If spotting bad moving companies was easy…
You get the idea.
But sadly it’s not so simple, especially for those who’ve never moved.
Finding reputable movers with verified customer reviews can seem like the old needle and haystack analogy.
But there’s a bright side.
Many of the worst moving companies have lots in common, and once you know what to look for, their scams, misinformation, and outright lies will bounce off you like you’re covered in Kryptonite.
Superman references aside, let’s take a look at some characteristics many nefarious movers share.
1. Their Name is Similar to a Well-Known National Van Line
These large national movers have hundreds of agents in cities and towns all over the country and thousands of trucks on the nation’s highways on any given day.
That said, companies that add a word or two to capitalize on their name recognition are usually shady movers with less than stellar reputations.
In other words…
United Nation Van Lines isn’t the same as United Van Lines.
A+ Atlas Van Lines isn’t the same as plain old Atlas Van Lines.
2. They’re Based in…
Here at moveBuddha, we refuse to engage in geographic discrimination (if there is such a thing).
The thing is, many scammy movers and online brokers are headquartered in one particularly sunny southern state.
Who knows – perhaps it’s the weather.
Whatever the case, many top-notch movers call this state home too, but by and large, it’s where you’ll find many that fall at the low end of the moving spectrum.
3. They Have Over-the-Top Reviews
More so than most other industries, moving is inherently fraught with pitfalls of nearly every description.
And as a result, even the best moving companies get negative reviews.
When vetting potential movers during your pre-move screening process, be wary of those with reviews that seem a bit too “glowing.”
Did You Know?
Many websites that purport to rank movers unbiasedly are little more than pay-to-play platforms where movers with lousy customer service reputations can post phony reviews, and it happens on reputable sites too.
4. Their DOT and MC Numbers Don’t Check Out
All moving companies that perform interstate moves are required to have a DOT number.
When screening movers you should always ask for their DOT number, and once you have it you can enter it into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s(FMCSA) SAFER System website, after which you’ll have access to tons of information like:
- Their address
- Number of power units (trucks)
- Whether they’re authorized to move household goods
- Whether they’re a mover or broker
- Their accident record
- Whether they’ve been placed “Out of Service”
- If their insurance is up to date
If any of their information doesn’t jive with what they told you, you’d be wise to cross them off your list and move on.
A step-by-step tutorial on how to check a company’s DOT number
5. They Overstate How Long They’ve Been in Business
One way many fly-by-night movers and brokers bolster their less than lackluster pasts is by claiming they’ve been in business longer than they really have.
Though determining when they were founded might take some legwork, it’s a great way of determining if they’re on the up and up.
6. They Change Their Name Frequently
For some scammy movers, outrunning bad reviews and furious customers is as easy as changing their name.
If during the vetting process you determine that a mover has operated under 5 names in the last 7 years, it’s almost always a clear indication that they’re not people you want to work with, regardless of what excuses they give you.
7. Their Address Doesn’t Exist
Reputable moving companies don’t need to hide their address – period.
Moving companies and brokers should clearly list their address on their website and other important move documents.
If you only find a post office box or suite number as opposed to a street address, it may be another sign that they’d rather you didn’t swing by and say hello unexpectedly.
8. Their Estimate is Way Lower Than Everyone Else’s
Bar none, the “lowball” estimate is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to luring in unsuspecting customers.
Of course with these types of movers the actual cost will be much higher – sometimes 2 or 3 times higher.
Especially during the hardships brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all looking to pinch extra pennies wherever we can.
It’s always better to go with a higher estimate from a reputable mover than a lower one from a company that’s out to scam you
9. Their Website Isn’t Professional (or they don’t have one)
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but anyone who’s ever bought a book knows that’s not necessarily true.
When it comes to websites, many less than reputable movers and brokers rely on things like:
- Patriotic references like eagles, American flags, or both
- Smiling families
- Gushing reviews
- Making claims of being the “world’s best” or having “global coverage” when they only have one location
Also keep an eye out for misspelled words, awkwardly worded reviews (as if someone actually wrote them during their move), and confusing industry jargon.
