Whether hiring a moving company or renting a U-Haul for a DIY move, when making the trek to a new home we all want to –
- Avoid extra fees and save money
- Customize moving services to fit our needs
- Have a stress-free move
The thing is, finding good movers is easier said than done.
The moving industry is full of shady players, and unless you know what to look for the red flags may not be so obvious.
However, by considering the following tips when screening, vetting, and hiring movers, you’ll increase the likelihood of having a positive experience on your next move.
Use a moving cost calculator for a ballpark estimate on your move.
1. Establish a Timeframe
Moving doesn’t start when the packers or movers arrive.
From beginning to end the process can (and should) take weeks or months.
In fact, waiting until the last minute is a major reason many moves go south.
Before doing anything else, establish a realistic schedule that allows sufficient time to get everything done.
Then pick a tentative move date, and if possible stick to it.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re flexible, postponing your move until the non-peak season between September and May may mean cheaper prices, quicker delivery times, and attractive incentives like free storage and used boxes.
2. Consider Your Options
If you’ve read some of our other articles, you’ve probably seen ‘Consider Your Options’ sections in many of them.
We’re not fresh out of original ideas, it’s just that the importance of looking at your move from every possible angle can’t be overstated.
By exploring every option, you’ll be able to:
- Prepare a budget
- Save money
- Get the services you want
- Set a reasonable timeframe
Though full-service movers are the best bet for many families, you’ll want to consider the following options as well –
Did You Know?
Container moving and freight companies are often more flexible and less expensive than renting a truck – and you can leave the driving to professionals.
3. Ask for Referrals
Once you’ve decided which option best fits your situation, asking for referrals from friends, coworkers, and family members is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Though it may be quicker and easier, resist the urge to pick random companies from the Yellow Pages, or even worse, the internet.
Sadly, it’s often the least reputable movers that get the top positions on search engine results.
If your contacts aren’t providing any referrals, consider a social media ‘shout out’ or two.
And as always, use high-quality vetted movers with verified customer reviews.
4. Do a Little Investigating
Even with referrals, don’t assume that just because an acquaintance had a good move with a company you will too.
They may have used them years ago when they were under different ownership, and now good moves and happy customers may be rare.
Whatever the case, do some digging to make sure they’re worthy of your business.
One of the best ways to look into a mover’s background is by using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration SAFER System.
It’s fast, free, and easy, and will allow you to check –
- Their DOT or MC numbers
- The status of their insurance
- Their highway safety record and statistics
- Whether they’re a mover, broker, or both
- If the information they’ve given you is correct
5. Schedule In-Home Estimates
Now that you’ve compiled a list of reputable professional movers things should feel like they’re falling into place.
Regardless of whether you’re moving around the corner or long distance, you’ll want to get a few free in-home estimates.
They’re the best way for movers to see what you have and give you an accurate estimate.
That said, since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic some companies have started offering virtual estimates.
Though the health and safety of your family should trump all other considerations, be warned that virtual estimates are generally less accurate than in-home ones.
6. Know What Kind of Estimate You’re Getting
On interstate moves, there are three types of estimates –
In some instances, interstate moving companies will only give binding and not-to-exceed estimates on moves where everything is cut and dry.
Though they do offer some protection, if a moving company can prove that you added items or required additional services that weren’t on the original estimate, they may be justified in increasing the price.
On the other hand, local move charges are usually based on an hourly rate depending on the size of your crew, plus additional services like packing, unpacking, and appliance disconnects/reconnects.
Most local move estimates are non-binding, which means your final cost may be more or less than estimated.
Insider’s Tip: Never sign a blank estimate, even if your representative promises to “fill it in later.”
7. Ask Questions
Meeting with a professional moving company representative should include equal amounts of listening and asking questions.
As a moving expert he or she should explain services, prices, and valuation, but be wary of estimators who spend too much time talking and not enough listening.
Insider’s Tip: Writing down a list of questions before scheduling in-home estimates will ensure each representative has the same opportunity to provide the information that’s most important to you.
8. Get Familiar with Important Moving Documents
If you’ve never heard of an order for service, bill of lading, or driver’s descriptive inventory, now’s your chance.
They’re among the most important documents you’ll get during your move.
