How to choose an international moving company?

Moving is a time of change and challenge, self-discovery and cultural introspection – all the more so in the event of an international relocation. Moving abroad is one of the most trying and mind-opening experiences a person can have in life – one gets to explore an entire new world with its unique traditions and cultural practices, but also needs to get used to a completely new lifestyle and to comply with different social norms and values. To make things even more difficult, the practical aspect of the relocation process (dealing with all the required paperwork, finding trustworthy international movers, sorting out and packing one’s belongings, etc.) is much more complicated, time-consuming and troublesome as compared to a cross-country move.

So, when faced with an international move, your best chance to simplify the process, so that you can focus on getting yourself and your family ready for the radical change in your life instead of wasting precious time with laborious moving preparations, is to hire a reputable international moving company – the experienced professionals will take care of all the relocation tasks for you and will ensure safety, efficiency, and compliance with established international procedures and regulations.

But how to find top rated international movers? What to look for in an international moving company? Here are all the answers you need:

How to find a good international moving company?

Having a reliable partner for your international moving adventure is the main prerequisite for a successful and trouble-free relocation abroad. To make sure that you will pick one of the best international moving companies to help you move overseas, you need to:

1) Start early – there are hundreds of details to coordinate when moving to a new country, so the earlier you start searching for international movers, the easier it will be to find an affordable, trustworthy company that suits all your needs and requirements. Also, have in mind that it will take a month or so (maybe even longer) for your belongings to arrive at their final destination and plan your moving schedule accordingly;

2) Get recommendations – ask your friends, family members and co-workers if they can recommend some reliable international movers – ones they have used in the past or ones they have heard good things about. Check online moving reviews, forums, or blogs that will give you some insight into the best international moving companies;

3) Look for experience – one of the most important factors to consider when comparing international moving companies is the level of experience they have in dealing with international relocation. To ensure a smooth moving process, the company has to be familiar with the international freight laws, as well as with the specific relocation-related rules and regulations in your new country;

4) Get at least three separate on-site estimates – this way, you will have the opportunity to compare the rates and services provided by different international moving companies. Insist on an in-house estimate (not one given online or over the phone) to get a more accurate estimation of the final moving costs (the moving company representative will be able to see the actual items you have for moving, determine their weight, and include any relevant specifics in the final estimate) and to have the chance to ask all the questions you’ve got about the moving company and the moving process;

5) Compare the offers carefully – when comparing the received offers, do not look at the final price only – check what services are included, what time frame is quoted, what shipment method will be used, what company will handle your possessions in the destination country, etc. Have in mind that a lower price may mean lower quality services or possible moving scams;

6) Research your chosen international movers well before hiring their services – you need to make sure you’re dealing with insured and licensed moving professionals:

  • ask for accreditations – check the company’s licensing (an international moving company must be licensed by the Federal Maritime Commission in order to operate legally in the US) and membership in reputable international associations (FIDI, IAM, etc.);
  • ask for testimonials from previous customers and check the company’s complaint history.

7) Read the moving documentation very carefully – pay special attention to the fine print and make sure all the negotiated terms and conditions, required extra services and their corresponding charges, as well as the agreed time frame of your move and the final moving costs are clearly stated in the contract you are about to sign. Do not sign the contact unless you understand and agree with all the clauses in it and never ever sign incomplete or blank documents!

Have in mind though that you can’t be sure you have found the best international moving company for your particular relocation situation, unless you get satisfying answers to some important questions (you can ask those questions when the moving company representative comes to your home for a visual estimate or you can interview the movers over the phone).

Questions to ask international moving companies

Without a doubt, you’ll have plenty of questions regarding the details of your move and you’ll only achieve your piece of mind when you get all the answers you need. Do not hesitate to ask the international movers and packers about anything you don’t understand or you’re not sure about – the more you know, the better prepared you will be for your international moving adventure. Just make sure you don’t forget some of the really important questions:

1) How long has your company been in business and what experience do you have in overseas relocations? – You need to make sure that the movers you hire have a solid background and plenty of experience in handling international moves.

2) What is the company’s full name and address? Are you licensed for performing international moves? – You need to obtain the company’s name and contact information (not only its physical address but its telephone number, email address, and website as well) in order to verify that the movers are properly licensed to operate in the US and perform international moves and to make sure that you can reach them at any time during the relocation process. It is also a good idea to ask who will be your main point of contact throughout the move (someone who knows your situation and moving experience from start to finish) and whether you can track your shipment online.

3) How do you calculate the final moving costs? What services are included in the price and what services are considered extra services? How much do you charge for them? – International moving costs are based on the weight and volume of the shipped goods and the actual distance to the final destination but many other factors may also come into play when estimating the final price (complexity of the job, special handling or transportation requirements, specific laws and regulations in your new country, etc.). To get an accurate estimate you need to have a representative of the company come to your home, assess the actual amount of your shipment, and discuss all the details of your move with you (possible difficulties, special demands, required extra services and their charges, etc.).

4) Are there any items that the movers won’t take? – Request your chosen international moving company to provide you with a list of non-allowable items, so that you don’t waste time and effort preparing them for shipment (and have enough time to decide what to do with them as well). It is also advisable to contact the embassy of your future country and ask about any specific items that are not allowed to be imported in the country.

5) Can I pack my items myself? Are there any specific packing requirements? – Your best option when moving abroad is to have your belongings packed by the professional international mover and packers you’ve hired for your relocation needs (they will have specialized packing materials, will know how to ensure the safety of your items and how to pack them with maximum speed and efficiency, will assume liability for everything they have packed themselves, etc.). Just do not forget to make an inventory of the items being shipped and ask if you should do anything else in preparation for the packers. If you want to pack your belongings yourself, make sure you comply with all the pertinent requirements and standards. You can find more detailed information on how to pack your items for an international move here.

6) What about shipping valuable and/or delicate items (jewelry, artwork, family heirlooms, sensitive electronics and other extremely fragile or expensive items)? – You need to carefully research your options and find the best way to ship your valuables overseas.

7) How will my items be shipped? – You need to know if your belongings will be loaded in crates, if they will be shipped in separate containers or mixed with other people’s items, if they will be transported directly to your final destination and delivered to your door (door-to-door services), etc.

8) When will my shipment arrive? How long will customs take? What involvement will I have with customs? – Find out when to expect your shipment and whether you’ll have to be present for your goods to clear customs, as well as what paperwork you need to prepare.

9) Is storage included in the price and what storage options do I have? – You may have to put your items into storage for a while (until you find an appropriate new home in your new country, for example), so you need to know your options.

10) Who will handle my items in the destination country? – If your chosen international moving company uses subcontractors (destination movers) who will pick your shipment at the port and deliver it to your new home, you need to obtain as much information about them as possible, so that you can research them and make sure they are trustworthy and properly licensed professionals (besides, you’ll need their contact information to be able to reach them and specify the delivery details).

11) What are my insurance options? – Moving your belongings overseas will put them at a great risk, so it is very important to provide adequate insurance coverage. Ask your chosen international movers about the conditions and the extent of the liability coverage they provide and consider purchasing additional insurance, if necessary.

12) Can you provide references and credentials? – If many people have remained happy with the services of a certain international moving company, there is a good chance that you’ll be happy with them, as well.

RELATED USEFUL READS: How to prepare for moving abroad; How to ship a car overseas

May the tailwinds be with you when moving overseas!

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