There are many moving companies on the market:
Some offer service "door-to-door", i.e. they come to your house, pack everything in a container and bring it to your "new door".
You can also pack for yourselves and have the boxes picked up - which is what we did, and it is significantly cheaper than the complete packing service.
You also have the choice to bring your boxes to their storage spaces where they will be loaded into a container.
In Germany, you will have to go and pick them up from the german receiving company. So, naturally, "door-to-door" is preferable.
Volume, rather than weight of your belongings, is another factor in what you will be charged. Depending of the size (1/4, 1/2, or whole) of the shipping container, and of the level of service you require, the price will vary quite significantly (easily getting into the thousands of dollars for shipments between North America and Germany).
Most of moving companies use cargo ships for transport and they can give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to reach your new city. Be aware that your belongings must pass through German Customs and the companies can not do much about delays at this stage. So, it might take a little more time than they estimate.
Also, make sure to write down the room destination on every box and its number on a list that you keep with you. You can place a little star beside the number of very important boxes, and ask for "fragile" labels where necessary. Cross-check the box numbers with your list when they arrive. And if there were fragile objects in some boxes, you might want to open these first, to make sure they are intact.
Do NOT sign the delivery papers before you are certain every box is there and everything is in order. It is very difficult to claim for damages or missing items after having signed the official documents. Most people are honest and making a mistake is human, especially when dealing with thousands of boxes every week.
We were quite happy with the moving company we used, they arrived right on time to pick up our belongings and they are associated with other companies in Germany. It was one of these German companies which delivered to our door. They were rather helpful too, even though our goods arrived late, by about two weeks.
Also, for those of you who don't want to deal with moving companies directly, there are relocation companies that can take care of the moving arrangments and will look after all the necessary paperworks. Relocation companies can also help you get your residence permit (visa). Click on the links for more info about relocation companies and residence permit .
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