Shipping expert: Buying in US export stores

Vol XXXII: Through research, I've found that it is cheaper to buy appliances in export stores and have them shipped from the US than buy them new here. What is your view on this?

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For Shipping resources click here. Shmuel Mantinband works with Unigroup UTS Sonigo, partners in the parent company of Mayflower and United Van Lines. He still remembers with great pain his lifts when he made aliya over 30 years ago. Send us your questions for Shmuel. * * *
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  • Volumes XXVI-XXIX Vol XXXII Q: We've been in Israel for 23 years. The major appliances that we shipped when we had Oleh rights (e.g. washer, dryer, refrigerator) are showing their age. Ever since our appliances were new, as an electrical engineer, I've installed and serviced them myself. I just asked some local dealers for a price quote on an American-style gas dryer and I was quoted 6500-7500 shekels. Browsing the Internet I see that similar models in export stores in the States cost about $800 + shipping + taxes. If I read the customs tables correctly, taxes on US-origin appliances are only about 15% VAT these days. Multiplying this out seems to imply a tremendous advantage to shipping my own, especially if I ship 3-4 appliances in one shipment, I travel a lot so I can pop into a store in New York, and I do all the installation myself. What's your view on this? A: Dear Sam, In this case, let me start with a "fair disclosure" statement...I am a shipper and have an interest in your shipping as much as possible. So you may want to take my comments with the proverbial...grain of salt. However, you have done the right exercise. You have checked prices here, gone on the internet and checked prices in the States. The only number you are missing to complete the comparison is cost of shipping. I always recommend getting prices from at least two shipping companies (best if you call companies recommended by people who have used them) and be absolutely certain all costs are included - especially port charges in Israel. You would then add the shipping cost to the cost of the items and then have a fair price comparison. Most appliances sold by 220 volt stores in the States come with a guarantee or service contract. You should verify this even though you are an engineer and can probably take care of this yourself. You may be able to save money if you feel comfortable forgoing the service contract. You are right about the taxation, if and only if, the items you want to ship are made in the States. In order to enjoy the Customs exemption and not pay Customs Duties, you will need an original Certificate of Origin for the Free Trade Agreement Between the US and Israel. Please note, this is a special Certificate of Origin and it is the only one accepted by Israeli Customs. In addition to the original Certificate of Origin, Customs requires the original invoice for items you are importing. The Certificate of Origin is prepared by the Chamber of Commerce. Your shipper, manufacturer or appliance store may be able to get the Certificate of Origin for you. Finally, I touched on this above, but I must emphasize what may be obvious…Israel is on a 220 volt system while the US and Canada are on a 110 volt system. Unless you want to use a very big and heavy transformer, you can only buy the specially manufactured 220 volt appliances. Keep in mind Europe is also on a 220 volt system so you may want to look at buying appliances as well. Good luck and I hope your comparison will show it make sense to ship a lot! * * * Vol XXXI Q: I am making aliyah this summer and have no big items that I need to bring with besides my bicycle. What is the best way to get it to Israel (Jerusalem) quickly and cheaply? Should I fly it over on the plane or ship it? I plan on sending several shipments, but not until I have been in Israel for about six months, would sending the bicycle count against my 3 oleh shipments? A: Bringing a bicycle to Jerusalem will guarantee you keep in long as you keep on riding it! First of all, if this is the only item you want to ship - then, yes, bringing it with you on the plane is the way to go. You will pay overweight and since it is coming with you, it will not count as one of your three "tax free" shipments. You should probably check with your airline as to any limitations they may have on size or weight. But, I do want to address an issue you touched on. If you send the bicycle via air freight or by sea, it would definitely count as one of the three "oleh" shipments (unless you paid taxes on it.) This holds true for a package sent in the post or via courier as well. If you avoid paying taxes on any shipment by having it declared as an oleh shipment, you will have used up one of your three tax free shipments. This may not be a problem as long as you do not want to make another lift before your third anniversary of your aliyah. But if you do...something sent by the post and declared as an oleh shipment could then make you pay customs duties on the next shipment. Please be aware so you do not "waste" a shipment. Q: I was wondering how one ships envelopes, small and large packages from Israel to other countries aside from using the Post office. In the US we have a Mailboxes etc/UPS store as an alternative and was wondering if they have that in Israel as well. I know that Israel uses Fed Ex, DHL and UPS but are there branches and stores for people to go to for shippng stuff out? A: Sending packages and envelopes is indeed commonly done from the post office. In Israel, many and perhaps most post offices are privately run businesses - a franchise if you will. As a result you may find them offering other and unrelated products and services. There are not many Mail Box Etc offices here. I have seen a few of them in Israel, but they are not everywhere as they are in the States. UPS, Fedex and other courier services have their own offices where you can also drop off packages and envelopes. * * * Vol XXX Q: We are planning on making Aliyah this summer. We don't want to ship our whole house. Besides electric equipment, power tools, art, and china, we have only a beautiful dining table with chairs, a coffee and two beautiful end tables, and about five nice lamps that we really would like to keep. They say shipping is between $3 and $5 a pound from Alaska. I have been wondering if it is really worth it to send the furniture or try to save money and buy new in Israel and possibly use UPS for our other stuff instead of Mayflower. Is it worth it to send our microwave or better to buy another one there? What about gas washing machine, dryer, and oven? Send he bed frames or is there lumber where I can build new ones there? Thank you for any advice you can give. A: I am very impressed! I don't handle many olim from Alaska...maybe I should say not enough olim.... Anyway, you ask a very important question. Besides shipping items of nostalgic and sentimental value, when you talk about furniture, I always recommend shipping only, good-quality furniture. Pressed wood or particle board furniture does not disassemble, travel or reassemble well. Good furniture, if wrapped and packed well, does travel well. You can buy virtually everything in Israel today...the question is - at what price and with what quality. When you are calculating how worthwhile it is to ship, you have to compare the cost of shipping something you own, with the cost of buying something similar in Israel. If you are considering buying items in the States, you might consider buying them on the Internet and having them shipped to a New York or Miami shipper. New York and Miami are probably the least expensive port cities for shipping to Israel. This is particularly relevant when you live far away from a port city with regular vessels to Israel. You can also check costs of similar items in Israel at This price comparison site while unfortunately, in Hebrew, is still a very good source of information. When comparing, don't forget, many of the items on zap have a delivery charge added as well. I am hesitant to say a particular appliance is worth shipping or not...(fair disclosure) please remember I am a shipper and I have an interest in your shipping as much as possible. That is why I recommend checking on the internet to compare prices in Israel vs. prices in Israel. The above comments are applicable to an oleh from almost any place. Coming from Alaska will involve higher shipping costs than from most other places, but you will be able to calculate the shipping cost once you have quotes from a couple of shipping agents. All the best, Shmuel Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer. Send your comments >>
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