How to Hire a Moving Company
So you’re moving! After the excitement dies down, the hard reality hits: you’re moving. That means boxing up everything you own and often entrusting all your worldly possessions to a moving company. So how do you select a moving company? Open the yellow pages, put on a blindfold and throw a dart? Not so fast. It pays to proceed with caution. But before you throw up your hands in despair and decide it’s just easier to do it yourself, take the time to do some research.
The American Moving and Storage Association says that the end of the month and summertime are the busiest times for moving companies, so you’ll need to book at the very least six weeks in advance. Even better, try to time your move between October and April, during which time AMSA says many companies offer discounts.
You’ll need to decide whether you want to do the actual packing yourself and only use a moving company for the actual moving, or if you want to trust them to do the packing for you. Below is a checklist that will help you interview moving companies to find the best fit for you and your treasures.
First off, try to get a reference from a friend who has moved recently. Ask if the moving experience went smoothly if there was any breakage or missing items. If you can’t get a personal reference, ask your real estate agent, and then be willing to interview companies.
Here are some areas to research:
- Licensing and bonding. The Interstate Commerce Commission offers a pamphlet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Call your local ICC office for a copy if you’re moving out of state.
- Local moving costs. These are usually calculated by adding the hours the truck is used multiplied by an hourly rate.
- Long-distance costs. These are calculated on the total weight of your shipment and the distance traveled.
- Packing. These costs are not included in a basic moving bid. Ask for the price upfront to avoid any confusion. If you opt to have the company do the packing, they will inventory your stuff and describe any existing damage. Ask for a copy of the inventory form.
- Payment. Most movers only accept money orders or certified checks. Find out in advance, because movers will not unload until you pay them. Tipping the driver is optional.
- Reputation. Ring up the Better Business Bureau and your local department of consumer affairs to find out if any complaints have been registered against the company. Ask for and actually contact references. Ask for an ICC performance report, which movers are required to file annually. Since moving companies prepare their own reports, however, be aware that unless there are gross misstatements, the reports go unchallenged. Find out if the company is a member of the American Movers Conference (www.amconf.org), which requires members to meet certain standards.
- Storage. These costs are also separate from the moving costs, and loading and unloading from storage are also extra. Have the price spelled out in advance.
- Written bids. Remember that the bid is a ballpark estimate and plan accordingly. When talking to references, ask how close their bid was to the final cost. Be sure to get estimates from at least three companies. Once a qualified estimator has gone over all your belongings, get the estimate in writing. You can ask for a binding estimate for an extra charge.
Questions to ask:
- Are you certified by the ICC?
- Do you charge by the pound or by the hour?
- How much insurance do you carry?
- Are there any items you charge extra to move, such as china, pianos, pool tables, etc.?
- Are you bonded?
- Can I call to find out the location of my things during the move?
Once you’ve hired a mover, there’s still more work to be done:
- Make yourself a checklist of things to do every week for eight weeks prior to the move. Stay as organized as possible.
- Ask your moving company to assign three movers to you—two to load and unload and one to guard the truck to prevent theft.
- Talk to your insurance agent about liability. Does your current homeowner’s policy cover your possessions during a move? Moving companies’ basic insurance coverage usually allows a set amount per pound per item, and it’s usually not enough, so find out how much the company carries and then buy extra insurance if necessary. Remember that most companies don’t accept liability for the breakage of any items you pack yourself.
- Confirm the arrangements with the moving company a couple of days before your move.