Shipping to Canada

Shipping freight from the U.S. to Canada involves brokerage fees. Here's advice on how to minimize them.March 26, 2012

I'm in San Francisco and I generally sell locally, but a woman in Canada is interested in buying some chairs from me. Anything I should be aware of when selling furniture across international borders (tariffs, restrictions, etc.)?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor D:
Get paid in advance. If you don't have experience shipping to Canada, get a good customs broker to handle all the paperwork.

From contributor A:
For small shipments that go UPS or FedEx, you only need a commercial invoice. Otherwise you will need a customs broker or a truck line that has one they use.

From contributor B:
We ship UPS sized boxes to Canada periodically. All that is required is 3 copies of the invoice in a peel and stick window on the box. There are a few questions to answer when you create the UPS shipping label but it isn't a big deal. You can call the UPS international shipping center via the direct UPS number for help.

If shipping by freight I'm not sure if you can get away with that simple a procedure. I would talk to a freight company like UPS Freight if you don't have any accounts.

From contributor J:
I'm in Canada. Whenever I have had to have something shipped by freight across the border, I have always had to provide my brokerage information to the shipper in the US. It is very costly if you don't do this on a regular basis. The one time fee from a brokerage firm versus someone who has an account with a brokerage firm is huge by comparison. Do your very best to ship via Fed Ex or UPS, otherwise the brokerage fee will probably cause the deal to go bad. I don't do this very often, so I get killed with the brokerage cost.

My most recent shipment was a used boring machine, bought for $800. Freight was $600. Brokerage was $250.

From contributor P:
If you got charged $250 for a brokerage man, they really took advantage of you.

To ship to Canada is very simple. If they can be shipped FedEx or UPS, that is simple. Remind your customer that they will be charged taxes when it gets to their door. If you have to ship trucking, then get the customer to contact a broker and there will be paperwork to fill out and they should clear for no more than $50.00 plus taxes on goods, or she can call Canada customs and see what else she can do.

From contributor J:
When shipping by freight (not UPS or FedEx, or the like), you will typically have to provide the freight company with your brokerage paperwork from a third party brokerage firm. As I said above, if you do this regularly you will get much better rates, but if you don't have an account set up with a brokerage firm, the prices are crazy.

Contributor P, are you in Canada? Have you ever had to arrange your own brokerage? If you had it done for $50, I would love the name of the brokerage firm so I can save some money in the future. FedEx and UPS typically run around $40 or $50 for brokerage.

From contributor R:
I am from Canada and have quite a bit of experience shipping to and from the USA and also working for a trucking company for 4 years as an outbound dispatcher (taking freight from customers here in Canada, and scheduling their freight to go to the states). For a one time shipment with anything more than the maximum amount UPS or FedEx will ship, you will be best to look for a transport company in your area that focuses in LTL shipments (Less than Truck Load). Usually these types of trucking companies will have their own broker for cases just like yours where a one time customer doesn't have one.

One other thing you may want to do is have the customer take care of all the shipping arrangements with a Canadian LTL carrier. Getting someone in her local area to bring it back as a back haul can save her more money.