Baltimore County Moving Companies
Finding a moving company in Baltimore County could mean you are moving from Towson out to Cockeysville, or way north to Monkton or White Hall. Baltimore is one of those odd jurisdictions where the City and County don’t occupy the same territory. However, both are part of the same major metropolitan area of Washington-Baltimore and hold down the southern terminus of the northeast corridor.
How do I find the best moving company in Baltimore County?
Moving around or out of the beautiful territory of Baltimore County could be an intrastate move or an interstate project. If you are crossing into Pennsylvania, Delaware, or West Virginia, your move is considered interstate. Even if you are staying within Maryland, the chances are that the mover you select works on interstate moves, so you can find out a lot about their credentials by consulting the sources that regulate long-distance movers. Keep in mind that Maryland doesn’t yet require movers to register. The legislature passed a registration ordinance, but it isn’t fully implemented yet. That means that a completely local moving company could operate without any oversight.
What oversight is there for the interstate movers?
Companies that travel from one state to another must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the part of the Department of Transportation that regulates interstate commerce. FMCSA registers movers and maintains records on their safety history and any complaints that consumers file against them. FMCSA also has a lot of great information for consumers, including a brochure called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move that movers will give you when they provide an estimate on your job. This publication includes the following:
- A general overview of moving regulations
- An explanation of the difference between movers and brokers
- An outline of the customer’s responsibilities
- An explanation of estimates
- A breakdown of liability and claims, including replacement value, third party insurance, and delay claims
- A description of the various types of moving paperwork, including
- Order for Service
- Bill of Lading
- Freight Bill
- Weight Tickets
- A discussion of disputes and disputes resolution
- Definitions of relevant terms
If you want to develop a basic understanding of how the industry operates before you start talking to the moving companies, reading this document is a good start. With that foundation, you can have a more informed discussion with the vendors about their services, and you won’t feel overwhelmed by the terminology they throw at you.
Which parts are most important when choosing a mover?
It’s essential to understand the difference between a mover and a moving broker. Brokers are not new, but their presence in the industry has grown, and unfortunately, their growth has come with a higher incidence of fraud and shady activity. Not all brokers are dishonest, of course, but it may be harder for a consumer to be sure when they are dealing with an unscrupulous broker. A mover actually does the moving, and a broker does not. A broker facilitates an agreement between a consumer and a moving company. Like movers, a broker that enables interstate moves must register with FMCSA, so you can examine their customer service record there. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau, which publishes consumer reviews about movers and brokers.
Brokers can only offer estimates on behalf of movers with which they maintain a written agreement (if they are working on an interstate project) and for which they have access to the mover’s tariff. The tariff is an explanation of the moving company’s fees. The broker or the mover must complete an in-person survey of the household goods and base the written estimate on that. That requirement might sound confusing and cumbersome, but it’s actually an excellent way to separate the good ones from the potentially not-so-good ones.
One problem that comes up sometimes with brokers is the “low-ball” estimate. Suppose you talk to a broker and either verbally explain your job’s scope or fill out an online form. Based on that information, the broker creates an estimate and offers you a great price. You accept and agree on a movie date. Probably the broker requests a deposit to reserve the date, and you send it, either with a credit card or even by sending a cashier’s check or other non-reversible payment. The problem that arises is that the broker may not be able to find a mover to accept the move for that price—it was too good. The broker may just disappear with your deposit. Or the broker may hire an unskilled crew of day laborers with a rented truck and send them to do your job. Another outcome is when the broker requests a deposit that you think is part of the total cost, but it isn’t. For example, if the moving quote is $3,000 and you send a deposit of $1,000 to the broker. When the movers arrive, they tell you that the total price of $3,000 is due—they have no record of a $1,000 payment.
If you wonder how an in-person visit for a physical survey eliminates this kind of problem, that’s understandable. The survey can’t always prevent scams. But most rogue operators are out for a fast, easy swindle. They don’t want to do more work than necessary, so if you are the kind of consumer who is going by the book, they will likely steer clear of you. Also, when the movers come to your home to conduct the walk-through and create your estimate, you are going to get a written estimate that states whether it is binding or nonbinding. A binding estimate is a firm price, while a nonbinding estimate is not—it can change if the mover misjudged the shipment’s weight. When you compare estimates from different movers, it’s best to compare one type or be aware that they might not line up precisely. Also, pay attention to whether the same services are on each quote. If one mover added a charge for stairs and one did not ask if they are adding a cost later. Many customer complaints arise from service charges that the mover should have disclosed during the estimating process. An attentive consumer can catch some of these potential problems ahead of time.
One excellent way of weeding out dishonest companies is to ask for references. If a mover is not providing good service at a fair price, the customers will tell you. The unscrupulous mover will most likely not want to give references of recent clients, and that should be a red flag. Don’t’ rely on the testimonials they display on their website—you don’t know who wrote those or how old they are. You want to talk to real customers, as recent as possible.
Don’t forget to talk to the mover about insurance (sometimes called valuation) and how they handle disputes. Accidents happen, and if one does occur, it’s best if the mover has a sound system for addressing the issue. Interstate movers must have a dispute resolution program and tell you about it when they provide an estimate. If your move is local, ask anyway. The loading and unloading process is just as likely to be the time when something gets dropped. Don’t assume that you don’t need to worry about the insurance or arbitration just because the move is a short distance. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your possessions.