How to Ship from USA to India – 5 Best USA to India Shipping Companies

So, you’re looking to ship your stuff from USA to India but can’t find a reliable source? Worry not. Your search ends here.

Shipping from USA to India Cheap Options

Many people return to India from the US every year. The reasons may vary but one question all of them ask is, what is the safest and cheap way to ship their household items to India?

I had a friend of mine who returned back to India because of personal reasons. After having spent 6 years in the USA, he had quite a lot of baggage. And when trying to ship them back to India, his initial choice was the most obvious shipping companies like DHL, UPS etc. Big mistake.

The thing is, he had only heard of those brands as shipping companies and naturally, went to them. They did the shipping, and he thought that he did it the right way. Only when he heard the rates from another friend who shipped about the same items to the same place in India, for about 1/6th of the cost! It was too late.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the best and cheap options available for NRI Indians to ship their items to India, either partially or fully.

What is the cheapest way to ship from USA to India?

You know, there are several modes. For example, shipping by sea, by air etc. Which is the best option for Indians?

In my opinion, sea is the most cost effective method, if you are not in a hurry. If you are in a hurry, then air. Shipping by sea takes about 8-10 weeks and shipping by air takes anywhere from couple of days to 1 week. In both cases, you need to be present at the local custom office to take delivery of your items. So, it really depends on how fast you want the items shipped. For example, when someone is returning back to India, once and for all, then they probably are going to build or buy a new house in India and may not be needing the household items immediately. If they can wait a couple of weeks or sometimes months, then shipping by sea is more economical and better.

Which are the cheapest courier shipping companies to India?

Let’s take a look at some of the most economical shipping companies to India from USA. Keep in mind that these are the cheaper courier shipping companies as compared to mainstream (over priced) ones like DHL.

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How to prepare when shipping things from USA to India?

Preparation is an important step. You need to know how you are going to manage and organize your things. Also, you need to know how shipping companies work and what their standard rules are. This will help you make your shipment item more easier to ship and economical.

  • Put your things into double-ply boxes (Not the usual single ply). Get them from Uhaul or Home Depot. Shipping companies operate in standard box units, so as much as possible, try to place your shipment into standard boxes.
  • Leave the heavy things behind or better yet donate it. Use Craigslist to sell off things that have a resale value.
  • If you know of new Indian families in your area, help them out by sharing unused or less used things to them.
  • Take the small things with you. Most airlines allow a good mount of baggage for each person. Utilize it on your way back to India and carry it along with you. Why waste your money shipping it?
  • Mark out breakable and brittle things.
  • Figure out which is the nearest city in your hometown in India, where the shipment can be delivered to.
  • Get an estimate of the weight of your items combined and per box.
  • Find out if you need door-to-door or door-to-port or port-to-door or port-port shipping. In all the cases other than door to door, you need to collect the boxes yourself.
  • Try getting a price quote from all the best chipping agencies. I suggest emailing them all with the same email (including all your details) and doing a price match. You need to be mindful that some companies don’t publish their rates in public, but if you have a quote from another company, they will try to beat it with an undisclosed price.
  • Once you have packed your stuff, make sure you take a photo of all your boxes and one together will all, for record sake.
  • Also make sure you label your boxes and if any brittle items are inside, stick the “Handle with care” stickers. All these stickers are available in Home Depot or Uhaul.
  • After you have packed your boxes, make sure that you weigh them on both a domestic scale and an industrial scale and note the weight of each box. There have been cases where boxes after shipment were reported to weight more and customers asked to pay more.

Price Difference in shipping by Air and Sea

  • To get an idea of price difference between Door-to-door and Door-to-port, a 10 boxes shipment from California to Mumbai will cost $950 Door-to-Door and $650 Door-to-Port. (via Ship)
  • Same shipment will cost $750 by Air.

This is based off of a sample quote given by one of the shipment agencies.

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Should you buy insurance for shipping items to India?

