Picking a Moving Company
When it comes to picking a moving company, things can get confusing fast. You may feel like it would be easiest to hire the first moving company you come across.
Remember, you’re entrusting all of your belongings to the moving company. That’s why it is absolutely essential to learn how to pick a moving company that is right for you. Listed below are questions you should ask and resources you should check when learning how to pick a moving company.
A Breakdown of the Tips for Choosing a Moving Company
Picking a moving company is challenging. Knowing how to pick a moving company within the mover business is crucial because anyone can launch a moving company with nothing more than a vehicle and a few workers.
In this guide, you’re going to learn everything there is to know about finding safe and reliable movers.
Our top tips cover the importance of reputability, checking reviews, making sure your moving company is licensed and insured, registered with the Department of Transportation, using the right materials, and how they deal with additional charges.
Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to consider when picking a moving company, which we’ll go over in more detail in the sections below:
- Is the moving company reputable?
- Are the online reviews positive?
- Check for complaints
- Are they registered with the Department of Transportation?
- Is the moving company licensed and insured?
- What you need to know about estimates and rates
- Does the company offer plastic boxes?
- Which vehicles does the moving company use?
- The materials used
- Additional charges to consider
- Ask for binding estimates and compare them
- Don’t pay upfront
Tips for Hiring Movers That are Reputable
Learning how to pick a moving company starts with finding a list of companies in your area and narrowing down the search based on whether the company is reputable or not.
The easiest way to find a reputable moving company is to ask friends, family members, and coworkers. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
Even though personal recommendations can be extremely helpful, when figuring out how to pick a moving company, you should also go online. Not only can you read personal reviews of previous customers on various websites, but you can also check with the Better Business Bureau. If the company has been accredited, you can even see what letter grade they have received and how the company has dealt with complaints in the past.
Figuring out how to pick a moving company also entails visiting the actual place of business. Reputable moving companies will have a professional location with regular business hours.
Do Trade Associations Vet the Company?
When picking a moving company, it’s important to understand that professional moving companies are not heavily regulated by any central authority in the same way as other industries. Many people offer to help others move from one place to another as part of a side hustle. While reliable operators are undoubtedly available through these channels, remember that you are still taking a tremendous risk.
Instead, look for evidence of brands that have received membership or a seal of approval from an accredited trade association. A trade association is designed to take care of its members’ interests and make it easier for ordinary people to find quality movers.
The top trade association for the moving business is the American Moving and Storage Association, which awards the ProMover logo. If you don’t see any evidence of a seal on the moving company’s site, you can also visit Moving.org to search for approved companies directly. It’s much faster than contacting the mover to ask them if they are registered.
Members of a trade association must adhere to considerably higher standards than unregistered brands so it’s a search well worth carrying out.
Are the Online Reviews Positive?
Before picking a moving company, one of the top tips for hiring movers is to see what other clients think about them. Online reviews are critical because it’s the one avenue that’s totally unbiased and out of the company’s control.
Avoid relying on testimonials posted on the moving company’s website because these are entirely hand-picked and there’s no way to find out whether they are genuine.
There are several places where you can read reliable online reviews on professional moving companies, including:
- My Moving Reviews
Many people are worried about the issue of fake reviews. Brands like Google and Yelp have received unwanted attention over the years for the presence of fake reviews on their platforms. So, how do you know if a company has been plumped up with fake reviews?
Some of the main warning signs of fake reviews include a low number of reviews, no signs of any
Looking up general online reviews is just the first step to picking a moving company you can rely on. The next step is to look for any formal complaints made about the company in question.
Note that established companies will always have some complaints because you can’t please everyone all the time. What matters is the type of complaints, how often they surface, and the reactions to said complaints.
There are several places you can find complaints against local and national moving companies, such as Moving Scam. The Better Business Bureau is the most well-known organization for fielding complaints from the business world. It’s why so many companies will feature their Better Business Bureau rating on their websites.
To look up a professional mover with the Better Business Bureau, visit BBB.org. Enter the company’s name, location, type of business, and phone number into the relevant search fields. The more information you can provide, the better.
You will instantly see the company’s rating. If the company doesn’t appear, there could be two reasons for this:
- The company is new to the business.
- The company is unregistered.
Alternatively, try entering more information to track down your selected mover. Any formal complaints registered will appear here.
