How to find a good moving company

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Moving company
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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 most valuable possessions at a reasonable price.

6 steps to choosing among moving companies

Perhaps you’ve heard moving horror stories or maybe even had a bad moving 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

  1. Decide if you need local or long-distance movers
  2. Get referrals
  3. Do your vetting
  4. Do walk-throughs, take inventory and get quotes
  5. Don’t pay a big deposit
  6. Review the contract for gotchas

1. Decide if you need local or long-distance movers

The first thing you need to determine when evaluating moving companies is how far your belongings are going to 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 own town, local movers are the way to go.

Anything in between that — say a move to a new city in the same state — could be considered local or long-distance. That would typically be determined by how far away the new city is and the policies of the moving company you’re considering. There is no standard definition for a local versus a long-distance move, but it’s fairly safe to say that anything over around 50 miles would be considered long-distance.

If you think your situation falls in the gray area, you’ll need to contact the moving companies you’re considering to see if they offer the type of move you need.

2. Get referrals

Nextdoor
Nextdoor

Once you determine what kind of moving company you need, it’s time to start doing your research. The best way to identify reputable moving companies who are most likely to make your move worry-free is to get referrals from people you trust. This would include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Co-workers
  • Local message boards

A note of due caution on that last group: Neighborhood message boards, Facebook groups and sites like Nextdoor can be amazing places to get referrals for things like movers, but you have to be careful. Be wary of unsolicited comments that go out of their way to praise a business unless there are other 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 the question you have (“Can anyone recommend a good local moving company?” for example) and there are a variety of answers. If you see companies recommended multiple times by people who don’t seem to have any relationship with the company or each other, put them 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.

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AMSA ProMover
AMSA

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’ history 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 down your list to the top three or so companies you think you might want to do business with, it’s time to get schedule an appointment. In most cases, that will involve a representative of each company walking through your home to take inventory of the things you need moved.

If a company offers to give you a quote over the phone, that’s a huge 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 is able to give you an estimate or quote for your move and the walk-through needs to be thorough for that quote to be accurate.

Once you’ve done you’ve done your walk-through and taken inventory, you should get a quote from the moving company. According to Moving.com, this could take one of three forms:

A non-binding estimate

Typically means the company cannot require payment of more than 10% above the original estimate.

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A non-binding to exceed estimate

Insures 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.

A binding estimate

Should be a guaranteed price for the move and all extras and services. If you request additional services, you have to pay extra, though.

If at all possible, you should get a non-binding to exceed or binding estimate if you want to avoid nasty surprises.

5. Don’t pay a big deposit

Reputable moving companies won’t require cash up front or any other kind of huge deposit to move your things. In fact, you should avoid any company that asks for one.

The most you should expect to put down for a deposit is around 20%, Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association told Consumer Reports.

As always, you’ll want to pay your deposit and all of the 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 want to thoroughly review your moving contract for any fine print that may end up costing you more than you need to be paying.

Are there packing fees 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.

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Question any part of the contract that you haven’t already discussed and agreed to with the moving company. If they can’t provide a good explanation for why the charge is there, ask for it to be removed.

Final thought

Almost no one thinks of moving as a fun experience, but with some planning and research you can make sure it doesn’t turn into a complete nightmare.

Do your research and make sure you know that you’re dealing with a company who’ll treat you fairly — you’ll thank yourself when you’re settled in your new “home sweet home.”

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