How to ensure your stuff arrives undamaged, on time and on budget
If you’re planning on moving, hiring movers can help with the relocation, but careless moving companies may damage your property or run your costs up much higher than expected. Each year, the Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints against movers that have not met moving estimates, have lost or damaged belongings, or missed pick-up and delivery schedules.
These past failure rates for movers serve as a warning to savvy consumers, who should consider the following as they gather bids and conduct interviews with moving companies:
Check movers license and insurance.
First and foremost, determine whether movers are licensed and insured. Movers should be registered with your state’s Department of Transportation
, and interstate movers should be licensed with the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Collect competitive moving estimates. Obtain written moving estimates from at least three moving companies, and make sure they’re based on an in-person assessment of your current space and belongings. While it’s possible for moving estimates to be completed online or over the phone, these methods aren’t usually the best way to get an accurate assessment of costs from the movers.
Moving estimators need to poke around in your closets, look under your bed, and inventory everything in your kitchen cabinets. Make sure when a moving estimate is done in your basement and attic that everything is accounted for, because items left out of the moving estimates could seriously alter your bill at the end of the move.
Know whether a movers estimate is binding or non-binding. A non-binding moving estimate is based on an estimated hourly rate and/or the estimated weight of the cargo, which can be risky if you don’t know how heavy the house’s contents are or how long they’ll take to move.
According to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA),
there are no guarantees that the final cost won’t exceed the non-binding estimate. A binding moving estimate is better. While you may be charged a fee for movers to bind a moving estimate, the ultimate cost of the move will be predetermined and final.
A binding moving estimate requires movers to take a closer look at your home’s contents, leaving the moving company financially responsible for the accuracy of the moving estimate.
Understand the fine print.
Once you have estimates from the moving companies, make sure you understand all of the charges listed. Some furnishings, such as your baby grand piano, may require special handling that adds to the bottom line. There may also be limits on the movers ability to handle and transport some items, like firearms, which will necessitate additional arrangements on your part.
Get movers insurance. When hiring movers, you’ll need to consider what kind of insurance coverage to purchase. While movers are held accountable for the goods they transport, there are different levels to consider, with “released value” and “full value protection” being the most common. Under released value, the basic, no-extra-charge option, the movers assume liability for no more than 60 cents per pound—not much at all if an expensive item is damaged.
Full value protection costs more, but provides the most comprehensive coverage for your belongings. Available at different deductible levels, this type of movers insurance ensures that the customer will be reimbursed for any articles that are lost, damaged or destroyed at the current market replacement value, regardless of the age of the lost or damaged item.
Under this option, any articles determined to be of value and worth over $100 per pound, like expensive jewelry, must be specifically listed in shipping documents; otherwise, movers are permitted to limit their liability in related cases of loss or damage. Be sure to get a full explanation of such terms during the movers estimate.
Confirm the crew. When hiring a moving company, commit to a service that employs movers from experienced, full-time staff covered by the company’s insurance. The team will work effectively and efficiently together, and get the job done to the delight of both you and your belongings.
Check references. It may sound silly, but this is your stuff we’re talking about, right? Reputable moving companies will be happy to provide a list of references who can be contacted for honest evaluations of efficiency, care, and professionalism of their movers.