When you move your stuff to a new country a lot can happen from the time the movers pack up your things to the time they deliver them to your new home: boxes get lost, dishes get broken, furniture can get moldy sitting in a damp storage unit. For all these reasons, it's a good idea to get insurance (and some movers won't take your stuff without it).
There are several ways to obtain overseas moving insurance:
Typically, homeowner's and renter's insurance policies will not cover international moves, but it's worth asking your insurer. If they say it's covered make sure you get confirmation in writing. If not, you have two insurance options for your stuff:
Total Loss insurance is the cheaper option, but will only compensate you if your shipment is 100% damaged or lost and will not cover for individual items. If you pack your own goods, aka Packed By Owner (PBO), you generally can only get this type of insurance. The reason is that most people are not experienced packers, so the contents are more likely to be damaged.
All Risk insurance is the most comprehensive insurance coverage but can only be purchased if your shipment is packed by professionals. This policy covers both individual items (e.g. a mirror gets broken) and the total shipment for all types of damage and loss. The insurer may specifically exclude some items or types of damage in its Terms and Conditions, however, so make sure you read the fine print.
The cost for All Risk insurance is a percentage of the total value you want to insure. For example, if an insurer charges 3% of the total value and you want to insure $10,000 worth of stuff, the cost will be $300.
Some insurers may charge a fixed amount, such as $25 per $1,000. For example, if you want to insure $10,000 worth of stuff, it will cost $250.
Many movers will direct you to a preferred insurance provider, but it's a good idea to shop around for the best rate. All Risk insurance premiums generally start around 1% of the total value. Many plans provided by movers cost 3% or more. The difference can add up to a large chunk of change if you're moving an entire home's contents.
Some -- but not all -- insurers require an itemized inventory of what you're shipping, listing the replacement value of each item. Here's an example:
We suggest getting an appraisal on your high value or instrinsic value items. When you value your goods, you should consider valuing them at the cost it would take to replace them in the destination country. Something purchased in one country may cost significantly more in your destination country.
And don't undervalue your shipment to try to save money on the premium. In the event of a claim, if the insurance company determines you purposely undervalued the shipment, they'll only compensate partially. For example, if you undervalue your shipment by 50% and a sofa that costs $1,000 is destroyed, the insurer may only give you $500 of the value of the sofa even if you did value the sofa at $1,000 in your inventory.
You must purchase your insurance before the movers arrive at your home to pack your things and load the truck since damage can occur anytime from this point.
In the United States you may come across something called valuation. This is not the same as insurance. With valuation a moving company is only obligated to compensate you at the rate of USD $0.60/pound in the event of damage. So if your $3,000 television that weighs 40 pounds gets broken, they'll only owe you $24.00. This is why purchasing insurance is so important.