Top 10 Questions to Ask Your International Moving Company

GoodMigrations Whale


It pays to hire the right international mover. A bad mover can cost you hundreds of dollars more than you planned for – there are plenty of horror stories out there of people who got low quotes and then had to shell out more money once their stuff was picked up, or of shipments getting moldy because they weren’t packed properly.

We’ve already talked about why you shouldn’t find an international mover using any of the popular review sites. But once you’ve done your research and found a handful of good movers, what questions should you ask to vet them?

In this post, we’ll share the top ten questions you need to ask any potential mover during the different phases of choosing who to hire. With the help from our international moving partners, we’ve compiled the best advice. 

Top 10 Questions to Ask Your International Mover
1. Are you licensed and insured?
This seems like one of those questions that is so basic it’s not even worth asking. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies in the moving industry that aren’t licensed.

You may be able to check this yourself on the website of the licensing body in your country, such as DOT or FMC in the United States. But if not, make sure you ask to see a copy. (Note: people often suggest asking if the mover is licensed and bonded – it’s this second part that is mostly useless).

Why do you care if the company is insured? Well, if anything crazy happens to the company – like it goes bankrupt – you want to make sure you’ll be covered.

2. Will a representative come to my residence for an in-home survey? 
“A reputable moving company will offer a free in-home survey to accurately determine the size of your shipment and other requirements in advance. All companies should offer this service and not simply send you a price without knowing the exact details of your move. “

– J.P. Specht
President/Owner, Laser International 

If a mover says they can’t send someone to your home, or they don’t need to, do not proceed with that mover. (There is an exception to this for small moves, i.e. 1 bedroom apartment and smaller, but for anything bigger you really want a professional to come and calculate the shipment size.)

3. What industry organizations are they members of?
Membership in an industry organization isn’t a guarantee that the mover is a great one, but it is an important symbol. Don’t just take the moving company’s word for it: go to the website of the organization and look them up.

4. What do I need to know about the customs process?
“How long can customs clearance take? What holds up customs clearance.”

– Anne Gigliotti
International Account Executive

There isn’t a “right” answer to this question. How long customs clearance takes depends on what you’re shipping and on the country – some countries are just more efficient than others. And what holds up customs will also differ slightly: some may be maniacal about dirt, or any kinds of plants or seeds, or wood furniture (because it can harbor insects). So why bother asking this question? First, it shows how knowledgeable (or not) your mover is about this part of the moving process. Second, it helps you do everything possible not to trigger a customs inspection, which delay your shipment by weeks or months, and cost hundreds of dollars.

Top 10 Questions to Ask Your International Mover

5. Are there things I can exclude that will significantly reduce the price?
Some things, like a long sofa, won’t fit in a lift van (a lift van is a type of big crate). This can change your shipping options and increase the price. There may be other items like this. Or perhaps if you removed a few boxes you’d be able to fit everything in one container. It’s worth asking this question to make sure you can think holistically about what you’re shipping and paying.

The flip side of this question is: What would the cost be if I have more stuff? Is there a fixed rate per pound/kilogram or cubic foot/meter you’ll be charged? Will they have to redo the whole quote?

6. What potential fees are not being shown on my quote?
Some movers leave fees off intentionally to artificially make their quote seem more affordable; some do it by accident. For example, one mover didn’t include anything about Terminal Handling Charges on their quote. When I inquired about it they confirmed it was included; it just wasn’t referenced in the documentation. Just to ensure there wouldn’t be any heartburn later, I had them add it in.

7. What does “x” mean?
“Ask to clearly explain the exclusions if there are terms you are not familiar with (NVOCC, Demurrage, DTHC…), and also ask for an estimate of those charges. Among the several quotes you have asked for, if only one does not have any clear additional charges in the exclusions, be careful someone is hiding something.”

– Philibert Challan Belval
General Manager

Understanding whats included and excluded in your quote is very important. Unless you work in the moving industry, you’re going to be seeing a lot of terms for the first time. If you don’t know what something means, just ask.

8. Do you know the ship date if I select you?
You don’t want to go with the lowest price and then learn your stuff will sit in a warehouse for weeks or months while the mover waits for a cargo ship.

Top 10 Questions to Ask Your International Mover
9. Do you provide insurance and, if so, what is the rate?
Most movers will offer you insurance when they send you the quote. Insurance is typically priced as a percentage of the total shipment value, or as a fee for every $1,000 in value. For example, if the shipment’s value is $10,000 and the percentage is 2%, then you’ll pay $200 to insure everything. Or if the insurance is $25 per every $1,000 insured, then you’ll pay $250.

I’ve seen some providers offer insurance for 5% of the shipment value and that’s just a rip-off. You can get third-party insurance for 1.5-2% of the value of the cargo. For most insurance companies 3% is standard. 

10. Who is my point of contact going forward?
An international move can involve up to three different moving companies: the local company you’ve contacted, the shipping agent who will actually transport your stuff across the ocean, and the mover at the destination who will get things to your new home. (This process is simpler if your new home just a truck drive away such as from the US to Canada, or France to Switzerland.) Make sure it’s clear who will be providing updates to you and who you can go to for questions. 

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What questions have you asked that you found very useful when hiring an international mover? Let us know and we’ll add it to this list!

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