If you’ve ever done a big move, you know that it can be a stressful experience. A big part of that stress is finding a moving company that you can trust to move your valued possessions at a reasonable price.
6 Steps to Choosing a Moving Company
Perhaps you’ve heard moving horror stories or maybe even had a bad experience yourself. In this article, we’ll go over the steps you can take to choose the best moving company for your needs.
Table of Contents
- Decide if You Need Local or Long-Distance Movers
- Get Referrals
- Do Your Vetting
- Do Walk-Throughs, Take Inventory and Get Quotes
- Don’t Pay a Big Deposit
- Review the Contract for Gotchas
1. Decide if You Need Local or Long-Distance Movers
The first thing you need to determine is how far your belongings need to move. If you’re going cross-country, you’ll definitely need to hire long-distance movers. If you’re just moving to another neighborhood in your town, local movers are the way to go.
That seems like a simple decision. But you need to consider that anything in between — say a move to a new city in the same state — could be considered local or long-distance. There is no standard definition, but it’s fairly safe to say that 50 miles or more would be considered long-distance.
That said, you need to check with each company you consider to see how it defines long-distance versus local and to determine whether the company offers the type of move you need.
2. Get Referrals
Once you determine what kind of moving company you need, it’s time to start doing your research. The best way to identify companies that are most likely to make your move worry-free is to get referrals from people you trust. This would include:
- Local/neighborhood message boards
A note of caution on that last group: Neighborhood message boards, Facebook groups and sites like Nextdoor can be amazing places to get referrals. But you have to be careful. Be wary of unsolicited posts that seem a little over-the-top in praising a business — unless there are corroborating comments to back them up. In many cases, these are just business owners touting their own services or people who are working on their behalf.
Instead, look for threads where people have asked your exact question (“Can anyone recommend a good local moving company?” for example). If that post has resulted in several answers from people who don’t seem to have any relationship with that company (or to each other), you’ve probably found a good choice to put on your list of potential hires.
3. Do Your Vetting
After you’ve collected a list of recommended companies from sources you trust, it’s time to do some detective work to make sure those companies really are reputable.
A great place to start is with the American Moving & Storage Association’s ProMover program.
This program certifies moving companies that have passed a background check and agreed to uphold a Code of Ethics.
You should also check the companies’ histories with the Better Business Bureau. If you see a bunch of unresolved complaints — especially recent ones — that’s a huge red flag.
Additionally, you should read as many reviews as possible about the businesses you’re considering. You should be able to find reviews for any legitimate moving company on:
Make sure you check multiple sources to get a good balance of information.
Finally, ask the companies themselves for references. Here’s what Moving.com recommends:
“Ask any mover you speak with for references. Tell them you want a list of three customers from your area who have moved in the past three months. Call those customers and ask direct questions about their experiences.”
4. Do Walk-Throughs, Take Inventory and Get Quotes
Once you’ve narrowed your list to 3-4 companies, it’s time to schedule appointments. In most cases, that will involve a representative of each company walking through your home to take inventory of the items you need to move.
If a company offers to give you a quote over the phone, that’s another red flag. Likewise, if you do a walk-through and it seems rushed or incomplete, you should be concerned. This is the process by which the moving company determines an estimate or quote, so the walk-through needs to be thorough for the quote to be accurate.
Once you’ve done your walk-through, you should get some kind of quote from the moving company. According to Moving.com, this could take one of three forms:
This typically means the company cannot charge you more than 10% above the original estimate. But note: this is not always the case. In some states, there may be no limit to what you’re required to pay, no matter what the estimate says.
Non-Binding to Exceed Estimate
This ensures that you will not have to pay for any overages to the original estimate. The estimate is the most you’ll be required to pay for any services rendered.
This should be a guaranteed price for the move and all extras and services. If you request additional services later on, though, you’ll have to pay for them. That could include things like packing materials not included in the original quote or asking only when you arrive at your new home for the movers to set up your furniture
Money expert Clark Howard says the kind of estimate you get is key to making sure costs don’t get out of hand.
“Movers are happy to give you an estimate,” he says. “They will never, ever mention if it’s not binding. Under federal law, an estimate is not binding unless it is labeled as such. So they will tell you that your move is $1,400. Then, once they have possession of your goods they could tell you at the other end your move is $14,000 and you have no rights. The only way you’re protected is with a binding estimate.”
Clark says that it’s important to know the rules around estimates in your state because they vary so much from location to location.
“In Georgia, for example, you cannot receive a binding estimate,” he says. “You can only receive a quote of an hourly rate and they can take as many hours as they want. They can go to Wendy’s if they want. They can go waste time. You still have to pay that clock time. Very few states have good protections on an in-state move.”
You should be able to find out what the rules are through the Secretary of State’s office in your state.
Clark also stresses that if you’re doing a state-to-state move, the only way you’re truly protected is to get a binding estimate.
5. Don’t Pay a Big Deposit
Reputable moving companies won’t require cash upfront or a huge deposit to move your things. In fact, you should avoid any company that asks for one.
As always, you’ll want to pay your deposit and all other charges with a credit card in case you need to dispute anything at any point.
6. Review the Contract for “Gotchas”
Finally, before you sign on the dotted line, you should review your moving contract thoroughly for any fine print that may end up costing you more than you need to pay.
Are there packing fees included in your contract? If so, you could be paying for both the labor involved in packing and inflated prices for materials like boxes and tape. If you’re okay with that, fine. If not, you’ll want to renegotiate the contract.
Question any part of the contract that you haven’t already agreed to with the moving company. If the company can’t provide a good explanation for the charge, ask for it to be removed.
Almost no one thinks of moving as a fun experience.
If you’re planning a move, Clark has some advice:
“Just make you have some pain reliever on hand because you’re going to need it after a move.”
However, with some planning and research, you can make sure your move doesn’t turn into a complete nightmare.
Do your homework and make sure you know that you’re dealing with a company that’ll treat you fairly: You’ll thank yourself when you’re settled in your new “home sweet home.”