A Guide to Removals Insurance
Unsurprisingly sending your treasured possessions halfway round the world on the back of a ship or aeroplane can go wrong in innumerable ways. Heavy seas can cause even the largest container ships to lose part of their loads; crashes among freight carriers are far more frequent than among passenger airlines; consignments of can’t-live-without items can get lost at ports during the transition between international and local carriers; and of course there’s always the possibility that your keepsakes are, through accident or misadventure, irreparably damaged during transit.
Starting a new life in a new country is a risky enough proposition in itself, without the risk that you’ll have to go out and purchase your core set of belongings all over again, which is why many international mover opt to take out removals insurance.
How does removals insurance work?
First you need to sort out exactly what you’re taking with you and how much you want to insure it for. You should insure normal household goods and personal items for the cost of replacing them and any antiques or works of art for their current market value.
Many international removals companies will offer insurance as an add-on but it’s also possible to obtain it from third parties and even to use a broker. The cost of insurance depends on the type of items you’re insuring, the particular route they’ll be taking, the mode of transport they’ll be travelling by and whether your items have been professionally or owner packed.
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Typical costs are between 1% and 5% of the insurable value.
You supply the insurer with a list of the items you want to insure and their insurance value (itemising any expensive items as requested - usually those with a value exceeding £750).
To insure an automobile you’ll normally have to provide more detail about the vehicle - age, model etc - so that its second hand value can be determined. If you want to insure the vehicle against all damage (minor scratches etc) you and the insurer will also have to co-sign a certificate of condition.
Most insurers will exclude certain items - no insurance for foodstuffs, houseplants or very fragile items like stamp collections. Most food and plant materials wouldn’t clear customs anyway though and small fragile items are better off in your carry-on or hand luggage.
How to keep insurance costs down
As always the key to securing a better deal is to shop around - you’re not restricted to purchasing insurance from your removals company so get as many quotes from third parties as possible.
You should also think carefully about which of your items warrant insurance. If an item is going to be hard to replace in your destination country then taking out insurance will make sense, as well as giving you peace of mind while you wait the two weeks or more it takes for your shipment to arrive. Items of purely sentimental value are irreplaceable anyway so it may not be worth the extra expense to insure them.
You might even decide to forgo insurance altogether and take the chance that your IKEA favourites don’t end up in Davy Jones’s locker.
What are the chances of my things getting lost?
Road and air freight are the safest modes of transport for international removals so for moves on the same continent the chances of your goods getting lost are pretty slim. Air freight has an accident rate of one per 1.2 million flights.
Sea freight is a dicier business. About 90% of the world’s cargo travels by sea and despite the gigantic proportions of modern container ships they can still lose part of their loads in rough seas.
Estimates of how many sea containers are lost each year range from about 350 to around 10,000. But given that the equivalent of 183 million 20-foot containers are shipped annually even the high estimate gives you odds of 18,300 to 1 that the particular container storing your items will become the home of an odd looking deep sea creature or two.
Of course the main risk to your goods is not that they’ll be lost completely but that they’ll be damaged during transit. During long voyages it can be hard to protect shipped items from mould and mildew. Electrical and mechanical items can also be at risk of having their internal components displaced, rendering them unusable. Be sure to check whether your proposed insurer covers both these eventualities.
Making a claim against removals insurance
Insurance policies for international removals won’t normally involve an excess so you’ll be able to make a claim for the full value of the insured items you lost (though this is sometimes subject to your removals company belonging to a certified trade body).
Make sure your insurance company has a transparent and easy to understand claims procedure before completing your insurance purchase.
In the event that you need to make a claim do it as soon as possible - most insurers will insist that claims are made within a set timeframe after your shipment arrives (or is declared lost).
Don’t throw away any damaged items - your insurer may want to inspect them.
Settling an insurance claim can take a while so you might want to think about setting aside some of your relocation budget for making emergency purchases.