Don’t fall victim to moving scams! Watch out for these indicators when evaluating moving companies:
Moving companies that ask for cash deposits before they begin moving your items is a definite red flag.
Check moving companies’ websites to ensure they have a physical address in your area. Having no address or just listing a P.O. Box could be an indicator the business is not legitimate.
Look for licensing info on the companies’ site. The companies should be licensed and insured.
Also, check moving companies’ websites to see if they are members of organizations like the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). When companies are members of these organizations, it is often an indicator they are committed to providing good customer service.
Rogue movers and other moving scams pose a real threat, and unfortunately the internet has made it easier for such scams to thrive. This underscores why it is so important to not only evaluate pricing, but also the reputation and experience of moving companies when making your decision.
In addition to using the above signs of a scam, following the steps outlined below can be a great way to make the right choice among moving companies.
Word of mouth can be a great asset in selecting moving companies. Ask your friends if they have had positive experiences with any local moving companies.
Talk to local real estate agents or consult the phone book to find moving companies in your area that have actual physical addresses and offices.
When evaluating moving companies online or in phone books, keep in mind that simply having a website or a large ad does not make a company legitimate.
Once you’ve made a list of prospects, contact the companies via phone to get the full company name and “doing business as” names, the number of years in business, address and phone numbers, website and email addresses, references and DOT and MC license numbers.
Then go to SaferSys.org, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website, and search for the company using the DOT and MC license numbers to see safety information, any orders to cease operation, licensing and other information. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer organizations in your local area.
Obtaining price estimates
Reputable moving companies will want to visit your home or facility in order to provide an accurate estimate, so be sure to schedule at least two visits.
Beware of quotes given on the phone or over the Internet. The way you describe your belongings and the way a moving company views them could differ, leading to changes in pricing.
Additionally, when you move across state lines, you will find that your charge is based on the actual weight of the load being transported, as well as your starting point and destination. A face-to-face meeting will clear these points up and ensure accurate pricing from the beginning.
During the on-site estimate, take the time to show the representative every item you wish to have moved. You could easily overlook items in the basement or the major piece of furniture you have sent away for repairs, but doing so could lead to additional charges at moving time. And remember, this should be a two-way conversation. The mover should be asking you lots of questions so they can price the job accurately and prepare adequately for the move, and you should feel free to ask any questions you need in order to assure your confidence in the company.
Inquire about “valuation" options. Valuation provides protection from loss or damage to your possessions. The valuation option you choose determines the basis upon which any claim will be adjusted and the maximum liability of the mover. The liability of a mover for loss or damage is based upon the mover’s tariffs, as well as federal laws and regulations, and has certain limitations and exclusions. Valuation is not insurance; it is simply a tariff-based level of motor carrier liability.
Be wary of quotes that are substantially lower than the rest. “Low-ball” price quotes could result in significantly lower quality service, or they could be an indication of a mover who plans to “up” the price in a moving scam. One of the many horror stories shared by victims of moving fraud involves a rogue mover taking household goods “hostage” and demanding large sums of money – sometimes thousands of dollars – before returning the possessions. (In these cases, the mover often gives the customer a low bid, and then ups the price once the goods are on the truck.)
Names and reputations set moving companies apart
It can be tempting to choose a mover that promises to offer the lowest price. But when you are considering something as important as moving your possessions, as well as the significant investment involved in moving, you are far better off selecting from one of the “brand name” moving companies. Moving is an area where experience counts and reputation is well-earned, because taking a chance with the wrong moving companies could be costly in more ways than one.
Evaluating multiple moving companies’ estimates
References are important. If a mover wasn’t recommended by someone you know, ask for the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers. Then call them!
Consider the attentiveness of the salesperson. Do you have confidence that he or she will be there to help you through planning, packing and loading?
Take a drive past the mover’s office or warehouse. Does it reflect the level of quality and professionalism you expect in a service provider?
Movers are required by law to provide you with a copy of the brochure, “Your Rights and Responsibilities.” In this brochure, the “110% Rule” is explained. The rule states that under a non-bonding estimate, the mover cannot require you to pay more than the amount of the original estimate, plus 10 percent, at the time of delivery. You are obligated to pay any remaining charges over the 110 percent amount, within 30 days.
The Importance of timing
Make arrangements for your move well in advance – at least four to six weeks before the moving date. If at all possible, try not to move when everyone else wants to move. Throughout the year, the end of the month is a busy time for movers, because of the expiration of leases and preferred closing dates. The summer months – May to mid-September, when children are out of school, are “peak season” for movers. Schedule summertime moves as far in advance as possible...and again, try to stay away from month-end moving dates.
If you don't have anyone to ask, the best place to start your research is on MovingScam.com. This is a website dedicated to revealing moving scams before they happen to you. Check out their articles, and in particular, their message board where individuals will post on moving company problems and warnings. Great resource and a great place to post your questions and to find answers.
