An international move is often a long and stressful process. Most importantly, it's a costly affair and you can't waste your money on a subpar moving company who may charge you too much or end up damaging your belongings.
In order to find trustworthy international moving companies you must know the questions you need to ask, including those about quotes, references, and other information to ensure that your items are safe from the time they leave their port of origin to the time they reach their destination. You also need to learn how to tell if an international mover is genuine and conforms to all industry standards.
Here are some tips you should follow to find reliable international movers and avoid moving scams:
1. Take your time to do thorough research
There are a lot of things you need to do before moving to another country, but it all starts by doing thorough research and planning. Remember that you will need more than one day to finalize your move, so take your time and be patient. Don't rush through your research and make sure to find out all important aspects of a prospective company such as how many years it's been active for, what are its areas of services, and what is its reputation in the industry. At the end of your research, you should have at least three to four international moving companies to choose from.
2. Check the company's licenses, certifications, and affiliations
All reliable international moving companies should have all the following memberships and affiliations to be considered trustworthy:
- Fédéderation Internationale des Déménageurs Internationaux (FIDI): FIDI is an alliance of international moving companies that specialize in moving household goods from one country or continent to another while conforming to the best quality standards. An international mover accredited by FIDI ensures seamless and dependable delivery of your belongings.
- Registered International Mover (RIM): RIM is a certification provided by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) that has established universal standards for international moving companies and their personnel. To receive a RIM certification, a company must meet the standards for equipment and facilities to handle quality international household goods relocation safely and efficiently.
- Overseas Movers Network International (OMNI): OMNI is a global network of professional companies in the moving industry. OMNI movers are committed to delivering relocation services while mitigating the possibility of any corruption or risk.
- ISO 9001 quality management system (QMS): This sets the benchmark for companies that abide by quality management principles like focusing on customers and delivering top-quality services.
- Federal Maritime Commission (FMC): The FMC is responsible for ocean transport. It creates and enforces regulatory shipping laws and handles:
- Ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, ports, and ocean transportation intermediaries
- The implementation of fair and regulated practices
- Trade monitoring
- Integrating the laws and practices of foreign governments
- Verifying carriers and their tariffs
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) Ratings: If you want to ensure that the international mover you are considering hiring is trustworthy, look for its ratings on Better Business Bureau. BBB assigns ratings to the companies ranging from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
3. Ask for quotes and compare
Always ask the international mover for quotes and do a detailed comparison from at least three to four companies. Without comparing you won't be able to make an informed decision. Also, make sure that the movers don't charge you for providing quotes. At Movers.com, you can get access to free estimates from up to seven reliable international movers by filling out a form on the website. An important tip is to look for a company that offers value instead of picking the one that gives you low-ball estimates.
4. Check reviews and recommendations
When researching prospective moving companies, be sure to find out just how many moves the company has under its belt and how many international offices it has. Additionally,
you should check for the company's reviews posted by other customers. You can also rely on recommendations by your family and friends if they have had a satisfactory moving experience. Some online forums are also available to get feedback and ratings.
5. Make sure the overseas shipping company is not blacklisted
When it comes to picking an international moving company, you'll want to be sure you have a reliable one and not one that has a bad track record. Checking if a company is blacklisted is good to do before you hire an international mover. There are plenty of websites you can check that will give you a list of endorsed companies and a list of blacklisted companies to help you narrow down your search.
For example, Ripoff Report is a consumer reporting website where individuals can share bad experiences. You can also read real customer experiences in the Movers.com review section.
6. Ask your overseas mover the right questions
Knowing the right questions to ask any international moving company will ensure that your move is pulled off smoothly and without mishap. Before hiring any potential company to handle your upcoming international relocation, be sure to inquire about the following:
How is pricing determined?
International moves are typically calculated by the volume and weight of your goods, but there are many other charges that may be included in the pricing like destination port fees, terminal handling charges, customs fees/duties, crating charges, custom inspection charges, customs clearance, delivery-to-door charges, packing materials, and extra fees for oddly-shaped or unusually heavy items.
TIP: These prices are not necessarily included in the written estimate so be sure to ask about these additional fees.
Who will come to give your in-house estimate?
An employee of an international moving company should be the only one coming to answer your questions about pricing, packing procedures, and other details of your overseas move. A broker cannot and should not be the one coming to your house to assess your goods and provide you an estimate. Brokers cannot give you a proper estimate and are not liable if anything happens to your goods during transport.
