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Questions To Ask When Hiring A Moving Company

Before asking anything more specific and negotiating the conditions of your moving contract, the first step is to make sure you are not dealing with a broker.  Moving brokers are just sales companies that book and coordinate your move, actually selling the job to real professionals.  All they do is provide communication and/or mediation in the moving process for a considerable commission that comes out of your pocket.  This indirect communication often causes misunderstanding and conflicts.

Once you are certain that you are dealing with actual movers, here are what questions to ask before hiring a moving company:

1. Is Your Company Properly Licensed?

Any moving company that is a member of the American Mover and Storage Association(AMSA) guarantees compliance with the federal laws which means that your move is in good hands and your items will be handled safely and with great care.  Membership in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another proof of reliability and professionalism.  However, any legitimate cross country mover should have a US Department of Transportation (USDOT) number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  You can check this number online and ensure a safe and legal move.

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2. How Long Has Your Company Been In Business?

A long history does not necessarily mean high quality services, but a mover's track record is an evidence of punctuality and ability to deliver goods in time and in good condition.

3. What Kind Of Liability Coverage Do You Provide?

You need to make sure that your company is insured and liable for damage.  Have in mind that the basic liability protection (which you get upon signing a contract) covers only X amount per lb per item and does not allow punitive damage claims.   Your company should be able to offer you full value protection (the movers will be liable for the replacement value of every damaged or missing item) for an extra fee and you can even choose to insure your valuables based on their cost, not on their weight.  Make sure you understand all the provisions and differences in the available insurance plans and state your wish clearly in the Bill of Lading.  You can purchase additional moving insurance from a third party if you prefer to.

4. Are Employees Covered By Workers’ Compensation And Public Liability Insurance?

This may not seem to be a concern of yours but in case the moving company doesn’t provide proper insurance or worker's compensation, you may have to pay for injuries if any occur on your property.

5. Do You Have The Necessary Equipment?

The moving company should not only the right size of moving truck and several dollies, but they should also have hoisting equipment or any other special gear that your particular situation may require.  If the company uses subcontractors to perform a part of the job, request references and check their background as well.

6. Do You Have Enough Experienced Crew Or Employ People Temporarily During The Peak Season?

Many companies are understaffed during the busy summer months and hire temporary employees – students or other transient workers who are foreign to the moving industry. 

7. Are Storage Facilities Available?

If your items will be stored for a certain time period, you need to make sure the facilities will be safe and the conditions appropriate.  If your company will use a third party’s storage units, request all the relevant information and check it for yourself.  Also, ask how this will affect the final price.

8. Who Will Be Providing Services Upon Arrival At Your Final Destination In The Event Of An Interstate Move?

Will the same company be responsible for unpacking, storage and settlement of eventual claims and disputes, or will it be an affiliated van line, or a subcontractor? 

9. Can You Show Recommendations And Give Me References?

Satisfied customers or awards for service are quite a significant indication of reliability and high quality. 

Questions To Ask Movers When Getting Estimates

Probably the most important questions to ask before hiring a moving company are related to the final price of your move to make sure there will be no hidden costs and unexpected expenses:

1. Can You Provide An On-Site Binding Written Estimate?

If the company refuses to send a representative over to your place to perform an on-site visual estimate and only offers you a quote over the phone or online, raise your guard – this means that you will probably have to pay much more than the initially stated amount.  Request a binding written estimate from your company to make sure they will not exceed the final price they offered.  Have in mind that cross-country companies should provide a rate per pound and distance, not based on cubic feet.  State clearly any particular requirements you might have and negotiate any special clauses before receiving the final offer.  The written estimate should state the name, telephone number and address of the company, should include all the charges and should also specify the payment method and the agreed dates (or time frame) of your move – you should receive a copy.

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2. What Do You Consider Extra Services (And How Much Do You Charge For Them)?

The answer will vary for different companies so make this part explicit – what about packing services, shuttle services, flight charges, long carry fees, parking issues, storage-in-transit fees, warehouse handling and fuel charges, fees for disassembly of furniture pieces or handling awkward objects, etc.  Remember to ask your movers if they charge extra for travel time to and from your house, too.

3. What Deposits Do You Collect And What Is Your Cancellation Policy?

The company should not request a deposit that exceeds 20% of the total moving cost and you should make sure it is refundable in case something happens and you need to cancel the move or change the date.  Find out whether you will be reimbursed if the company fails to perform your move or to appear on the agreed moving date.

