10 Tips for Hiring the Right Mover

Oct 20, 2014

According to U.S. Census estimates, the average person will move 12 times during their lifetime. That's a lot of packing, transporting, and unpacking.

While some choose to haul their own boxes, others will opt for professional help from a moving company—a relationship you'll want to enter with care, notes the Better Business Bureau (BBB) which has historically ranked the moving and storage industry as one of the most inquired and complained about.

What goes wrong?

Problems reported to the BBB range from movers collecting payment upfront but never showing up to companies that hold goods hostage to renegotiate the "delivery fee." Hire a company like that and you stand to lose a lot more than your peace of mind.

So how can you find the right mover for your needs, one that operates reliably and will deliver as promised? Here are 10 tips from the pros to get you started:

  1. Keep your move the 'now' priority—Perhaps you're moving to a bigger space, relocating for a new job, or simply ready for a change. Whatever the reason for your move, don't let the stress or excitement distract you. "Not keeping your eye on the ball can put your move at risk," advises Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO of The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA), the national trade association for the professional moving industry.
  2. Contact good companies—Word-of-mouth referrals are a good starting point for finding reliable movers, but you may opt to search online or use the Yellow Pages. Regardless of how you find movers, check their credentials with the BBB and ask for referrals. Additionally, AMSA lists thousands of pre-screened "ProMovers" on its website.
  3. Meet in-person—Insist movers meet with you in person at your home to provide estimates. This lets the movers ask questions you may not have considered like if larger pieces will fit up the stairs of your new building. And it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get a good feel for working with the movers.
  4. Get at least three estimates—It's a good idea to meet with and compare estimates from at least three moving companies. Also, be sure to ask each mover for all of the names they're using in your area. It's not uncommon for moving companies to advertise under different names, so you could unknowingly be comparing bids from the same company.
  5. Ask about extra fees—Movers may charge extra for stairs or long driveways, so be sure to fully describe your new location. Some movers may ask for a "good faith" deposit to hold a date (especially during the busy summer season), but be wary of carriers seeking large down payments, or payment in advance for any reason.
  6. Understand liability—"Full-value protection" must be offered as an option in interstate (moving from one state to another) estimates. Should you opt out of full coverage to lower the cost of your move (a typical savings of $200), you'll be provided with minimal coverage that reimburses at $0.60/pound. So if your 20-pound plasma TV is broken, you'll receive $12. "We advise consumers to pay for full-value protection," Darr says.
  7. Ask questions—If you don't understand something, ask the mover to explain it. "The moving business has its own terminology and can be complex," Darr says. "If you aren't satisfied with the answers to your questions or if the mover hesitates when you ask for clarification, talk to another carrier.”
  8. Get it in writing—Make sure all agreements between you and your mover are in writing, and get a copy of everything you sign, especially the bill of lading (legal document that lists what's being moved, by whom, its destination, etc).
  9. Value reputation—When you're ready to choose your mover, the BBB recommends weighing reliability and customer service, not just price, in your final decision.
  10. Know your rights—Two online brochures from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (which regulates interstate carriers) can help you understand your rights and responsibilities: Ready to Move? and Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. In fact, interstate carriers are required by law to provide you with these documents—so it may be a red flag if they don't. For information specific to in-state moves and movers, contact state moving associations or state consumer affairs offices.

Ready to Go?

On moving day, be present and be patient.

Packing and moving is labor intensive and, during prime moving months (May – September), is a sweaty job! There will be many questions and details to think through, so it helps to have an organized list to plan your moving day. And don't forget to keep some things off the moving truck and in your possession—take valuables like cash, coins, jewelry, photographs, and important papers with you. Before the truck leaves, write down the driver's full name, ID, and truck number. Also, make sure the driver and moving company have all of your contact number(s), including your cell phone, in case there are delivery schedule changes.

Now relax! It's time to switch gears—and make settling into your new home your priority.

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