Moving is one of the more stressful life experiences we all go through. Unfortunately, picking the wrong movers can make a challenging time even more horrific. If you’re like us, you’ve heard numerous moving story nightmares that involve broken and stolen belongings or worse.
You don’t have to leave your moving experience to chance. There are actionable steps you can take that will almost guarantee that the movers you hire are responsible. So how do you choose a reputable moving company? Keep on reading to find out.
1. Figure out what type of movers you need.
Every moving company has a specialty. Some companies specialize in interstate moves, some focus their efforts locally, and some focus on moving delicate objects like pianos or safes. The first thing you need to do is evaluate the scope of your move.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself (and then verify with a moving company):
- Is my move local, or am I moving across the country? Will I require an interstate moving company? Would a local company be able to complete the job?
- Are there any items that require special equipment or skill to move? Some might include pool tables, pianos, hot tubs, etc.
- Do I require any other services like packing, trash removal, or a cleanout?
2. Find potential movers and evaluate their credentials.
A simple Google search might seem like an ideal way to pick a good moving company. However, try to be systematic with your search so you can compare and contrast different movers. We suggest creating a blank spreadsheet to organize the results and fill it with as many moving companies as you can before you get sick of the process.
For each moving company, create a column for each of the following:
- Where From. In this section, write down where you found the company. You could write Google or something like “personal reference.” For personal references, make a note of who referred you and what that person had to say. When you look back at your spreadsheet, personal recommendations will tend to hold more weight, and you can opt to call these companies for a quote first.
- Years in Business. New companies might be less expensive, but companies that have been in business for a long time are less likely to be flight risks.
- Areas of Service. Can this company accommodate both where you live now and where you’re moving?
- License and Insurance. Find out if the company has licensing and insurance information on their website. Interstate movers should have the Department of Transportation (DOT) licensing and insurance information listed.
- Accreditations. Are there any specialized accreditations or certificates on their website that are worth mentioning? Some might include the American Moving and Storage Association.
3. Read online reviews for the top 5 companies.
The most important thing to look for in a moving company are good, honest reviews. Don’t choose a moving company without this step, and don’t just trust the testimonials listed on the website because these can easily be faked or fabricated. We suggest narrowing your spreadsheet down to the top five choices.
Search for additional reviews using the following platforms:
4. Request in-person estimates.
Once you have a good sense of the online reviews and presence of your top 5 moving companies, the next step is to get in-person estimates. You should get at least three estimates, and it is vital that these be in-person and not over the phone or through email. It is challenging to accurately assess a move without seeing the size of the house and belongings. During the estimate, ask for proof of their license and insurance. Later, you can verify interstate movers on Protect Your Move, and you can verify local movers through this database or your Consumer Affairs agency.
There are some red flags to watch out for during the estimate stage that can help safeguard you from moving scams or from unreliable movers.
Be on the lookout for some of the following signs.
- Low bids. Toss out any estimate that is significantly lower than the others. This low cost might be appealing, but it can be a sign that the movers don’t understand the scope of the project and will cut corners. It could also indicate a scam.
- Large deposits. Technically, a reliable mover should not request more than 20% of the estimate upfront. We recommend never paying more than 20% down, and it’s better when the company does not require payment until after the move. If you must make a large deposit for a more complicated relocation, make sure you put it on a credit card. Never pay with cash. If something goes wrong, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.
- Rented moving vans. Some smaller companies might need to rent moving vans to build up their business. However, these rentals are more common for small moves, like one or two pieces of furniture, etc. They are less common for whole-house movers. Reliable companies will have their own moving vans and equipment.
- Unprofessionalism. Other unacceptable behavior includes showing up for the estimate late, unprofessional demeanor, and any condescending actions. Also, be wary of companies without an answering service. Finally, check the company address and see if it’s listed under a residential or commercial address. Commercial addresses are more legitimate.
5. Trust your gut and pick your favorite.
Two people could have the same set of moving circumstances and still come to a different decision when choosing a moving company. Remember, factors that matter to you like pricing might not matter as much to someone else. Ultimately, you should trust your gut and make a decision that feels right for YOU.
6. Get everything in writing.
Before the move, solidify the terms of your contract and get everything in writing. There are different types of moving contracts, and you want to be sure you understand the terms completely. For example, make sure you know the answers to the following questions. Is the price firm? How are overages handled? When is payment due?
Also, make sure you go over their insurance policy. What does it cover? How much does it cover? Learn about the difference between full replacement value and other no-cost options that may not include replacement value. Pick the insurance that you’re comfortable with and pay more for extra protection if you own very valuable items.
During and after the move, protect yourself if things go wrong. You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the American Moving & Storage Association, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to help warn future consumers.
We hope this helped you choose a moving company with more confidence. If you want to see some of our interstate moving recommendations, check out this interstate moving company guide.