charges. Don’t forget to discuss these with the companies when you are considering your options, as they are hidden costs that can quickly add up.

Companies will usually offer packing services, or you can choose to pack your goods yourself. Whatever your choice, you will be given appropriate packing materials beforehand.

When a company does packing for you, they are responsible for the inventory. Most of them use electronic and photographic inventories, which is much easier than if you have to do it all by yourself with a pen and paper. Professional removers will also make sure that your inventory is translated into Spanish for customs and declarations.

International moving companies are generally experienced in filling out all the necessary paperwork and duty calculations on your behalf, which is very useful because the system of duties can be quite complicated.

Air freight to Spain

If you are under pressure time wise, then air freight might be the best option for you. There are quite a few airports in Spain that are served by international removals companies, including many popular expat destinations such as Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, La Palma, Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Tenerife South, etc.

What you get with Air Freight:

  • The fastest delivery possible – most companies will deliver your belongings within 3-6 days
  • Door-to-door services available, or pick up locations of your choice
  • Online shipment tracking
  • Both weight and size will determine the final quote
  • The most expensive way to move your possessions

Air freight is definitely the priciest option, and it can sometimes cost several times that of sea freight. However, if you’re in a hurry, it’s a good way to move at least some of your most urgent possessions as fast as possible.

Removals to Spain by road

Moving your belongings by road is one of the most popular options, and there are plenty of removals companies operating between the UK and Spain.

You can book both a groupage load and a full removal.

A groupage load is perfect if you need to move just a few items and there’s no urgency. Road freight companies delivering partial loads from the UK to Spain usually operate on a weekly basis.

A fully loaded van or lorry starts from the UK and travels across Spain, delivering small loads on the way.

When it comes to a full household removal via road freight, you will have a dedicated vehicle come to your home, take your goods away, and deliver them to your chosen destination.

In some cases, it can work faster than air freight if the driver goes straight to the destination point after loading. In general, these kinds of journeys can take about 48 hours, so you can usually hop on a plane to Spain after your lorry departs and get your possessions the next day.

There is a very handy resource that can help you start collecting quotes online: www.shiply.com. All you need to do is to enter your details and you will start collecting quotes within minutes.

The more specific you are, the closer your quick quote will be to the final one. There’s even an opportunity to upload photos of the items you want to take to Spain to help removers give you a more precise estimate.

You can also chat online to every remover who gives you a quote and see each remover’s customer rating.

When negotiating your removals by road, be sure to clear up all possible issues in good time. Questions to ask:

  • Does the quote include fuel, road tolls, goods in transit insurance, packing materials?
  • Do they offer packing services?
  • How many porters can they provide for the quoted price? If it’s just one, you will have to give a hand with loading the goods.
  • If your Spanish property has difficult access, is your remover equipped to deal with it?
  • Do they do the paperwork for the Spanish customs?
  • Do they dismantle and assemble furniture?
  • In an emergency, can they arrange a storage in Spain?

Our research shows that for an average 3-bedroom house, the initial online quote for road freight starts at just below £1,900 and can go up to, or just above, £4,000.

Check carefully what services each quote includes before accepting an offer. Some of the cheap ones may include the most basic package and just one porter. You need to talk to different companies and get them evaluate the contents of your house personally to obtain useful final quotes.

 Shipping containers to Spain

 This is the most popular option with most international moving companies.

If you choose to move this way, your goods will be loaded directly into containers, with a customs seal placed on each. These will then be loaded onto the vessel and delivered to your new home. However, transporting containers to Spain via sea freight is in general a slow process, so you do need to plan well in advance.

Panoramic view of the port in Barcelona: shipping containers and loading bays
Barcelona port – one of the destinations in Spain where your shipping container can arrive

You can opt for a whole container (dedicated container load), or a partial load (shared container load).

Most companies offer 5ft, 10ft, 15ft, 20ft, and 40ft containers. On average, door-to-door container shipping from the UK to Spain takes between 1 and 2 weeks.

In general, shipping your furniture to Spain can be on the pricey side. Depending on the size of your cargo and the options you choose, you will be looking at a bill between £3,000 and £7,000.

Shared container load

Shared container load is can be a perfect option if you only want to move the contents of a one-bedroom flat, a studio apartment, or just a few household items.

However, even if you have a bigger load, you could still use a shared container. This is an example of what can be shipped if you book ¾ of a 40ft container: 1 car, 3 sofas, 2 double beds, 2 TVs, 3 bikes, 2 armchairs, 2 single beds, 2 motorbikes, 50 boxes.

