If you’ve heard moving company horror stories from friends and relatives, your excitement about your new home may be overshadowed with a little trepidation. What if the movers don’t show up for my move? What if they charge me double their estimate? What if they won’t deliver my furniture?
Relax and follow these quick hiring tips. Most moving company headaches can be avoided simply by choosing reputable movers and by knowing your rights as a consumer. Give yourself time to shop around and do your homework. Snap decisions = stress.
Make sure any mover you want to hire has the appropriate licensing for your area. For interstate moves, your moving company should have a US DOT number and be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can search for your movers here to see if they’re registered, and whether FMCSA has received complaints about them. Check with your state’s department of transportation or movers’ association for info about the requirements for local movers.
What do customers say about them?
Check online review sites, such as the Better Business Bureau, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Avoid movers that have large numbers of unresolved complaints, but don’t assume companies with zero complaints are the best. A common tactic for a disreputable moving company is to switch names frequently, so they can ditch their poor reputation. An established company that actively works to address customer concerns may be a better bet than one with a clean slate.
BONUS QUESTION: What do your friends and family say about them? The personal experiences of people you trust may help you as you weigh your options.
Get multiple apples-to-apples estimates—in writing!
To truly gauge the work involved in your move, a representative from the company needs to come to your home and inspect the goods you’d like to ship. Rate quotes over the phone or internet are not the same thing. Make sure you clearly communicate everything you’ll expect the movers to provide, including any necessary packing services and shipping supplies, as well as any physical challenges they’ll face, such as multiple flights of stairs or a lack of curbside parking.Request at least three competitive estimates. If one quote is significantly lower than the others you’ve received, that may be a sign that an honest mistake has been made or it could be a red flag for moving fraud. For other warning signs, see ProtectYourMove.gov’s handy checklist here »
DID YOU KNOW? Your moving company’s estimate may be binding (the actual cost you will be charged for your move) or non-binding (a projected cost based on the estimated weight of your shipment). For an interstate move, your mover typically isn’t allowed to collect more than 100% of a binding estimate or more than 110% of a non-binding estimate on delivery, unless you added to your shipment after the estimate was issued. You may get an additional invoice if they performed extra work due to unforeseen circumstances.
Ask about loss and damage coverage.
Movers are typically liable for the damage or loss of your property while it’s in their care, but there are limits on what they’re required to pay, and there are things you can do that may further limit their liability. Ask your moving company for information about the coverage levels they offer and what you can do to protect your valuable household assets.
NOTE: Your mover should never ask you to sign a waiver of damage liability in return for delivering your goods.
Pay attention to your paperwork.
Once you’ve chosen a moving company, it’s still important to be on the lookout for potential pitfalls. Avoid signing paperwork that’s blank or missing information—especially the dates of your shipment pickup and delivery. Estimates, service orders, bills of lading and receipts are your best protection in the event of a dispute, so it’s in your best interest to make sure everything is as complete and accurate as possible. Keep signed copies of everything with you throughout the move; don’t pack your paperwork and send it on the truck!
For more information, check out “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” an educational booklet issued by the federal government. In it, you’ll find in-depth information about the topics we’ve covered above, plus:
- A glossary of moving/shipping terms
- Pickup and delivery guidelines for interstate movers
- An overview of Full (Replacement) Value coverage versus Released Value coverage for lost or damaged property
- Explanations of the paperwork you may receive from an interstate mover, including an Order for Service, Inventory, Bill of Lading, Freight Bill and Weight Tickets
- Questions to ask a broker
- Billing and collection information
- Tips for resolving disputes
- And more!
You can also find a variety of moving checklists on our blog, tailored for your homebuying journey!