10. They’re Not a Member of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA)
Not all good moving companies are members of AMSA, but most are.
AMSA is a trade organization of moving companies from across the country and around the world, and being a member in good standing is a big plus if you’re unsure about a company’s background.
You can see if the movers you’re considering are members here.
Remember having the AMSA logo on their homepage isn’t enough.
11. They Claim Their Employees are “Certified”
Many moving companies claim that their employees undergo tons of training and possess lots of industry certifications, but in many cases that’s not true.
Some quality conscious movers do offer training programs for packers, movers, sales representatives and office staff, but in many instances, these programs are provided in-house with no oversight.
Did You Know?
Certified Moving Consultant is a designation given to sales professionals who’ve completed AMSA’s in-depth training course, but they generally work in corporate relocation, not COD sales.
12. They Don’t Give Straight Answers to Reasonable Questions
Good moving companies and honest brokers have a vested interest in answering questions and helping their customers understand the ins and outs of the business.
If a company you’re considering gives wishy-washy answers or avoids answering your questions altogether, scratch them off your list.
13. Something Just Seems “Off”
Trust your instincts.
Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on exactly what doesn’t seem right about a company you’re dealing with.
In instances like this, remember that there’s no shortage of moving companies out there.
If they don’t answer the phone politely (or at all) or if your contact is giving you the hard sell right out of the gate, consider walking away and finding a better fit.
14. They Talk Too Much and Don’t Listen Enough
Though it’s a salesperson’s responsibility to detail their company’s features and benefits, be wary of estimators and office staff who spend all of their time telling you how great they are, and not enough time asking about what’s important to you.
If you’re having trouble getting a word in edgewise, consider moving on to other companies more interested in listening to you.
15. They Have Untidy Facilities and a Lack of Branding
If possible, make an incognito drive by a moving company’s office and warehouse.
You don’t even need to go inside.
Just take a look at their facility, trucks, and workers.
If their trucks have no identifiable markings, their workers aren’t in uniform, and their facility looks like it’s seen better days…
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
16. They Only Give Phone Estimates
Especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic many customers are wary of having a representative come to their home to provide an estimate.
Some companies have started offering “virtual” estimates, but truth be told –
It’s harder for an estimator to get an accurate idea of the scope of your move or how much it’ll cost without coming to your home.
If a mover refuses to provide this service, it’s a red flag that they’re more interested in your money than providing a good move.
17. They Require a Big Deposit
Most reputable moving companies don’t require deposits.
Sometimes they do to protect themselves from last-minute cancellations and lost revenue, but deposits shouldn’t be more than a small percentage of the total move cost.
If your mover requires a big up-front deposit, move on to greener pastures.
18. They Brush Over Insurance
“Don’t worry lady we’re covered.”
Moving insurance or valuation is one of the most critical aspects of a good move.
Your representative should thoroughly discuss what options are available, how much each cost, and what it’ll mean if you experience damage or loss.
If a mover spends a few minutes explaining coverage, avoids the topic altogether, or says there’s no need to worry because they never break anything, run for the hills.
19. The Estimator Cancels or Reschedules Your Appointment
Having your in-home moving estimate rescheduled isn’t the end of the world.
However if it’s done in an unprofessional manner (like a no-show) or it happens repeatedly, it may be an indication that you’re not high on the company’s priority list.
20. The Say One of their “Partners” May Handle Your Move
This often happens with online brokers who don’t actually have any trucks.
The sad part is that by the time a different truck shows up it’s usually too late to do anything about it.
To nip this in the bud, make it a point to ask if the truck and crew assigned to your move will be from the company you’re dealing with.
Insider’s Tip: Working with multiple loosely affiliated entities is a recipe for getting the runaround when it’s time to pay the bill and file claims.