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Package forwarding from the US to Australia: A complete guide

If you've found something in an online store that doesn't ship to Australia, you need a parcel forwarding service to go the extra mile(s). We've got all the details on the major services as well as everything you need to know about getting those goodies to your door.

usstamponlineshopping.jpg
Image by Randolph Croft, CC BY 2.0

When it comes to heading into bricks and mortar stores, Australians don't really have access to the variety of retail stores seen in the US. But thanks to globalisation, the growing popularity of online shopping and more packages making their way to Australia, prices are coming down down-under.

Overseas shipping is commonplace now, but for those companies or retailers that won't ship to our sunny shores, CNET has put together a handy guide on the major parcel shipping services, and what you need to know when it comes to shipping your purchases from the US.

The Basics

When it comes to shipping boxes, you'll often see prices quoted for Cubic Weight (or Dimensional Weight). This measurement is calculated using the dimensions of a package and is designed to factor in the greater cost of shipping bulky items, even if they're not heavy. Some services will charge for whichever figure is higher out of the actual weight and the cubic weight -- so if you're shipping a big teddy bear, you'll be paying by volume, not mass.

How to calculate cubic (or dimensional) weight

Height x length x width ÷ 5,000 = cubic weight

For example: 50cm X 30cm X 40cm
= 60,000cm³ ÷ 5,000
= 12kg cubic weight

Some US-based sites, such as MyUS, multiply dimensions in inches and then divide by 139 to calculate the final weight in pounds, but you'll get roughly the same figure when converted.

Customs

According to Australia Post, you don't need to file a US Customs declaration for orders below $2,500 in US dollars. If the goods cost more than this (look at you Mr Money Bags!) you'll need to fill out a Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) form to clear the parcel through US Customs. Most sites cover these details in their FAQ.

Prohibited items

No matter which service you use, you might not be able to ship some items. These can include aerosols, matches, weapons, oils and flammable or toxic products, perishable items like food, and counterfeit goods.

Pricing

Some websites only give you rates once you've entered your package details. To give you an idea of pricing for these services, we've compared costs on shipping a 3kg package (dimensions 30 x 20 x 10cm) to the Sydney metro area. Prices below are US Dollars, unless specified as AU$.

ShopMate

ShopMate.auspost.com.au

The Low-Down

  • Operated by Australia Post
  • Free coverage for loss or damage for items worth less than AU$5,000
  • Packages can be tracked once they're in Australia using Australia Post's MyDeliveries tool
  • Delivery within 5-8 business days after your order arrives in the ShopMate warehouse

The Cost

Base rate: AU$24.95
Price per 500g: AU$5.95 (measured by cubic weight or actual weight -- whichever is larger)
Extra Cover: AU$2.50 per AU$100 of parcel value

Read CNET's full run-down on ShopMate here.

HopShopGo

HopShopGo.com

The Low-Down

  • Owned by PayPal, so you need a PayPal account to sign in
  • Free warehouse storage for 30 days if you want to shop more and add to your order
  • Free package consolidation (smaller items packed in a larger box to save on shipping)
  • Different rates for standard and express shipping

The Cost

Standard shippingExpress shipping
First 500g$24$28.80
Every additional 500g$4$4.80
Delivery time (business days)6-83-5

Matesfreight

Matesfreight.com

The Low-Down

  • Parcel forwarding with free package consolidation
  • 'Shop For Me' -- they'll buy the items if an online store doesn't accept your Australian credit card
  • Commission charged on the value of your goods
  • Place your order then get an invoice (Matesfreight states: "We are very good at estimating the charge but we cannot provide an exact cost until we receive your items")
  • 14 days free warehouse storage (charged at $1 a day after this)

The Cost

Commission: 5 percent of cost of goods shipped (+ $3 flat rate for 'Shop For Me')
Parcel forwarding price per box: $12
'Shop For Me' price per box: $15

Shipito

Shipito.com

The Low-Down

  • Parcel forwarding for individual orders
  • Premium 'Virtual Mailbox' option to get free consolidation and delivery notifications and free 90 day storage
  • Aggregates prices for different shipping companies -- allows you to choose delivery method and company, though prices vary
  • Includes companies such as TNT, DHL, FedEx and Priority Mail

The Cost

$1 per package + individual postage costs of different companies
Virtual Mailbox cost: $10/month or $50/year
3kg shipped to Sydney: Cheapest price is $47.54 through TNT

MyUS

MyUS.com

The Low-Down

  • Similar to Shipito, aggregates services from different shipping companies -- prices calculated on case-by-case basis using Shipping Rate Calculator
  • Membership-based service with monthly fees for more premium account
  • Website quotes average shipping times from MyUS to Australia as 3-4 business days (express), 5-10 business days (economy) or 15-30 business days (freight shipping)
  • Free package consolidation and re-packing
  • Free insurance for items up to $100 value, extra $2 per $100 of value
  • 30 days free storage for all Premium members and 5 days free for Standard members (after that it's $1 per day)

The Cost

Standard membership: $10 one-off fee
Premium membership: $20 one-off fee then $7/month or $60/year
Premium+Mail membership: $35 setup fee then $25/month or $195/year (customers can receive mail, including letters, magazines and catalogues)
3kg shipped to Australia (price calculator doesn't let you select city): $73.42 via DHL express (for standard members)

PostRope

PostRope.com

The Low-Down

  • A "social shopping community" that relies on members to ship other members' items
  • Put up a listing (you're a "poster") to get an item it shipped from online or physical stores, anywhere in the world
  • Select the best shipping offer from other community members (called "ropers")
  • Join with email or Facebook
  • A 'trust economy' website relying on user feedback

The Cost

PostRope charges $2 on top of standard PayPal fees between members.

Sendle

Sendle.com

The Low-Down

  • No international shipping, but it receives an honourable mention here for cheap flat rates within capital cities and between cities
  • Covers Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Canberra
  • Door to door delivery (including pick-up from your address)
  • Choose whether sender or receiver pays
  • Insurance for orders up to AU$1,000
  • Deliveries up to 25kg
  • Delivery Monday to Friday until 5pm

The Cost

Delivery within the same city: AU$9.75 flat rate for up to 25kg
Delivery between capital cities: $16.70 flat rate for up to 10kg

Do you use a package forwarding service that we haven't mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.