Hear that? It’s your friends’ collective sighs of relief because you didn’t ask them to help you move.
After days of mulling over whether to hire a professional moving company or simply lug the boxes up and down the stairs yourself, you’ve probably figured out the pro route is the way to go. But, unless you have a few moves under your belt already, you may be stumped on how to find the best moving company for your family’s needs. Lucky for you, we’ve outlined every step to identifying and hiring a five-star moving company. Here’s a hint to get you started—crowdsource.
How to Find a Moving Company
Ask friends and family in the area for their mover recommendations, as they’ll be able to share their first-hand reviews. You can also find many great local moving companies simply by searching online and checking reviews or by asking on community pages. Many people are happy to share the pros who made their last move a breeze. If you’re interested in hiring a white glove moving company, narrow your search to movers that offer elevated services. Plus, if you need help moving as an older adult, consider hiring a senior move manager to assist with the moving process.
Pre-Plan Your Move for the Most Accurate Quotes
When you contact a professional moving company, they’ll ask intake questions to give you an accurate estimate for your local or interstate move. Because the cost to hire movers varies widely, they’ll also ask for more details to narrow the scope of the move, like whether or not you’re interested in a full-service experience (pack boxes, deliver, and unpack) or if you only need loading and delivery.
They’ll document the square footage and the number of rooms in the house and if you have anything that needs specific attention, like a piano or home gym equipment. They may also ask about the general number of items and boxes. It’s always a good idea to ask about special moving services, like car shipping. You probably don’t know everything that movers offer, so this conversation can be pretty eye-opening.
Make a List of Trouble Spots
Before calling, take a minute and note any “inconvenience” the movers will have to navigate. They’ll likely charge additional fees for the extra work. Here are some of the common trouble spots.
Flights of stairs inside and outside
Narrow doorways, hallways, and odd corners
Small streets and large trucks (They’ll have to transfer the boxes from a small truck to the delivery truck.)
Check Your Moving Company’s Qualifications
After you’ve narrowed down three moving company choices and talked to each about their general moving costs, ask about their licensure, insurance, and bonding. You’ve probably seen the legal disclaimers on their websites or had a conversation about their qualifications, but now it’s time to ask for clarification on anything that concerns you, such as how the company handles employee background checks.
Keep in mind, to avoid a big bummer on moving day, some apartments and condos require proof of the moving company’s insurance before they’re allowed to move you in or out. This requirement is just another incentive to ask about their proof of insurance early.
More Questions to Ask Your Moving Company
Asking lots of questions up front is important, but you’ll likely have even more questions after you’ve hung up. After all, moving can be overwhelming! Luckily, moving companies are totally used to it and should be able to answer these additional questions even after your initial consultation:
What’s the reimbursement policy if there’s damage during any part of the move?
How exactly do you charge? By the hour, or a flat rate? Are hours on the road included?
When do I pay the deposit and the remaining balance?
Does the company have experience moving valuable collectibles?
Look for Red Flags and Potential Deal Breakers
Along the way, you’ll want to pay attention to potential red flags.
In the moving industry, the majority of the payment is due at delivery. If your company asks for a large amount upfront, there could be a problem. You may have to pay a deposit to hold the date, but it shouldn’t be a hefty sum. Also, avoid paying for moving expenses with cash if you can. A credit card helps prevent fraud.
If during your research, you find that one of the moving companies has multiple name changes, this could be a potential red flag. Double-check that the company has a local address and ask for more info about their licensing and insurance. You can also get more peace of mind in the next step.
Before Hiring a Professional Moving Company, Gather References
It’s all about the references. The best ones come from friends and neighbors with recent experience with local movers, but you can also ask potential moving companies if you can speak with customers who’ve used the company within the past three months.
Hiring Your Moving Company
After talking with trusted sources about their moving experiences, checking the company’s track record online, and interviewing multiple companies, the time has come to pick the company your gut is telling you is right for you. Call to schedule a walk-through and finalize your agreement. If you’re relocating for work, talk with your employer about the best way to find and hire a local moving company.
Your moving company will schedule a day to come to your house (some will offer an online survey), inventory your things and begin to estimate your total weight. You should expect them to look at all the contents, all over the house, including the following:
Storage areas, including drawers, cabinets, and closets
An estimator also asks questions about oversized items and any special instructions you have for moving your belongings. Be sure to let them know about the furniture you plan to sell or donate before moving so they don’t count them toward your overall weight.
Finalize the Contract and Payments With the Moving Company
After the initial stages of the moving process, like sorting and purging, you might decide you need different services. For example, maybe you’ve decided to DIY the packing and now just want to hire for pickup and delivery.
Check if your company can handle the changes and how they affect your estimate. Get the new quotes in writing and never rely on a verbal agreement.
Which Moving Contract Will You Sign?
Moving companies typically have three kinds of contracts. Talk with your company about the details of the agreement they’re providing, including the due date (usually 30 days after delivery) for any overage fees, if you have any.
1. Non-binding estimate: A quote based on the total weight of the shipment that might change after they calculate the actual weight. You could potentially pay more if the mover gives you a lower-weight estimate and your belongings end up weighing more. With this kind of contract, you’ll pay the original estimate, plus an extra 10% for the excess weight on delivery day.
2. Non-binding to exceed estimate: This contract is typically a customer favorite, especially if you need a long-distance haul. You aren’t required to pay for any overages beyond your quote. But if your shipment is less, you’ll only pay for the shipment’s actual weight, potentially saving you money.
3. Binding estimate: The moving company guarantees a fixed cost estimate based on the approximate weight of the shipment. You won’t pay for anything above the weight estimate, but you also won’t save money if your weight is lower.
Regardless of the contract you decide on, never sign it blank. It should include each estimate, fee, rate, overage charge, and inventory sheet. If there’s a problem with damage or missing items, you need a solid contract documenting everything to file a claim.
Keep Records of Your Move
Officially, the federally mandated bill of lading serves as your contract with your moving company, and they will give it to you on moving day. Take the time to read over the details to make sure everything is accurate and ask questions to clarify any unknown moving terms. The move can’t start without your signature.
The bill of lading comes with the original moving estimate, the order of service (the document detailing the terms and conditions of the move), and the inventory list. All of the papers help you avoid problems post-move, such as damage, missing items, and conflicts with weight estimates.
The bill of lading should include:
The moving company’s contact (address, phone) and licensing information: USDOT number for out-of-state moves, state license for intrastate moves
If they hire subcontractors, their contact information
Identification for all of the moving trucks/vans used
All of your contact information and both addresses for pickup and delivery
Agreed upon pickup and delivery dates
Mover’s services and rates, including specialty packing and extra services
Detailed payment schedule with terms and conditions: minimum charges, additional fees, deadlines, and payment methods
Description of your binding estimate, non-binding estimate, or non-binding to exceed the estimate
Moving insurance information: either full-value protection or alternative level of liability protection
Dispute settlement information for help with the claim process or to know what to do if your movers are late
After Your Move Is Over
Once the move is complete, don’t forget to tip your movers to show your appreciation for their work.
Hopefully, after the move, all is well, and you’ll spend your days unpacking and setting up your new home. But if you've lost things or found damage, you typically have nine months to report the issues and file an insurance claim. After that, your moving company has 30 days to respond to your claim and has within 120 days of receipt to deny the claim or send you an offer to pay.
Finally, if you were helped by online reviews or encouraged by chatting with your moving company’s references, and want to give back, consider sharing your opinions for the next set of movers.