Research and planning.
They’re two vital but often overlooked elements of proper pre-move preparation.
After you have a list of prospective movers, you’ll need to research them to determine if they’re legitimate, licensed, and experienced enough to handle your move.
Then you’ll want to compile a list of questions to ask each of them.
Think of it as an interview, because that’s exactly what it is.
Remember, that many moving companies are reputable businesses, but there’s no shortage of shady scammers either.
It’s important to satisfy yourself that you’re dealing with professionals before moving forward.
Because of this, we have listed the best moving companies for you.
Use our moving cost estimator for a good idea of what your move will cost.
1. How long have you been in business?
Not all new moving companies are bad, and not all established ones are reputable.
That being said, longevity and stability do speak volumes.
Especially when a company has operated under the same name for years.
Moving companies that consistently scam customers tend to change their names frequently.
It’s a huge red flag, so listen to your instincts, and don’t be afraid to walk away from movers with unverifiable pasts.
2. Are you licensed?
Legitimate moving companies are required to have a variety of local, state, and national licenses that permit them to operate as movers and motor carriers.
They include the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) numbers—both of which you should ask for during the screening process.
They may also be a member of the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).
AMSA is the industry’s trade association, and if they’re members you can easily check their standing.
If they’re not, it may be a sign that they’re not particularly keen on being held accountable for the manner in which their business operates.
In other words—another red flag.
And finally, check out the Better Business Bureau website before signing a contract.
3. Do you offer liability coverage?
Moving liability coverage, or insurance, is a must if you want to protect your belongings.
Make sure you know exactly what the company will cover before moving forward.
In the best-case scenario, they’ll cover the replacement value of any damaged or destroyed items.
But generally, you’ll need to pay for this coverage.
If it’s not offered, you can always purchase moving insurance from a third-party.
4. What will you do if an item is damaged or lost?
The answer to this question depends largely on the valuation (also commonly referred to as liability coverage or insurance) you purchased for your move.
Full-Value Protection will pay for any lost or damaged items during the move, whereas Released Value Protection typically only covers up to $0.30 per pound per item on local moves, and $0.60 on interstate moves.
These should be free options, but they’re free for a reason.
Reputable moving companies will work with you if anything happens, but don’t expect them to pay for damage to items in a box that you packed.
5. How experienced are your crews, and are they covered?
Summer is the most popular time to move and to meet demand many moving companies resort to hiring temporary help.
This often means employing day laborers who may or may not have moving experience.
And it could translate into a higher likelihood of damaged items and personal injuries.
Though it’s an unavoidable evil during peak times, you’ll want to verify that the company carries worker’s compensation insurance.
Some customers even go so far as to demand background checks on each worker who’ll be on their crew.
It’s a long shot, but it never hurts to ask.
If you’re moving to another state, make sure the company you hire is experienced in long-distance moves.
6. Do you have storage facilities?
Storage is one service that most customers avoid like the plague.
It’s expensive, inconvenient, and increases the likelihood of your items getting damaged.
But sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Even if you’re just moving locally, you’ll want to ask movers if they have storage facilities.
Be sure to ask about the conditions, price, and liability too.
7. Can you provide references?
Have trust issues?
Because you should never take what a moving company tells you at face value.
Instead, ask for references.
Getting the scoop from people who’ve actually done business with them in the past is the best way to judge future performance.
It’s also possible to find customer reviews by doing a quick internet search.
Based on what they say, you’ll be better prepared to make an informed decision about who to use.
8. Do you offer binding estimates?
Once you determine whether the mover is reputable, it’s time to nail down services, dates, and prices.
The more questions you ask at this stage, the greater the chance you’ll have a pleasant experience.
Push for a binding estimate.
A binding estimate is when a company gives you a fixed price for your move.
But it’s important to note that even binding estimates aren’t necessarily set in stone.
If you require last minute services, or the mover can prove that you added items that weren’t included in the original estimate, then your ‘ironclad’ estimate may go out the window.
Before committing to a company, ask for a blank copy of their contract.
Read it carefully, highlight items that require further explanation, and address each of them until you’re satisfied.
Interstate moves are generally based on services needed, the weight of your items, and the distance between your old home and the new one.
Local moves are almost always done on an hourly basis.
Don’t forget to ask about items like insurance and fuel surcharges too.
9. Will you provide an inventory?
On every interstate move the driver should complete a full inventory of your belongings.
Each and every item should get its own number, and be recorded on the inventory noting what it is, what room it came from, and what condition it’s in.
On local moves many moving companies forego an inventory because it’s tedious and time-consuming.
In a sneaky twist of fate, not having an inventory may make it harder for customers to file claims if something gets broken.
After all if there’s no official record, who’s to say it wasn’t already damaged?
If you’re worried about your items, you can request that the movers provide an inventory even on local moves.
Keep in mind, if you’re paying by the hour it’ll cost more, but it may be worth it.
It’s also a good idea to take pictures of your most valuable items before the movers arrive.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
This will help bolster your claim if you experience loss or damage on your move.
10. Can I pack my own belongings?
The answer to this question is almost always a resounding “YES!”
But here’s the problem…
If you decide to go that route, the company may be less likely to honor claims on items that get broken.
Many customers choose what’s referred to as a partial pack.
In this scenario, the customer packs their own non-breakable items like clothes, shoes, and bedding.
