- Get referrals from local real estate agents and friends who have moved recently.
- Only consider movers that are licensed, bonded and insured.
- Investigate your potential movers through the US Department of Transportation, the Better Business Bureau and MovingScam.com.
- Evaluate a minimum of 3 movers based on in-home estimates of goods to be moved.
- Price isn’t the only factor- extremely low bids indicate a desperate mover.
- Ask for written “Binding Not-To-Exceed” estimates.
- Avoid “rogue movers”- if you feel uncomfortable, trust your instincts!
If you decide to hire professional movers, you’re faced with a big decision- how do you find reputable movers or moving companies? The good news is that a small amount of time spent on researching potential movers can help insure a stress-free move. This article outlines those research steps.
Getting Started: Referrals
Getting referrals is clearly the best way to start your review of potential moving companies. While the Yellow Pages (for those of us who can even find their phone books!) and web searches can help, referrals can provide the best leads. Ask your friends, co-workers and new neighbors about their experiences. Look for people who have moved in the past 12 months, as companies’ quality changes over time. Be sure to ask for details such as the names of people they worked with, what went well, and what to watch out for. Even information about moves that didn’t go well can be helpful.
In addition to friends and co-workers, try to get referrals from industry professionals. Check with your leasing agent or real estate agent for experiences of their clients- they can be a wealth of helpful information. If you work for a large company, check with the Human Resources department to see if they have someone who works with relocation (even if you’re not receiving relocation assistance- they may be willing to pass on useful information anyway). Getting these types of referrals will get your research started on the right foot.
Movers are regulated by federal, state and local laws. At the federal level, a moving company that carries goods across state lines (interstate) needs to be licensed by the Department of Transportation (the DOT does not regulate local movers). At the state level, laws vary widely, and several states (Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont) don’t require moving companies to have a separate license. For those that do, verify that the licenses are current. We also recommend that your movers be bonded and insured, both as proof that the company is legitimate and financial stability in case the worst happens and you need to file a claim.
Investigate Potential Movers
Once you know the basics about your potential moving companies, it’s time to find out about people’s experiences. You want to know get opinions from objective, third-party opinions based on dozens or hundreds of consumer evaluations. While almost every moving company has had some kind of complaints, having objective resources is important. Fortunately, there are a few excellent resources you can use for free. The U. S. Department of Transportation has a website devoted to its “Protect Your Move” program. There you’ll find a link that will allow you to look up individual moving companies. You can also check the websites of MovingScam.com, ProtectYourMove.gov and the Better Business Bureau. It’s a good idea to check all 3 to make sure you see a complete picture. Again, almost any mover who has been around for awhile will have a complaint from someone- you’re looking for patterns of issues and how the movers attempted to resolve the issues.
Many companies provide methods for customers to obtain an estimate over the phone or on the web. This presents tremendous convenience for the consumer. Until a moving company representative takes a physical inventory, any estimates they create won’t be very reliable. You should also be somewhat concerned when a moving company isn’t interested enough in your business to request an in-home visit. It can also be tempting to get only one or two estimates for an upcoming move. This presents two problems. The first problem is that it’s very difficult to evaluate an estimate without having a few others to use as comparisons. The second problem is that you miss valuable opportunities to evaluate a mover’s personnel without ever having met them. It’s worth the time to get these estimates in person.
Price is obviously very important in selecting a moving company. However, it isn’t the only factor. In fact, we think that quality, safety and reliability are at least as important. When you think that you will be trusting all your most important possession to be driven off by complete strangers, it puts pricing in some perspective. Further, if you see an estimate that’s more than 1/3 lower than the next lowest estimate, it’s a good idea to find out why. Very often an extremely low estimate is a sign of movers who are either very inexperienced or desperate. And neither of those reasons should be cause for encouragement!
“Binding Not to Exceed” Estimates
There are 2 primary types of moving estimates- binding and non-binding. Non-binding estimates are not contracts, and provide those moving with limited rights. Binding estimates are contracts and are binding on both you and the moving company. “Binding Not to Exceed” estimates put a firm cap on the amount you can be charged, so long as you don’t request additional services or add items to be moved. Moving companies tend to be careful in creating such estimates, and many companies don’t offer them at all. However, wherever possible, see if you can get your potential movers to agree to creating one for you.
The Department of Transportation offers specific warnings about scam artists known as “rogue movers.” These groups offer a very low estimate for an upcoming move. However, once your goods are on their truck, they demand exorbitant fees to release your possessions. Here are the warning signs the DOT points out:
- The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the phone or Internet-sight-unseen. These estimates often sound too good-to-be-true. They usually are.
- The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- The mover doesn’t provide you with a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
- The company’s Web site has no local address and no information about licensing or insurance.
- The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
- When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic “Movers” or “Moving company,” rather than the company’s name.
- Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck.
A Final Note
While selecting a moving company can be an imposing task, it’s important to note that moves with reputable companies tend to turn out well. Following the simple steps in this article can help ensure that your move is a successful one.