Sunday, November 25, 2018

How to ship a giant fiberglass statue

Congratulations! You've found that giant fiberglass statue you've always wanted and worked out payment arrangements. Now comes the tricky part - how the heck do you get it home?

Our muffler man Big George in a TX warehouse

This is a question we've asked ourselves many times and also been asked many times. Unfortunately, the short answer is, "It sorta depends."

One thing we've found in our collecting of fiberglass giants the past dozen or so years is that finding one even remotely close to where you live is akin to winning the lottery. Out of our current crop of 16 statues the only one we've found in our own town ended up being our smallest statue. In that case it was a piece of cake. We drove across town, threw it in the back of our station wagon and were home in an hour. Total cost - about $5.00 in gas.

Skunky Brewster - our local find.

In most cases transportation comes down to that classic dilemma of choosing two out of three options:
  • Fast
  • Good
  • Cheap
Let's assume your statue's shipping needs are similar to the majority we've experienced. It's somewhere between 6' - 20' tall, weighs between 60 - 300 pounds, and you'd like to get it home as soon as possible.

For us, we've determined that there are three realistic options for getting your new treasure home. We'll break those down below with our thoughts on what we like and don't like about these options.

A&W Papa Burger transport 2007

Using your own vehicle or a rental vehicle - the DIY method

This is the method we've used the majority of times and prefer if at all possible. Anything within 1000 miles of Portland, OR we tend to either drive our own (or a rental) and pick up the statue ourselves. Of the options we mentioned above this one works out to be fast and good. In some cases we've bought a one-way plane ticket to the nearest airport. picked up a rental truck in that town, loaded up the statue and then headed home.

Harbie the Seal. 1800 mile round-trip. Rental truck.

Lately we've preferred renting simply to cut down on mileage and other wear on our own vehicle. If it's a small statue like Harbie in the photo above, a pickup rental from Enterprise made the trip easy. One tip we have is to make sure the rental has a mileage allowance that fits with your trip - getting home and finding out you owe more than you budgeted stinks.

For large statues we've used both U-Haul and Penske. Both are available in a variety of sizes and most don't require a special license to drive. We recently completed a 4300 mile trip (dodging bad weather) in a 26' Penske. We have found that Penske prices can vary based on time of the month, location, and inventory at preferred rental location. We'd also suggest the optional insurance as most personal auto policies won't cover a rental truck, and if you're like us you don't have a ton of experience driving a gigantic truck cross-country. Also be prepared to get around 10 miles-per-gallon regardless of truck size.

26' Penske - these things are huge!

One of the many reasons we prefer the DIY method of statue shipping is you're able to make sure the statue is wrapped, loaded, and secured in a manner that you feel comfortable with. You've more than likely spent a fair chunk of money on the statue and in many cases even more than the statue itself to transport it so the last thing you want is someone flinging it in the back of a truck and letting it bounce around for several hundred or several thousand miles.

Some important things to be aware of when you're going the DIY route include:

Make sure you have sufficient help to get the statue in the truck. We've been stuck trying to wrangle one with just the two of us and frankly if not for the kindness of a stranger passing by the statue would have won that battle.

Bring a ton of moving blankets and ratchet straps. You can never have too many straps! If you need to lay the statue down be sure and lay blankets down first as the road vibration will wear away paint in any area that's touching a hard surface. Also, anywhere you wrap a strap around the statue make sure there's a blanket or other soft fabric under the strap.

This only works at 20 mph or less.

Will the statue be secure at night? If you're driving a box truck with a padlock on the door you should be fine. Just make sure any motel you choose has a lot large enough for your truck. If you're driving a pickup or towing an open trailer you'll have to decide your own comfort level. We always look at it in how quickly someone could steal the statue - smaller items tend to give us bigger concerns. On our last Harbie trip we spent one night with the statue getting a few less-than-perfect hours of sleep in a well-lit and well-traveled rest area. Do be prepared to wake up and find people standing next to your truck taking photos. A bit surreal to wake up to something like that...

