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14 Essential Questions To Ask Moving Companies

Moving can be an overwhelming process in general. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of important questions you should ask before hiring movers to handle your relocation. Doing so will help you to be more certain of pricing, avoid scams, and arrive at your new home with your items unscathed.

Best for Storage Services

SpareFoot

4.6
  • Provides self-storage services
  • Compare prices with other storage services by amenities, discounts, and more
  • Reserve storage space online

Best Full-Service Mover

International Van Lines

4.8
  • Provides Local, Long-Distance, & Int'l Moving Services
  • IVL is a Licensed Moving Carrier & Broker
  • Live Chat Option & A 24/7 Telephone Assistance Line

Best Moving Add-ons

American Van Lines

4.7
  • Local & Long-Distance Moving
  • Storage Options Available
  • Specializes In Fine Art, Antique, & Piano Moving

1. Are you properly licensed?

Every moving company should have a USDOT number and be registered with the FMCSA. This number is often listed at the bottom of a company website’s landing page, or elsewhere on the site. Using this number, you can research complaint history and ensure that you are indeed hiring a reputable moving company.

Any legitimate firm will have this number, as it is illegal to operate without it. If your point of contact or company representative balks when you ask about a DOT number, it is a major red flag.  In this case, you should definitely take your business elsewhere.

Best for Storage Services

4.6
  • Provides self-storage services
  • Compare prices with other storage services by amenities, discounts, and more
  • Reserve storage space online

Best Full-Service Mover

4.8
  • Provides Local, Long-Distance, & Int'l Moving Services
  • IVL is a Licensed Moving Carrier & Broker
  • Live Chat Option & A 24/7 Telephone Assistance Line

Best Moving Add-ons

4.7
  • Local & Long-Distance Moving
  • Storage Options Available
  • Specializes In Fine Art, Antique, & Piano Moving

Best for Military Moves

4.6
  • Safeway Moving is an FMCSA-Licensed Broker
  • Brokers Connect Clients With Local Moving Options at Advantageous Pricing
  • Select Locations Provide 1 Month of Free Storage Services

Best for Protection Insurance

4.5
  • Long-Distance, Interstate, Local & Int'l Moves
  • 24/7 Customer Support & Great Mobile App for Customers
  • Low-Interest Financing Available with JK Moving partner

2. Are you a ProMover?

The AMSA, or American Moving and Storage Association, has its own separate registration bank of reputable professional movers. This is yet another safeguard against rogue operators within the industry. If the company you want to hire is an AMSA ProMover, they also have access to training programs on the business side of moving as a result of their membership. Generally speaking, this helps ensure uniformity at the top of the moving industry.

3. How long have you been in the business?

It’s no secret; with any industry, longevity is a marker for quality. If a company has been around for longer than ten years – past the startup stage – it is a fair indicator that they are doing something right. Social proof through reviews should be easy to find for these movers.

Lack of reviews or history isn’t always a sign of a shady company. There are plenty of smaller startups whose services are worth your money. But, that could be a red flag as well. Many less reputable, unlicensed companies will continually rebrand themselves under different names to bury their own poor track record. This is one of the many reasons to always go with a licensed, insured moving company.

4. Do you provide liability coverage?

This should be an easy question to answer for any moving company customer service representative. All licensed moving companies provide released value protection with the cost of a basic move. However, at $0.60 per pound, this only covers the cheapest items.

If you have anything of great value coming with you to your new home, full value protection often costs about 1% of the total valuation of your shipped goods. If you’re shipping $10,000 worth of goods, an average policy could cost you $100. Also worth noting is that a moving company will not cover a damaged item if it has not been listed on a bill of lading or inventory sheet. To more fully understand your options, visit here.

5. Are you a carrier or a broker?

In other words; are you going to be directly handling my move, or contracting it out to another affiliated company?

Many of the largest moving companies and van lines act as both brokers and carriers, so the answer may not be totally black and white. Operating as both is what allows many of these large movers to maintain a nationwide and worldwide network.

On shorter moves, you will almost always have the same crew loading and unloading your goods. For interstate or long-distance moves, a subcontractor who is partnered with your company will likely handle your unload.

6. How will my move be billed?

For shorter intrastate and interstate moves of under 400 miles, your job will likely be billed at an hourly rate. Something to be aware of is that moving companies will charge the same rate while your items are in transit as they will for the hours of loading and unloading. They may also charge you for travel time from wherever they park their trucks to each end of the move, which is fairly standard.

