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If you are a senior citizen planning a move, you may be leaving a home you have occupied for many years and facing a significant transition. Or perhaps this relocation is just the latest in a series of many as you hop across the country or moving overseas around the world. You might be downsizing, rightsizing, or putting everything in storage while you spend some time deciding where to go next. Whatever the circumstances, you need help with your move.

How do I find the best senior mover near me?

Finding the best senior mover means finding the best mover for you: A moving company that is sensitive to what you are looking for and offers the services you want at a fair price. Most importantly, a moving partner you can trust with the possessions you have collected over a lifetime. You may have some special needs and requests, and to start with, you need a moving checklist, and you need to know what to look for.

What do I look for in a mover?

Look for a mover you can trust. There are a few things that can help build the confidence that you have identified a reliable partner for your move. If you are moving between states, you should only consider movers registered with FMCSA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates interstate movers as part of the Department of Transportation. FMCSA has established rules for moving companies to follow, and it maintains a database of information that will assist you in finding a reputable one in your area. Start by ensuring that the moving companies you are considering are registered and check out their safety history on the website.

Next, review the resource document called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. This guide explains the framework within which movers must operate and how to protect yourself when choosing one. For example, there is a detailed explanation of the types of estimates that movers will provide, and the differences between a binding and non-binding estimate. It describes terms used in the industry, including order for service, bill of lading, mover’s tariff, freight bill, weight ticket, and other bits of jargon that can be intimidating if the potential vendor uses them and you don’t know what they mean.

The brochure also contains a breakdown of valuation options. Valuation is similar to insurance, but liability is assumed by the mover rather than a policy issued by an insurance company. Consumers are often confused by the valuation coverage options and may choose the “free” coverage that the mover offers, without fully considering the potential consequences if something goes wrong. Even the best mover can have an accident or suffer a slip that results in damage to something in your shipment. Carefully examine the reimbursement limits of the Replacement Value (full coverage) and Released Value (free/included coverage) as well as the deductibles and exclusions before deciding.

You may also be obtaining insurance from a third party, which is an option, especially if you have high-value items. Your moving company may not want to assume liability for expensive pieces, so be sure to discuss any necessary items with each vendor you are considering. You may need to engage the movers to pack and prepare some things for them to provide coverage—this generally applies to items like artwork, musical instruments, and other very fragile possessions.

The FMCSA guide has a section concerning disputes and how to resolve them. When you are considering companies, ask about each one’s dispute resolution and arbitration program. They are required to participate in one and to have a concise summary to share with you. Also, when you conduct references, ask if the customers ran into any problems. If so, were they able to easily resolve the issue? FMCSA can assist you in handling disputes, but it’s better to avoid them if possible.

What goes on the checklist?

Back to that moving checklist. It starts with the estimates discussed earlier. You should obtain at least three estimates by having the movers visit your home and do an in-person survey of the premises. This step is a requirement for interstate moves, but you should request it even if you are planning a local move. As a senior, you may be downsizing as you plan this move. It is essential that you walk through the residence with the movers and point out to them everything that is going to move with you and everything that isn’t. Quite possibly, you are planning to donate, give away, or otherwise dispose of some of your furnishings before the move, and that will have a significant impact on the weight of the shipment. Each potential mover will then develop a comprehensive inventory of the move contents and use it to forecast the shipment’s weight. Interstate move prices are based on the load’s weight, while local moves are usually quoted by a prediction of how much time it will take to complete the loading, transport, and unloading.

That isn’t the only component of the move cost. If you engage the moving company to pack for you, entirely or partially, the company will charge for that. Again, if you are downsizing and sharing family treasures with children or others, you may want to take the time to sort through things as you do the packing yourself. Hopefully, you can take your time, enjoy the process, and relive some old memories. But there may be circumstances which dictate that you contract the professionals to do it for you. Get the sorting done in advance or be aware that they will pack everything.

When you have the estimates, don’t automatically accept the lowest bid. If the weight projections are substantially different, dig in a little and check that they compare the same contents. Ask the low-cost vendor how it developed the lower estimate. Make sure you are comparing the same type of calculation—all binding or non-binding, for example, and with the same ancillary services added to the quote.

Look for any red flags that may indicate that the company is not reputable. Because you have already checked for FMCSA registration, you are probably not dealing with any scam operators, but be careful. If the mover asks you to provide a cash deposit or a large percentage of the move charge upfront, those are red flags. Another worrisome sign is if the company doesn’t have a local address or their name is not on their trucks. If the personnel seem to change every time you call, you probably want to look for a different moving service provider.

Next, check for complaints and ask for references. Besides looking at the FMCSA website or the state agency that regulates movers, check with the Better Business Bureau.  Each company should be able to provide contact information for recent customers for you to talk to. Reluctance or inability to do so is a signal that something is wrong.

At the time of delivery, remember that rules govern what the mover can charge you. These are detailed in the mover’s tariff and explained in general terms on the FMCSA site. In general, for interstate moves, the mover must deliver your goods upon payment of 100% of the amount of a binding estimate (with certain additions for specific conditions) or 110% of a non-binding estimate. They can bill you for additional charges that you owe, but they must wait 30 days, and they can’t hold your shipment hostage.

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