The Surprising Cost of Moving Household Goods: Florida to Toronto vs. South Africa to Toronto

As a global mobility professional, understanding the nuances of international relocation, including the costs involved, is crucial for efficient planning and budgeting.

As a global mobility professional, understanding the nuances of international relocation, including the costs involved, is crucial for efficient planning and budgeting. One perplexing scenario that often puzzles professionals is why relocating an employee’s household goods from Florida to Toronto can be more expensive than moving the same goods from South Africa to Toronto. At first glance, this seems counterintuitive given the significant distance difference. However, the explanation lies in the logistics and efficiencies of the transportation methods used in these relocations.

The Efficiency of Sea Freight

The key to understanding this cost disparity lies in the efficiency of loading a 40-foot container onto a vessel that carries thousands of other containers versus the inefficiencies associated with driving a truck overland. Sea freight, thanks to its incredible scalability and efficiency, offers a cost-effective solution for moving goods over long distances. When a container is loaded onto a cargo ship in South Africa, it becomes part of a massive operation that benefits from economies of scale. Ships designed to carry thousands of containers across the globe can spread the operational costs across all these containers, significantly reducing the cost per unit.

Moreover, the shipping industry has honed its processes over decades to maximize efficiency and minimize waste. The journey from South Africa to Toronto, despite its length, benefits from well-established maritime routes that connect major global ports. These routes are serviced by large, efficient vessels that have been optimized for long-haul sea transport, further driving down costs.

The Inefficiencies of Overland Transport

Conversely, moving household goods from Florida to Toronto by truck encounters a different set of challenges and inefficiencies. First and foremost, overland transport does not benefit from the same economies of scale as sea freight. Trucks have limited capacity, and a single vehicle can only carry a fraction of what a container ship can transport. This limitation means that the operational costs – fuel, labor, maintenance – are spread over a much smaller volume of goods, leading to higher costs per unit.

Big rig truck rolling down the highway into the sunset hauling fuel

Other Contributing Factors

While the primary reason for the cost discrepancy lies in the transportation method’s efficiency, other factors also play a role:

  • Fuel costs: The price of fuel can vary significantly, and trucks generally have a lower fuel efficiency compared to ships when comparing the amount of fuel used per ton of goods moved.
  • Labor costs: Overland transport is labor-intensive, requiring drivers for each truck, whereas a single ship crew can manage a vessel carrying thousands of containers.
  • Insurance and liability: The risk profile of overland transport, with its higher incidence of accidents and theft, often leads to higher insurance costs compared to sea freight.


The seemingly paradoxical scenario where it costs more to relocate household goods from Florida to Toronto than from South Africa to Toronto highlights the complexities of global logistics. It underscores the importance of understanding the underlying factors that influence transportation costs. As global mobility professionals navigate these intricacies, insights into the efficiencies of different transportation modes become invaluable for planning and executing cost-effective relocations. This knowledge not only aids in budgeting but also in strategizing logistics to meet the needs of employees and organizations alike.

Relocation expert

Michael Deane

Michael Deane

Helping companies relocate employees & recruits seamlessly, whether it is domestically, cross-border or globally.

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