Parcel-forwarding services

We sent ourselves parcels from the United States using four parcel-forwarding services.

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YouShop, a service from NZ Post, made US purchasing popular when it started in 2012. But it wasn’t the first – and isn’t the only – service to ship parcels from the US to New Zealand.

We put YouShop up against three other established US parcel-forwarding services with no set-up or ongoing membership costs: USGoBuy, Stackry and Viabox.

Why use a parcel forwarder?

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Our trials

Our experience

The results of our trial

YouShop (nzpost.co.nz/youshop)

Trial #1

US to NZ delivery: 6 days, NZ$31.50.

YouShop was the cheapest service and was first-equal – with USGoBuy – for delivery. Only one shipping option was offered, but it included insurance. Payment was made directly in New Zealand dollars, without needing to go through PayPal and a currency conversion like the other forwarders. We got a couple of AirNZ Airpoints as a bonus. Progress notifications were excellent with parcel-tracking available. The parcel arrived as packaged by Amazon in excellent condition. However, if YouShop had repackaged the shipment like USGoBuy did, we’d have paid NZ$22, saving NZ$9.50 on the shipping cost.

Parcel arrived at YouShop: 8am Friday, 30 October
Listed measurements: 35x25x9cm and 0.7kg
Payment made: 8.15am Friday, 30 October
Parcel delivered: 8am Thursday, 5 November
One shipping option: International postage, NZ$31.50

Trial #2

Consolidation: NZ$72.50
Packed size: 49x32x32cm, 1.7kg

YouShop offered just one option for the consolidated shipment, as in Trial #1. It informed us we’d save NZ$17.50 by sending the three parcels as a single shipment. The package arrived in excellent condition, but the box was enormous and mostly filled with air-cell padding. The three original packages were placed inside with all their original packaging. If the package volume had been minimised to the size shipped by USGoBuy, the dimensional weight would be 1.15kg and the YouShop shipping cost would have been NZ$26.75, saving us NZ$45.75.

YouShop was the cheapest and most efficient service for sending a single package, with good communications and tracking throughout. We liked the convenience and peace of mind from dealing with NZ Post. However, it wasn’t perfect: both packages could have been made smaller, with the consolidation shipment excessive in size, resulting in us paying much more than we needed to.

USGoBuy (usgobuy.com)

Trial #1

US to NZ delivery: 6 days, NZ$49.22.

The USGoBuy service was slightly more expensive than YouShop and just as quick to deliver – both packages arrived together. The cheapest shipping option had no insurance and warned of one to seven weeks for delivery, but was significantly cheaper than its other options. Payment was made with PayPal in US dollars. Annoyingly, the shipment was repackaged to half the size of the original after we’d paid, refunding some of the cost to our USGoBuy account – which can be used to pay for other shipments, or refunded to a credit card or PayPal account. Delivery updates and tracking information were very good. The parcel arrived in excellent condition.

Parcel arrived at USGoBuy: 11.30am Thursday, 29 October
Listed measurements: 14x10x4inch and 2lb (actual), 4.029lb (billable)
Payment made: 12pm Thursday, 29 October (including use of a US$2 welcome voucher)
Email 12.30pm Thursday, 29 October: shipment repacked to save US$4.94
Parcel delivered: 8am Thursday, 5 November
Five shipping options:

  • USPS First Class (1-7 weeks): US$30.46
  • USPS Priority (6-10 days): US$51.93
  • FedEx Intl Economy (2-5 days): US$60.62
  • DHL Express (1-4 days): US$64.07
  • USPS Express (3-5 days): US$65.56

Trial #2

Consolidation: NZ$40.53
Packed size: 30x16x12 cm, 660g

USGoBuy was the cheapest service for consolidated shipment. The least expensive of five shipping options was USPS First Class, the same service we used for Trial #1. The cost was indicated as US$50.22, but we were advised the shipment would be repackaged and savings refunded to our USGoBuy account. Repackaging reduced the shipment’s dimensional weight from 4lb to 1.45lb and the final cost to US$25.52. After applying the refund from Trial #1 and a US$5 welcome voucher, we paid NZ$24.74. The package arrived in very good condition, the smallest of the four, with packaging paper used to fill any excess volume in the box.

USGoBuy cost slightly more than YouShop to send a single package, but provided equally fast delivery. It excelled in the consolidation trial. However, we didn’t like paying before discovering we’d saved costs by repackaging, which were refunded to our USGoBuy account. For consolidating parcels, this is the service we’d use again.

Stackry (stackry.com)

Trial #1

US to NZ delivery: 16 days, NZ$59.84.

The least expensive Stackry shipping option was almost twice the YouShop cost. The cheapest shipping service it offered sounded reliable as it used DHL, then NZ Post. Payment was made with PayPal in US dollars. The parcel took 16 days to show up, but the service has very good communications at least – tracking shows the parcel passed through the UK en route to New Zealand! It arrived in the original Amazon packaging, a little bashed and squashed, but with the goods inside undamaged.