If you're driving a 26' truck be prepared to have a much narrower range of fuel and dining options. We found that due to the height and huge turning radius of the truck many normal gas stations were a no-go. The same goes for many restaurants along the way. The easiest way was to just plan on fuel and food at your truck stop of choice. Also in most cases it was easiest to get diesel by going through the semi-truck pump island. If you're not used to these trucks, brace yourself the first time you fill up that 70-gallon tank.

Be prepared to be one of those trucks going 20 mph up any kind of hill. We just turned on our flashers and plugged along.

Wrapping up the DIY method we personally do feel it's the best option if at all possible. It's not cheap, but as you'll read below there really isn't a way we've found that would fall into that category with any kind of predictability.

uShip or something similar.

For those of you not familiar with uShip, it's a service where you list an item (size, weight, pick up and destination, etc.) and shippers bid to transport it. Over the years we've heard and read countless reviews of the service and to sum it up: it may go awesome or it may end up in swearing and tears. Using the two out of three formula from earlier, it actually breaks the mold in that it could be any of those three things as long as you put the word "sorta" in front of it.

We have used the service one time in the shipping of our muffler man from Texas to Oregon. We'd rate that experience as less than positive. For starters, be prepared for bids much higher than white-glove professional moving companies. Also, when we used the service we were not able to contact any bidder until we accepted a bid. After finally accepting a bid for a "blanket wrap in enclosed trailer" transport, we agreed upon a pick up date. We got a text when the shipper was onsite and loading our statue, but several hours later we received a call from the seller saying he had concerns with our shipper. Not the news you're hoping for. We finally reached the shipper on the phone and it turns out he had accepted other shipments and had filled his trailer before picking up our statue. He assured us he could make it work and would let us know when he was on the road. The photo below is the one he sent us to let us know all was good.

Not what we had discussed

Upon receiving the photo we quickly realized we had vastly different ideas of "all good." To begin with, we had paid extra for enclosed transportation - strike one. To secure this fiberglass Jenga he had cranked down numerous straps across the legs which in turn proceeded to crush the torso like an egg - strike two. We had a predetermined delivery date so we could be present for delivery. That date changed numerous times with the final delay caused by the shipper stopping at his house for several days before making the final trip to our place - strike three.

We know some of you have had great experiences with the service and that's fantastic. Our issue is that unless you're working with a shipper you know or one that comes personally recommended it's too much of a gamble. These statues are big, bulky and very fragile and it's too easy to damage them if you're not familiar with handling them.

Professional moving services.

This method is one that we're not as familiar with outside of a couple local moves. These providers range from established moving companies to companies that specialize in high value fine art and artifacts. Quotes we have received for a single large statue have been anywhere from a few thousand to many thousands of dollars. If you've bought a very expensive statue and your budget allows, this may be an option to consider. Services can include removal of the statue, packing and crating, warehousing and more. If this is something that works for you you can start by doing an online search for "fine art" or "artwork" moving services. You can generally find numerous reviews for each company.

The joy of watching someone else do the work

Misc. methods.

Occasionally you may find a small statue that the seller is willing to ship via a commercial freight company. Something we learned after the first time was to be sure and discuss their packing methods before the item ships. Our first shipped statue was from a dealer that had sold several fiberglass pieces so we just assumed all would be well. The item was shipped from NJ to OR. Below is how the statue arrived. To this day we have no idea how it made it here.

Somebody order a head in a box?

Our next statue that was shipped commercially came beautifully wrapped and secured to a pallet. You just never know.

We hope this post helped take some of the mystery out of wrangling these guys around the country. Just keep in mind that you'll need a bit of help, a little creativity, a sense of adventure, and a desire to own a piece of history.

Once you get them home you'll forget about the lack of sleep, the bleary eyes, the sometimes jaw-dropping amount of money it cost to get them transported, and eventually you'll even forget that weird guy you saw at the truck stop in Texas.

We'd love to hear your tips and stories regarding moving these guys around. Let us know in the comments how you got yours home.

Mission accomplished

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

1 comment:

Debra Jane Seltzer (aka agilitynut) said...

Fantastic! This is a great go-to article for anyone contemplating purchasing a statue. Very handy esp. with the Magic Forest auction going on. Most people haven't a clue about the expense of removing/shipping signs & statues. It's great that you shared your experiences and info with the world.