Moving in and out of college housing used to have a predictable flow to it—everyone wanted in at the beginning of September and out in June. In college towns, the rentals were reliable, if seasonal. Now everything has been thrown out of balance by the upheavals from Covid-19 and online learning, and students may move in and out at different times. If you need to relocate, you might be looking for help from a college moving specialist near you at any time of year.
Finding the right mover is worth the effort you will put into it. Whether you have a small dorm room of belongings or a full house of furniture, moving is never easy, and chances are at the beginning or end of the college term, you have a few other things on your mind as well. Set aside some time to evaluate moving companies so you can make sure that you find the right one for your job. Your school may have suggestions of what companies to use, and you can ask your friends for their referrals, but always do your research—don’t take anyone’s word for it. Here are a few things to consider when you are getting started.
Is the move local or long-distance? This question matters for a couple of reasons. If you have a small move of fewer than 50 miles, you are probably looking for a local moving company. These movers may not be subject to the federal moving regulations designed to protect you from moving scams. That’s not intended to imply that small movers are more likely to be fraudulent, but just that the interstate movers have one more level of scrutiny on them. So be cautious when you are looking at the credentials and experience of a small, local firm.
If you are planning a large, long-distance move, you should get several estimates from companies that will come to your residence to do a visual survey. Whether you live alone or share your home with others, it’s essential to show the movers exactly what is moving and what is not. For interstate moves, this in-person inspection is required by the federal regulations developed by FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You are allowed to waive the survey requirement but ask for it anyway unless your job is very small and straightforward. Besides being the best way to get an accurate assessment of how much the job will cost, it’s an excellent chance to talk to the movers and decide if you are comfortable with them.
If the mover balks at this step, that is a bad sign. They may tell you they can give you a perfectly good estimate based on your verbal description or by having you complete an online form. Tell them if they want your business, you want them to come and do the survey. These days, a virtual walkthrough with FaceTime or Zoom is acceptable, but it is vital for the mover to take the time to look at what you are moving before they give you a price. One common moving scam involves those verbal or online estimates: the mover gives you a great price based on your description of what is included in the move, and you accept their offer. On moving day, once the loading is underway, the lead mover or the driver tells you that the estimate was too low, and you are going to have to pay more for the job. This announcement puts you in a difficult spot since part of your goods are already on their truck, and you may not have a written agreement. Many consumers feel they have no alternative but to give in and pay the higher price. According to moving experts, a better option is for you to insist that the movers unload what they have loaded or stick to the agreed price.
Does the mover have a local facility? If you contact a mover on the internet or by phone, and it seems that they don’t even have a local presence, that is a red flag to be concerned about. Sometimes companies set up shop in one city and pretend to be “local” in many other places to get business there. If they succeed in obtaining your project, they might hire a crew of unskilled day laborers with a rented truck to do the work, and that might not be the best way for you to get the move done right. One sign of this kind of setup is if you call the company, and they answer the phone with a generic greeting like “moving company” rather than the name of the company you believe you are doing business with. It’s also suspicious if the “crew” doesn’t seem to know the moving industry and shows up in a rented, unmarked truck to load your move. You don’t have to let them, and at a minimum, you should insist on seeing proof of insurance—to protect yourself from any liability.
Also, if you need storage in between semesters, having a moving company with a local presence may be necessary. There are several types of moving companies. Most movers are small companies, but while some are true mom-and-pop (or pop-and-sons) independent businesses, others may be affiliated with a larger organization. There are national companies that have agents working with them, and those agents have access to the parent’s storage facilities, and there are franchises that receive support from their sponsor as well. You might want to consider an affiliated company’s resources if you need storage followed by shipment later.
You can do a couple of things to check out the moving companies you are considering before you decide to hire one. First, on the FMCSA site, check to ensure that the mover is licensed. If the company is local, it is still subject to state licensing regulations, so check with the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of Consumer Affairs to see the rules in your area. If you find the firm on FMCSA, you will also find information about its safety history and any consumer complaints. Next, check on the Better Business Bureau website. The BBB collects positive and negative reviews about all kinds of companies, including movers.
Remember, most moving companies are honest and hardworking. Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true, and use your common sense. Moving services are usually paid for when the job is complete. If a mover asks for a large deposit in advance, that could be another red flag, especially if they want the deposit in cash. Also, never sign a blank or incomp0lete document. If you sign your name to an estimate that isn’t filled in, the company can fill in a much higher figure than what you agreed to, and you are obligated to pay it. Before you make a final decision about a mover, ask for references. They should be eager to give you the names of some recent customers. Call them and ask about their experience. Happy customers are the best advertisement, and talking to a couple of them will validate your selection.