If you're at the stage of getting quotes from international removals companies then here are some important questions to ask potential shippers. This list of questions isn't exhaustive, but it should at least start some valuable conversations that will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the service being offered and the company providing it.
Questions to ask household shipping companies
Are the Shipping Company FIDI FAIM Certified?
FIDI FAIM is the only quality standard specifically designed for international shipping. It's a bit like the 'gas safe' register for Plumbers and helps give you peace of mind that you're entrusting a reputable company. Achieving the certification shows you a shipping company has been pre-vetted by independent auditors to meet the standards of services required and has all the appropriate licenses and permits in place.
What is the transit time for your shipment?
Is the transit time they are giving you door to door or is this the sailing time? Make sure you understand how long you'll likely be without your stuff. The shipper should be able to give you the sailing time plus typical timescale before departing (collection, loading) and after arriving at port (customs clearance, delivery.) TIP: If you're happy to have a slower overall transit time ask if there are any options available to save you some money. A shared container or a slower sailing (where a ship takes more detours) might be available for you. Some companies will provide online tracking as part of the shipping process.
What is the method of shipment?
Is your container exclusive use or shared (shipping by air is a whole different topic which we will cover in another blog)? If shared is this being sent via a consolidator or as groupage? This will possibly have implications on the timescale (as above). It’s important to check the global reach to ensure that your destination is covered.
Is the quote door to door and what does it include/exclude?
Are there any charges you might face that won't be included in the quote? This can vary between moving companies so make sure to find out if anything is excluded, for example, customs inspections (typically excluded). TIP: If you don't know some of the information about your move yet, ask what their quote assumes, for example, if you don't have a destination address what mileage from the port is covered in your quote? This helps you understand the scope of potential additional charges if something changes. It could also be advisable to find out if the company works with any third parties.
Are they a British Association of Removers (BAR) Overseas member? If not, how is my advance payment protected?
The British Association of Removers Overseas members offers an advance payment guarantee for your move, meaning if the worst happens and the company goes out of business during your move you won't be at a financial loss if you've already paid. Either another BAR mover will step in and complete the service OR you'll be refunded. Members must also comply with a code of conduct helping to ensure you receive a professional standard of service, with independent dispute resolution if you're not happy with how any complaints are dealt with.
What does your insurance cover?
As with quotes, insurance policies tend to vary by company. Some are all risks cover, some total loss, some include pairs and sets, mould and mildew and mechanical derangement cover, others ask for an additional premium to cover these risks, some policies require you to pay the first part of a claim (The excess) others don't. Make sure you understand your level of protection.
Can they offer storage (if you might need it)?
If you're planning to stay in temporary accommodation while looking for a new home and you think you might not be ready for delivery as soon as your shipment arrives you might need it to be stored for a while. If so, can your removal company arrange this and what are the costs?
What paperwork will you need to complete and what's the customs clearance process?
This should be the same answer for every company but is a good way to test their expertise and find out what assistance can they give you with what can be a complex process. Even in instances where they legally can't complete documents for you, do they provide the forms? Will they explain how to fill them out and guide you on when to do it?
How will the Removals crew handle items you're concerned about?
Have you got any belongings you're worried about? e.g. fragile/valuable items? Would they suggest they crate them or use any special packing methods/materials? How on earth are they going to get your chandelier out? How will they make sure your mercury barometer isn't damaged? They should be able to provide reassurance to you that they are experienced and knowledgeable in handling requirements like yours.
What's the move plan?
How many days will it take them to pack and load? Does this work for you? If you'd prefer another schedule just ask if it's feasible they can probably make adjustments to their typical plan, although be aware it might affect your costs.
What do you need to do in advance of move day?
Will you be responsible for booking parking if you're in a restricted area or reserving spaces if it's a shared parking area? Who will dismantle any items of furniture that need taking apart to move? Are you doing any of the packing? What are their tips for being ready for the crew to arrive?
How soon do you need to book your removals dates in?
What happens if they change? What's the cancellation or postponement policy once you've booked? How long is your quote valid for? Is it fixed as long as your dates don't change? If you don't know your dates yet, after what period would your quote possibly change? (Note: The industry is seasonal so summer moves often cost more, shipping lines can also change their rates and currency fluctuations can affect costs too, so most movers fix their quotes based on either a set move date or a period of time).
Is there anything in your house that you can't take when you move abroad?
Each country has a list of restricted and prohibited items. Ask your shipping company if there is anything you should be aware of that might be on prohibited/restricted lists or would potentially attract additional costs (e.g. cleaning outdoor items thoroughly for countries where biosecurity is a high priority, or taking religious material into some countries in the middle east).
Where can you read reviews and previous international moving customer testimonials?
Ask if they can point you in the direction of any independent reviews services their customers use for example Which? Trusted trader or the British Association of Removers 'ReferenceLine' service. If they don't use independent review websites do they have reviews on their site or can they put you in touch with previous customers who can help you understand what the move experience is like?
Check out the Ultimate Guide On How To Move Your Belongings Overseas to find out everything you need to know about finding and using a professional overseas mover.