Insider tips on how to spot red flags, key questions to ask, and how to score a deal when looking to hire a moving company.
If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that moving is stressful, no matter the circumstances.
Fortunately, there are ways to ease the burden. Hiring movers helps, whether to simply haul boxes from point A to point B, or to pack every single fork and dish.
But before relinquishing control of every prized possession, take the time to choose your movers carefully. Depending on the length of the move, your belongings may be in movers’ care for days, if not weeks. It’s important to ask key questions before signing contracts or letting strangers pick up everything you own and drive away with it.
To determine the right checklist, we spoke to Laura McHolm, an organizational, moving and storage expert, and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. “Experience counts and a track record shows a moving company’s ability to deliver each and every time,” she said.
Here’s her advice on how to hire movers:
1. Is the moving company licensed?
“If you’re looking to hire movers to move from state to state, the moving company should have a U.S. DOT number, which is a unique license number issued by the United States Department of Transportation. Make sure your mover’s DOT number is valid by searching it in their database. If moving within your own state, the moving company needs a state license. Never hire movers without a license number, and make sure the name of the company matches the license holder’s name. This ensures you’re working with a legitimate company. It’s also best to hire movers that have been in business for a few years. Many fake moving companies bounce from name to name to try and escape a bad reputation.”
2. Is the moving company insured?
“Verify that the moving company is insured on the same website you used to check their license. Never hire movers without insurance, so as to protect your belongings. Also, check to see if your personal items are covered during a move under your homeowners’ or renters’ policy. If not, you may want to consider supplemental moving insurance. Movinginsurance.com or moveinsure.com are good resources.”
3. Has the moving company won awards for service?
“Before hiring movers, ask if they can show letters of recommendation from past customers. If they haven’t won any awards for service, chances are they aren’t going to win any from you. No one gives a glowing review to a company that over-promised, under-delivered, and over-charged. Additionally, find out if they are active in the community. If they care about the community, chances are they will care about you and your move.”
4. Have you checked the company’s online ratings?
“Check with the Better Business Bureau, as well as review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch and TrustLink, which will share other people’s experiences. Sites like Google Guarantee or Angie’s List will also check the backgrounds of movers.”
5. How do you get the lowest rate when hiring movers?
“Most people move in the summer. For the best rates, ask the moving company about low-cost days. Find out if they offer a better rate on a Sunday as opposed to a Monday. Just like prices go up at the holidays with airlines, in moving, prices go up in the summer and at the end of the month. Ask for midweek prices, and if possible, avoid the summer rush.”
6. What do moving company rates include?
“Low rates don’t necessarily mean a low final bill. Ask how many movers will be on the job, how they plan to protect your belongings, whether there are charges for things like fuel or the building type (if you live in an apartment building without an elevator, for example), and how long they estimate the job will take. This all impacts the price. Additional men and equipment can mean surprising extra costs. By law, a moving company can only give rates on the phone, not estimates. Before you hire movers, check if someone from the company will come to your home to provide a free onsite estimate instead.”
7. What happens when you move out of state?
“Long-distance moves are charged by weight, and local moves are charged by time. Legitimate companies present policies upfront. If moving out of state, ask about consolidation and delivery window policies in detail. Consolidation is when your belongings are shipped together with other people’s items. It’s a great way to save money, but adds time to the delivery schedule as there will be stops for other folks’ deliveries. Long distance movers almost always involve a delivery window, rather than an exact delivery date. You need this information so you know how much to pack in your suitcase.”
8. Has the mover asked you any questions?
Finally, before hiring movers, “let the moving estimator ask YOU questions. If they haven’t asked a single question, yet is ready to give an estimate, turn and run!”