Let's get real: Moving is stressful. And when you're busy finding a new place to live, selling your current home, and then packing up your entire life, selecting the crew who will move your stuff is likely last on your to-do list. That's ironic, because you'll be entrusting them with all your life's possessions.
Even if you manage to hook up with The Most Amazing Moving Company Ever, we can't promise bad stuff won't happen. But you can prevent some unnecessary duress if you have the right team in place. The process starts by schooling yourself in what not to do. Read on for the top mistakes people make when hiring a mover.
1. Waiting too long
So you wait until the weekend before your move to make those calls to moving companies—after all, who cares? Well, if you procrastinate on your search, you won't leave any time to do adequate research and get estimates. That means you might not get the best rate (spoiler: Moving's expensive!), and worse—you could get scammed.
"There are times when last-minute booking can’t be avoided, but frequently it's just a task that's put off too long," says Steve Weitekamp, president of the California Moving & Storage Association. "Delaying selecting a mover can reduce your options—and unfortunately, unlicensed and unethical operators rely on this aspect of human nature to take advantage of consumers."
Take the time to get three in-home written estimates, Weitekamp recommends—and, time permitting, visit the moving company in advance of making your final decision.
2. Being a total cheapskate
No, you don't want to pay more than you have to for a move. But beware of being too budget-conscious.
"The largest mistake you can make is going with the cheapest estimate," says Dave Garrett, owner and managing partner of You Move Me. "The cheapest bid typically means that the company uses casual, inexperienced laborers who don't care a whole lot about your things."
Conversely, Garrett says, higher-end estimates almost always assure trained, professional, and experienced crews who will show up, smiles on their faces, and move your stuff safely and efficiently.
In other words: "If there is a hiccup, they will figure it out," he says. "They're not leaving your stuff on the front lawn."
Weitekamp agrees: "Disreputable movers often lure customers with lowball prices and then hit them with unreasonable charges or, in extreme cases, even hold their belongings for ransom." Yikes.
3. Not asking the right questions beforehand
"A professional mover will be happy to answer any questions you may have, so if they seem uncertain or won’t give you straight answers, that’s probably a mover to avoid," says Michael Keaton, senior director of communications for the American Moving & Storage Association. "Ask them about the moving process so you understand what they will be doing and when they will be doing it, from start to finish."
Weitekamp recommends asking the following questions before selecting a moving company:
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Are you a certified professional mover who meets the standards of the American Moving & Storage Association?
- Are you a member of your state’s moving association?
- What price are you willing to put in writing as a "not to exceed" threshold price?
- What are the dates you can commit to for pickup and delivery for my move?
- Can you give me some references of people you have recently moved?
- How are your crews selected?
- What actions do you take to ensure that the people who come into my home are skilled, professional, and safe?
4. Falling for fakes
The internet is awesome. right? Whether you're looking for comprehensive info on the best mortgage rates, or you simply must know immediately why your dog's paws smell like corn chips, the web is there for you.
And it's there for you to find your next mover, too. But we shouldn't have to tell you that online info can lead you astray. Double check your info by getting moving company referrals from an industry trade association or use a site that verifies and vets moving companies.
Another word of caution: Beware of blindly trusting that the company you're hiring is who it says it is: "Some disreputable movers try to lure customers in by using names that are similar to reputable companies," Weitekamp says. "Check the reputable company's website to make sure the local agent is affiliated with the brand name it is claiming."
Max Lowy, president of New Jersey–based Lowy's Moving Service, also warns consumers to carefully consider low estimates from a company that hasn't been in business long—even if its Yelp profile seems solid.
"Responsible moving companies will provide in-home estimates and explain why the pricing is the way it is," Lowy says.
According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the lack of a physical, local address is a telltale sign of a fake mover. Here are other red flags:
- No federal motor carrier number, which shows the mover is registered with the federal government for a state-to-state move
- Movers who refuses to visit your home to provide a written estimate for an interstate move
- Companies that use unmarked, generic trucks
- Movers who seem uncertain or unresponsive, especially when asked about their claims process if something gets damaged or lost
5. Agreeing to pay a deposit or pay in cash
If you're moving across town, this one's a huge red flag.
"Typically you should not be required to pay a deposit to have your items moved," Weitekamp says. "Most companies request payment at the time of delivery."
If you're moving out of state, your moving company could request a deposit. But make sure it's reasonable.
"A reasonable down payment should be in the hundreds of dollars toward your state-to-state move, rarely exceeding 20%," Keaton says.
Similarly, avoid movers that demand cash instead of allowing payment by credit card.
6. Not doing proper legwork when you move out of state
If you're moving out of state, make sure to check this government database to find out if the mover you selected is actually licensed for interstate moves by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Request a copy of "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move," a brochure created by the Federal Highway Administration that outlines consumers' rights. Federal law requires movers to provide this to consumers before moving their belongings over state lines.
The takeaway? Get several estimates, do your research, and remember that so often in life, you get what you pay for.