The process of finding a good mover can seem daunting. But doing a little research is worth it. By shopping around, you can save money (sometimes more than $1,000) and avoid scams. Here are 12 steps to help you through the process.
1. Get recommendations. Ask friends, coworkers, and local real estate agents. Look in the phone book for moving companies that have offices near your home. You’re going to want to get an in-person estimate of how much your move will cost. Don’t rely on any estimate that comes from someone who hasn’t looked in every one of your closets. Don’t assume that big-name companies are best. Do not get estimates through websites that offer to “find you a mover.” Find the mover yourself and avoid the numerous scams associated with some of these sites. And don’t use household-goods brokerage services that find a moving company for you―they are not regulated by the laws that movers must follow.
2. Do an initial screening. When you have a list of recommended movers, go online to do a quick background check (you can do a more thorough check later). Call or go to the website of the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org). You also can call or e-mail the American Moving and Storage Association (moving.org, 703-683-7410, email@example.com) to see if a moving company is a member, which means it has agreed to abide by the organization’s published tariffs and to participate in its arbitration program. AMSA membership is voluntary. As long as a moving company checks out in all other ways, the fact that it is not a member shouldn’t rule it out.
Be sure to check the consumer-advocacy sites movingscam.com. Each of these has a blacklist of companies with a history of consumer complaints, as well as tips and general information about the moving industry. You can also do a search using the company name at Rip-off Report (ripoffreport.com).
3. You should end up with at least three or four companies to call for an in-home estimate. 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.
Want a timeline to keep the hiring process on track? See the Moving Checklist.