Depends on what items you are shipping and what your goals are. If you are shipping valuable items, then there is no doubt you better take an insurance. But at the same time, you should understand how insurance works. If you are packing yourself, most insurance companies will not give you insurance if one box out of your shipment is lost. Instead, they will only give you insurance if all the boxes are lost. It’s weird how insurance works, but it is good to know. Normal house hold items don’t really need an insurance as a shipment altogether is lost very very rarely.

Receiving your order in India

There are couple of things you have to keep in mind about receiving your order/boxes in India. Depending on whether you’ve ordered door-to-door or door-to-port shipment, you need to go to the port or the local agency to take your order.

  • Ensure that you are picking up the order yourself. Take with you your ID proof and also some US utility bills (to prove residential address)
  • If you order door-to-door service, then you have to pay extra for custom duties and you can expect delays.
  • Custom duties can be from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 8,000 for a 5 box shipment but can vary based on the weight and kind of items included.
  • Arrange a truck before going to the place, so that you can get out of there soon after you take delivery. (Trust me, you will want to.)
  • The customs officer will open all your boxes to check. Be prepared for questions.
  • Keep some dollars ready with you for tips. Also cash in rupees for fees and bills.
  • If you have sent your items to the port, you will get a slighter faster delivery as you don’t need to wait for your shipment to be taken to the local office.
  • Try to ship items to the nearest port/agency near your home or else ground transport can be costly for you.

Tips to avoid complications while shipping from USA to India

Everything said and done, there could be many complications that could arise during your shipping process. Here are a few to be mindful of.

  • Ensure you know the weight of each boxes. Be paranoid about it and mark out each box with their exact weight so that if at all the shipping company claims there is more weight, you can fight your case with proof. A common tactic of shipping companies is to claim that you have more weight than claimed and pressurizing you to pay more. Don’t fall for it. If they understand that you have proof for everything, they will back off.
  • Things can get really complicated in India for couple of reasons. If you pick a shipping agency that has really cheap rates in USA, ensure that their local partner in India is included in their deal. Because, normally how these companies operate is out of partnerships. You will be surprised that some shipping companies who claim really cheap prices don’t have proper agreements or partnerships with their Indian counterparts and only take responsibility for what happens in USA. This will bring in a lot of uncertainty for you, especially once the shipment reaches India. Don’t let this happen. Ask your US shipping agency, who their local partner is and get their contact information as well. If possible, give them a call pretending you are a customer to see how their reaction is.
  • Super cheap doesn’t always mean good quality. My recommendation is to always go for a company that handles many cases. One off, mom and pop shipping agencies are merely partners working on commission and will undercut you for initial rates, but often the customer ends up paying more at the final destination.
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Best Courier & Shipping Companies from USA to India

Below are the best (and economical) shipping companies to India, chosen on the following factors.

– Economical pricing.
– Customer reviews.
– Reputation.
– Transparency.

  1. SFL Worldwide – SFL worldwide is a shipping company specialized in international relocation services. They provide lot of US specific services that many of my friends have used. Check out their website for rates.
  2. Garudavega – Offers shipping via Air and provides door to door delivery. They’ll pick up your boxes from where you are, and deliver at your door in India. Average cost – $93 per 10 pounds in a 10x10x10 box.
  3. Universal Relocations – Offers international relocations including moving from USA to India. Not very economical. Several bad reviews from current customers. Will not disclose charges/rates upfront unless you have a detailed idea of items to be shipped.
  4. Unirelo – Will offer shipping services if you are relocating to India (has to provide details of change of residence). Rates are pretty much the same as others. Doesn’t have pick up option.
  5. Ship 2 India (not available as of Nov 2019) – They don’t do shipping on their own but will offer quotes from other shipping agencies who will compete for your order. Not a great experience as dealing directly with the agencies.

If you are looking to relocate or ship your stuff from US to India, contact me or let me know in comments.

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