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How to choose an international moving company

Updated on 08 Jan 2024
10 min read
Ocean FCL
Ocean LCL
Air Freight

Moving to a foreign country is one of the most life-changing decisions that one can make.

From learning a new language, culture, and laws to researching the best neighborhood to live in and handling all the paperwork involved, there’s quite a handful one must deal with even prior to stepping foot in the new country.

This may all seem very overwhelming. But there is a way to lighten the load and stress: searching for international moving companies and choosing the one that can best meet your needs.

After all, with a brand new and unknown life awaiting in a foreign land, it will do you well to begin this new journey with a sense of comfort and familiarity by having all your belongings there with you, be it a car, motorcycle, furniture, clothes, etc.

This raises the issue of transporting of your personal belongings. How can you choose an international moving company? Or more specifically, these are the questions you will be asking:

  • How many types of international moving companies are there?
  • What services do the best international moving companies offer and what are the most basic services?
  • What other criteria should I consider when choosing an international moving company?

If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll go through all the different aspects one must consider when choosing an international moving company.

We’ll also list questions you should be asking to choose the best option possible out of all the top international moving companies to fit your moving needs.

Let us begin!

1. The different types of international moves

What to ask: What type of international move do I need? Does this international moving company specialize in the type of move that I require?

Ocean freight or air freight? Door-to-door or port-to-port? FCL or LCL?

These terms may seem extremely alien to you. But it’s important to know them all as there are many different types of international moving services and not all companies offer them all.

If you come across a company that offers a wide range of moving services, find out whether they specialize in the type of move that you require and how much experience they have with this particular service.

You may find all the information you need about the different types of international moves in our international movings guide. Here’s a quick summary of the advantages of each type of move:

  • Due to its high cost, moving via air freight is generally only recommended for emergencies or when there are not many things to be transported. Ocean freight moves tend to be much economical.
  • FCL shipping is recommended for personal belongings that occupy at least half of the volume of a 20-foot container (which has a capacity of 32.6m3). LCL shipping is the better option for low-volume moves as you only pay for the space you occupy within a container.
  • A door-to-door move is the most convenient option as a representative agent will guide you throughout the process and will take care of all paperwork and procedures at the destination country.

iContainers is an international moving company specializing in ocean freight moves.

We offer moving services to all destinations across the globe. However, as a rule of thumb, ocean freight moves tend to be cheaper when it’s from one continent to another. As such, we do not offer intra-continental international moves, such as from one European country to another.

Our services include port-to-port, door-to-port, and port-to-door moves. These depend on whether the pickup and delivery points are at the port or at a specific zip code/address.

We also offer door-to-door moving services to and from certain countries. These include pick up and delivery from your old home to your new home. You may read up about our door-to-door services here.

2. International moving costs

What to ask: What kind of international move do I need? Does this international moving company specialize in the type of move that I require?

Your overall international moving costs will largely depend on the type of move you choose and the decisions you make after having consulted with the international moving company.

First, set your priorities. If you’re not keen on doing too much legwork yourself and want to ensure the most convenient international move, you should be prepared to fork out more. This will allow you to select an international moving company that can offer you premium services such as door-to-door moves and additional services such as packing, loading, etc.

If your priority is to keep your international moving costs low, you should probably look for a company that’s flexible with their services and can allow you to select basic services.

On that note, you may also want to consider reducing the volume of personal belongings you’re shipping. This way, you have the option of LCL shipping, which even though requires you to share a container with others, allows you to pay only for the space you occupy.

Every international moving company has its own list of prices, and it is important to make sure that they can offer you the services you need.

3. International moving quote

What to ask: How long does it take to get a moving quote? Are the prices clearly listed and are they transparent?

Once you have set your priorities, you should begin requesting for international moving quotes.

Getting a quote from an international moving company should be simple. If it gets too complicated and/or if they take too long to respond (eg. more than 3 days), it may be a sign that their customer service team or internal processes are simply not efficient enough.

Our advice is to prioritize international moving companies with quick responses. It is also important that their moving quotes are transparent and include a clear breakdown of all the services included.