If you are transporting your car to Spain, you can pack household and car related items inside it. Typical examples of such items are first aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangle, spare tires or any other replacement parts, and any furniture you can fit in.

An estimated door-to-door delivery with a shared container is around 7-9 weeks.

Dedicated container load

A dedicated container is ideal if you want to ship over the contents of an entire home. You can choose between a 20ft or 40ft shipping container. As an example, a 20ft container will comfortably fit the contents of a three-bedroom home.

If you hire a 40ft container, you can also add your car and pack it full of household items.

You can easily fit the contents of 4-5 bedroom house into a 40ft container without worrying that you have to leave something behind. Estimated door-to-door delivery takes around 4 -6 weeks.

Pick-up and delivery options for shipping containers to Spain

There are three options available when you choose a shipping container:

Port to port

This is the cheapest and most basic option. You will have to organise the delivery of your goods to your container in the port of origin, and you will also be responsible for picking them up from the destination port and transporting them to your new home.

As an example, London – Barcelona port to port shipping will cost you £800-£885 for a 20ft container and £1070-£1200 for 40ft container.

Drop and fill

With this option, a container of your choice is dropped off at your house, allowing you to pack your possessions and fill the container yourself. At the other end, the shipping company drops the container at your new house, and you will unload it. You can recruit local help with both packing/unpacking and loading/unloading if you want to.

Door to door

Door to door is the most common choice and comes at a price. Your mover will deliver your container to the house, pack it, move it to the port, ship it, deliver to your new house, and then unpack it. This is the easiest option and is definitely worth paying a bit extra if you can. 

DIY Removals to Spain

Finally, there is always an option of hiring or purchasing a van, filling it with what you need to take over to Spain and driving it yourself.

A road trip along a seacost on a sunny day
DIY removals to Spain can be a great fun if you plan everything well

This might not be the cheapest option, as you need to factor in fuel, tolls, overnight stays, ferry charges, etc. It’s also outright tiring. However, if organised well, it might turn out to be a great journey.

There are a few things to consider before you start loading up your van.

How much your van can legally transport?

An important thing to consider when doing DIY removals is the available payload of your van (i.e. how much you are allowed to transport in it).

Most vans popular with DIY removers weigh around 2300 to 2400 kg without any load. Add to this a tank of fuel at 90 kg, a spare wheel, a couple of passengers, personal luggage, and your available payload will be around 1000kg. It will be even less with Luton type vans.

It’s all about weight, not the physical space. Even if your van is just ¾ loaded, but the weight exceeds the legal limit, you risk being stopped and fined.

UK traffic police has intensified van checks recently. If caught, you will have to offload excess weight and hire somebody to come and pick it up. You’ll also be fined. 

Many ports in Spain and France are installing weigh bridges, so it’s quite probable your van will be weighed before you board the ferry or train. They fine quite heavily for overloading.

So, don’t chance it, check and make sure you’re within legal limits.

Here’s how you can do it:

You will need two measurements that can be found on your van’s VIN plate:

  1. Unladen weight:  when a van is empty but fuelled,
  2. Your van’s gross vehicle weight (GVW), or ‘maximum authorised mass’, which indicates the maximum weight legally allowed when the van is loaded. GVW includes: the van itself, the fuel, you, any passengers, and the cargo.

To work out how much you can load into a van (payload) and be within the legal GVW limit, you need to subtract the van’s unladen weight from the van’s gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Suppose the GVW is 3500kg. The unladen weight of the vehicle is 2210kg.  Your payload is 1290kg.

The 1290kg is the total weight of what you can safely load into the van. Remember, this includes you, all your passengers, and their luggage. For example, if your vehicle is carrying three passengers weighing in at 12 stone each (76kg), this will use up 228kg before you even start adding any cargo.

Three ways to do DIY removals to Spain

Option one: Buy a van in the UK with a view to sell it in Spain

Here are a few useful tips: 

  • While in the UK, buy a van big enough for whatever you want to take over to Spain. Remember to check how much weight the van is allowed to carry;
  • Make sure the van is taxed, has a valid MOT, is insured both in the UK and Europe, is serviced and is generally well-chosen (i.e. easily resalable);
  • Start advertising it on Spanish local selling sites close to your new home. Make it known that it’s UK plated and ideal for moving to the UK, fully taxed and MOTed;
  • Pack what you want to take over with you;
  • Make an inventory (2 copies) in Spanish – you might need it for the customs (however, hardly anyone gets checked);
  • Make sure you budget in the fuel expenses, Eurotunnel or ferry, tolls (€150-200 depending on your route), and overnight stays in hotels on the way;
  • Drive over to Spain, unload, unpack;
  • Sell the van.

