Looking for one good reason to do your homework and take the time to find a credible mover?
How about 3,100 of them? Or try more than 9,000.
That’s how many consumer complaints were filed against moving companies and received by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (up seven percent from the year before), and the Better Business Bureau, respectively. You can fill in the blanks with the moving horror stories you’ve probably heard from friends and family, including movers not showing up on move day, their stuff being held hostage and low-ball estimates.
The truth is that in many of these cases, these moves didn’t even happen with real movers, but rogues. Rogues are scammers who give real movers a bad name. They’re not licensed, not insured and are out to take advantage of you during one of the most stressful transition periods of your life.
We’ve learned a lot since we got into the moving business and we want to share those lessons with you. Because we care about creating happy moves.
We happen to think awesome movers are behind happy moves, so we put together our top eight tips for finding moving companies you can trust your stuff with.
1. Be The Early (moving) Bird That Gets The Worm
Pardon the proverb, but you get the general idea. Researching movers takes time and shouldn’t be a last minute decision. Start your mover search at least six weeks before your desired move date to give yourself enough time to properly vet and compare each potential moving company. This is especially true during peak moving season (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), as the best ones book up early.
2. Spot A Knock-off From A Mile Away
Anyone can create a website these days and appear credible. That’s how lots of rogues steal business from good movers. Protectyourmove.org compiled this handy list of major red flags to help you spot a rogue and avoid a potential moving disaster. If you come across any of these as you research movers, send ‘em packing!
3. Know The Signs (that) Point To Yes
Choosing whom you give access to your home and all your earthly possessions shouldn’t be left to chance (or a Magic 8 Ball)! But just like there are red flags to spot a rogue, there are many green flags to point you toward a reputable mover, not the least of which is having the proper license to move you.
Think of these as non-negotiable and know the difference between moving out of state and moving locally. We’ll simplify license info in our mover search results soon, but be here are some tips on what to be on the lookout for as you research.
Interstate – If you’re moving out of state, your mover must have a USDOT number (issued by the FMCSA). Because great movers have nothing to hide, this is usually easy to find on their website, advertisements or estimate docs. Seeing shouldn’t be believing, so be sure to verify the USDOT is accurate and up to date at Safersys.org.
Also make sure the company info matches with what you’re expecting, that there’s an X next to “Auth. for Hire,” an X next to “Interstate” under the Carrier Operation section and a Yes under “Household Goods.”
You can also call their 24/7 hotline at 888-DOT-SAFT (open 24/7) to inquire about a mover’s complaint history.
Intrastate – If you’re moving within state, requirements and regulations vary. Know what the requirements are for your state so you can check up on your local movers. Check out these important contacts and resources by state. Now that you know what to look for, be vigilant about making sure the mover is up to snuff and meets these requirements.
Bonus tip: Watch out for another “gotcha,” and be sure you understand the difference between a mover and a broker – related article here. Your best bet is to stick with movers since current consumer protection laws don’t apply to brokers.
4. Follow The Trail Of Happy Moves
Now that you’ve confidently selected licensed movers and eliminated those pesky rogues, it’s time to narrow down your selection. Reach out to your social circles, read online reviews/ratings (but be wary of the source), check out their website and follow the trail of successful moves. The opposite also holds true: run; don’t walk, far away from movers with consistently bad reviews, no resolutions and a telling history of consumer complaints.
5. Don’t Let Your Computer Do All Your Homework
Thumbs up for making full use of your online resources to vet movers. You should now have a short list of licensed, top rated movers with many satisfied customers. Contact your top choices to request a quote for your move and pay attention to your 1:1 interactions.
Awesome movers should be responsive, knowledgeable and helpful during this process. They will likely advise you to grant them an in-home visit so they can better assess the logistics of your home and inventory for a more accurate estimate.
And if you have the time, you might want to do a little recon at their local office (unannounced) to make sure everything looks orderly, professional and well maintained.
6. Get Safety In Numbers
When it comes to moving estimates, it’s best to compare at least three moving companies. Options are always good, and the range can help you establish a baseline. When movers start contacting you, make sure you get your estimates in writing.
Once the bids come in, break down the basics of the move such as crew size, hours and weight of your stuff – as these should be fairly similar. If anything looks fishy or vastly deviates from the other estimates, ask why!
And don’t just go with the cheapest mover, even if you followed all the steps prior to this. You may think you’re saving now, but it may cost you in more ways later if this is the only factor you’re looking at.
7. Be Prepared For The Worst
If you follow steps 1 through 6, you’ve taken great measures toward avoiding any moving mishaps. But a little insurance never hurts (literally)!
Make sure you understand your mover’s policies when it comes to coverage and their liability in case your stuff is damaged during the move. Check out this related article on “Damage Control: When Bubble Wrap Isn’t Enough.”
Talk with your mover at length about this and be comfortable with their answer. Don’t forget you can always opt for your own insurance to cover high value items.
8. Put It On Paper
Once you’ve found your awesome mover, make it official. This means confirming the dates, payment details, logistics etc. of your move, and getting a signed order for service and a Bill of Lading.
So there you have it. Eight steps to help you avoid the more than 12,000 moving nightmares that were filed with the FMCSA and the BBB.
Want to pay it forward? After you move, please come back and share your move experience to help others have a happy move too.
Good luck and please share any tips you’ve learned from your experiences in the comments!