By Jeff Walker
Statistics show that most people will only move seven times in their lifetime. That’s hardly enough time to gain much experience about how the moving industry works, and by the time their next move rolls around, much of what a consumer has learned may have been forgotten.
Many moving companies are willing to provide free estimates on your move provided you are within a certain distance of their company. They will come to your house, look over your belongings and estimate how much it will cost from start to finish. But who are these guys and do I really want them to perform my move? A little information goes a long, long way. Take the time to ask your estimator questions about your move. If they won’t come to your house to work up an estimate, move to the next company in your list. (See our article on Red Flags).
So what information do I need to know from my moving company? For starters, you want to know that they are in business legitimately, and aren’t just a bunch of guys with a truck pretending to be movers. The first question you should ask is “What is your License number?” Get both their DOT and MC numbers so you can do a background check on them later. If it’s a local move, they will still have a state license number (PUC number in California, for example), write these down for later reference.
Type of Move
Ask the company if they can perform your move, be it a local, interstate, or international move. If international, get their FMC number. Not all companies are licensed to perform interstate or international moves, so find out right up front if the company you’ve chosen can do so.
Find out if there are any additional fees that may be unforeseen or unplanned for during your move. This is particularly important in an international move as there are lots of fees and charges that may not come into play right up front. Keep in mind that the estimate placed in front of you by your international mover is the fee for their services, and may not include additional costs such as parking and customs fees.
If your circumstances are such that you will need a bit of temporary storage, it’s good to know up front if your company can provide this and at what cost. Some companies are willing to give you a month’s worth of storage at no extra cost simply by using them for your move. Don’t take this for granted however, and make sure you ask your mover.
Insurance & Valuation
Insurance is something most people don’t even think about. There are two types, valuation and liability. Liability insurance covers the workers in the event they get hurt during your move. Every moving company is required to have this to operate. Valuation is a choice. We’ve talked about this in other articles (“I’m covered for Damage, right?”), so we won’t go into too much detail here, but valuation is what covers your belongings for damage during the move. MovingScam.com recommends FULL valuation protection. If your mover is not insured for accidents, or does not offer full valuation protection, find someone who does.
You’ll want to know how easy their claims process is, how many claims they’ve handled in the last year and who to contact if you do have a claim. Additionally, you’ll want to find out if they are willing to walk you through their claims process, if you need the help. Be sure to check with the BBB and see how many complaints the company has had in the last three years. Ask the company how many moves they perform in a year. If the number of complaints is higher than half a percent, you may consider looking at another company.
Depending on your situation, whether or not you’re healthy enough, you might consider packing your items yourself. Ask your mover if they will bring down the price if you do so. Keep in mind that many moving companies are uncomfortable with this option, not because they can earn more money performing the packing, but that they feel more confident in their staff packing your items as they generally have years of experience. A professionally packed item is less likely to shift or break during your move, so keep these things in mind before making this choice. Additionally, your items may not be protected by valuation if you pack your items yourself. This is a real downside if something breaks in transit. Since the mover didn’t pack the item, they are not responsible for it, and you may not get compensated for damages.
Ask your mover if they can guaranty a delivery date. Usually you will be given a window in which your belongings will be delivered. You can usually choose a date, but there is no guaranty the truck will arrive on that date at a specific time. It’s best to keep your schedule flexible and understand that hitting a delivery window for a household goods move isn’t like having a package delivered via UPS. There is a lot more work involved and your load may not be the only one on the truck.
This will depend on how much you trust the mover. A fraudulent mover is going to provide you with nothing but glowing reviews and probably give you the number to his cousin Lisa who will tell you she had a great move with this company. Plan on doing your research independently of what your mover tells you. You can look for reviews here at MovingScam.com, the BBB and definitely check the FMCSA’s consumer web site for information on your moving company. Follow the advice laid down in our article “How to find a Reputable Moving Company” and sleep better knowing you did your research in advance. When checking the BBB, make sure you look for any unresolved complaints against the moving company and if there are, you may consider looking for another mover.
We’ve talked a little about appliances in a previous article, but you should ask if there is any special preparation that you will need to perform, or if the company will do it for you. Don’t assume that the mover will show up on moving day and that they’ll be able to defrost your fridge in time for the move! If you can, it’s best to sell the appliances with the home.
Asking your moving company the right questions can tell you a lot about your mover and take away a lot of the stress and worry about your move. Be sure to follow up with your answers and if you have any questions about your moving company, ask the volunteers on the MovngScam.com message boards.