Angie's List: Hiring a mover
According to a nationwide Angie's List poll:
- Nearly 40 percent of Angie's List members say they encountered a problem with their most recent move, such as damage, extra fees or stolen goods.
- DIY, hire help, or both? The first thing to decide is how much of the moving work you'll do yourself and how much will be handled by professional movers – splitting up the work can help you save in moving costs.
- Plan ahead for busy season: Start researching moving companies four to six weeks in advance, especially if you're moving during the peak summer months. Movers tend to charge higher rates during this time. Try to arrange your move for the middle of the month – the first and last days of the month are typically a busy time during the summer.
- Identify high-priority items: You don't want to lose track of items like family photos, birth certificates, passports, etc. Plan on packing these yourself and transporting them so they are never out of your control. Ordinary household items can be replaced if lost or damaged. If your grandma's china is priceless to you, you should carry it.
- Be available: Make sure the mover knows how to contact you. If you cannot be reached at destination, the mover may place your shipment in storage to avoid delaying other shipments and that could mean additional charges for storage and handling.
Angie's List tips for hiring a moving company:
- Research your mover: As in all professions, there are scams in the moving industry. Be on the lookout for red flags which can include an unmarked truck, dirty packaging materials, and employees without uniforms. Reputable movers do not require large deposits or payment in advance.
- Check credentials: Ask for the company's U.S. Department of Transportation registration number. Twenty-eight states require both state and U.S. DOT registration.
Ask for information on the moving crew's status with the company. Are they employed by the company, temporary hires – do they perform background checks on all?
- Got insurance: Ask for proof that your mover is insured against damage and be sure you understand how you would file claims and be compensated should something go wrong. All movers must assume liability for the value of the goods they transport. "Released value" is a no-cost option that provides minimal protection, requiring movers to cover any damages at 60 cents per pound, per article. "Full value" is the most comprehensive option, but cost varies.
- Get at least three estimates: Have the companies come to you for an in-home estimate because most jobs require a physical inspection. Local and intrastate moves are usually priced by the hour, while moves across state lines must be based on the certified weight and distance shipped, plus the amount of special services, such as packing. Be as detailed as possible with the services you need on moving day so the company can provide the right size crew and truck.
- A binding estimate is a written agreement made in advance with your mover that clearly describes all services provided. It guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services written in the estimate.
- A nonbinding estimate is what the mover believes the cost will be based upon the estimated weight of the shipment and additional services required. However, the final charges are based on the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided and the tariff provisions in effect.
- If the cost sounds too good to be true, it probably is: A move cost several hundred to several thousand dollars- depending on the distance of the move, the number and size of your belongings and an additional services you want. Never hire on price alone, especially if that low bid is significantly lower than your other estimates. Just because a mover's hourly rate is the lowest doesn't mean it's the best choice. The move could take longer, or items may be damaged – leading to a higher overall cost.
- Bigger may mean bigger costs: Some items, like a piano or safe, will cost more to move than couches and chairs. Additional charges may also apply if the movers have to go above and beyond, like getting an antique armoire up a twisting, tight staircase.
- Additional services: Adding services to your move can change costs. For example, the company may charge you for packing supplies, wrapping up big items and assembly/disassembly of furniture. Determine what you want done and get costs for each step.
- Get it in writing: The moving company should provide you a copy of the tariff, which lists items for which you could be charged, such as a "stair fee" or "long carry fee. Read and understand the fine print of your contract. Items such as delivery dates, the mover's responsibility for loss of damage, estimate, payment method, etc. should be in writing. Never sign any paperwork the movers hand you after unloading until you're sure there's nothing missing or damaged.
- Constant contact: If you're moving a great distance, hire a mover who offers an online tracking system so you can virtually watch your belonging as they move across the country. Regardless of the distance involved, get phone numbers and back-up phone numbers in case you need to reach the drivers.
- Got damages? If you notice that a box is damaged at delivery, open it in the mover's presence and have them confirm the condition of the articles in the box. Note any damage on the inventory form. It will be easier to collect on damage if you discover it with the movers still present.