Parcel arrived at Stackry: 8am Friday, 30 October
Listed measurement: 13x10x4inch and 2lb
Payment made: 8.45am Thursday, 29 October
Parcel delivered: Friday, 13 November
Six shipping options:

  • Global mail direct – DHL and local carrier for last leg (6-15 days): US$38.78
  • DHL Express (3-8 days): US$45.43
  • USPS Priority (8-14 days): US$56.66
  • FedEx Intl Economy (3-8 days): US$64.20
  • FedEx Intl Priority (2-5 days): US$69.51
  • USPS Express (4-8 days): US$74.05

Trial #2

Consolidation: NZ$87.91
Packed size: 31x26x12cm, 710g

Its cheapest option, “Global Mail Direct”, was US$44.78. However, we paid a little extra for the “DHL Worldwide Express” service (US$56.13), as the previous time we used the cheapest Stackry option the parcel took 16 days to arrive. The consolidated parcel arrived just three days after payment was made. Stackry charges US$2 per package to consolidate into a single shipment – so the US$56.13 charge included a US$6 fee. We were given the option to keep or discard the retailer packaging – we discarded it to minimise shipping cost. The package arrived in excellent condition, with a good combination of space efficiency and protection for the contents - retailer packaging was removed and excess space was filled with three air-cells.

Stackry wasn’t the cheapest or fastest service for either of our trials. Its lowest cost shipping option took more than two weeks to deliver. The next option up – DHL – was faster, but both YouShop and USGoBuy offered comparable delivery times for much less.

Viabox (viabox.com)

Trial #1

US to NZ delivery: 19 days, NZ$118.42.

Viabox was the most expensive parcel-forwarder by far, almost four times the YouShop cost. The cheapest option was TNT Economy, with delivery estimated in three to five days, so we at least expected the parcel to arrive quickly – but it was the last to arrive. We weren’t happy compulsory insurance was an extra 70 cents and Viabox pre-ticked a box for an additional US$5 insurance (which we declined). Payment was made with PayPal in US dollars. After payment, the package sat with “processing” status for a week until we complained through its support system (for which we had to create a second user account). The status miraculously became “shipped” a day later.

Parcel arrived at Viabox: 2.30pm Thursday, 29 October
Listed measurement: 14x10x4inch and 2lb (actual), 5lb (billable)
Payment made: 3.10pm Thursday, 29 October
Parcel delivered: Monday, 16 November
Eight shipping options:

  • TNT Economy (3-5 days): US$71.04
  • DHL Express (2-3 days): US$74.52
  • TNT Express (2-4 days): US$100.62
  • FedEx Intl Economy (5-8 days): US$102.66
  • FedEx Intl Priority (3-5 days): US$110.31
  • UPS Expedited (5-7 days): US$147.96
  • UPS Express saver (4-6 days): US$157.71
  • UPS Express (5-7 days): US$163.44

Trial #2

Consolidation: NZ$231.40
Packed size: 27x25x10 cm, 700g

Nine days after our three parcels were sent to Viabox, and three days after we had confirmation from UPS that at least one had been delivered, there was no sign of them in our Viabox suite. We sent a support request to Viabox and, the next day, all three packages appeared. The least expensive option to send the consolidated shipment was TNT Economy at US$139.89. The most expensive was a whopping US$369.41! Viabox again added compulsory insurance and pre-ticked a second insurance of US$5, which we again declined. The final shipping cost was shown to save US$55.99 on the cost of sending three separate parcels. The shipment arrived in very good condition, repackaged to minimise excess volume, with no void-filling required.

In our opinion, Viabox is a parcel-forwarder to avoid. Its prices for both trials were significantly higher than the other services, and in reality we wouldn’t pay its shipping prices for the goods we sent. We wondered how it could offer the same or similar shipping options as Stackry and USGoBuy, for identical parcels, but at much higher prices. In both trials we had to complain to its customer services, and adding extra insurance fees really added insult to injury.

Our tips

  • US retailers often send goods domestically in oversized boxes. There’s not much you can do about it, but if possible, use a parcel-forwarder that repackages or see if the retailer can minimise its shipment size. For example, the single set of brake pads we ordered were shipped in a box that could fit a dozen sets of brake pads.
  • Use the calculators on parcel-forwarders’ websites to compare shipping options and prices before creating an account.
  • Be aware purchases from an overseas retailer won’t be covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act, and warranty may involve sending the goods back to the country of purchase.
  • You don’t need an account to use PayPal – it works with a New Zealand credit card just like any other online payment gateway.
  • Purchases from overseas may be charged GST and/or import duty. If the amount payable is more than $60, your parcel will be held up and you’ll need to pay an additional $49.24 in entry fees. Use Customs’ online calculator to work out if you’ll be charged, and how much.

Dimensional weight

Freight companies say dimensional (or volumetric) weight provides a more realistic cost to send large volume, lightweight packages by air. Dimensional weight is the package volume (length x width x height) divided by a “dimensional factor”.

The dimensional factor varies between freight companies, but 5000 for dimensions in centimetres and 139 for inches is common. When calculating shipping cost, the larger of the dimensional and actual weight is used.

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