How much experience/training should international movers have?
It goes without saying that the more experienced a mover is in handing international relocation, the more likely it is that your move will be successful. Don't simply hire any old mover. A company that specializes in international relocation is better suited to move your belongings internationally.
TIP: For a better understanding of the company's experience, ask how many international moves they've performed within the past year.
Will your goods be shipped directly?
Find out if the freight forwarding company used to transport your goods will ship them directly to your destination or if they will change vessels at some point during the trip. The more your belongings are shifted, the more the risk of damage or loss will increase.
Who is the company's overseas partner?
While one company will be responsible for loading and transporting your goods to the nearest port for shipping, another will be at your destination country to pick up your shipment. This is referred to as a Destination Agent. When receiving your quote from the Origin Agent (the company that handles the pickup of your goods) you should find out more about the company that will be handling your shipment once it arrives so you can check their background and references and ask the international movers any questions you need to about the import duties and regulations in your destination country.
Do they offer customs brokering?
A customs broker prepares your documents, calculates your taxes/duties, and makes sure your shipment clears customs. Many companies do offer this service, but some don't, so it's a good idea to figure out if the company you are choosing does this.
TIP: Hiring a professional to take care of your customs brokering will decrease the chances of you making a costly mistake when importing goods.
Who will be accountable for your belongings once you've arrived overseas?
Many companies partner with moving companies located in your destination country. Speak with the moving companies you are interviewing and find out which company they have partnered with, how to contact them, and what the process is to get the belongings to your new home.
TIP: Make sure the services they offer are clear and that they will deliver your belongings in a timely manner.
Do you have to be present for the goods to clear customs?
Some countries require the owner of the goods to be present for the belongings to clear customs. Be sure to discuss this with the movers when scheduling your delivery date. If you are not there to receive your items, they will sit at the port pending customs clearance.
What are your storage options?
Make sure you ask the company if they provide storage service in your new country of origin. Many international movers have warehouses where you can store your belongings, but you'll have to book your space in advance.
What are your insurance options?
Having good insurance for your international move is a must. Your items will be traveling a very long way and you want to be sure they are adequately protected for their long journey. Ask the overseas movers what insurance plans they offer but be prepared to pay more per pound than you would for a domestic move. Familiarize yourself with the extent of your coverage and conditions for liability; for example, ask if you'll be covered for items you packed yourself.
Will your items be loaded in crates?
Depending on your shipment size and how the packed things have been arranged, your items will either be loaded into crates within a shipping container or they'll be packed loosely in a container. Be sure you know which option you agreed upon with your moving company. If you are loading your items loosely into a container, your items will be more likely to shift around during transit and thus be more susceptible to damage.
TIP: If you're sending fragile things or a lot of furniture, ask for your items to be crated.
Who loads the shipping containers?
The shipping containers will be loaded by the company you choose depending on their size and capacity. If the company is small, a third party may be hired for the loading job.
TIP: If a third-party company is used, be sure to vet the company to make sure they're as reliable as the moving company.
Is the moving company licensed and insured?
Make sure the company you have selected is licensed and insured. It may seem like overkill, but if they don't have coverage, your international move could be hindered.
Will the movers take photos of the shipment?
We all know that actions speak louder than words. The same goes for moving companies. They may talk a good game, but can they follow through? Prior to booking an international mover, ask them if they take pictures of the shipment to prove they are doing everything they said they would do; this will add some accountability on the movers' end and will help weed out movers that won't handle your belongings well.
TIP: Also remember to ask the international moving company for a time frame for the photos via email so you receive the images quickly.
Is the moving company willing to provide references?
Reading testimonials on a company's website is a good way to find reliable international movers but that's not enough. Look for a company that is ready to provide you some references so that you can verify their details like work experience. You can also ask the international movers how long they have been doing business in the moving industry and how many international moves they have handled in the past.
Will there be a single point of contact throughout the process?
Scheduling an overseas move is hard enough, so you shouldn't have a phone book of people you need to contact in order to find out where your belongings are. To make the process smoother and less stressful, pick just one individual from the moving company who is the most familiar with the process from beginning to end. Dealing with someone you've spoken to throughout the process is going to make you feel more comfortable when it's time for the movers to hand over your belongings.