Do You Trust the Guy Driving Off with Your Stuff?

Moving is a doozy. No matter how far you’re going, it’s a lot of work to get everything in your life boxed up, loaded into a truck, and shipped off to your next home. Professional movers have significantly more experience doing this than the average person (obviously — it’s their job).

The US Census Bureau estimates we move just under 12 times in a lifetime, whereas a professional mover moves nearly every day of the year. They can handle transporting a couch or your oblong harpsichord way more competently than the reluctant friends you’re paying in pizza. The best moving companies aren’t just manned by pros; they’re also licensed and insured so even when the worst happens — a precious box of heirloom ceramic gnomes is smashed to bits, say — you’ll at least have some money to cry into.’s top picks, Atlas and Bekins, will go anywhere in the nation, are straightforward about their pricing and services, and make filing that claim easy. Plus, they get good marks from customers. In this blog article, we offer great tips for you to consider as you plan your move!

In-Person Quotes Will Leave You With the Fewest Surprises

All of the top companies offer to give moving quotes over email and the phone, but scheduling a person to come out to your home and doing a walk-through is the only way to get a truly accurate estimate of how much you’re going to spend. Michael Danzig, marketing manager at 123movers, agrees, “An in-home estimate is the best way for a mover to give you the most accurate price quote. Also, never use a mover who does not give you a contract with a stated price.” In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all its interstate moving companies to do an in-person quote if your home is within 50 miles of the mover’s place of business unless you sign a waiver.

Basic quotes take into account two main things: how far you’re going and how much all your stuff weighs. The latter is where the numbers can get loosey-goosey. That question isn’t all that uncommon (even the little stuff can add up), and an agent walking with you through your possessions will be able to spot the difference between particle-board IKEA shelves and the solid-wood bedroom set passed down from your grandma. If you’re looking for a moving company for more than just moving — say packing and unpacking — that in-person quote is all the more important. How else will they be able to tell how long it might take to break down your bed?

Not All Quotes Are Created Equal

Non-binding estimates are more like ballpark figures, not a bid or a contract. These are most common when you aren’t quite sure of everything you’ll be moving, and they’re what you’ll get in a phone or online quote. What you pay depends on the actual weight of your belongings, as well as your mover’s tariffs (aka the rates it charges for certain services). Even though movers that give non-binding estimates are required to give a reasonably accurate dollar amount, always assume you’ll be paying more — and always ask for your mover’s tariffs up front.

Binding estimates (also called not-to-exceed estimates) require customers to pay the originally estimated amount regardless of their actual weight. If your mover underestimates that weight, you won’t have to pay for their mistake. (Granted, that binding estimate is only for what you and your mover agree upon. If the garage sale you planned didn’t go as well as you’d hoped and you have a lot left over, that will increase your costs.)

What Happens if the Movers Overestimated the Weight?

This depends on the individual moving company. Some will still make you pay for the agreed-upon estimate; others will lower the costs. Your moving company should be up front about its policy and give it to you in writing. If you have to file a claim, expect your payout to take weeks.

At the beginning of a move, movers will take a full inventory of your belongings, marking their condition. You should be there for that process so you are in complete agreement with everything they note. Upon delivery, you or they will go through the inventory to make sure nothing was damaged in transit. If something was, it’s up to you to file the claim (most moving companies give you up to nine months to do this, but the sooner the better). You can file claims online for some companies; others have dedicated phone lines. Regardless of how you submit your claim, the moving company will have to send a claims adjuster — either its own or one from a third party — to inspect the damaged property. It usually takes at least a week to have an adjuster sent out (or even to receive confirmation of the filed claim) and then additional time to process your payout. The

Let's Not Sugarcoat It: Moving is a Pain

Even if you hire the best moving company, it’s no guarantee that it will be any less so. But a great service will be friendly and efficient online, on the phone, and in person — and if it has a good track record of getting from point A to point B without a mishap, all the better. Be sure to do your research and take the time to uncover any potential red flags is the best way to protect yourself from possible moving company scams. “Look beyond the initial information and don’t take reviews at face value. If the company you’re looking at has an ‘A+’ rating, but has 45 complaints, I’d recommend you keep looking. A good mover will have between 2-10 complaints, all resolved,” recommends Walker.

Get Started Early 

It’s best to start getting quotes at least five weeks before you plan on moving so you can find a company you like and it can fit you (and your in-person quote) on the calendar.

Get Everything in Writing

The contract you sign is called a Bill of Lading and it should detail out every little part of your move, from estimates to services provided, as line items. This can (and should!) include everything from how much you’ll be charged for the move itself to whether or not the moving company will provide its own bubble wrap.

Budget Enough to Cover 110% on Delivery

Even with a binding estimate, costs can accrue. All those costs, and how and when they apply, should of course be detailed in your Bill of Lading. But, for example, if you forgot to tell someone about your hardbound encyclopedia collection and the costs increase, most movers will expect the original estimate plus 10 percent of the extra upon delivery — and the rest within 30 days.

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