Choosing a Moving Company

Let's face it: moving to a new home can be a frustrating and demanding process. But sometimes it's a necessary evil. For many people, like military personnel who receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders every few years, moving is a part of life. The good news is: proper research and planning can make your move much less distressing so you can focus on the fun things, like arranging your new place.

Families essentially have two choices for relocating belongings: do it yourself, or hire a moving company.

If you choose to do it yourself, you will have total control over the fate of your things, which is certainly a nice benefit. What's more, you will probably save a lot of money. But you will also have more work, fewer helping hands, sore backs, and no one to blame but yourself if your things get damaged.

Professional movers, on the other hand, are typically well trained in the laborious arts of packing, lifting and moving. Their process can go much faster than do-it-yourself, and good movers know how to protect your stuff. If they don't, replacements costs may come out of their pockets!

That said, finding and choosing a "good" moving company isn't always easy. A Google search on keywords as simple as "bad movers" can attest to that. And we've all heard horror stories from friends or family about disreputable companies. That's why it's vital to sort the good from the bad as early as you can. To ensure you get a quality moving company, you'll want to put in some legwork.

Think about what you want from a move. Then, before you reach out to any companies, make a checklist of what you need and expect from your relocation experience. This list will help you keep your questions on track, your expectations clear, and your estimates accurate.

How to Prepare Your RFQ Checklist

  • When do you need to move? Keep in mind that movers are often busy at the end of the month, on Fridays and weekends. They may charge more for service in these premium times. Consider moving on an "off day" and ask if they offer a discount for relocation during the company's less busy times.
  • Where are you coming from, going to? Are you looking to move locally, long-distance or overseas?
  • How much stuff needs to be moved? Write down the number of rooms in your home. Mentally walk through every room, listing the big items first (like furniture, appliances, and other items that don't fit into boxes). Then try to work out how many boxes it will take to remove the rest of the stuff in the room. Don't forget to think about garden furniture and the contents of your garage.
  • Do you want help with packing, or do you want to do the small stuff yourself?
  • Will you transport valuable or fragile items?
  • How much insurance will you need? Use your list to estimate the replacement value of each item.

Now you're ready to start calling around for estimates. But whom do you call?

The best way to find a reliable moving company is by word-of-mouth. If you know someone who has recently moved, find out which moving company they chose and what they thought of the service. Your real estate agent might also be able to give a good recommendation (as well as tell you which movers to avoid!).

Use the web to search and compare local and national companies. Several terrific independent websites offer unbiased information and comparisons of movers, like 123Movers.com. But be alert: some mover-directory websites gather your contact information and sell it to multiple movers; your phone may start ringing a lot. A consumer ratings site, like Yelp.com, aggregates customer feedback for an expansive customer review.

Shopping and Comparing: What to Ask a Mover

  • How long has your company been in business?
  • Do you own your own equipment, or do you contract out?
  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • Are you a member of the American Moving and Storage Association?
  • Do you have any references that I may contact directly?
  • Will you do an in-home estimate, at no charge?

Once you've narrowed down your list of your movers, you should do a final check with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make sure none of them have serious problems with unresolved complaints.

After talking to a handful of companies, arrange for at least three or four in-home estimates to get a better idea of your moving costs. It's the only way to get a close-to-accurate moving quote, and it's usually a good way to screen out scammer moving companies (who often don't like to take the time to give you an in-home estimate).

Show the moving company everything you plan to move. The more thorough you are in detailing what has to be relocated, the more accurate the estimate will be. Also, let the estimator know about any issues at your home -- or the home you're moving to -- that could complicate the process. Lots of stairs, narrow angles and poor driveway access are just a few examples that might add to your overall costs.

Comparing quotes will help you decide which company to choose, but try not to make your choice by cost alone. It may be smarter to spend a little more money and get the company with the best reputation. If you just have a bad feeling you can't explain but the price is right, trust your gut over your wallet.

Once you make a decision, you'll be asked to sign a contract outlining the details of your move. Read. The. Contract. If anything seems strange or confusing, ask for clarification. Make notes right on your contract. If the mover dismisses any phrase in the contract by suggesting, "Don't worry about that," cross out the sentence. Ask the mover to initial and date any contract changes in pen.

Don't forget to give your movers a call a few days beforehand to confirm your arrangements. Be sure you (or a trusted friend) attend all inventory counts and truck weigh-ins in person. Make your own notes. Keep all documents and records in a safe place where they can't be misplaced during the move.

These basic guidelines should help you position yourself for a successful move. But in the end if you feel like you've been taken advantage of, cheated in some way, or robbed by a mover, report it immediately and report it often.

The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. "Storage Tips" are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront's Terms and Conditions.

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