Before you buy a car, you read reviews, take test drives and bicker with the car salesman (hopefully not too much bickering).
Before you buy a house, you look at many different styles and sizes before choosing the right one — and then you hire an inspector to look at it even more closely.
Heck, you probably even check out restaurant reviews before going out to dinner.
So when you move, why don’t you spend as much time — or even more time — choosing a moving company?
Most people don’t.
An Important, Complicated Decision
Choosing the best moving company isn’t easy. The moving industry is very complicated, and to ensure you get a quality moving company, you have to put in some legwork.
However, it’s something you MUST do, because there are rogue movers out there that will take advantage of the unsuspecting.
This article outlines the major parts of the process of finding and hiring a mover, with links to other resources to help you with more detailed information.
1. Look for mover names. Ask for recommendations from family and friends, and check out the phone book for local movers.
Interested in learning more about the moving industry? This article gives you a moving industry background and a list of moving terminology.
2. Start calling. Don’t get quotes over the phone; the only solid estimate is one that you get after you have a moving company representative in your home looking at your stuff.
However, use your initial phone call as a good screen to to see if you’re comfortable with the movers – ask about the number of moves they make, whether they own their own equipment or contract out; how long they’ve been in business; and whether they’re a member of the American Moving and Storage Association. None of their answers should disqualify movers, but they’re a good way to give you a glimpse into the type of company you’ll be working with.
After talking to a handful of companies, arrange for at least three in-home assessments so you can get accurate estimates of how much your move will cost. It’s the only way to get an accurate moving quote, and it’s usually a good way to screen out scam moving companies, which often don’t like to take the time to give you an in-home estimate.
3. The in-home assessment Show the moving company EVERYTHING you plan to move. The more thorough you are in detailing what has to be moved, the more accurate the estimate will be.
Also, let the estimator know about any factors at your home – or the home you’re moving to – that could complicate the move, like stairs to climb, which might add to the costs.
Remember: Disclose everything so there are no surprises upon payment.
The in-home assessment is a good time to get a feel about the company you’re thinking of hiring – a quality estimator probably represents a quality company. You should also get a lot of information about the company, because this interview will form the backbone of your decision. (See this article for a full list of questions to ask your moving company.)
Above all, beware the low-ball offer. If an estimate is way out of whack compared to the others, it’s probably too good to be true – and you more likely you are to get hit up for more costs later by an unscrupulous mover. (See this article for tips on finding a trustworthy mover. And this article explains moving companies’ hidden charges — they’re how they make up for the low-ball bid that they gave you.)
4. The estimate. Now that you have the estimate, be sure you understand it completely. The documents you get from the moving company should include the estimate, which could be a combined document that serves as your order for service and your bill of lading – be sure to clarify with your moving company. (See this story for everything to know about moving estimate.)
For an interstate move (generally known as a long-distance move), make sure the estimate has a description of the type and quantity of goods you’re shipping, the distance of the move, delivery dates, as well as any additional services you’ve requested.
A local move estimate (generally under 50 miles) are charged according to an hourly rate plus any additional costs.
During the estimate process, you’ll also be asked to consider insurance to protect your goods. (This article describes more completely how much moving insurance you should buy)
Finally, the moving company will taken an inventory of your stuff to be moved. Make sure the inventory is accurate. If they miss something, you will end up paying more on your moving day. Also, be sure you’re prepared for moving day!