How to Choose a Moving Company

We asked experts for their tips and tricks for selecting your movers, including common mistakes homeowners make.

<p>MartinPrescott / Getty Images</p>

MartinPrescott / Getty Images

Moving can be one of the most stressful processes we go through, given the amount of work, money, and coordination even a small move requires. Just one of many decisions you’ll need to make during the process is whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a moving company to help.

If you decide to hire a moving company, you’ll have to embark on a separate journey of vetting movers and choosing the best option for your needs.

It’s no easy task, but armed with the right information, you can streamline the process of picking movers as you prepare to relocate to your new home. These experts provide some tangible tips you can use the next time you prepare to move.

Related: The Best Moving Companies for Every Type of Move

Do you need professional movers?

One of the first choices you’ll need to make is whether you want to move by yourself or hire a moving company to help. To do so, you’ll want to consider a few factors regarding your situation.

“It is important to consider how much time and effort is needed and various risks associated with moving when deciding if you should hire a professional mover,” says Mary Beth Johnson of moving company Atlas Van Lines. “Not only is moving yourself time-consuming and hard work, but it is also dangerous. Large furniture and cumbersome appliances can be challenging to move. Hiring professional movers not only gives you valuable time back, but can also help avoid a potential injury and mitigate broken valuables by having goods professionally packed and loaded.”

Once you decide you want to hire movers, you’ll have to then decide whether you’re in need of full-service movers or companies that do one part of the process for you. Some homeowners will pay a company to drive their belongings from one home to another but opt to pack the items themselves. Others will pay companies to handle the entire process, start to finish.

As you ponder this questions, consider the following factors suggested by Dr. Susan Jenkins, broker/owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Native American Group:

Distance of the Move

If you are moving a long distance or across state lines, professional movers might be able to help you save both money and time, Jenkins says.

Related: 6 Tasks to Add to Your To-Do List Before Moving to a New State

The Amount, Type, and Value of Your Belongings

As Jenkins points out, tons of heavy or fragile items might necessitate professional movers for you peace of mind. Similarly, expensive items need special care.

“If you have high-value items such as antiques, artwork, or collectibles, it may be worth investing in professional movers to ensure that they are handled and transported safely,” Jenkins says.

Your Physical Ability

If you’re up to the task of packing, loading, driving, and then unloading your items, then you could be prepared to do the work yourself. But if you don’t feel up to the challenge physically, Jenkins suggests hiring professionals.

Time Constraints

If you’re looking to move quickly, professional movers can get the job done on a tight schedule if they’re available. Pros are seasoned at packing and traveling quickly. Hiring movers can also give you the ability to move to your new location more quickly and avoid the work of moving should you need to get started at a new job, for example.

Insurance Coverage

Moving companies can insure your load, something you might want as you consider how much value your belongings hold.

Related: How to Pack for Your Next Move, According to a Professional Organizer

Questions to Ask While Vetting Moving Companies

If you’ve decided to go with the pros, the real work begins. With hundreds of companies and options to choose from, you’ll need to start narrowing down the playing field and asking some tough questions.

For starters, experts recommend getting quotes from at least three to five moving companies. Start by asking friends, family, and employers for their recommendations.

Be sure to ask the following questions as you get estimates by phone.

Do you offer estimates?

Having an estimate will help you to budget, but Johnson also points out that only licensed companies will ensure you have a proper estimate. Be sure to read the fine print on this one, as many companies have language about adding charges the day of your move depending on how many items you have and whether they were properly packed.

“It’s also a good idea to have a face-to-face meeting or video call with the moving company to discuss the details of your move and to get a clear and accurate estimate,” Jenkins says. Ask if the company you’re speaking with offers in-home estimates.

As you compare companies, look for quotes that are outliers.

“Be wary of any company that gives you a quote that is significantly lower than the others, as it may indicate hidden fees or poor quality service,” Jenkins adds. 

What am I responsible for?

Some movers will pack your dishes and clothing and wrap all of your fragile items before moving. Others will simply arrive and pick up boxes. Make sure you know the details of what you’re responsible for as you call around.

Jenkins suggests asking about unique items you might have, such as pianos or expensive and fragile artwork, as many companies might charge additional fees for packing or moving those.

Are you insured?

Johnson says that reputable moving companies are registered with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and abide by the rules of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). (You can find registered movers on the Administration’s website.)

“We also recommend verifying the moving company is local to your community, all crews have been background checked, and follow all U.S. DOT and FMCSA guidelines,” Johnson says.

How do you communicate?

Some moving companies will provide you with a one-on-one consultant whom you’ll work with for the duration of your move. Others have a general support number. Be sure you know exactly how to get in touch as your moving date approaches.

“It’s important to choose a company that is responsive and easy to communicate with and that provides clear and accurate information about their services and pricing,” Jenkins says.

Reviewing Moving Company Reviews

Once you have a few estimates lined up, take a look at each company’s online reputation. Keep in mind that reviews are not always an accurate representation of a company, but be sure to look out for common threads in the comments.

Comments will indicate overall customer satisfaction, communication on the part of the company, timeliness of the move, and how belongings were cared for, Jenkins says.

If you’re unsure about the content of these reviews, look at sites such as the Better Business Bureau for company ratings. Jenkins suggests looking at Google and Yelp, too.

Jenkins says you can also check to see if the company is part of professional organizations such as the American Moving & Storage Association, which can lend credibility.

“Overall, choose a company that is reputable, licensed and insured, and can provide the services you need at a fair price. It’s also important to feel comfortable communicating with them and that they provide a clear and accurate estimate,” Jenkins says.

Related: 6 Tasks to Add to Your To-Do List Before Moving to a New State

Mistakes to Avoid

There are tons of pitfalls to watch for as you vet moving companies and narrow down your search. Avoid these common mistakes while picking movers at all costs. 

Forgetting to Ask About Discounts

Most moving companies offer discounts to stay competitive. Be sure to ask as you gather quotes. Many offer discounts if you’re a member of law enforcement, government, or the military, for example.

Jenkins says there are also sometimes discounts for seniors, students, and repeat customers. Try using a referral discount or bundled services discount if those other options don’t apply to you. Ask about current promotions, as well. 

Booking During Busy Times

Believe it or not, moving companies experience both busy times of year and busy times of the week and month. Avoiding these windows, when possible, can make your move easier and your rate more affordable.

Peak season for moving companies happens in the warmer months: Think April to September with spikes from June to August.

“Moving in the spring and summer is almost like going to Disney World during spring break,” says Johnson. “Lines are longer, costs are higher, and compromises must be made.”

But you have to move when you have to move. To minimize the impact, try booking earlier in the month, Johnson says.

“It’s also important to note that moving companies are busiest during the weekends and at the end of the month,” Jenkins adds.

If you can select a weekday for a move, you could have better luck. Morning time slots typically fill first, Jenkins adds.

Related: What to Know About Selling or Buying a Home in the Summer

Not Reading the Fine Print

So many people fail to read the lengthy contracts that come with moving agreements and regret it. You’ll never regret taking time to look these over with a fine-tooth comb. Not only will they contain info about hidden fees, but they’ll also spell out your options for recourse should the company damage or lose items or miss a deadline.

Jenkins adds that contracts include cancellation and rescheduling policies, guarantees and estimates, insurance, and payment terms.

“Some companies may require a deposit while others may require full payment in advance,” she says. “However, be mindful that reputable movers will not demand cash or any large deposits before moving you. This may give you a red flag if requested.”

Related: Need to Move a Piano? Here Are the Best Companies for the Job

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