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How To Choose a Moving Company

by Josh

On life’s stress scale, moving is listed right up there with divorce and death in the family. At best, it’s time-consuming, dirty and sweaty work. At worst, it can make you seriously consider giving up all your worldly possessions and joining a religious order. You could hire a professional moving company to do the job, but you’re afraid that will either bust your budget or end in disaster. This is not necessarily true. Unless you’re simply transporting a few boxes to a neighborhood self storage unit, hiring a professional to do your moving can be a real bargain, saving you time, money, angst, and lost friendships – if you know how to choose the right moving company. Read on and you will.

How much will this cost?

You’re going to need an estimate – several of them, actually. Before you start gathering those, it helps to understand how movers arrive at their pricing. According to Movers.com, an online platform that hooks people up with resources to help them move, “Estimates are based on the size of your home, the amount of goods being moved, and how far you are moving.”  They say there are two basic types: binding and non-binding.

  • A binding estimate is a legal document. The issuer and you are bound to agree by its terms once it’s signed. It can’t be changed unless you request something that wasn’t stipulated in the original estimate, like forgetting to mention you live on the fifth floor of a building with no elevator and limited parking.
  • A non-binding estimate will get you in the ball park as to final price, but the mover can legally adjust the final price up to (but not exceeding) 10 percent. If you opt for this, be sure to grill the mover about extra charges and hidden fees before you sign on the dotted line.

How many estimates will you need?

Is one moving company estimate enough? Are five too many? Dana Dratch, a contributing writer for Bankrate.com, offers this advice, “Just like any other professional service, get estimates from at least three services before you make your choice.” Just about every other expert on the topic agrees with Dratch.

She also recommends not accepting the price you’re quoted. You can negotiate, especially if you’re willing to move during non-peak times when you’ll have more bargaining power.

If one of your three estimates comes in radically low compared to the others, be wary, Dratch says. It’s a red flag that could indicate a fly-by-night company that will pad your bill on the back end, a sign that you’re movers aren’t using a professional crew or that they’re subcontracting to another, less-than-professional company.

Once you’re happy with an estimate, get it in writing.

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Where to start looking.

When you’re shopping for a moving company, the Internet is a wonderful resource that can help you save tons of time and buckets of money – sometimes. It’s also scam-central where anybody with basic skills and a pick-up truck can set up a website and claim to be a professional moving company. AllState Insurance advises that doing your research is key to not making a choice you’ll regret. Personal referrals from trusted friends and family members are always a good indication of quality. However, if you come up short in that department, AllState suggests you “check with your realtor or a moving trade organization to find local moving companies with a solid reputation and years of experience.”

You can also check websites that provide feedback from real customers (such as Angie’s List). Your local Better Business Bureau is another good resource. So is your local mini storage facility. Uncle Bob’s stores, for example, are always a good local source for finding reputable moving companies.

For interstate moves, New York Times Bucks Blog Contributor Jennifer Saranow Schultz recommends you “make sure the mover is licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (you can double-check a mover’s license at www.protectyourmove.gov).”

By the way, if you’ll need a self storage unit on the other end of a long move, you can find self storage facilities in your new area by searching online.

Do it yourself or hire a pro?

Are you built like the Incredible Hulk? Blessed with a troop of young, strong and willing friends, each of whom owns a pick-up truck? Married to a chiropractor? Unless you can answer yes to at least two of those questions, you’ll be really happy you paid for a professional moving company to assist with transporting anything more than a couple of boxes. With the tips provided here, you have the tools you need to hire a professional with confidence.

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