Longer moves are subject to linehaul charges, which are calculated using both the weight of your shipment and the distance it will travel. Depending on the company, this may not cover labor at each end of the job. It also does not cover extra services, the definition of which, also varies between operators.

7. What moving services are included in your basic package?

The most common basic package includes these services: a free in-home estimate, loading and unloading, furniture wrapping, and basic liability insurance. When speaking with your estimator or representative, you need to ask detailed questions about which services come with extra fees. Some common ones are full-service packing and unpacking, furniture assembly and disassembly, and appliance attachment.

Packing services are especially time-consuming, and will usually come with the added price tag of whatever packing supplies your movers use. Packing your own goods can help keep those last-minute added moving costs to a minimum. Similarly, exercise equipment, refrigerators with water lines, and pianos can lead to large additional fees, no matter which moving company you use. Even if there isn’t a dollar figure attached to a specific item, the added time needed to safely move it will probably show up in your bill. Be sure to go into detail about this with your move estimator.

8. How do you protect items in your moving truck?

Reputable moving companies will have defined processes for handling this. Online reviews and pictures on their social media pages and websites should also clue you in as to how careful they are with their client’s items. But, this is still a question that needs to be asked.

Ask specifically what their methods are for protecting fragile items, like china hutches. Their answer should involve both furniture pads and cardboard over glass surfaces. If you have leather furniture, you should ask how your movers will protect it. If your estimator tells you that only shrink wrap will be used, then this is a red flag. Leather furniture should never have plastic wrap applied directly to it. Especially in hot weather, condensation can cause the wrap to stick to the furniture piece, causing damage upon removal. Be very mindful of any valuable items you have by asking these kinds of questions.

9. Are your crews covered by workers’ compensation insurance? How much experience do they have?

The answers to these questions combined will tell you how likely an injury or complication will be during your move, and whether you will be liable for any injuries, should they occur.

Of course, accidents will happen during any physical job. But, if your movers aren’t covered by some kind of workers’ comp insurance, you could be liable for any injuries.

Finding out how experienced your moving crew is will clue you in as to the likelihood of this happening, but will also give you some insight into the overall quality of the company. If your crew chief and helpers have been with the same company for years, then it’s a sign that they’re happy with their employer. It’s no secret that happy employees lead to a higher quality of output.

10. Can you provide a binding estimate?

The answer to this question should always begin with a simple “yes” for long-distance moves. On long moves, your binding estimate figure should remain unaltered unless the distance or weight of your move changes before moving day. This page at the FMCSA’s website outlines this process, and your rights as a client.

Local moves, given how they’re billed, rarely come with this. Local movers work off of an hourly rate, which remains fixed for the duration of the job. For these moves, you can minimize extra charges beyond your budget by being well organized, clearing doorways at each end of the move, and providing for parking at both the load-up and unload.

11. Do you require deposits up-front?

Many more established moving companies will take a deposit to secure your job’s place in their calendar, and to be sure that you don’t book with a competing moving company after making a commitment.

On local moves, this amount will be relatively small – maybe $100 or an amount equal to one hour of your movers’ labor. On longer moves, it may amount to a percentage. For cross-country moves, you may end up paying 10% or more up-front, but this figure shouldn’t ever exceed 20-25%. Any deposit you put down will be taken off of your total bill at the end of a move.

12. What is your cancellation policy?

Most moving companies will have a two or three-week notice policy on cancellations. That is, if you decide to cancel your move ahead of that time window, you will be refunded any deposit paid and charged no fee for canceling. Moving is complicated, and the right moving company will be understanding of this.

13. Do you take inventory of all goods on your moving truck?

This applies more to long-distance moves, where there will likely be a separate crew handling your goods while unloading. Local moving companies are not guaranteed to compile a bill of lading. Ask your move estimator if the company will provide a bill of lading at both ends of the job. You can find more information about this on page 11 of this pamphlet from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In short, a detailed inventory must be taken while all of your goods are loaded, which will then be checked against the contents of the unload. The client and driver are required to sign this list at the load and unload. Clients should always request copies of this at both points.

14. How long will my move take?

Any professional moving company offers some kind of approximate estimate on shorter moves. On longer moves, you should get a guaranteed window of time for pickup and delivery. The US Department of Transportation’s hours of service regulations will simultaneously prevent movers from covering more miles in a day, while also making it easier to calculate a definite delivery window.

Your move estimator will know how to give you a fairly reliable estimate of your delivery dates during your moving quote. You can search through customer reviews on certain long-distance movers to determine how reliable a company is at upholding these estimates. Getting a reliable estimate on these dates will help you to save money and time while traveling to your new home.