How to Avoid Moving Scams and Pick a Reputable Mover

Jon Fesmire | Dec 05, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

Moving is difficult under the best of circumstances. In general, you should expect the unexpected, and that usually doesn’t mean unexpected happy surprises—it means unexpected delays and expenses.

One way that expenses can really start adding up is if you need to hire a moving company. There are fair, reputable moving companies out there, but you have to do your due diligence to find one. Let’s explore what to beware of, and what to look for.

The Obvious

It’s difficult for dishonest companies to scam customers who do their research. You can learn a lot about what past customers think about a company by checking reviews on Google and Yelp.

The problem here is that some dishonest moving companies who receive a lot of negative reviews will simply change their name and keep operating.

Because of that, you’ll need to do additional research into each moving company that you’re considering. Ask for three references from people or companies they recently helped move, then call those people and ask what they think about the moving company. Also, ask for their state and federal licence numbers, and contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have any complaints about the company.

Each moving company is legally required to provide you with the booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” If they don’t, go with another company.

Bad Estimates

You will want to get an estimate on how much it will cost for the moving company to do everything you need, which can include packing your boxes, loading everything onto their moving trucks, driving your belongings to your new home or office, and bringing the furniture and boxes into your home. It might even include unpacking everything.

A moving company simply cannot give you an accurate estimate without inspecting your home or office. If they ask a few questions and give you an estimate over the phone, you can’t trust it. If an estimator comes to your home or office and gives everything not more than a glance, you can’t trust the estimate they give, either.

The weight of your belongings, how much you will be moving versus how much you might sell or give away, and more all factor into the cost of a move. So, you should expect the estimator to look in your cabinets and closets and to ask a variety of questions about what you plan to have shipped. That’s when you know they’re doing a thorough job.

First Comes the Estimate, Then Comes the Contract

Though it will take time to go through the process of getting the estimate, make sure you get that done before signing any contract with a moving company. Do not sign a blank contract. That’s an invitation for an unscrupulous company to charge grossly over charge you. Pickup dates, delivery dates, and all charges should be clearly stated in the contract.

You can expect one of two contract types, a binding contract, or a non-binding contract. With a binding contract, the estimate is a guaranteed price for all agreed-on services. You can add services later, which will incur additional charges, and will have 30 days from the delivery of your belongings to pay the additional amount. A non-binding estimate means what it sounds like, that the moving company isn’t bound by the estimate in the contract. However, legally, they cannot charge you more than 10% above that estimate in the end. This is meant to be a buffer for them, in case any unexpected expenses related to moving your things appear. If you get this sort of contract, plan on paying the company that extra 10%, just to be on the safe side.

Deposit and Full Payment

Initially, once the contract is signed, you will likely be required to pay a deposit on the moving expenses. This should not exceed about fifteen percent of the total estimate. If it does, that could be a sign of a scam company. Ask before they even perform the inspection exactly how they handle payments. Final payment is generally due upon delivery, before the company unpacks the trucks.

Keeping these things in mind should help you avoid any unscrupulous moving companies and help you prevent being overcharged for moving services. You will likely already spend extra money traveling to your destination. Don’t get cheated out of even more.