It’s time to move to your new house or apartment, and while upgrading is exciting, the thought of packing and moving is not as attractive. You’d prefer to have someone else do the work, but how do you find the right mover for your upcoming local move?
Luckily, it isn’t as challenging as you may think. There are lots of great moving companies, and you can pick the perfect partner for your move if you do some research upfront. Here’s how to get started.
Many local moving companies are small businesses, and we all love to support small businesses. Almost half of the 7,000 movers in the US employ fewer than five people. Some of them are truly independent—mom and pop, dad and sons, high school buddies, or some other home-grown operation. In other cases, the company is an agent, which means they are affiliated with a national van line and follow that larger company’s guidance. Another possibility is that the local company is a franchise, meaning the owner has purchased the rights to do business using the chain’s name. In the agent or franchise arrangement, the firm may get some support from the parent.
Does that help me choose the right moving company? Not necessarily, but it does help you understand what support and resources the organization has. If you are moving across the country or abroad, you may want to consider selecting a mover that has the backing of a larger organization that can help out if there are complications, such as storage-in-transit, or something goes wrong with the original truck. If you plan a one-day, small local move, it may not be as crucial that the company has that bench strength.
There is no simple answer to the question of how to get the best deal on moving, or even what the best deal is. To find the right deal for you, you will have to get estimates from movers, and experts recommend that you solicit at least three quotes. Each mover you talk to must have a representative near you because it will send someone to your home to walk through and survey everything you want to transport. This is how it will create the inventory, which is a list of what will move. Some companies call it a cube sheet or a table of measurements, but it forms the basis for the cost estimate, so the inventory must be comprehensive and accurate.
If you are moving across state lines, that personal visit to complete the inventory is mandatory, but even if you are making a local move, you should insist on it and don’t do business with a mover that balks at your request. It makes sense that they need to see what you are moving to figure out how much work it will require. The interstate move cost is based on weight, so the estimate will be in pounds, while the local move will be estimated in time—a certain number of hours, usually with a minimum requirement.
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Estimates are critical for making the decision about which mover to choose. If the move is an interstate relocation, the estimate’s composition has some required elements because interstate moves are regulated by FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Local moves are exempt from FMCSA jurisdiction and fall under the authority of your state. In some states, they are overseen by the public utility commission, while in others, there is a department housed in the consumer affairs division with oversight for moving companies. Most states offer some laws to assure safety and protect people from fraud, but you can also protect yourself by holding any moving company to the higher standard that FMCSA offers. Read the publication called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. It is on the FMCSA website, along with other helpful resources about moving, and great information about moving companies’ safety records and complaint histories.
The Rights and Responsibilities brochure will explain what the moving companies should include in each written estimate. Never consider a mover that doesn’t supply a written estimate with a complete inventory, and a detailed tariff (a description of all fees they can charge you). Also, never sign a blank document or one with blanks that the mover is going to fill in “later.” This action will help protect you from a company that is planning to defraud you. Also, a company that suggests these things is probably one that you want to avoid doing business with altogether.
The estimate will have the move’s anticipated cost, based on either the weight if it is an interstate move, or the time if it is a local move. For local transport, you may negotiate a flat rate if it is a small move over a short distance. Your chance of this will be better if you are moving in the off-season. The peak season for moving is late spring through the end of summer. Families prefer to move when their children are not in school, so most moves occur during summer months. It is also usually cheaper to move during the week; again, this is more likely to be true with a local job than an interstate trip.
Either way, verify that the estimate is precise about whether it is binding or non-binding. A binding estimate is a commitment to a price. It will not increase if the mover underestimated the weight or the amount of time that is necessary. A non-binding estimate is an approximation, and the price is dependent on the accuracy of that evaluation. If the weight is higher, or the move requires more time than forecast, you pay more.
Whether you have a binding or non-binding moving estimate, it must be signed and dated by you and the moving company, and you should not agree to any verbal revisions once the loading begins. Some events can result in higher fees. If you add services, the mover will add charges. Suppose that you intended to pack everything, but never got around to finishing the packing in a couple of rooms, and the mover has to finish it up? They will charge you for the labor, usually on an hourly basis, and add on for the materials they need for that as well.
Similarly, if you ask them to stop at a storage unit or another residence on the way to the destination, there is a charge for the additional stop. There are costs for stairs and elevators and other obstacles to an easy delivery. Heavy and bulky items cost more to move, and if the mover has to go around to the back entrance to fit something in through a distant doorway, you can expect another charge for a “long carry.”
These charges are understandable, and part of the typical cost of a move. If you know what to expect, and you have a thorough understanding of the anticipated expenses ahead of time, you won’t be unhappy or surprised at the end. That’s why the time you spend talking with several moving companies is time well spent. You will develop familiarity with the terminology, understand the options so you can choose the ones that are important to you, and simultaneously find the best mover near you to partner with on your move.