4. Do You Provide Inventory?

It is important to know how the company will determine the total weight of your shipment – request a full inventory, including the number of boxes to be moved, the size and value of your items, their current condition and any special arrangements.  Make your own separate inventory and take a lot of pictures to prove what was in the boxes and what the condition of your belongings were in.

5. How Do You Charge (in the event of a local move)?

Local movers usually charge by the hour, but what about the number of movers and the weight of your items?  Many companies have a 2/3 or 4 hours minimum charge regardless of how long your move actually takes, so make sure you have all the necessary information.

6. Can You Offer Any Discounts Or Promotions?

Current discounts are sometimes available, especially during the off-peak season and student discounts, for example, are quite common, so just ask the company. 

7. Can I Pack My Own Belongings – Do You Have Any Restrictions On The Type And Number Of Boxes And Bags To Be Used?

Ask if the company will provide you packing supplies and at what price?  Should the boxes be sealed and labeled before the movers arrive or will they want to verify their contents?  Ask about liability if you pack the items yourself and what things you should not pack.

8. How Long Will The Move Take?

You need to know how long the job will take and if the movers will manage to complete everything in one day.  What about charges if there is overtime?  Any minimum amount of hours for the moving service is again a consideration for you to take into account.

9. What Payment Methods Do You Accept?

Reputable movers accept credit cards and cashier checks – requesting only cash payment is a warning sign for rogue movers.  Be clear about the amount that is due on delivery versus previously paid amounts.

What To Ask When Hiring Movers To Relocate Your Household Items

The way your personal possessions are treated is very indicative of your movers’ professionalism.  A considerate and careful approach suggests experience and reliability.

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1. How Do You Prevent Property Damage?

Good movers will wrap carefully not only antique furniture but even your old cupboard – avoiding damage to items or your home should be of primary importance for your chosen company.

2. How Will You Handle My Items?

Seeing your moving boxes full of fragile or valuable items tossed around may cause you a heart attack, so make sure the moving crew will handle everything according to the instructions marked on the boxes, will load them carefully on the moving truck and will secure them to prevent shifting and damage. 

3. How Do You Treat Special Items?

Heirlooms and antiques, glass-fronted furniture and musical instruments, artwork and handicraft need special treatment and thoughtful approach if they are to survive the move.  Ask your movers how they intend to preserve such delicate items and other things that are really difficult to move.  Will they be able to pack everything properly and do they have enough experience and specialized equipment? 

4. Will Additional Transfers Be Required?

If your household items need to be transferred to another truck during a long distance move, the chance of accidental damages increases drastically.  In case your belongings stay for a couple of days and nights in the moving truck, will they be sufficiently protected from adverse weather conditions, road accidents or theft?  Keeping the van in a secure facility during the nights is your best option.

5. What Happens If Something Is Broken Or Missing?

The answer depends on the insurance plan you have chosen (Released Value Protection will leave you almost empty-handed while the movers will pay for or replace any lost or damaged item if you paid for Full Value Protection) and the previously negotiated terms in your contract.  Trustworthy movers will usually reimburse you for broken or missing items and will resolve any dispute in a peaceful and logical manner (remember that if you packed a box poorly yourself, you will probably be held responsible for the damage).

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Questions To Ask About Delivery

1. When Will I Receive My Things?

Negotiate a definite date and time of the day when the moving truck is supposed to arrive at your new place. 

2. What Will Happen If My Items Arrive Before Me?

Will the movers arrange additional storage and how much will you need to pay for it?

3. Do You Have Any Consolidation Policies Or Delivery Windows?

Consolidation is a great way to save money, especially if you are moving a small number of items.  However, a lot more time will be lost in the process while the moving truck stops frequently to pick and deliver other people’s possessions. This usually means that you cannot rely on an exact delivery date but will have to settle for a delivery window. 

4. Can You Guarantee Pickup And Delivery Dates?

If your movers guarantee an exact date to perform your job (especially in the event of a short distance move), make sure the company will take responsibility if they miss it.  You should be reimbursed for a forced change of plans.

5. How Do You Handle Disputes And Complaints Or Claims?

Ask the company about their policy for resolving complaints or claims against them.   By Jessica Ryan