Choosing an International Shipping Company That is Not Qualified or Does Not Have Experience with Australian Relocations Will Be a Costly Mistake You Cannot Afford.

Imagine, you box up your whole house. Everything you own except for what can fit in your suitcase. Then the movers show up, load your boxes onto a truck and you never see any of it or them again. AND, it costs you thousands of dollars, or pounds or euros.

Yes, that’s an extreme example and no, I have never heard of that happening but I have heard other horror stories from SMG readers from major breakage to radio silence from the shipping company.

One SMG reader’s nightmare shipping experience.

I’ve been blogging here on SMG since 2009 and this is the worst I’ve heard.

One SMG reader was already living in Australia for a few months, waiting for their past due shipment and not getting any information back from the shipping company. Finally, they called the port in Melbourne and found out that their shipment had arrived weeks ago in Australia and was waiting to be claimed.

Not only was their shipping container waiting to be claimed for weeks, but it looked like it had been thrown together. Literally, like someone had toss all the boxes in the shipping container and called it good.

There was breakage and open boxes.

On top of having to pay for the weeks the container was stored at the port, they had to hire movers in Australia to pick up and deliver their shipment from the port to their house. Expenses they had to paid in addition to what they had already paid the international movers back home.

The worst part was, they had no recourse against the original shipping company that they hired.

Could they hire legal counsel? Sure. Could they file a complaint? Sure, and they did. But in the end, nothing really came of any of it.

Why? Because it is very hard to seek damages or legally file a complaint against a company that is overseas.

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This is why, you need to be certain that the shipping company you choose is not just qualified but has experience with international relocations, especially to Australia.

Even if they say they are, and use a lot of jargon and acronyms that you’re not familiar with, it does not mean they are.

You need to do your due diligence and be sure that when they come to your house, for your moving quote, you ask the right questions. And you are SATISFIED with the answers.

I remember when we got a moving quote from a local shipping company in Seattle. The salesperson that did the quote told us that we “don’t have to worry, they do this ALL the time.”

Ok, cool… but I don’t. And, who cares if they do this all the time? We were not just paying them a small fortune but also entrusting them with pretty much everything thing we owned.

This is why I have written this post.

These are the questions I wish we asked when we got our quote. Should have asked.

So, here you go.

What to Ask When Getting an International Shipping Quote

*Just a sec, before we get to the questions. If you are looking for movers in your area, there is a form at the bottom of this post where you can enter the details of your move and contact information. Your info will then be passed onto international movers in your area. Much easier than searching online yourself.

1. Are there any items that cannot be shipped?
For example:

  • Car or motorcycle
  • Lawnmower
  • Garden tools
  • Clippers, hedge cutter
  • Bikes
  • Wooden ornaments
  • Barbecue
  • Christmas decorations including wreaths even if it has faux berries etc
  • Dried flowers?

2. What will need to be steam clean? Bikes, golf clubs, gardening stuff?
3. For those moving from the UK ask about taking your fridge, washing machine and clothes dryer? What are the regulations?
4. Is early shipment of goods possible?  In particular: kitchen items, beds, and any other items you may need sooner.
5. How long does it take to get there?

  • Cost
  • Size of shipping container

6. Is their price fixed?
7. What is not included in their price?
8. What other services do they offer?
For example:

  • Do the movers also do all the packing?
  • How do they ship fragile items like TV’s?

9. What is the notice needed for scheduling the movers?
10. What if items are damaged upon arrival?

  • Do they offer insurance? How much?
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11. What about shipping expensive items or family heirlooms like jewellery?

  • What is the best way to ship these items?

12. How is it all wrapped for shipping? In particular; beds, settees, leather chairs?

  • Do wardrobes and drawers need to be emptied? Or can they be shipped as is?

13. What if the shipment ends up being larger than what was quoted in the original price?
14. What measures do they take to protect items such as photographs or larger framed pictures?
15. Does the container arrive on your driveway?  Or, are your items packed up on a truck and transported to the container?  Will you need to arrange to have street space saved for the movers?
16. How long does the packing generally take and how many people do it?
17. Is storage in US/UK/AUS included?

  • If not, how much will it cost?
  • How long before your container leaves the country?

18. What do you have to do in preparation for the packers?

  • Disassemble furniture etc?

19. How are boxes labelled up to assist inspectors upon arrival to Australia? If you are taking Christmas decorations ask how to label the box properly so inspectors will allow it into Australia?
20. Is there an inventory of items being shipped? 

  • How detailed is it?
  • Will you need to supplement the list to help you sort through boxes when they arrive?
  • Do you need to itemise everything?

21. What about Government regulations? This is very important for shipping a household to Australia.

  • What will they inspect? Do they go through all the boxes or just certain ones? Like bikes and barbecues.
  • Is AQIS fee included? What if they find something with “foreign dirt” on it? How much does it cost to be cleaned? Or will it be destroyed?
  • Do they have an Australian customs guide? Do they ship to Australia often?

22. What if items are damaged due to weather or extreme temperatures while being shipped? For example, mould caused by dampness or humidity.
23. What is the cubic size of the container? 20′ reefer containers are smaller than 20’ regular container. Does the container have absorb poles?
24. How long will it take to transport container to Australia?
25. Can you track your shipment online? If, not how else is the shipment tracked?
26. Insurance cost? Replacement or Percentage Cost

  • What is the percentage cost (usually 3% of the cost of shipping) and what is covered?
  • What percent is the excess? (Generally 1% of the value, whichever is greater)
  • When does the cover start and end?
  • What about damage after the shipment has arrived in Australia? For example, damp, mould, water damage or vermin?
  • Worse case scenario, shipment is lost at sea?
  • Is there coverage for lateness?
  • Is there a time frame within which a claim should be made?
  • Can you pick individually packed boxes or items? Or does it have to be the whole container?
  • Do you have to take out their insurance or can you get separate insurance?
  • How do you claim if you have damaged items? (Double-check that full replacement means just that and not a percentage of what the shipping company thinks the item is worth. For example if some plates that belong to a set are damaged, are you covered for the whole set or just the item?)
  • What kind of proof do you need of breakages? Should you take photos of fragile items before shipping?
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27. How do they want payment? Do you pay a percent before shipping and the rest after it arrives?

  • If an employer is covering your moving cost, ask about setting up payment from them.

28. Door to Door Relocation

  • Do they unpack on the other end?
  • Will the shipment be delivered to your door?
  • What is the moving company in Australia that is handling the other end?
  • Who are their representatives? What is their contact information?
  • What if you do not have an address to deliver to in Australia at the time of shipping?
  • Does the Australia movers offer storage if you do not have a new address for your shipment?
  • Does your insurance still cover any storage time needed in Australia?
  • Will they collect the boxes once everything is unpacked? If they are doing the unpacking will they also clean afterwards? Remove trash such as packing materials like bubble wrap?

29. How long will customs take? What involvement will you have with customs? Is fumigation mandatory?
30. How negotiable are the moving company’s fees? Will they price beat?

  • Be very clear about what you are being charged for both before, during and after your shipment arrives.

31. Why should you choose them? Do they have customer reviews?

  • What memberships do they possess? BAR, OMNI, FIDI?
  • How long have they been in business?