Bar none, familiarizing yourself with them is one of the best ways to protect yourself as a consumer.
In many instances moving company representatives brush over them quickly or avoid them altogether, either because they don’t understand them or would rather spend their limited time telling you why they’re so great.
Either way, educating yourself is ultimately up to you.
9. Compare Estimates Carefully
When your estimates are spread out before you, don’t just look at the big number at the bottom.
Remember, estimates are made up of numerous line items, including –
- Transportation (by weight and mileage on interstate moves)
- Labor costs (by the hour on local moves)
- Fuel surcharge
- Packing and unpacking
- Additional services (accessorials) like shuttles and long carries
- 3rd-party services like crating/uncrating and appliance disconnects/reconnects
- Valuation (moving insurance)
The only way to compare “apples to apples” is by going line by line on each estimate.
Look especially carefully at the estimated weight if you’re moving out of state.
If one estimator says your household goods weigh 12,000 pounds, another says 14,400 pounds, and yet another 16,200 pounds, at least two of them, or maybe all three are wrong.
10. Set a Budget
Budgeting is a necessary part of the moving process, but it can be done early or late in the process depending on your particular situation.
For some families with tight finances, it’s a logical first step when deciding how to proceed.
However, for others, it’s impossible to match services with anticipated prices until after you’ve gotten your estimates.
If your full-service movers’ estimates fall within your budget you’re good to go, but if not, you’ll need to either raise your budget, do the packing yourself, or opt for a less costly option altogether.
11. Understand Valuation and Choose the Right Coverage
Valuation is pretty standard across the moving industry.
In other words, pricing is generally similar from one mover to the next.
What’s more important than price is actually understanding the ins and outs of valuation.
Your estimator should clearly explain each option, focusing on cost, deductibles, and how you’d be reimbursed in the event of loss or damage on your move.
Insider’s Tip: Beware of the old…“Don’t worry about insurance – we never break anything” line.
It’s baloney – even the best movers occasionally break things.
12. Know Your Payment Options
These days most customers pay for local and interstate moves with credit cards.
However, other options include:
- Cash – the best for savers
- Personal loan – for those with good credit
- Certified check – for those who’d rather not carry around hundreds or thousands of dollars
13. Trust Your Instincts
Sadly they’re a dime a dozen.
And truth be told, most customers who’ve been scammed would probably admit that they:
- Went with the lowest estimate
- Let themselves be pressured into making unwise decisions
- Didn’t trust their instincts
Don’t let this happen to you and your family.
14. Make Your Decision
And the winner is….
It’s human nature to second guess the decisions we make, but if you’ve carefully considered and implemented the suggestions on this list, rest assured that you’ve put yourself in a great position to hire a top-notch mover.
That said, don’t throw it all out the window by hiring the shady discount mover whose estimate was 45% lower than everyone else’s.
Trust us, you’ll regret it.
15. Book Your Move and Schedule Your Pick-Up (and Delivery)
You’ve done everything right.
But don’t rest on your laurels and take a month off.
To make sure you’re covered if capacity gets tight down the road, book your move and schedule your dates as soon as possible.
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1. Will local movers inventory my items before moving them?
On interstate moves, your items should always be inventoried, but that’s not always the case on local moves.
On local moves you’ll pay by the hour, so having the driver spend hours inventorying everything will cost you more.
On the other hand, if you ask the driver to forego the inventory, it’ll be nearly impossible to substantiate a claim if something gets lost or damaged.
2. Should I pay a deposit upfront?
No, in most cases you shouldn’t be asked to pay a deposit.
If the company you’re using does require one, it should be a small percentage of your overall move cost.
3. Is driving a moving truck safe?
It is, but for those with little experience driving large vehicles – especially in bad weather and mountainous terrain – it’s definitely worth avoiding.
4. Can local moving companies give binding estimates?
Sometimes they can, but in most cases, they’ll give you a non-binding estimate on a local move.
But it doesn’t hurt to ask for a binding or not-to-exceed estimate.
5. Why are packing services so expensive?
Remember, with packing you’re not only paying for the boxes themselves, but also tape, paper, bubble wrap, and labor for the time it takes to pack them.
6. Are moving services more expensive in the summer?
Yes, rates during the peak moving season between the end of May and September are often significantly higher than during the winter and fall.