If you’re planning on moving, you’ve got a lot on your plate. From house-hunting to actually buying a house to selling your current place, you might be at your wit’s end. But there’s one important piece of the puzzle that deserves special attention – and that’s choosing a moving company. You have to do your research and choose the right company, and here’s how you can do that.
Tips for choosing a moving company.
1. Get estimates from multiple movers.
You ought to get an estimate from several moving companies to see what kind of pricing you’re looking at. (Yes, it might be a bit of a sticker shock, but better to know early on in the game than at the last minute, right?) Keep in mind that these estimates ought to be based off an actual in-person inspection of your belongings. An online estimate or a number given over the phone is probably not going to cut it.
2. Make sure that the mover is properly registered when choosing a moving company.
If you are moving between states, know that the moving company needs to have a USDOT Number. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a Mover Search Tool that you can use to look into different moving companies. Make sure that the company is properly insured and that they are registered to transport household goods from state to state. (Keep in mind that if the moving company doesn’t have a USDOT Number and MC Number listed in their advertisements, that’s not a great sign.
(Now, if you aren’t moving to a different state, you can check with your state Attorney General’s office to see what you should be looking for.)
3. Look into the moving company’s history of complaints.
The FMCSA also allows you to look into the complaint history of the moving company. You can get an idea of what kind of experience other consumers have had when they worked with the company you’re considering. You can also look at the Better Business Bureau for more information. Don’t underestimate the importance of doing a little bit of online research from reputable sources (like the FMCSA and the BBB) before hiring a moving company.
4. Read through the resources you need to review.
Your mover should supply you with a pamphlet entitled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” if you are moving to a different state. Make sure you take the time to look over this pamphlet, as it details helpful information about what to do if your belongings are lost or damaged. It also gives you an overview of the important documents you’ll have to sign.
5. Look over the documents provided by the moving company.
It’s also important that you read over the documents provided by your moving company. The following are some of the documents you will probably see from the moving company:
Estimate – Provides a description (in writing) of all charges and services that the mover has billed.
Order for Service – Gives a list of all the services the mover is going to provide and gives the dates of pickup and delivery.
Bill of Lading – The contract between you and the mover and the receipt of your belongings. (You should be given a partially completed copy before the mover leaves.)
Inventory List – The receipt that shows every item you shipped along with its completed along with its condition. (You should get a written copy of the inventory after your belongings are loaded.)
PRO TIP: Don’t sign documents that are blank or incomplete.
6. Look into how your belongings will be protected.
You also have to consider what kind of insurance will be covering your belongings. Do you want Full Value Protection for your belongings? Does your home insurance say anything about this situation? It’s important to figure out how you’re going to make sure your prized possessions are protected as they’re transported to your new home.
7. Make sure that you supervise loading and unloading.
You’ll probably want to take care to supervise the loading and unloading process. Not that you want to be hovering or anything, but it doesn’t hurt to politely oversee what’s going on. These are your belongings, after all, and you want to make sure they are all properly packed and arrive safely at their destination.
8. Know the “red flags” you should look out for when choosing a moving company.
It’s also a good idea to be aware of the “red flags” that should make you think twice about working with a moving company. There are a few tip-offs that should make you a little leery and make you consider taking your business elsewhere. Here are a few…
- They don’t do an onsite inspection of your belongings.
- They want cash or want a big deposit.
- They want you to sign documents that are blank or not complete.
- There is no written estimate (whether that estimate is binding or non-binding).
- They don’t give you a copy of the Your Rights and Responsibilities brochure or FMCSA’s Ready to Move brochure. (Movers are required to provide these if it is a move from one state to another.)
- They do not have an address or registration/insurance information on their website.
- They claim that their insurance covers “all goods”.
- They don’t have a phone greeting giving the specific name of the company.
- The mover claims that they’ll determine the charges after they load the goods.
- They show up with a rental truck, not a marked fleet truck or a company-owned truck.
PRO TIP: If the mover claims you have more belongings than expected, have the mover give you a revised estimate. This should list the extra items or services the mover will be providing along with a price that you both agree to and sign off on. Be sure this happens before the movers start packing or loading. (And get a copy of the revised estimate.)
So, that’s what you need to know if you are moving! It’s important to choose your moving company carefully so that you end up working with a reputable, trustworthy mover. Of course, there are plenty of wonderful moving companies that operate with integrity, but it doesn’t hurt to do your research and protect yourself against potential scams.