Questions to Ask a Moving Company Before Hiring

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Moving is stressful, and your possessions are valuable. Don't make things harder on yourself by hiring a second-rate moving company. Start the process of hiring movers by asking a number of questions on the phone before you invite them into your house to do a walk-through.

What's Your Registration Number?

All moving companies should have a registration number called a USDOT number (US Department of Transportation Number), with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), If a company only travels within one state, they may not be registered. You can check online with FMCSA.

What's an Estimate for Cost?

Ask the company what their rate is, as most companies will provide a rate per pound and a distance rate. If the company offers a quote based on cubic feet, be cautious. 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 provide you with a copy. The estimate should 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. Understand the difference between binding estimates and non-binding estimates.

Are There Additional Fees?

Find out if there are any additional fees or when additional fees apply. Some companies will charge extra for awkward items, 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" or "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.

Do You Use Subcontractors?

Some larger movers may subcontract to a smaller company. If this is the case with the company you are thinking of using, ask for the subcontractor’s name; 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, check out the drivers to ensure you will still receive good service. Subcontractors may be local movers who have purchased their own truck for transport.

Are There Additional Transfers?

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.

Do You Offer Insurance?

Ask detailed questions about insurance. The moving company will often 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.

Do You Provide Packing or Storage Services?

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 upfront 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 the 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.

How Do You Handle 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 satisfactorily 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, as this is a good indication of their incident record.

Can You Provide Referrals or Recommendations?

Most reliable companies will automatically provide you with letters of happy clients; you can usually assume they are legitimate and factual.