A startling number of consumers have had bad experiences with moving companies. We’re not talking merely inconsiderate or clumsy movers who break an item or two but, instead, those companies that scam trusting clients out of extra money, holding your treasured household goods hostage until you pay them what they want, which is often hundreds of dollars more than what was quoted.
It sounds scary. But, sadly, it happens all the time, and most people pay the money just to get their stuff back. Even if it’s reported later, there’s no guarantee the funds will be returned.
So, to avoid such scenarios, it’s necessary to follow a series of steps when choosing your mover. If you do these things, chances are moving day will go off without a hitch, and you won’t need to worry about illegal scams or other similar problems.
- Seek recommendations from people you trust – Back in the days of the Yellow Pages, people just pulled open the book, looked under the heading “movers,” and started calling potential moving companies for quotes. Now we can look online, which is fine, but anyone can create a webpage and list themselves as a “reliable” mover. Instead of simply searching the internet, get recommendations from people you know who have recently moved and have used a commercial mover. They’ll either tell you they liked the company or didn’t. That helps you decide who to call and who to avoid.
- Do some snooping – Even if you’ve got a recommendation for a “good “mover, it doesn’t hurt to do a little extra background check. Log onto the Better Business Bureau website and search for each company’s rating. Also, consider consulting the American Moving and Storage Association (moving.org) to see it the company(ies) you are considering is a member. If they are, it means they must abide by a specific code of conduct, or else you can call on the association for help and arbitration. There’s also a site called movingscam.com, which identifies problem companies in your region and offers links to reputable movers.
- Don’t limit yourself to one company – When it’s time to get estimates/quotes, call on more than just one or two companies. Bring in three or four, which will allow you to compare options and pricing better.
- Ask about binding estimates – In some states, you can request a written binding estimate or a not-to-exceed estimate. The latter is an excellent way to lock in a price; however, not-to-exceed estimates are illegal in some states. Remember, estimates are based on the weight of your load, the distance you’re moving, and how many workers will be necessary to facilitate the move. So, while the estimator is at your home, be sure to show him/her EVERYTHING for which they will be responsible. And now’s a great time to ask questions about the company, too. Doing so in person allows you to observe the individual answering the questions. Facial expressions, hesitations, etc. might set off red flags about the company and their reputation and prompt you to do a little more background research.
- Review and compare the estimates – Make sure you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Not all estimates are the same, nor do they all offer the same services. Also, be sure all pertinent information is on any documents that you plan to sign, such as date/time of pick up and delivery, travel distance, packing services (if applicable), supplies provided. If you sign something that’s not complete, it’s on you…not them.
- Do one last check before you sign – You’ll want to make sure the company you choose has the correct licensure and insurance so that you – and your belongings – are protected. Go to https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration site) and type in the company’s USDOT number, which should be listed on any estimates you receive. If it’s not, call the company and ask for it. Once entered, you should be able to see lots of information about the carrier, including how many moves they do each month, inspections, number of crashes, and much more. If any of this information makes you uncomfortable, move on. You can also use this site to find a reputable mover if you want to do further probing.
Not happy with your findings or unsure of your decision? Often, realtors team up with local movers to provide access to reputable companies that will take great care of your household goods during a move, be it long or short. Don’t hesitate to ask him/her for suggestions of local or interstate movers.