Go to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website and find out if your potential mover has a Department of Transportation (DOT) number. This number ensures that the company is registered with the Department of Transportation.
According to FMCSA, there are signs that the company is a rogue mover. They offer the following tips:
The mover doesn't offer or agree to an on-site inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the phone or Internet—sight-unseen. These estimates often sound too good-to-be-true. They usually are.
The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
The mover doesn't provide you with a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, a booklet movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
The company's website has no local address and no information about licensing or insurance.
The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic "Movers" or "Moving company," rather than the company's name.
Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned and marked fleet truck.
Make note of anything suspicious. And above all, if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
Before you even have the moving companies do a walk-through of your home, ask these questions while you have the movers on the phone. This is your chance to interview the moving company to see if they are going to meet your needs.
The moving company should have a registration number with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), called a USDOT number (US Department of Transportation Number). If a company only travels within one state, than they may not be registered. You can check online with FMCSA.
Ask the company what there rate is; most companies will provide a rate per pound and a distance rate. If the company offers a quote based on cubic feet, do not hire them. A company estimate must be based on weight if you're moving long-distances. For short-distances, some companies will charge a per hour rate. Both the hourly rate and that poundage rate will not change, whereas the estimate can depending on the type the carrier provides. Keep in mind that the moving company must give you an estimate in writing and they must provide you with a copy. The estimate must include all charges and both you and the mover must sign it for it to be an agreement. The estimate must also indicate the method of payment and be dated. You can read more detailed information on estimates by going to the articles on binding estimates and non-binding estimates.
Some of the larger movers subcontract to a smaller company. If this is the case with the company you are thinking of using, ask for the subcontractor’s name and if the company uses several subcontractors, ask for a complete list. If the mover is uncertain, ask them to find out and get back to you. This information should be readily available and should not be withheld. If subcontractors are used, make sure you check out the drivers to ensure you'll still receive good service. Most subcontractors are local movers who have purchased their own truck for transport. We've worked with subcontractors before and have had very good service.
Find out if there are any additional fees or when additional fees apply. Some companies will charge extra for awkward items, or if the destination does not have easy access, or if the load has to be hand-carried over a certain distance. To avoid such costs, note any larger items and pre-arrange where the truck can park, if there are any stairs, and if you are moving to a condo or high-rise, investigate any possible obstructions such as elevator usage and load restrictions. These extra charges are called flight charges and long carry charges and they should be discussed with your mover ahead of time. If you're well organized, have arranged for parking and elevator usage, these charges should not apply.
If your old or new residence is not accessible for a large carrier truck or van, you may need to have the mover arrange for a shuttle service, which will also incur additional costs.
Additional costs may also include fuel surcharges or transportation surcharges if you are moving to a remote area. In addition, if your belongings cannot be unloaded on arrival, they may need to be stored. Storage-in-transit fees will be charged along with warehouse handling charges. Try to avoid either by ensuring your new residence is ready on time.
For long distance moves some companies may transfer your belongings from one truck to another. Additional transfers increase the possibility of damage and loss. Keep this in mind when you are choosing your carrier and ask beforehand. Also, if you are moving during the winter or rainy season, find out if the company protects against water damage.
Ask detailed questions about insurance. The moving company will provide insurance at an additional cost. Insurance is usually based on weight, so you will need to assess the value of your goods versus what the insurance policy will provide should your belongings arrive damaged or not at all. Standard coverage is 60 cents per pound and is usually not enough to cover the true cost of the damaged item. Before you purchase more insurance, look into your home insurance to see if they offer additional coverage for moving.
Find out how items are protected and labeled. Most companies will shrink-wrap your sofa and provide a free blanket wrap service; smaller companies may charge for this service. Ask how items are labeled and how they will be identified on arrival. Make sure you keep an accurate list of all your items, number of boxes, single pieces and odds and ends. In addition, ask up front if the moving company expects appliance service charges, and if they do, ask about their policies for preparing appliances for transport to see if you can either do it yourself or find someone who'll do it at no cost. In most cases, companies don't charge for standard major appliances, but will for any extra item.
If you require storage, ask the company if they provide storage service. Usually, the larger companies do and this can save you time and money by having the truck drop off your items for you. It's a good idea to check out the storage facility beforehand.
Complaints and Claims
Ask the company if they have any unresolved complaints or claims against them. Most will give you a history of complaints and claims, and if they were resolved satisfactory for the client. Details won't necessarily be provided, but if there are some outstanding issues, ask for more information about why and the nature of the complaint and claim. Also, ask how many claims and complaints they've had; this is a good indication of their incident record.
Ask for Referrals/Recommendations
Most reliable companies will automatically provide you with letters of happy clients. And although anyone with a printer and computer could generate supportive documents, you can usually assume they are legitimate and factual.