Top 5 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring Professional Movers
Asking the right questions when choosing your moving company can be the difference between a great experience and a horrible one. It can weed out the real, professional movers from potential scammers. However, you need to know what questions to ask first. The moving industry is fairly opaque to most consumers and it’s rife with misleading prices, unreliable labors, and even uninsured/licensed companies. In order to make sure your belongings get to your new place in one piece, don’t be afraid to ask the questions below to all potential moving companies you might hire.
Is the company licensed and insured?
Do NOT skip this question. If there’s one question you should always ask, it’s whether the company is up-to-date on their license and insurance. Licensed moving companies must meet rigorous safety, financial, and insurance standards by the federal Department of Transportation (DOT). Depending on what state you’re in, they might also need to be licensed by the state’s DOT . Reputable moving companies will either have their DOT numbers on their website so you can look them up before you make the call or will provide it to you when you talk to them over the phone. It’s a red flag if they don’t give you an answer!
In addition to having the appropriate licenses, ask whether the company has appropriate insurance. You can ask for something called a certificate of insurance (COI) which lists out all of the liability insurance they have and the coverage amount. Check the document to check that the coverage has not lapsed and also look for telltale signs of fakes such as a different company name and an address that is different from what is listed on the website. In many large cities, apartment buildings will not allow you to move in without a COI. If the moving company you hire doesn’t have one, you won’t be allowed to bring your belongings into your new place!
Speaking of insurance, you should also ask what kind of moving insurance they provide. Most companies only provide release value protection for local moves. That means you’ll only be reimbursed at up to 60 cents per pound per item. It’s not much, but this option is free. If the company tries to charge you for this basic coverage, run away! For long-distance moves, moving companies are required to offer full coverage, but they can charge you extra for this service.
Is the company a broker or carrier?
All moving companies fall into one of three categories:
- Brokers - they outsource their moving services to a different company
- Carriers - they handle all your moving services with in-house staff
- Hybrid - they handle some services in-house and outsource others
While a good moving company can fall under the broker umbrella, stick with carriers. There’s a lot of miscommunication and even additional costs and fees that could be incurred on moving day when you work with brokers. After all, the crew who shows up on moving day might not have spoken with the brokers at all so they might have no idea what to expect. Besides that, if there is an issue, it will take much longer to solve the issue as the brokers would need to reach out to a third-party.
When you work with a carrier, the experience will be seamless as there’s direct contact between the crew and the customer service rep you talked to. And if anything goes wrong, you should be able to get it resolved quickly. In most cases, hybrid movers will do most of the services in-house and might outsource more specialty services like painto transport or auto shipping. If the company does mention they have a hybrid model, always ask what services are in-house.
What services do they offer?
Moving companies don’t all offer the same services. In fact, even within the same basic moving service some companies will offer more than others. For example, the cheaper options may only provide the most basic loading and unloading and nothing more. Others (like Great Movers) might offer other services free of charge such as wardrobe boxes, disassembly and reassembly of basic furniture, mattress covers, protective blankets for furniture, and more. Ask what options come with a basic move. If you have larger items like a pool table or piano, make sure to mention it as these are specialty items.
When it comes to add-on services, always ask what the moving company offers. Figure out exactly what you need before you call them. Some common services and questions to ask include:
- Packing - do they offer partial and/or full service packing? Do they pack up the day before or day of? What about unpacking services (if you need them)?
- Storage - what is the minimum and maximum amount of time you can rent the units? Are they climate-controlled? Will they deliver the items to and from storage?
- Plastic bin rentals - when will the bins be dropped off? How many can you rent at a time? When will you need to return them? Will the moving company pick up the rentals after you have unpacked? What happens if the bins get damaged?
- Packing materials - When will the materials be delivered?
Don’t assume anything when it comes to these services. Ask as many questions as possible so you know exactly what to expect and if the company fits your needs.
What is included in the estimate/quote?
Moving companies who have been in business for a long time can provide a very accurate quote so long as you provide accurate information on how much stuff you’re moving and the services you’ll need. Some less than savory companies will often provide a low-ball estimate that might just cover the time spent actually moving boxes. While the initial bill might look affordable when it comes time to pay you’re surprised by hundreds of dollars over what you were expecting.
Before you sign anything, always ask how the company is calculating the price. For local moves, most companies will charge a flat hourly rate whereas long-distance movers will often charge by weight/volume and/or distance. A good moving company will lay out all the additional charges up front so you know exactly what to expect. Typical charges include:
- Materials charge for boxes they use for packing certain items for free
- Fuel surcharge
- Travel time
- Stair fee if they need to go up and down several flights of stairs
- COI - if they need to send a COI
- Additional services
- Oversized items
Some companies might also charge extra for moving during peak season or for last-minute moves. If you don’t see it on the estimate, don’t assume you won’t get charged. Discuss seasonal and last-minute pricing differences with each moving company’s representative.
While you’re talking about the estimate, ask if it is binding or non-binding. Ideally, it would be binding as that guarantees the total cost of the move and there are rules in place to determine how much the final cost can exceed the estimate. Non-binding estimates are subject to increase based on the weight of your move and any other additional charges outlined in your contract.
Don’t forget to ask about their cancellation/rescheduling policy! Life doesn’t always cooperate so you might need to make changes to your move date. Most moving companies require at least 2 days notice if you cancel or reschedule, but you should always ask. Don’t forget to ask how much you will have to pay if you cancel after that timeframe!
Can they provide references?
Top moving companies should be able to provide references either via online testimonials or by request. Ideally, you should choose your top four after you’ve already done some internet sleuthing on your own. While online reviews can be faked, you can usually spot them because they’re short, vague, and seem like canned responses. Look for reviews that provide detailed examples, whether positive or negative. You want to weed out the scam companies. Don’t rely solely on Google or Yelp. Check out the Better Business Bureau for any complaints lodged against the company.
Even if all the reviews look good, you should still ask for references when you talk to the moving rep. Ask for at least two recent references that had a similar move to what you are planning. Quality moving companies should have no problem providing this information to you. When you talk to the person, ask how they felt about the move, the crew, the condition of their belongings when they moved in, responsiveness of the company, and anything else that you might want to know. This is a chance to get an outsider’s perspective so ask as much as possible!
Find the Perfect Movers
Looking for good movers takes a lot of time and patience, but it’s worth the effort. After all, you want to make sure all your precious belongings make it to your new home in one piece! By doing your research and asking questions, you’ll be able to protect yourself from potential scammers. Once you do start asking questions, pay attention to how they respond. If they’re open and forthright, chances are they are quality movers. If they dodge your questions, cut your losses and move on.
What happens if an item gets damaged during the move?
This is a great question to ask the moving company. In most cases, you should record the damage and send it to the customer representative you spoke to. From there, they will escalate to their insurance provider and should cover up to the insured amount.
What do I do if the movers don’t show up on moving day?
This should not happen with reputable moving companies. However, if you find yourself in this position, your best bet is to try and contact another company to see if they have a truck and crew available. If it’s not during peak moving season, you should be able to find something. If you can’t, reach out to your landlord or real estate agent and let them know the issue and see if you can extend your stay in your old home for up to a week.
Do I need to arrange parking for the movers?
If you’re moving from an apartment, the moving company will handle all of the logistics including additional information on who to contact if you do need a permit. If you’re moving from a house, just make sure your cars are out of the way so the crew can pull up the truck as close to your front door/garage as possible.