A quick online search for 'international removal companies' will return 1000's of results - so how do you know which are the best?
Luckily there are lots of qualified, reputable International Movers based in the UK that will give you a great move experience. However, there are also lots that don't seem to provide a great service and some that are complete scammers!
In this guide, we'll tell you how to navigate the process of finding and choosing a reputable company so that you can minimise the risk of a bad moving experience, and get the most value for the money you invest in your move by selecting the best International Removal Company for you.
how to select the best international removal company for you
- Decide what International Moving Services you need
- Shortlist reputable International Removal Companies to invite to quote
- Book pre-move surveys
- Compare your quotes
- Make your selection.
Here's what you need to know at each step.
Step 1 - Decide what moving services you need
To help you shortlist you need to know what services you want your potential shipping company to provide. Here's some typical services provided by international movers to consider:
- Full container shipping services - typically used by those shipping their entire household
- Shared container services (also known as 'groupage' or 'part load') - typically used for moving smaller properties or part households.
- Air freight services - often used as an add-on to a sea shipment for urgent items you require quickly, like baby equipment, clothes or work tools.
- Vehicle shipping - if you want to take a car, motorbike, boat etc.
- Packing services - including crating options for fragile/high-value items
- Handyman services to take down curtain poles or dismantle and reassemble larger items or help you get everything set up in your new home.
- Storage (in the UK or at destination)
- Pet relocation
Some International Movers even offer things like help finding your new home or schools for your kids, arranging car rentals, utility connections, expat insurance and currency exchange etc. Check out our full guide to what services international removals companies provide.
Once you know roughly what you're looking for, it's time to start your shortlist.
Step 2 - Shortlist the best International Removals companies for you
A search for international removal companies online will bring up 1000's of results, so you'll want to whittle this down to around 3 - 4 to get formal quotes from.
Here are some ideas to whittle that number down:
1) Ask for recommendations
from friends, colleagues or family who you know have moved internationally before, or search an online expat community like British Expats.
2) Professional associations
In the UK there are two main professional associations for the international moving industry (a bit like the Gas Safe register for plumbing). They both have directories of members that are pre-vetted to meet stringent quality standards.
FIDI is the largest global alliance of professional international moving and relocation companies, what’s more, every FIDI affiliate must comply with the rigorous FAIM quality standard, generally accepted as the leading professional industry standard worldwide. The FAIM Standard defines consistent quality requirements a company must comply with in its operations, administration and performance taking into account procedures, staff training, vehicles and facilities to ensure they are qualified to provide International Removals services to an acceptable standard or higher.
The BAR is the leading professional association of Removal Companies in the UK and sets minimum standards and a code of conduct to ensure you get a great service. This online directory combines a list of pre-vetted members with reviews from previous customers allowing you to get independent feedback on the company you’re considering. Make sure you look for members who display the 'Overseas Remover' badge as this site combines the UK and International companies together.
How do I decide whether to shortlist a company or not?
- Do they specialise in International Removals - Overseas moving is very different to local moving - look for a mover who regularly handles international moves and has the knowledge, skills and experience to ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Are they qualified for International Moving? - are they a member of FIDI FAIM and/or BAR Overseas?
- Do they provide the services you need?
- Do they cover your location?
- Do they have good reviews? - check out independent review sites like Trustpilot.
Should I get ball-park quotes from lots of companies to whittle down my final 3?
We don't think it's a great idea to get ballpark quotes to decide which companies to shortlist. This is because quotes for international removals require a really good understanding of your individual requirements, and are highly personalised. Ball park quotes won't be accurate and you could end up ruling out a great moving company who didn't low ball you only to later find out the cheaper movers prices increase significantly when you get a formal quote.
Should I use a comparison site?
Generally, in the moving industry, comparison sites won't give you instant quotes. There are lots of ‘broker’ sites out there that take your details and sell them to multiple movers and you'll usually get calls from around 6 if not more to arrange quotes. This is fine and a way to save time but may not mean you’re getting access to the whole of the market (in a similar way that not all car insurance companies are on comparison websites).
You should also make sure to do your quality checks on the companies selected by the broker site before accepting any quote as their listing on a broker site does not guarantee their standing as a reputable mover and the broker will usually take no liability if things go wrong.
3. Arrange pre-move surveys
The purpose of a pre move survey is to get the information needed to give you a fixed price, accurate quote and put together a move plan.
It's also your opportunity to understand more about how your move might work and make sure the mover understands what's important to you.
Typically during the pre-move survey the surveyor will want to:
- Understand what’s important to you and answer any questions you have.
