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Best moving companies (and how to find them)

Dahna Chandler
The Mortgage Reports contributor

In this article:

Unless you’re moving a couple of carloads across town and your movers consist of college buddies, you’ll be looking for the best moving companies. Here’s how to find them.

  • Get references (local and national, depending on your move)
  • Beware of large upfront deposits
  • Compare costs from licensed movers

Moving is one of the more stressful events in life (and possibly one of the most expensive). A little work upfront could save you a ton of anguish later.

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Nightmare on your street (avoid moving mishaps)

If you’ve made DIY moves with friends and family to help or had great movers before, you might get tempted to be nonchalant about your next move. Finding the best moving companies gets harder the more belongings you have to transport. Forget one aspect of this process, especially in a cross-country move, and yours could get disastrous.

In fact, there’s a Facebook page devoted to Moving Company Nightmares. Consider the experience of Lora A, who shared on the site that “First of all, they were two days late to pick up the furniture and finally showed up at 10 P.M.

“Then the two men asked for a $100 tip. The furniture arrived in a tractor-trailer truck after agreeing in a contract that they would use a smaller truck to accommodate our street situation. They then wanted $350 more for walking to the door (more than 75 feet from their truck ) or they would take the furniture to their Miami warehouse.

“We finally agreed on $100 more. Oh and the truck driver showed up without a helper. So he went to the local Lowe’s to ask customers if they wanted an afternoon job. So very professional. Now this helper was uninsured, etc. Upon unloading several pieces were missing (nice word for stolen )…”

Avoid  Lora’s experience by choosing the right mover from the start.

Know mover types and terminology

You can’t research what you don’t understand clearly so start here first. There are carriers, brokers or freight forwarders.  You hire a carrier directly to move your belongings while a broker hires one for you.

Most common in interstate moves are forwarders who take responsibility for your furniture but might transfer it between one or more carriers. Also called “freight forwarders,” they might consolidate your smaller move with a larger one. Use a site like Movers.com to see what mover types you can hire. The website also provides free cost estimates of the different options as well as for packing supplies and other services like auto transporters.

Get move calculators Moving.com to estimate all the costs of your move yourself. Also, learn the types of expenses you can expect when hiring movers and the services they’ll offer.

Moving contract terminology can get confusing, but you’ll want to understand as much as necessary the longer you’re moving from where you are. Start with this glossary for the basics and go deep with this one.

Get referrals from people you trust

Don’t just believe the testimonials on websites or social media. Reach out to friends who’ve done the type of move you are and ask them who they used. As important, ask them who to avoid and why. See if you hear the same mover name from more than one of your trusted contacts.

Related: Moving out of state (where Americans are going)

Once you have your short list, talk to those friends who referred those movers and get as many details about their move as possible. Get both positive and negative experiences, so you know what they went through with the mover. You’ll avoid unpleasant surprises if you know the full truth about their movers.

Screen top picks online

Look up their reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Consumer Affairs where people will get brutally honest and share pictures, where possible.

Check with the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) to see if the mover is a member of its ProMover program. Meant to protect consumers from rogue movers, members agree to abide by the organization’s ethical principals.

Anti-scam sites like movingscam.com blacklist movers with too many complaints. Trustpilot and Rip-off Report lets you search for moving companies by name.

Also, check the state attorney general’s office where the mover does business for consumer complaints. While the Better Business Bureau used to be the gold standard for referrals, its reputation has become somewhat tarnished because it gives better rankings to members and has been accused of changing bad ones for companies that join.

Check for licensing and insurance

The best moving companies have active, valid licensing and insurance depending on the moving services they offer. All movers on your shortlist should have a U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) and its Motor Carrier (M.C.) number. Don’t consider any that without them, especially for a long-distance move.

Once you have that information, search the mover by name on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website (FMCSA). That search will reveal what kind of mover they are and what complaints are on file with their National Consumer Complaint Database.

That source got over 4,000 complaints last year, so it’s essential to check for any of the 14 categories of complaints consumers filed on a mover. You want to make sure a mover you’re considering hasn’t lost, damaged, delayed or outright held someone’s furniture hostage, right?

Get best moving company tips from experts

Multiple consumer organizations and associations exist to help protect you when choosing the best mover, especially for interstate moves. That includes the AMSA, which provides its “Moving 101” section to help you select the best mover and avoid the worst. MovingScam.com has a page dedicated to helping you get this choice right, and so does the FMCSA. There, you can learn how to protect yourself from mover fraud.

If you’re an elder or helping move one, check out sites like AARP and Retirement Living Information Center. Both provide select information for choosing the best moving companies for elders and their families, including for long-distance moves. Look for similar sites for other special needs individuals.

Screen movers in person

Once you’ve decided on the two or three movers you want to use, set up an in-person appointment at your house. Not only is this the time to get an estimate, but it’s also when you get a feel for the moving company personnel.

One of the first things they’re legally required to give you is a booklet called, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Once they’ve done that, show them every area they’ll be expected to move things from and discuss valuables like antiques and artwork. Give them details about pianos, outdoor play structures, and other usual items you want them to transport.

Let them look in every cabinet, closet, under beds and every other place there is stuff to consider for your move. If you want them to pack your home, ask them about costs for that service and if they offer guarantees for that work.

Ask about binding estimates, if they use subcontractors for moves or employ movers, and what additional fees you’ll pay. Get answers on insurance coverage for your belongings and additional transfers between trucks or carriers for long distance move. Use this Movers.com checklist to ask further questions and ask any others that are important to you.

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