Seasoned expats will tell you that forward planning is the secret to a stress-free international move.

Don’t be afraid to give potential container shipping companies a good grilling before you trust them with the task of transporting your most treasured belongings overseas. It’s best to speak to a few different companies, get a selection of quotes and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Our 8 top questions to ask your container shipping company will help you get down to the important details – and make that important decision a little easier.

1. How much will it cost?

Obviously this will vary between companies, but it’s wise to ask for a full breakdown of costs in your quote rather than a single figure. The basic cost of shipping your possessions is often just the start of it. Customs duties, additional surcharges, terminal handling and penalties for late collection or overweight containers can all add to your bill at an alarming rate. It won’t always be possible to know the exact cost ahead of time but do check for potential hidden costs.

While you’re discussing prices, why not ask for a discount? This can be especially effective if you are a little flexible with the timing of your shipment. There are off-peak times in the shipping industry where you may be able to grab yourself a bargain.

2. How long will it take?

Your container shipping company is unlikely to be able to give you an exact date for when your cargo will arrive, but they should be able to give you a ballpark estimate. Shipping times will depend on your origin port, your destination, the mode of travel and the frequency of shipments on that route.

Some popular routes, such as the UK to New York, have regular express shipments, while other routes will take far longer. Make sure you talk timeframes through in detail with your shipping company, letting them know if speed is a priority over cost.

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3. Do you offer insurance?

It’s essential that your cargo is insured for the duration of its journey. While all shipping companies must provide mandatory marine insurance, policies will vary so check the small print of the cover they offer.

Is your cargo only insured at sea? What about port handling and inland transport? Is it covered for theft, loss and damage? If you aren’t happy with the cover, ask if they can provide more. And always itemise high-value items on your insurance policy.

Depending on your route, additional cover for piracy and travelling through a war zone may also be required.

See here for more information on removals insurance.

4. Will you deliver to my door?

When it comes to comparing the prices of different shipping companies, check whether they are quoting for a port-to-port or door-to-door service. And have a think about which service you would prefer.

A door-to-door service will seem costlier initially. However, a port-to-port service will require you to organise the handling and transporting of your cargo at its destination port. Opting for a complete service can be a great way of reducing the stress of your move.

5. Will you pack my belongings as well as deliver them?

Some international moving companies will offer a packing service as part of their quote. Packing yourself will undoubtedly save you money, but the benefits of going with a full packing service can outweigh that.

Professional movers can securely pack your things in a fraction of the time you could. More importantly, if your moving company packs your belongings for you, they can then provide the manifest of household goods most global ports require. This can save serious time moving your cargo through customs.

6. What transport will be used?

The method of shipping used will affect the price you are quoted, as well as the estimated time of delivery. Air freight travels the fastest but costs the most, while shipping by boat is way more cost-effective but takes longer. Simple moves to neighbouring countries may be possible by road, whereas complex journeys to faraway destinations may require a combination of different methods of transport.

Bear in mind that the more times your cargo is loaded and unloaded, the more likely it is to be accidentally damaged. Ideally, you want to opt for the shipping plan that uses the fewest methods of transport.

7. Will my goods be unpacked & repacked by different moving companies?

Many international moving companies work with a network of partner companies across the globe. This can mean that your cargo will be loaded by one moving company and unloaded by another.

If this will be the case, make sure you are provided with the contact details of the agent who will be handling the transport of your cargo once it reaches its destination. Ask your shipping company how much experience they have in shipping to your specific destination. You want to be reassured that whoever is in charge of receiving your cargo is familiar with the customs procedures there.

8. Can I track my goods?

Online tracking is becoming increasingly common in the shipping industry and is a great way to give you some peace of mind while your belongings are in transit. If at all possible, choose a shipping company that lets you track your cargo online or via a phone app. Not only will you have a more accurate idea of when to expect your things, you won’t have to pester your shipping company for information on the phone.

Getting answers to these questions will make sure you’ve covered all the bases with any potential shipping companies. Then all you need to worry about is settling into your new country!