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Moving at the last minute seems intimidating, and it isn’t the ideal way to go about your relocation, but sometimes even the best-laid plans go sideways, and we have to come up with a new plan quickly. Finding a moving company in Los Angeles is feasible, even with little advance notice.

How do I find a last-minute mover in Los Angeles?

The best way to start is by making a list of companies that other people recommend to you. If you have friends or family who have recently moved, ask what mover they used and if they had a good experience. If they had a bad experience, mark that company off your possible list. You can also check with your co-workers, and your company’s human resources and purchasing department may have recommendations, even if your move is not related to your job.

Once you compile a list of potential companies to use, check them out. If your move is local, taking place entirely within the State of California, the mover you hire is subject to regulation by the Bureau of Household Goods and Services and must maintain an active license. If you are moving state to state, your mover is regulated instead by the Department of Transportation, specifically the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. FMCSA also requires movers to be licensed and keeps a database of each companies’ safety record and history of customer complaints.

For either a local or interstate job, you should also check the Better Business Bureau report on the companies you are considering. The BBB collects consumer reviews of companies in all industries. When you are close to a final selection, ask for recent customers so you can conduct references. It is not wise to rely on the reviews you see on a company’s website—these may have been fabricated or solicited.

How many estimates do I need?

Even for a last-minute requirement, it is a good idea to obtain at least three rate quotes for your move. Most movers and packers are honest companies, but unfortunately, some shady operators are out there, and it isn’t always easy to recognize them. The fact that you are in a hurry might make it easier for an unscrupulous company to fool you. If you get several estimates, you will have more information about what the job is worth and be less likely to fall for a scam.

Moving companies must come to your house or apartment and complete a visual survey of the household goods that you want to move before they can provide you with an estimate. In California, estimates must be in writing, and always must include a “not to exceed” (maximum) price. If the move is cross country, the mover can offer you a binding or nonbinding estimate. A binding estimate is like a not to exceed—the price won’t go up or down once you agree to the terms—but a nonbinding estimate is not guaranteed.

How much will it cost to get a mover at the last minute?

Unless you are looking for a mover during the busiest time for moving, the lack of advance booking shouldn’t make the cost less affordable. Most people move during the summer, so the peak demand is the last weekend in either June or July each year. The high demand is due to families’ preference for moving when their children are out of school. And there is more interest in moving at the end of each month when leases and rental agreements expire, and weekends are popular since more people have the days off.

The best way to figure out how much the move will cost is to get those estimates. You can do some rough calculations online, or by looking at averages, but every move is different, and you may have circumstances that make your situation considerably more or less costly than the average. For example, perhaps you are looking for a full-service mover to complete all the packing, including specialty items like artwork that needs to be crated, and you have a narrow stairway to a loft in the destination you are moving to. Those extra services are not included in the moving service’s base price, and they are not going to be cheap. On the other hand, if you are looking for a small move, with minimal furniture and a few boxes for your last-minute project, the cost will be much less.

Moving companies typically charge for local moves (usually less than 50 miles) on an hourly basis. So, the not to exceed estimate might state that your move requires two movers for 6 hours (including the double driving time) at an hourly charge of $100. The company will assess an extra $100 for two bulky items and $50 for a stair charge, and your total not-to-exceed estimate is $750.00.

If that same estimate is provided for an interstate move, the mover will frame it in terms of the weight. If the mover estimates the shipment at 5,000 pounds, it will submit a price based on moving a load of that weight for the distance you are going, plus any accessorial charges, like the stairs, bulky items, or crating. Remember, the interstate mover might be submitting a nonbinding estimate, so make sure you know which you are getting.

What if I need storage at the last minute?

Sometimes a last-minute change in plans leaves you with no destination to move your household goods to. You might be going into temporary housing locally or moving farther away for business but not ready to choose a long-term home yet. Your last-minute mover can help with this problem as well. Instead of loading up and delivering to your new home, they can load up and put your goods into storage. Any good moving company has access to warehouse facilities. Short-term storage (also called storage-in-transit) is relatively common in moving, but it will result in additional fees. The mover does have to unload the truck into the storage building, then load it back into a truck when you are ready to have your shipment delivered. You will also pay a fee for the time that your goods are in the warehouse.

What should I watch out for if I’m packing in a hurry?

If you vacate a home at the last minute, be careful about what you pack, whether for shipment in the moving truck or placement into storage. Movers won’t transport any hazardous materials, and if something accidentally makes it onto the truck, any damage caused by the item is your responsibility. Prohibited articles include obvious things like gasoline, propane, ammunition, and fireworks. Still, you also have to watch out for less apparent violations, including garden chemicals, pool chemicals, household cleaners, paint, even nail polish, and polish removers. Don’t pack any plants or perishable foods—movers won’t take them on the truck.

Also, remember to be careful with valuable items that should not be outside your control. Don’t pack critical financial records, jewelry, medicine, or currency. You might also consider taking with you anything of high sentimental value like wedding albums, diplomas, or other keepsakes.

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