Choosing the right moving company can be difficult, especially if you have never moved before. You can simplify the process by asking 4 very important questions and following some practical advice when hiring your mover.
Ask every mover you interview these 4 key questions before you hire them:
- Is the moving company asking you for a cash deposit prior to your move?
- Does the moving company have a physical local address (and not just a PO Box) on its website?
- Does the company include licensing information on its site?
- Is the moving company a member of certified organizations like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA)
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you could be dealing with a “rogue mover” or be falling victim to some other type of moving scam.
Here’s an outline of the steps to take to ensure you make the right move when choosing between moving companies.
Where to start
- Begin your search for a mover by asking your friends, relatives and business associates about movers they have used and liked.
- Contact a real estate agent you trust to find at least three moving companies that have real, physical offices in your area.
- If you are using the Yellow Pages, remember —just because a moving company has a large ad doesn’t necessarily mean it is reputable.
- Once you’ve made a list of prospects, contact the companies via phone to get the full company name and “doing business as” names, contact information and DOT / MC license numbers.
- Don't be afraid to ask for recent references. A reputable moving company should be happy to put you in touch with someone that has moved with them in the recent past.
- Go to SaferSys.org, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website, and search for the company using the DOT and MC license numbers to see safety information, any orders to cease operation, licensing and other information. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer organizations in your local area.
- Schedule at least two on-site estimates, which should be provided free of charge. A reputable mover WILL NOT give you an estimate over the phone.
- Don’t rely on a quote provided sight-unseen over the phone or over the Internet. When moving across state lines, your charge is based on the actual weight of your shipment and where you are moving from and to. You are better off meeting face-to-face with the mover’s representative to ensure that you both understand what is involved.
- During the on-site estimate, be sure to show the representative everything that is to be moved. Don’t forget about the items in the basement or the major piece of furniture you have sent away for repairs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. The salesperson should also ask you questions – about your new home, the timing of your move, etc.
- Inquire about “valuation" options. Valuation provides protection from loss or damage to your possessions. The valuation option you choose determines the basis upon which any claim will be adjusted and the maximum liability of the mover. The liability of a mover for loss or damage is based upon the mover’s tariffs, as well as federal laws and regulations, and has certain limitations and exclusions. Valuation is not insurance; it is simply a tariff-based level of motor carrier liability.
- Be wary of quotes that are substantially lower than the rest. “Low-ball” price quotes could result in significantly lower-quality service, or they could be an indication of a mover who plans to “up” the price in a "bait and switch" moving scam. Some "low-ball" rogue movers are known to take household goods “hostage” and demand large sums of money before returning the possessions.
Go with a name you know
- There are plenty of quality “name” van lines to choose from. If you have never heard of a particular mover and you have no references from friends or business associates, be very careful! Don’t be swayed by a low price from an unknown firm; remember, you’re entrusting your mover with almost all of your personal possessions.
- References are important. If a mover wasn’t recommended by someone you know, ask for the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers. Then call them!
- Consider the attentiveness of the salesperson. Do you have confidence that he or she will be there to help you through planning, packing and loading?
- Take a drive past the mover’s office or warehouse. Does it reflect the level of quality and professionalism you expect in a service provider?
- Movers are required by law to provide you with a copy of the brochure, “Your Rights and Responsibilities.” In this brochure, the “110% Rule” is explained. The rule states that under a non-binding estimate, the mover cannot require you to pay more than the amount of the original estimate, plus 10 percent, at the time of delivery. You are obligated to pay any remaining charges over the 110 percent amount within 30 days.
Timing is important
- Make arrangements for your move well in advance – at least four to six weeks before the moving date. If at all possible, try not to move during "peak" times.
- Throughout the year, the end of the month is a busy time for movers, because of the expiration of leases and preferred closing dates.
- The summer months – May to mid-September, when children are out of school, are “peak season” for movers. Schedule summertime moves as far in advance as possible...and again, try to stay away from month-end moving dates.
If you fall victim
- Unfortunately, some consumers will fall victim to rogue movers this year. Fortunately, there is a service called MoveRescue available to help. Those who feel they may have been scammed should contact MoveRescue at 800-832-1773. Consumers who call this number will talk to a representative who will assess the situation and direct the caller through the appropriate next steps. MoveRescue, which is supported by a network of legal firms throughout the United States, and sponsored by leading van lines, serves as a central source for consumers who need legal assistance or anti-fraud information. In some cases, MoveRescue even offers “Shipment Rescue” for goods being held by rogue movers.