Another easy way to check for complaints is to Google [COMPANY NAME] + “scam” to see what comes up. If page one is littered with disturbing issues about the brand, it’s time to cut and run.
Is the moving company licensed and insured?
After you’ve narrowed down your search on how to pick a moving company, you should check to make sure that the company is fully licensed and insured.
If you are moving out-of-state, look for a mover that has a USDOT number as issued by the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you’re staying in-state, check to make sure that the companies you’re interested in are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Some of the best moving companies are also accredited with the American Moving & Storage Association. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates moving companies that operate within the state of California. All moving companies that wish to legally provide service within California must first obtain their license from the California Public Utilities Commission.
In order to obtain their license, the moving company must undergo a background check and prove that they have adequate insurance. One of the most important things you can do when learning how to pick a moving company is double-check that the moving company is licensed in the State of California. Fortunately, you can search for licensed moving companies through the Public Utilities Commission website. You can also give them a call at 800-877-8867.
Are they Registered with the Department of Transportation?
The US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for regulating the moving business. When picking a moving company, keep in mind that not every moving company is required to register. If the company operates between states, however, the US Department of Transportation must issue them an official number to operate legally.
If you’re moving to another state, visit ProtectYourMove.gov, the official government register for the public to verify a mover’s license. You will also need to use this site should you need to file a claim against the company later.
Checking a company’s registration is a matter of entering some basic information about them, such as their name and registered business address.
Note that if an accident happens in-transit and you inadvertently used the services of an unregistered moving company, you could run into trouble filing a claim, particularly with your insurer. It’s your responsibility to check the veracity of any professional mover.
What you need to know about estimates and rates
Learning how to pick a moving company is especially tricky when it comes to estimates and rates. Before you ask for an estimate, make sure you know exactly what services you require.
Are you looking for a mover to pack and move boxes, or are you willing to pack the boxes yourself?
You should also discuss special items, like pianos, and rates based on the distance to be traveled before you get your estimate.
Because moving companies are looking for your business and they know you might not know how to pick a moving company, they may attempt to offer you a verbal estimate. Even though this estimate gives you a starting point, verbal estimates are not legally binding or enforceable which means you may end up paying more in the end.
Instead, before picking a moving company, allow the moving company to visually inspect the items in your home so they can provide you with a binding written estimate. Don’t limit yourself to just one estimate when figuring out how to pick a moving company. Instead, strive to get at least three written estimates so you can compare services and prices.
Does the Company Offer Plastic Boxes?
To choose movers that will get the job done right requires you to think outside the metaphorical box. Some green flags that you are choosing a moving company worth the money are hidden to the untrained eye.
For example, if a company offers plastic boxes, it shows they care about the environment, have a system in place for protecting your belongings, and are determined to simplify and streamline the moving process.
While picking a moving company, beware of any moving company that refuses to provide even the most basic packing supplies, such as dollies, straps, and coverings. All the best moving companies will either provide them free of charge or at least will point you in the right direction of a supplier.
Unless you’re picking a moving company offering a premium or luxury service, you will be expected to provide some items yourself, such as packing paper and bubble wrap. These are viewed as optional extras, but a good moving company will always have great leads on where you can find these items at great prices.
It’s becoming more and more common when finding movers to see firms that have established partnerships with local suppliers.
The materials used
The materials used during your move are an important aspect of how to pick a moving company. In most cases, packing materials will be included in the price of your written quote. However, you should still ask about the kinds of materials they use.
Although cardboard boxes are a popular choice, plastic moving boxes are growing in popularity because they are more economical. For example, Boxbee offers reusable moving boxes that don’t require any assembly or breakdown. They also offer eco-friendly packing materials, and the best part is, many moving companies are willing to use their items as long as you pay for them.
Which Vehicles Does the Moving Company Use?
The usual selection of “man with a van” services may be acceptable for moving just a few items across town, but do you really want to entrust your possessions to someone who doesn’t invest in their fleet?
Any reliable mover will keep their fleet of moving vehicles well maintained. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a long move only for the van to break down. It could leave you high and dry for days. In other words, it will cost more for you just to get through the day until your belongings arrive. It may sound far-fetched, but it happens more than you think.
