How to Choose the Best Mover to Handle a Cross-Country Move:
From boxing up your belongings to dealing with moving chaos, relocating to a new city is an especially stressful time of life. The last thing you want is a group of rogue movers hauling your stuff anywhere – much less all the way across the country. Yikes. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid this almost-certain disaster. Here are 7 tips for how to choose the best (aka reliable and trustworthy) mover to handle your upcoming cross-country relocation.
Check that they are properly licensed and insured
Before moving, I highly suggest checking to see if the professional moving company is properly licensed and insured. Otherwise, you could end up engrossed in the drama that accompanies moving scams. Thankfully, this is easy to avoid. First, be aware that all professional moving companies should have a license number issued by the U.S. DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation). Once you have your moving company’s U.S. DOT number, enter it into the U.S. DOT’s database. From there, you can see the company’s complaint history.
Checking to see that the moving company offers proper insurance is also important. After all, moving mishaps do happen – even with the best of movers. So it’s important that you’re prepared. Licensed interstate movers are required to offer two types of liability options: Full Value Protection and Released Value. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) defines these options, below:
- Full Value Protection: “your mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment…This is the more comprehensive plan available for the protection of your belongings.” The cost of Full Value Protection varies by mover.
- Released Value Protection: “The most economical protection available is Released Value, since it is offered at no additional charge. However, the protection is minimal. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article.”
Of course, if you select a moving company from Moving.com’s network of reliable movers, you won’t have to bother asking this question. Every professional moving company that Moving.com works with is required to be licensed and insured.
In addition to checking the moving company’s complaint history on the U.S. DOT’s database, I recommend researching and reading as many reviews as possible. Check the moving company’s online reviews and ratings on their website as well as on various review sites. I highly recommend looking at Moving.com’s Moving Company Directory, which includes customer reviews for more than 600 moving companies nationwide. Our reviews also include the company’s Better Business Bureaurating, any official complaints filed with the FMCSA, and whether the moving company has any association with the American Moving & Storage Association.
Ask friends and neighbors
Of course, word-of-mouth is still a great way to discover quality movers in your area. So don’t hesitate to reach out to friends and neighbors for recommendations and suggestions. Most people are happy to share their good experiences – and even happier to tell stories about their bad ones. If you don’t know many people in the neighborhood, try Nextdoor.com – a social network for your neighborhood community. Remember: it doesn’t hurt to ask! While a mover may look good on paper, someone’s personal experience could prove otherwise.
Make sure the mover gets a good look at your inventory
Before hiring a moving company, make sure they perform either an in-person inspection or a video survey of your belongings before giving you a quote for the cross-country move. You’ll know the moving company isn’t legitimate if they offer to give you a quote over the phone or internet (read: red flag!), based on your own account of the inventory. The company should survey your things themselves to give you as accurate a quote a possible. Once the inspection is complete, the mover’s estimate should be sent to you in writing and include all possible costs.
Keep in mind that an interstate move means the majority of the cost will be based on the weight of your belongings. So the less stuff you have to move, the cheaper. With this in mind, make sure the mover knows exactly what is coming with you. If you plan to leave large furniture behind, such as a bed or couch, inform the mover during the inspection.
Inquire about subcontractors
Before hiring a moving company for an interstate move, make sure to ask whether the moving company will be picking up, transporting and delivering all of the belongings themselves – or subcontracting part of the move out to a different party. Many professional moving companies use moving subcontractors. These subcontractors are not employees of the moving company, and therefore may not be subject to the same standards as the moving company you originally hired. If you’re comfortable with subcontractors handling part of your move then be sure to ask whether they are insured. If you’re uncomfortable with another party handling part of your move, I suggest finding a moving company that does not subcontract.
Assess their professionalism and experience level
How professional did the moving company seem? Do they have a good reputation? Do they have a brick-and-mortar office and a professional moving truck? Do they have business cards and a professional website? Did the mover arrive in a timely fashion and answer all questions before, during and after the inspection? Did they provide you with an official Bill of Lading? Did something just feel off? Ask yourself these types of questions before hiring a moving company.
Also, be sure to quiz the mover about his or her experiences with your particular kind of move. For instance, if you’re moving to a high-rise apartment building, a townhome with lots of steps, a house with a small doorway or a busy street, you should inquire whether the moving company has experience with the type of move. An experienced mover will be well-prepared to handle a move with steep stairs, elevators, parking limitations and more.
Review your estimate
I recommend choosing the moving company that gives you an estimate you’re comfortable with, and provides information about any and all additional charges. Remember: you don’t want any unwelcome surprises at the end of your stressful and exhausting move.
The most common type of interstate moving estimate is the “non-binding estimate.” This estimate is the mover’s estimated cost based on the overall weight of your things combined with labor costs (i.e. loading, unloading, packing, etc). However, these estimates are “non-binding,” which means the final charge will be based on the actual weight of your belongings and any extra add-ons you require that are not listed in the estimate. When choosing a moving company, I suggest obtaining a non-binding not-to-exceed estimate. This ensures that the customer won’t have to pay more than the original estimate.
If you receive a binding estimate, this means that the total cost of your move will not be more or less than the original estimate. In other words, your estimate is set in stone. However, since interstate movers will have to weigh your belongings on the road, it is unlikely that you will receive a binding estimate for a cross-country move.