Finding a good mover can be a challenge, but if you do your homework you can save money (sometimes hundreds of dollars) and avoid being the victim of a scam and avoid having your possessions held hostage by unscrupulous con-men. Here are 9 steps to help you through the process.
1. Ask for recommendations. Ask family, friends and people you work with. Check for movers that have a local office near your address and, definitely confirm a physical address for the movers you are considering. Get an in-person estimate of how much your move will cost (if someone is not willing to come to your home to truly evaluate the extent of your possessions and assess the ease of getting your personal property out of your home how can they be relied upon for an accurate price?) If hunting on the web, be aware that sites that offer to “find you a mover” are probably getting some of your money for assisting you, and may actually be a scam. Find the mover yourself and avoid the numerous scams associated with some of these sites.
2. Before setting appointments – Screen. Do a background check on the movers you are considering by contacting the Better Business Bureau or by going to their website (www.bbb.org.) You also can call or e-mail the American Moving and Storage Association (www.moving.org, (888) 849-AMSA (2672) | Fax (703) 683-7527) to verify affiliated professional movers. You should also cross reference any movers up for consideration at the sites www.movingscam.com or www.ripoffreport.com.
Check out the video from AMSA that provides their steps to have a successfull move:
3. Get a few in-home estimates. If you’re moving to another state, ask if the company will give you a written binding estimate or, even better, a binding not-to-exceed estimate. Both types of estimates put a guaranteed cap on what you will pay for your move. While nonbinding estimates are legal (as long as they’re given free), as the U.S. Department of Transportation moving guide warns, “You should expect the final cost to be more than the estimate.” And while interstate movers are allowed to charge you for binding estimates, most will offer them free. Estimates for interstate moves will be based on the weight of the items you’re moving and the distance of the move. For moves within the same state, rules about estimates vary: Some states (such as California) require that movers give a written and signed binding estimate; others (like Illinois) forbid them to. Either way, estimates for these movers are based on the amount of time the move will take.
When getting an in-home estimate be thorough. Show the representative everything you want to have moved―items in the closets, the backyard, the basement, the attic. If on your moving day the foreman believes you have significantly more stuff than was calculated in your estimate, he can “challenge” the original estimate (before everything is on the truck, not after). He can’t force you to pay a higher amount, but he doesn’t have to move your stuff for the original amount, either. And at that point you probably don’t have a lot of other options. Also, make sure the estimator knows about any conditions at your new home that might complicate the move, such as stairs, elevators, or a significant distance from the curb to the closest door. While the estimator is at your home, get as much information as you can about the company. Make sure it will be moving you itself, not contracting the job out to another mover. Find out how long the company has been in business. (You want one that’s been around a few years at least, and ideally 10 or more.) By the time the estimator leaves, you should have collected all of the following:
- The company’s full name and any other names under which it does business.
- The company’s address, phone numbers, and e-mail and website addresses.
- Names and contact information for the company’s references.
- USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) and MC (motor carrier) license numbers.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Federal law requires any interstate mover to provide you with this guide, which is the official rule book of the interstate moving industry. (You can download a copy at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.) For in-state moves, movers are regulated by the state’s department of transportation or its public utilities or commerce commission. Some states publish their own moving-guide pamphlets.
5. Review the estimate.The estimate may be a combined document that, when signed by you and the moving-company representative, serves as your order for service and bill of lading, too. These, along with the inventory list created when your goods are loaded, are the basic documents any mover should provide you with. Make sure you see the words “written binding estimate” up top, as well as the mover’s signature with a date at the bottom. For an interstate move, the estimate should clearly describe the type and quantity of goods you’re shipping, the distance to your new home, when your things will be picked up and delivered, and any additional services (such as packing) and supplies the moving company is providing. If you want to purchase additional insurance from your mover (above the standard 60 cents a pound that the mover’s insurance covers), make sure you understand the costs and details of that coverage. For an in-state move, for which you can’t get a binding estimate, you should still get a written estimate that sets out the hourly rates and any additional costs you may incur (for supplies, tolls, driving time to and from the mover’s facilities). If you’re not sure about anything in the estimate, call and ask. And have the company send you a revised written estimate if necessary―don’t just take someone’s word for anything.
6. As you get estimates, keep them conspicuously together in one folder.Keep this folder open in plain sight as later estimators come in. This shows them you’re doing your homework, which encourages them to be honest and perhaps give you a more competitive quote.
7. Make sure your moving company has the license and insurance it needs to move you legally.(Yes, there are movers who solicit business without the legal authority to do so.) Go to www.safersys.org, the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and enter the company’s USDOT number and click on “Search” (you can also search by name or MC number). If you have an accurate DOT number, you’ll be shown a screen with lots of information on the company. Here’s what to look for:
- The company’s name, address, and phone numbers. Are they the same ones the company gave you?
- The “Out of Service” field, at the upper left of the form, should say “No.”
- The fields labeled “Power Units” and “Drivers” tell you how many trucks and drivers the company has. A company that claims to do 100 moves a month but has only two trucks deserves skeptical treatment.
- Under “Operation Classification,” there should be an X next to “Auth. for Hire.”
- Under “Carrier Operation,” if you are moving out of state, there should be an X next to “Interstate.”
- Under “Cargo Carried,” there should be an X next to “Household Goods.”
- Farther down, in the “Inspections/Crashes” section, you should be concerned if the company’s average is much higher than the national average shown. In the “Safety Rating” section, if there has been a review, the results should be “Satisfactory.”
- At the bottom of the page, click on the “FMCSA Licensing & Insurance site” link. On the next page, click on either the “HTML” or the “Report” button under “View Details” to get to the “Motor Carrier Details” page. Under the column “Authority Type,” there are three listings: “Common,” “Contract,” and “Broker.” The “Authority Status” column to the right tells you if the company’s authority is active. At least “Common” should be listed as active, with “No” under “Application Pending.”
- In the next table down, there should be a “Yes” under “Household Goods.”
- The bottom table contains insurance information. A moving company is required to have both bodily-injury and property-damage (BIPD) insurance ($750,000 minimum) and cargo insurance filed. Under the heading “Insurance on File,” BIPD should be at least $750,000, and “Cargo” should say “Yes.”
- You can also call the FMCSA to get information on the status of a company’s licensing (202-366-9805) and insurance (202-385-2423).
8. Finally, call the FMCSA’s Safety Violation and Consumer Complaints hotlineat 888-368-7238 (open 24/7) and ask about complaints against your moving company. And, if possible, go to the company’s address and check out the facilities in person.
9. On moving day, get a written copy of the mover’s inventory list. Provide the movers with specific directions for getting to your new home, and make sure you have a number where you can reach the movers throughout the move.