Moving Dos and Don’ts

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Do ensure that all potential movers are FMC-licensed and bonded.

International moving companies that offer to ship your household goods or automobiles to or from the U.S. via ocean vessel must be licensed or registered with the FMC. As a starting point, the FMC maintains a list of licensed or registered, and bonded companies on its website

Do obtain several written estimates based on an actual inspection of your goods.

International moving companies usually base their cost upon the volume or the weight of the goods that are shipped. Some moving companies may offer online volume calculators or telephonic estimates based upon the number of rooms moved or a listing of items moved. However, such estimates are often inaccurate. To avoid problems involving online or telephonic estimates, ask potential movers to provide you with a quote based on the mover’s onsite inspection of your goods. A good general rule of thumb is to obtain written estimates for service from several different international moving companies prior to selecting your mover.

Do read the fine print.

Read your estimate and contract for service. Make sure that you understand and agree with all terms and conditions. Note the services and charges that are included and whether any services or charges are excluded. For example, port terminal handling charges are often excluded from international moving estimates, and result in additional costs later. Also, note whether there are any guarantees or disclaimers with regard to the date of delivery. Despite promises made by sales people, promises may not be enforced unless they appear in the terms and conditions of the international moving contract.

Do review insurance coverage terms and conditions.

Generally, international moving companies limit their responsibility for loss of or damage to your household goods. As such, many companies offer insurance coverage policies at an additional cost. Make sure that you request a copy of the insurance terms and conditions from your mover prior to obtaining insurance. Read all terms and conditions of any insurance coverage offered by your moving company to determine whether such coverage is desirable.  Make sure that you receive a signed insurance document. Note that many moving companies will not provide insurance coverage for your goods unless they are packed by the moving company.

Do determine whether your mover will be responsible for customs clearance of your goods.

Some international moving companies offer customs clearance services as part of their international moving services package and will assist consumers with completing paperwork. Other companies require consumers to handle their own customs clearance.  It is important to determine early on the level of customs clearance services to be provided for your move and to obtain additional customs clearance services as necessary.  Also, generally, duties levied on a shipment are the responsibility of the consumer so it is important to budget for potential customs duties in the destination country.

Do review the moving company’s payment policy.

It is important to review the company’s policies regarding down payments and method of payment. Some companies require a large down payment and refuse to accept payment by a major credit card.  In the event of a dispute, recovering your down payment when you have paid by check or money wire can be difficult.

Do review the mover’s cancellation policy.

It is always important to review your mover’s cancellation policy prior to signing any service agreements. Some moving companies require half or more of the quotation price in the event that services are canceled regardless of the reason for cancellation.


Don’t wait until the last minute to make arrangements for your international move.

Often individuals are so busy with job, school, or family commitments that they wait until the last minute to hire a mover. This risky practice prevents consumers from taking measures to protect themselves from the allure of internet-based rogue movers who advertise quick, cheap, and a seemingly large array of services to entice the uninformed consumer.

Don’t hire a company that has a history of unresolved consumer complaints.

Ruling out companies that have histories of unresolved consumer complaints is an easy and effective way to protect your move. In addition to contacting the Better Business Bureau and local Consumer agencies, you should contact CADRS staff who can provide general information regarding the complaint history of prospective moving companies at the FMC. In addition, performing a simple internet search on a company’s name and address will often yield information on whether a company has a history of unresolved complaints with other consumer protection agencies.

Don’t automatically select the cheapest quote for service.

While it is tempting to select the least expensive quote for services, unscrupulous moving companies often use low estimates or quotes as a tool to lure consumers. As with other business proposals, if the proposal or quote appears too good to be true, it usually is.