Ask your mover what vehicles they use, when they were last serviced, and whether they are suitably insured. They should be able to provide proof of insurance and evidence that they are compliant with local laws.
Furthermore, the best moving companies will have GPS tracking in all their vehicles. Some of the premium companies have even started offering public-facing GPS tracking so you can go online and see where your stuff is.
These tips for hiring a moving company don’t stipulate that your mover has to own a cutting-edge truck that was manufactured last year. Your focus should be on reliability and a willingness to keep their fleet in good condition.
Additional charges to consider when learning how to pick a moving company
Beware of additional charges in your search for how to pick a moving company. Make sure the moving company you choose provides you with a “Not to Exceed” price.
This ensures that the rate you’re quoted in writing will be locked in. However, there are additional items and services that can be added onto the total – even if you request a “Not to Exceed” price – which can make learning how to pick a moving company tricky.
If your belongings are particularly valuable, you may want to consider purchasing extra protection. Obstacles during your move and heavy items may cost you more. Make sure that you bring these things up with the company before you receive your quote.
Although two movers are usually included in your quoted price, most companies are willing to provide up to four movers for an extra fee. These additional services will be detailed in a document titled “Change Order for Moving Services.” This document will be included in addition to the “Not to Exceed” price. However, this document can only be used for additional services purchased. It can never be used by the moving company as a way to charge additional fees if they underestimate the costs associated with your move.
Lastly, after learning how to pick a moving company, make sure that the company you choose provides you with a Moving Services Agreement, Important Information For Persons Moving Household Goods within the State of California, and an Important Notice About Your Move document stating your “Not to Exceed” price and “Change Order for Moving Services,” if applicable.
All moving companies within the state are required to provide you with these documents, as long as they are hired three days or more in advance. These documents provide legally binding information that ensures you get the best service possible.
At the end of your move, the moving company should provide you with copies of the completed documents. If you aren’t satisfied with the quality of the service you received, you can file a complaint online within nine months of your service. You can also file a complaint over the phone by calling 800-366-4782.
In addition, it is extremely helpful if you have photographic or video evidence of the condition of your belongings, so consider taking a little time to document your possessions before, during, and after your move. With these tips, finding out how to pick a moving company is easy after all!
Ask for Binding Estimates and Compare Them
Keep in mind while picking a moving company that every company will offer an estimate. However, these estimates are usually not binding. They may be ballpark figures designed to get you to commit by marketing them as temporary. All estimates provided to you should be binding.
This is why it’s strongly recommended that you communicate with your moving company in writing rather than over the phone. Binding estimates written on paper enable you to prove that you were given a particular offer.
In most cases, moving companies will not disclose whether their offers are binding or not up-front. Always ask them whether their quotes are binding and how long they remain binding.
Binding estimates enable you to compare the prices offered by various companies easily. Be aware that if a mover refuses to offer a binding estimate, this is a big red flag. It could mean that they plan on levying additional charges when you sign up with them.
Estimates must be full, comprehensive, and final. Otherwise, they are of no value to the customer.
Don’t Pay Upfront
Upfront payments are a common topic of confusion within the moving industry. Even many guides focusing on tips for choosing a moving company are mistaken on the issue of upfront payments. Some people believe it’s the industry standard, but this is false.
No reputable moving company will require you to pay upfront or even make a deposit. If your moving company asks for this, you’re opening yourself up to a bait and switch. Once the mover has your money, good luck getting it back if things turn sour.
What a moving company may do is pre-authorize a credit card, in some cases. A pre-authorization is standard practice in several industries. For example, a hotel will pre-authorize your card when you book.
Pre-authorization takes the money from your account and holds it in escrow until the merchant requests payment. These are used to protect the business but if an untrustworthy company decides to take the money, you have recourse to take it back by issuing a chargeback.
Full upfront payments are not an industry standard. Deposits are not an industry standard, either. However, some companies may ask for a valid card like a hotel to pre-authorize.
However, if a mover asks for a deposit, this is not necessarily a reason to run away. In these cases, just be extra vigilant about the reputation of the company before paying any deposit. Some of the bigger names have begun charging deposits.
About the author
Boxbee Moving is located in San Francisco, California, and offers reusable plastic moving boxes at affordable prices. They offer free delivery and pickup services to more than 60 cities in and around San Francisco.