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Chapter 2:

Choosing a Mover

Choosing the right moving company is not a simple task. When moving, you want to be sure that your belongings will be in good hands until they reach your new home. You also want to be sure that the costs will not skyrocket in the end, or that you will have to wait too long before your belongings are finally delivered to you.

When choosing a moving company for your move make sure you deeply investigate each and every candidate. Use the following topics to guide you on your research:

1.     Licenses and Insurance

2.     Better Business Bureau record

3.     Place of business

4.     Sales personnel

5.     Important documents

6.     Questions you should ask the movers



Licenses and Insurance  

When choosing a mover make sure to verify his license with your local DOT office. Every moving company has to be licensed and insured. There are different types and levels of licensing, and the rules are different from state to state.

Local Moves: If you are moving within a state, make sure the mover you are considering is licensed by that state's Department of Transportation, Public Utilities Commission, or Bureau of Consumer Affairs. A call to your local state association can help determine if a mover is licensed. If you are moving to a different state, check to make sure the mover is licensed by the Federal Department of Transportation.

Interstate Moves: Interstate moving companies have two additional criteria they are required to meet:

  1. Publish their tariffs or price list and make it available to anybody who requests a copy

  2. Participate in a dispute settlement program and to offer neutral arbitration in the event a dispute arises. A dispute may arise in the event loss or damage happens to a shipment while in the hands of the mover.

Workers' Compensation Insurance: Another criterion to consider when choosing a moving company is whether it carries Workers' Compensation Insurance. Such coverage is required by the DOT. This adds to the cost of doing business but it protects you, so make sure you only choose a company that is covered.

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Better Business Bureau record  

Check with the Better Business Bureau if the moving company has more then few unresolved complains filed against them. Local Better Business Bureau offices keep records on companies registered in the state. Moving company that has more then few unresolved complaints should be avoided.

Remember - even responsible moving companies may have few complaints, because the more moves they handle the higher is the chance something will go wrong. But their record with the Better Business Bureau should show that they have a satisfactory rating and that they respond to and resolve complaints.

Ask if the company is a member of the state moving and storage association in the state in which they are based or a member of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). A reputable company should be a member of one or the other.

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Place of business  

When choosing a mover make sure their place of business actually exists. Beware of companies who provide no business address on their website, business documents, or a company that is hesitant to provide you with their physical business address. It is important that you know where to track the company down if you have a problem.

Consider visiting the moving company's office before you make your final choice. You can learn a lot about how your shipment will be treated by visiting the company.

Residential Address: A few movers operate legitimately from a residential address. The important thing is that he actually is located there and not using a fictitious address to make you think he is.

Yellow Pages: Another thing worth checking is if the moving company was listed in last year's Yellow Pages. You would expect a legitimate new company not to be listed there. But as a matter of precaution, keep in mind that some moving companies had their DOT license revoked. Those companies might try to operate under a new name or the name of another licensed mover.

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Sales personnel  

A universal advice: never listen to sales personnel who tell stories. A high-quality moving company with a good reputation doesn't need to knock the competition, or to criticize other moving companies in an attempt to make itself look better.  

Be wary of high-pressure tactics from telemarketers. This could be a ploy simply to get a sales person into your home to give you an estimate. Be careful, do research and decide who to invite into your home, based on references. Always remember that the price of the moving estimate should never be the deciding factor. The reputation of the moving company goes a long way.

In addition, you should be able to meet or talk to the owner of the company. If you can talk to the owner of the business, even if only by phone, you will be able to develop a feeling of confidence that he is experienced and capable enough to assure a professional move.

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Important documents  

If you are moving to a different state you need to receive important documentation from your mover.

The documents you need to receive from your mover are:

1. An "Order for Service" signed by your mover.

The Order for Service protects you by spelling out the agreement between you and your mover regarding the dates the shipment will be loaded and delivered, the estimated cost, and (if you are moving to a different state) the fact that the mover can only collect 110% of the estimate at the time of delivery.

2. A written estimate with an itemized breakdown of all charges that makes up the estimate for your moving cost.

Prior to the move date, insist on an in-home visual inspection of the goods you are moving. Accurate estimates can seldom be provided over the telephone. Remember: estimates given over the phone in most cases will be lower then the actual cost of your move.

3. A "Table of Measurements".

The estimator must create a table of all items that need to be moved. This helps calculating the size and weight of your move.

If the mover is hesitant to provide you with any of these items you should consider not using this moving company.

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Questions you should ask the movers  

This summary can be very helpful in your search for the right moving company for your move. When talking to a representative consider asking the following questions:

Estimate:

  1. Ask the mover if he will be willing to come to your home and perform visual estimate.
  2. Is the estimate you received binding or a non binding?
  3. How long his or her estimate is valid?
  4. Are there additional surcharges for things like parking problems, road access, street accessibility, delivery time restrictions or if there are any stairs or elevators involved?
  5. What is the estimated delivery time and will the driver give you prior notice?
  6. What would be the packing policy of the company if you decide to pack yourself?
  7. What are the charges for additional weight?

Insurance:

  1. What is the level of insurance coverage for your move?
  2. Does the company offer additional insurance coverage besides the basic liability?
  3. What is the process of filing a claim?

Payment:

  1. How do I pay for the move? Cash, credit card, money order, or personal check?
  2. Is there a deposit that you are required to pay? If yes, can it be refunded in case you choose to cancel the move?
  3. When do I pay? There can be different payment arrangements, make sure you understand the details.

Company record:

  1. How long the company is in business?
  2. Is it licensed to do moves in your state?
  3. Is it a member of BBB, AMSA, or other organizations?
  4. Does it have any complaints with the BBB? If yes, how were they handled?
  5. How many trucks does it have?
  6. For long distance moves - does the company have its own interstate trucks, or it uses subcontractors?
  7. Will the company perform the move, or it's just a broker?

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