- Explain how an overseas move with their company works, the services they provide and the options for a move plan that might work best for you.
- Make a list (inventory) of the furniture and personal effects you'll be moving with you that allows them to calculate the volume so they know the vehicle or container size, crew and packing materials required for your move which all contribute to your price.
- Check access to make sure they account for any challenges.
- Advise you on what you can and can't take based on the import rules and regulations of your destination country, as well as on what you might want to consider taking/not taking based on their experience and knowledge.
Some companies will offer in-home surveys, others virtual using your smartphone or tablet. Some will let you choose!
Top tips for getting the most out of your international removals home survey:
- Tell the removals consultant everything - from move dates (if you know them) to access information, things you're concerned about and how you'd like it to work. The more the consultant knows the more accurate the quote will be and the smoother your move experience will be too!
- Show them everything that needs to be moved - open cupboards and show garages, lofts and outdoor spaces so they can make an accurate evaluation of what resource they need. Don't forget to tell them if you'll be buying anything new before move day.
- Tell them what you don't want to be moved - to make sure everything goes to the right place and that you don't end up paying for things you don't need to!
- Point out special care/valuable items - these may need a little extra protection or special handling.
- Tell them what help you need - do you want packing or are you happy doing your own? would a handyman save you time dismantling things in advance?
- Don't avoid tricky situations! - not all moves are straightforward and it's important the mover can plan for anything tricky. If you had to remove a window to get the sofa in, likely you'll need that going out too.... don't be tempted to hide things like poor access, restricted parking or tricky items to get a lower quote. Additional charges or stress on move day could cost you a lot more!
- Ask questions - make sure you're comfortable with what the process involves and how they will make it a great move for you.
4. Compare quotes
Comparing the quote isn't just about price - you need to ensure the services provided, the schedule of the move and the quality of moving services you'll receive meet your expectations as well as your budget.
Here are some things to check:
The scope of services:
- Volume - if this is significantly different review if it's been calculated differently and ask to see inventory lists to make sure no one has missed something.
- Door-to-door service (if a quote is only door to port then you may incur additional charges at destination for final delivery to your new home)
- Packing services - is packing included? Are packing materials supplied? Are any items being crated or requiring specialist packing?
- Transit time - how long is the estimated door-to-door schedule? (if you want to know more about this check out our blog 'how long do international removals take')
- What costs have been included regarding customs clearance, and what additional costs might be incurred?
- Insurance - do they offer insurance and what does it cover?
The quality of services:
- What are their quality accreditations? (find out more about which certifications an international moving company should have.
- Are moving crews trained for specialist international moving skills to protect your items on long and sometimes rough journeys by sea?
- Do they use specialist packing materials and methods for transport by sea?
- What assistance will they provide with customs documentation? Do you have a dedicated person to help you plan for your move?
- Who is their destination moving company partner and are they qualified/accredited?
- How has your experience been with them so far?
- What do previous customers say in their reviews? (Check out independent review sites like Trustpilot).
- Do they offer an advance payment guarantee?
For more information check out our guide to comparing international removals quotes.
However tempting it is no decision should be purely price driven. Look for value for money based on what you can afford and what you’re prepared to pay to meet your moving goals - are there additional safeguards, services or credibility that one mover has over another that adds value to you in terms of peace of mind and lower risk?
Cutting corners to get a cheaper price could result in:
- Damage or Loss which means time-consuming claims process or worse, not getting your money back at all.
- Stress during your move if something goes wrong and your company doesn't have the resources or experience to respond quickly.
..and don't forget to include insurance costs
When you do your financial comparison include the cost of insurance if this is a service you are going to accept. Typically insurance premiums are based on a % of the value of your belongings. Check the level of cover you are being offered.
5. Choose the best international removal company FOR YOU
The truth is, there is no single BEST international removal company in the UK.
There are several really great ones (we'd like to think Bournes are one of them, and based on our Trustpilot reviews our customers tend to agree).
If you’re happy that multiple moving companies you've had quotes from are offering you the same level of service, the same level of quality and the same volume and rough price then I’m afraid there is no magic formula for making your decision and it will be down to your personal preference.
Who made you feel most comfortable dealing with the process so far? Who has given you the most confidence, who do you trust? The culture of a company will determine their processes and customer experience and your experience so far is a good indicator of what your experience will be like once you’ve booked, so, who do you want to work with?
For more information about international removal companies and how they work check out our Ultimate Guide to International Removal companies.
Ready to get quotes?
If you're moving from the South East of England, we'd love to provide you with a free no obligation quote. You can start by requesting your free pre-move survey here.