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8 Moving Company Scams and How to Avoid Them

Moving is difficult enough without having to worry about shady business practices on the part of movers. Luckily for you, most scams that disreputable movers will try to pull are fairly easy to spot if you’re well-informed. Most people who get duped in these cases are using movers for the first time. Here, we’ve written down some of the most common things to avoid when booking movers, and how you can easily avoid them.

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    No Estimate

    This should be a huge red flag from the get-go. Typically, your first contact with any mover will be over the phone. At this point, they should offer to schedule a visual estimate of some kind. Whether this involves an immediate transition to a FaceTime or video call or scheduling an in-person estimate in the near future, this is a vital step.

    If they give the impression that they’re trying to rush you off the phone after hearing a few cursory details about your move, and are trying to elicit a verbal commitment, along with a deposit, then you should book with someone else.

    Paid Estimates

    Moving estimates and quotes are always free. Once a mover has conducted an estimate, even if it’s thorough and in-person, you’re under no obligation to pay a fee of any kind. No contract has been signed, therefore no money is owed. If a mover mentions a quote fee, then you should cut ties with them.

    High Deposits

    You’ll almost always have to put down a deposit to book a slot on a mover’s calendar. This typically amounts to $100 to $200 for local moves. Long-distance or large-scale relocations may require a percentage of the estimated price, which will usually range between 10% and 20% of your quote.

    If you’re asked to put down a prohibitively high amount upon signing a contract (more than 25%), then this should be an indicator of a shady company. Some larger moves may require that you pay half of your bill after goods have been loaded, and half upon delivery. This is very different from being asked to pay such a fee before any work has been completed. Do not do business with movers who ask for large deposits.

    Rogue Movers

    You’ll typically find these movers marketing their services on forums such as Craigslist or over social media, often at prohibitively low rates. These companies will almost never have any of the required registrations or insurance policies to conduct business legally. By asking for proof of these, you can avoid most fly-by-night operators.

    Insurance

    All movers have to carry multiple forms of insurance in order to legally operate. Ask for proof of the following to avoid a rogue mover:

    • Workers’ compensation: This protects you in the event of a work-related injury during a move. Without this, you could be held responsible for any damages incurred in such an instance.
    • Released liability: This provides the minimum amount of coverage for your goods in case of loss or damage. At $0.60 per pound, per item, you’ll likely need to purchase more coverage for valuable or fragile items.
    • Valuation options: Most moving companies will offer valuation coverage at an added cost. While not technically insurance (movers aren’t licensed insurance agents), these coverage policies operate the same way. Bear in mind that you’ll have to produce proof of value for any damaged items to be reimbursed.

    Registration

    All movers have to be registered with their state of origin, or with the FMCSA. States that do not require local registration will often require a valid USDOT number for all movers. Using this, you can look up a given moving company’s complaint history and registration status here.

    Lack of Work History

    Another common tactic by fly-by-night movers is frequently changing their company name. This can be done to avoid business taxes or to effectively erase past poor reviews. Legitimate movers will use platforms like Thumbtack or Craigslist, but only as a supplement to an already established client base. Recently-created profiles that still advertise a wealth of experience shouldn’t be trusted.

    Lowball Offers

    This is something that many movers on the platforms already mentioned will do to compete with large moving companies in the area. Extremely low offers are not something you should be looking for. Of course, you should shop around before booking.

    However, price points that are a significant percentage below the market rate for your area should be regarded with suspicion. These movers can often only offer such rates due to a lack of registration and insurance, along with subpar workers.

    Ridiculous Add-On Fees

    Once you’re given a written estimate, your mover cannot charge you more than 110% of that figure unless you’ve added services or inventory onto a move. For this reason, always push for a written estimate at the start of any move.

    Lack of a Contract

    You should always request written proof of a moving estimate. Any contract should supply your mover’s registration and business information, along with an estimate for services and a list of services to be performed. Movers that try to move forward without this may try to upcharge you when you’re about to pay the bill.

    Moving Company Scam FAQ

    Are movers responsible for goods they’ve packed?

    In a word, yes. Any goods that your movers pack into boxes should be covered by whichever level of liability coverage you have on your goods during a move. That said, proving fault for damaged goods after your movers have left is a difficult proposition. If your movers pack a number of fragile goods, you should mark these boxes and unpack them as they are unloaded. Doing so will enable you to bring broken items to your movers’ attention.

    Are minimum charges legitimate?

    Yes. For local moves, most moving companies will charge two to four-hour minimums. Some smaller moves will take less time than this, but you’ll still be responsible for paying the minimum charge. Read any contracts before signing to prepare for this.

    How do I get a guaranteed price?

    Many movers don’t advertise flat-rate pricing and only offer it for long-distance relocations.  That said, any written estimates you receive will have to adhere to the 110% rule mentioned above unless you elect to add inventory or services to your move.