The mover packs the breakables like mirrors, glassware, and electronics.
This option significantly reduces cost but makes the mover responsible for high-value items.
11. How long will my move take?
Moving companies are professionals.
At least most of them are.
So they should be able to give you an accurate idea of how long your move will take.
This is especially important if you’re being charged by the hour.
Knowing the timeframe will make it easier to plan things like scheduling babysitters and settling on your new home too.
On local moves, anything you do to lessen the duration of your move will result in a corresponding drop in price.
Even on interstate moves, movers should be able to give you an accurate idea of how long it’ll take to pack, load, and unload your items.
12. Do you offer discounts and promotions?
The best way to snag a great deal on your move is to ask!
If you move during the off-season and plan your move in advance, you’re more likely to get a discount or promotion.
Students, veterans, and senior citizens may also qualify to special discounts year-round.
Make sure you know how to negotiate with a moving company for the best results.
13. Which payment methods do you accept?
Knowing which payment methods movers accept is also important.
Most take credit and debit cards and cashier’s checks without any issues.
If they’re a cash-only business, be careful.
It’s a great way for scammers to take your money.
Make sure you know the total amount you’re paying for the move, including deposits, surcharges and the like.
Deposits are rare, but they shouldn’t be greater than 20 percent of the total move cost.
Ask for a copy of their cancellation policy in writing.
14. What documentation do I need?
In most instances you’ll just need the original estimate, moving contract, bill of lading, and inventory pages.
Each should be dated and signed by both parties, and each should get at least one copy for their records.
It’s important to familiarize yourself with the terminology prior to signing any paperwork, and there shouldn’t be any areas left blank.
On the contract you’ll need to sign for valuation as well.
This is important because it dictates the level of liability the mover has for items that may be damaged or destroyed during the course of the move.
15. What is the contact information for the crew?
Moving day often comes with unexpected twists and turns, and it’s crucial that you know how the crew will handle changes before you hire them.
You’ll work closely with your moving crew to ensure everything goes smoothly, so sharing contact information is a must.
Know who to call if the crew is late, or if something pops up on your end that could alter the course of the move.
This is especially vital on long-distance moves, when the mover may be in possession of your items for a week or more.
You may not need to use the numbers, but it’s good to have them just in case.
16. How will you handle my belongings and prevent property damage?
Some items are difficult to move due to their weight and size, and can, therefore, be damaged easily if movers aren’t careful or experienced.
Ask your consultant how their crews handle specialty items like pianos, hot tubs, and glass-fronted furniture if you have any.
And don’t be shy about telling them which of your things are the most expensive or hold the most sentimental value.
If they know beforehand, they can take extra precautions.
A good moving crew will pay special attention to labels like “fragile” or “this side up” on your boxes and handle them appropriately.
They should also cover furniture and appliances with moving blankets before removing them from your home.
You also need to know how they’ll protect your home’s flooring, walls, and banisters.
The last thing you want is to forfeit your rental deposit or leave damage for the new homeowner because the movers gouged the floor or knocked a hole in the drywall.
Common precautions include using moving blankets, corner guards, foam, and carpet film.
17. Does my move require additional transfers?
Some long-distance movers will transfer your belongings from one truck to another while in transit.
And they may do it without telling you.
Unless you have agreed to this beforehand, you should never accept unnecessary transfers as the standard operating procedure.
Unless storage is required or their truck breaks down, your item should stay on the same van they were originally loaded on.
Will a shuttle fee apply to your move?
18. Can you guarantee pickup and delivery dates?
If the moving company guarantees pickup and delivery dates, make sure they’re printed clearly on your estimate.
Ask them if there’s compensation if they fail to meet these obligations.
Last-minute delays cost customers money on things like lodging and missed work, so asking for compensation is a reasonable request—but it must be addressed before it becomes an issue.
Everyone wants to settle into their new home without any glitches, but you should have a plan in place if things take an unforeseen twist.
But be aware that if the mover arrives at your new home on the agreed-upon delivery day and you can’t accept your items, extra charges will apply.
19. What will you do in the event of a complaint or claim?
No one wants a move to go south, but it happens.
Ask each moving company you’re considering how they handle disputes and claims.
Reputable interstate movers may even provide a written copy of their claims procedures.
Remember, every moving company in the history of the world has damaged an item a time or two.
It’s just the way it is, but they should be willing to work with you in a professional manner to resolve any issues.
If they don’t, your only option may be taking them to court.
Talk about a world-class hassle!
Give your consultant a chance to ask questions too
While you have loads of questions to ask the moving company, make sure you give them time to ask you questions as well.
They’re the professionals, and as such they should want to know every little detail of your move.
And they should bring up things you may never have thought of on your own.
If they don’t, it could be a sign that they’re inexperienced, disinterested, or not too concerned about providing a quality experience.
Ask now… relax later
By now you may be thinking that each moving interview should resemble a cold war-era interrogation.
Yes, there are lots of topics that need to be covered, but screening movers doesn’t need to be less pleasant than a root canal.
By taking the time to do the things we’ve discussed in this article, you’ll significantly improve the likelihood that you’ll have a positive experience.
If the movers you’re considering don’t give satisfactory answers, trust your instincts and cross them off your list.
Picking quality movers is important to us. That’s why we have gathered a list of the best interstate moving companies in the country.
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