→ In this article, you’ll find more information about additional services for your international move.

4. Customer service

What to ask: Have they explained everything I need to know to understand the process clearly enough? Were they able to answer my questions? Are they giving advice in their best interests or mine?

International maritime transport is a complex process involving a multitude of players. The procedure and paperwork leave hardly any room for errors and the smallest oversight could lead to delays, extra costs, or even damage to your shipment.

As such, customer service should be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing an international moving company. When requesting information, pay attention to the way the information is being relayed to you.

As mentioned earlier, the ocean freight process is extremely complex. But a professional sales representatives will be able to ensure you have a clear picture of the entire process.

Here’s what an international moving company with good customer support should do:

  • Respond to all your questions patiently and clearly
  • Inform you about the risks involved and offer you advice on how to avoid them
  • Provide you with the best options according to your needs and possibilities so that you can make an informed decision
  • Break down the costs involved in an international move from start to end
  • Go through all the documents you need for your international move, explain how to fill them in, and offer you templates to use as a reference

5. Destination services and destination agent

What you should first ask: What is a destination agent and why do I need one? What fees do I need to pay when my belongings arrive at the destination?

This might be the first time you’ve come across the term ‘destination agent’ and the fact that you may even require one. The role of a destination agent is often undervalued but is actually crucial to the smooth running of your international move.

The destination agent is a specialist in the customs regulations of a certain country. These regulations and rules vary considerably from one country to another. Taxes and duties due are also very specific to the destination country. Having a destination agent will help ensure you have at least these aspects of your move sorted out as he/she can handle them.

What you should next ask: Does the international moving company have an office in the country I’m moving to? Does it have a network of reliable agents?

If the international moving company has an office in the country you’re moving to, chances are they’ll be able to handle your shipment upon arrival at destination, which will make your move much more convenient.

If not, it’s important to choose an international moving company who has a reliable network of reputable and experienced agents that can help facilitate your move.

Besides simply passing you the contact of a destination agent, the company should also explain to you when you should contact the agent, what information you should confirm with the agent, and the questions you should be asking.

→ You may read more about the role of a destination agent in an international move in this article from our help center.

6. Tracking your international move

What to ask: Once my shipment is on its way, how can I know its location? Will I be informed of everything that happens to it?

With your personal belongings in unfamiliar hands, you will probably want to stay up-to-date with the entire shipping process. Questions such as has the vessel departed, when will it arrive at the destination, will be swimming through your head.

Getting these questions answered as quickly and efficiently as possible will help to relieve the stress of an international move. That said, one key aspect to consider when choosing an international moving company is whether you’ll be able to track your personal belongings.

Top international moving companies should offer tracking systems with which you can check the status of your personal belongings yourself without needing to contact anyone else. Basic information the tracking system should provide include the current status of your shipment and estimated dates of arrival.

At iContainers, for example, our Track & Trace feature allows you to do just that. By logging into your user account once your reservation is confirmed, you’ll be able to track the status of your personal belongings every step of the way.

Additionally, our automated notifications system will ensure you’re up-to-date by sending you notifications every time there’s a status change.

Our advice is to select an international removal company that you do not have to call in or email to get updates about your move and one that allows you to consult the status of your move as and when you need to.

Additional resources to help you choose an international moving company

Before selecting an international moving company, we recommend you to first familiarize yourself with the entire moving process.

Our guide to international moving is a good resource to start with. We also have additional articles that can better help you plan your move, manage your documents, and prepare your belongings to avoid damages, delays, and extra costs:

  • How to plan an international move
  • How to quote and book your international move with iContainers
  • Documents required for an international move

→ Still have questions? Need help with your international move? Do get in touch with us to get your questions answered.

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iContainers is a digital freight forwarder based in Barcelona that assists thousands of companies and families around the globe in moving their merchandise internationally.

Our online freight quoting platform has the latest technology in the sector and simplifies ocean freight, quoting and managing your bookings from the same user area.

We are part of the Agility group, and we work side by side with Shipa Freight to fully cover the demands of our customers.

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