Option two: Use Spanish van hire

Alternatively, there’s a possibility to hire a van in Spain when you are sorting out your rent or house purchase, drive over to the UK, fill it with your belongings, and drive back to Spain.

If you do this, make sure you deal with a reputable van hire company. Ask around for recommendations, and be sure to read all the papers before you sign so you know which accidents and damages are covered.

Be prepared to pay a deposit, and make sure you understand the conditions on which your deposit will be returned to you.

Option three: Use one-way UK van hire to move your belongings to Spain

There are a few small self-hire companies in the UK that do UK – Spain one-way hire.

Check out Vanomos and Way2gohire, they offer Luton vans for around £120 a day including insurance and breakdown cover. Make sure you read and understand the contract before signing anything, as some accidents or damages may not be covered.

They will also require a deposit.

Enquire in advance about the pick up and drop off points, as they might be a fair distance away and you will need to arrange transportation.

Driving tips

  • Make sure you have several different payment methods available, as not all the tolls in France accept Visa;
  • Check that you are properly insured and have breakdown cover for France and Spain;
  • Estimate your costs in terms of fuel and tolls. You can do it at www.viamichellin.com. If you are hiring a large van, multiply your estimations by two;
  • To avoid the tolls at all, you can take a ferry from Plymouth/Portsmouth to Santander. It’s Brittany Ferries and they do 3 journeys a week;
  • If driving through France, check the possible routes and costs. There are a lot of online resources for this, for example https://about-france.com/tourism/routes-to-spain.htm
  • Don’t speed – fines are hefty and have to be paid on the spot. Don’t have cash? You will be escorted to the nearest ATM;
  • The default speed limit on single-carriageway French roads has gone down from 90km/hr to 80km/hr as of July 2018;
  • All drivers on French roads are obliged to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket in case they need to get out in an emergency. In Spain, it’s one per passenger. The jacket must be stored in the car. Keep a spare bulb kit, 2 warning triangles in the boot, and a spare wheel and the tools required to change it;
  • Headlamp beam converters must be fitted to your car, even if you only drive during the daylight hours;
  • If your car does not have a number plate that includes the GB euro-symbol, you must also invest in a GB sign to attach to your car;
  • In France you’re required to have breathalysers in your car, however you won’t be fined for not having any;
  • Keep all of your paperwork for the car/van with you, including the V5, MOT, tax, insurance, and if it’s a company car, a letter of authority that states you can drive the car outside the UK;
  • Have a paper map with you as well as using a satnav.

Spain custom regulations for shipping household items

Under EU laws, European citizens don’t pay any customs duty on any personal belongings or household items they bring into Spain.

When you are shipping household items and other personal possessions into Spain, there is a certain amount of paperwork required. If you deal with an international removals company, they will take care of most of the documents.

If you do it yourself, you might need:

  • proof of ID, such as a passport;
  • a detailed inventory of the items with a value attached, in Spanish, two copies, signed and dated by you, and certified by the Spanish consulate in your country of origin.

 While few people ever get stopped and checked, it’s good to be prepared.

Taking your pet to Spain

Two dogs look out the open car window
Pets can enjoy driving to Spain as much as you do, just make sure you have enough treats in the car

It’s possible to drive your pet in the car/van over the border, or to transport it through your removals company. Most international removers provide this kind of service. So, if you would like your remover to transport your pet, make sure you let them know from the beginning.

Whether you are transporting your pet yourself or planning to do it through your removals company, there are certain requirements for pets to be able to cross the Spanish border.

Your pet needs to be microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip, after which it must be vaccinated for rabies.

If this is the first rabies vaccination after being chipped, your pet will need to wait 21 days before travelling. Meanwhile, ask your vet to update the EU Pet Passport.

You’ll need to sign a Declaration of Non-Commercial Transport to indicate that your pet is indeed your pet and you’re not going to sell it or give it away the moment you cross the border. You can travel with a maximum of five pets for non-commercial regulations to apply.

Pet insurance in Spain

It’s not a problem to insure your pet in Spain, and taking into account possible vet’s fees, it’s definitely worth doing.

You can start looking for a pet insurance online. Sites like Mapfre, Santalucía or Ocaso can offer good deals. There is also a specialist pet insurer SegurVet.

Make sure you familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions – yes, this means reading the small print carefully to know what can make your insurance invalid. In some cases, forgetting or being late with vaccinating your pet could invalidate your policy.

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