Last month we covered moving to Mexico using an international moving company in our article “Moving to Mexico: International Moving Companies.” While international moving companies may be the right choice for expats who want to move all or most of their household goods to Mexico, the majority of expats rely more on some form of self-moving.
In our recent Expats In Mexico Survey 2017, we found that about 54 percent of expats use some combination of self-moving methods when moving to Mexico compared with 28 percent who used international moving companies for all or some of their possessions. Another 18 percent sold everything and replaced their household items in Mexico.
Expats have used a variety of methods to bypass the expense of international moving companies. Take expat David Moss who lives in Ajijic: “Self-moving can be done many different ways,” he said, “from putting stuff on the roof of your car and in your trunk to hiring a local guy to move your things down. We hired a Mexican man with a trailer who took our stuff from California to Ajijic – where we both live – just as if he was transporting stuff he had bought in the U.S. into Mexico. There is a great deal of that going on, so there was nothing unusual when he crossed the border.”
Moss was put off by the paperwork required by international movers, the time required to move their possessions to Ajijic and the fact that their household goods would be loaded and offloaded three times.
“The thought of our stuff sitting in a warehouse in Nuevo Laredo was not encouraging,” Moss said. “So we decided to try another route and that turned out to be a young Mexican in Ajijic who was trying to develop a business of picking up a clients furnishings and moving them directly from their home in the U.S. to their new home in Mexico with no offloading at any point in the journey. No trouble, no fuss.”
Moss found his Mexican moving man by phoning a real estate agent he knew in Ajijic and asking for ideas on how to move his household goods. She referred the mover he ended up hiring.
“We packed all of the boxes ourselves with the help of a young woman we hired and taped a handwritten list of contents on each box,” Moss explained. “We sold all our big stuff like bedroom furniture and the dining room table and chairs. All of the things we shipped were more than six months old, so there were no worries about having to pay customs duties. We also did not prepare a Menaje de Casa.”
Expats In Mexico legal expert Spencer McMullen advised us that a Menaje de Casa often is not required when crossing the border, especially if you are moving just clothes and personal items into Mexico by car. A Lista de Menaje de Casa is a detailed list in Spanish of household goods you will be shipping to Mexico. It must be stamped by the Consulate General of Mexico office nearest you in order for it to be submitted to Mexican customs.
“If you are using an international moving company,” McMullen said, “and moving a large volume of goods you will need to complete a Menaje de Casa. If you bring your own trailer then it can go either way, depending upon what and how much you bring with you. If you are bringing a lot of electronics and/or household things, you will need one.”
You can find out more details about the requirements of Mexico Customs and the Lista de Menaje de Casa in our Mexico Immigration section under Household Goods.
Moss’ mover used a large station wagon-type vehicle pulling a trailer to transport his household goods to Mexico. The mover crossed at Nogales and delivered the shipment to him within five days. At the border, Mexican Customs opened just three boxes for inspection, mainly, Moss believes, because Customs probably thought the goods belonged to the mover and the mover did nothing to dissuade them from thinking otherwise.
“We were happy that we found our mover,” Moss said. “Everything arrived in good shape and nothing was damaged. After we unpacked, he returned and removed all of the boxes. And, the cost was far less than what international moving companies charge.”
We are classifying Moss’ move as a self-move since he did not use a full service international moving company and did most of the work himself, other than transporting his household goods from southern California to Mexico.
Some expats cut out the middleman altogether when moving to Mexico, opting to purchase a trailer to haul their possessions and often doing a move over several trips to reduce the amount brought in at one time. But be careful. If you are moving a large amount of goods in one trip – over US$3,000 in value – you will need a Mexican customs broker to formally file the Mexican customs entry on your behalf.
One thing all self-moves have in common, though, is getting rid of most of your things before you make the move. Or in the case of the nearly 20 percent of expats who sold everything, starting with a clean slate and purchasing new items in Mexico, often at a far lower cost. It especially makes sense if you are renting, since over 90 percent of rental homes in Mexico are furnished or partially-furnished.
Expats use a variety of ways to unload their unwanted possessions and trim their moving costs.
Selling Your Household Goods
Selling furniture, electronics and other large items online takes some time and effort but can bring needed cash for your move. Aptdeco, Chairish, Recycled Furniture and Krrb are just a few of the online options for selling your used household goods. Of course, your local Craigslist and eBay often are the best places to start. And if you have the patience to haggle over every item, garage sales can be useful.
Donating Your Household Goods
For those items you cannot sell, or if selling your possessions is too big a hassle for you, consider donating them to reduce your tax bill. For a donation to be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it must be to a nonprofit and you must have a receipt. Churches, government entities and other nonprofits like Goodwill or the Salvation Army all count. You will need documentation to give to the IRS. If you are wondering about the market value of your goods, you can check Goodwill’s Valuation Guide.
For many expats, selling or donating everything and buying only what you need for your new home in Mexico is the least stressful way of moving to Mexico. If you are a member of the Millennial generation – those carefree world travelers wedged between the ages of 18 and 34 – you know what I am talking about. Pack a couple of suitcases and hit the road to start your new life in Mexico. Easy.