There is no doubt that your chosen movers will provide you with plenty of useful information prior to your move (especially if you ask the right questions). You will receive their license and contact details (full company name, physical address, e-mail address, phone number, USDOT number, etc.), the required moving documentation (an estimate, an order of service, an inventory list, etc.), a copy of the booklet “Your rights and responsibilities when you move” (or the valid moving-guide pamphlet in your state in the event of a local move), a list of the non-allowable items the company will not move for safety reasons, practical tips on how to best prepare your items for shipment, advice on what to do before the movers arrive, etc.
What your movers won’t tell you, though, is what may go wrong during the relocation process, where to find information that may discredit them, and how to avoid money traps. Yet, some of the these things can make a big difference for your relocation experience, so you may want to dig a bit deeper and find them out well ahead of time.
Here are a few moving secrets that motor carriers (mainly unscrupulous ones) might prefer their clients didn’t know:
1) Moving off season will be lighter on your budget
Movers have a lot of work in the summer (about 60% of all house moves take place between May and September), so securing their services during that busy period will cost you a pretty penny. If you’re in a position to choose the time of your move, you can schedule your relocation off peak season and save some of your money (moving companies tend to offer lower prices during the less busy time of the year in order to attract more customers and secure more jobs). The best bargains will be for the winter months, but you are very likely to receive a considerable discount for a fall or spring move as well.
2) Online or over-the-phone estimates can never be accurate
The only way to receive an accurate estimation of your moving costs is to get an in-house estimate. A general quote over the phone or Internet can never be realistic as the movers can’t know how much your belongings are going to weight or how long it will take to prepare them for shipment and load them onto the moving truck unless they have actually seen them. Besides, without a binding on-site quote, you may end up paying much more than you expected – the movers may claim that there were unforeseen difficulties or that your items weighted more than initially estimated, etc.
3) You need several estimates in order to find out what’s fair
Every mover who comes to your home for a visual survey will try to secure the job, but it is not advisable to accept the first offer you receive, even if it seems to be good. The only way to get quality moving services at a reasonable price is to get several on-site estimates, compare the offers, and choose the movers that best suit your needs, requirements and available budget. Just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – find out what exactly the different offers include and what extra conditions there might be. Don’t be quick to go for the lowest estimate – a too-good-to-be-true offer is one of the red flags of moving fraud.
4) The company’s credentials can be easily verified
You can easily find out if the company you consider hiring is properly licensed and trustworthy enough:
- Go to the website of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and research the company – any available data will be displayed as soon as you enter the USDOT number;
- Call the FMCSA’s safety violation and consumer complaints hotline to get information about your chosen company’s complaint history;
- Check the company’s rating with the BBB;
- Read online reviews to find out how often problems and conflicts have arisen between the movers and their customers and how disputes have been resolved;
- Ask the movers to show you recommendations and give you references.
5) It’s important to read all the moving paperwork very carefully
You need to read the Bill of Lading and any other moving-related documents very carefully before signing them in order to make sure that:
- All the pre-agreed details of your move (requested extra services, selected liability coverage, time-frame of your move, etc.) have been explicitly stated;
- The fine print does not contain some extra conditions you don’t consent to;
- You understand and agree with all the clauses in the moving contract;
- There are no blank pages or incomplete documents you’re requested to sign.
6) Any extra services you use will incur additional charges
Have in mind that the accessorial services moving companies offer are not automatically included in the estimate, so you’ll be charged extra for any additional service you use. What’s more every company creates its own list of extra services and sets their corresponding rates. So, when discussing the details of your move, you need to find out what exactly the movers consider an extra services and how much they charge for it. Specify the additional services you’re going to need in advance and make sure they’re explicitly stated in the final estimate. Make every effort to keep the necessary extra services to a minimum – pack your items yourself, reserve elevators and convenient parking spots for the moving truck, get your new home ready in time, etc.
7) The better prepared you are, the less you’re going to pay
Your chosen movers can take care of most aspects of the moving process, making things easier and more convenient for you. Every extra service you use, however, comes at an extra cost. You can save some of your hard-earned money by doing as much of the work as you can yourself – pack your belongings, get your appliances ready for shipment, disassemble your large furniture, etc. This will save time and, respectively, money (it will take the movers several hours to complete these tasks on moving day and you’ll be paying for the extra time).
8) Your movers won’t be in a hurry to finish the job when you are paying them by the hour
Local moves are usually charged on an hourly basis, so the longer your short-distance move takes, the more you’re going to pay. The clock starts ticking the moment your movers arrive – if you’re not prepared, you’ll have to pay for the time they spend waiting. Every extra minute will cost you a few extra dollars, so you’d better get everything ready by the time your movers appear and avoid wasting time in last minute decision making or change of plans. Also, make sure you do everything possible to speed up the process – remove obstacles from the movers’ path, give the workers clear instructions, offer them refreshing drinks and grab-and-go snacks, promise a tip if they finish the job in a quick and efficient manner, etc.
9) The movers who come to your home on moving day may not be the ones you hired
Subcontracting is common, especially during the busy summer season. However, your chosen movers are required to inform you in advance if they’re planning to use outside help to move your belongings and give you the contact information of the company that will be actually doing the work (so that you can research them and ensure your peace of mind). However, many moving companies book more jobs than they can take care of and conveniently forget to inform their clients that they’ll be dealing with a third party. When the subcontractors show up on moving day, it is usually too late to do anything about it.
10) The moving company may send temporary workers to your home, not an experienced moving crew
Many moving companies don’t have enough full-time employees to complete all the jobs they have scheduled during the peak moving season. Therefore, they often hire temporary workers to help them during the busy summer months. The problem is that these part-time laborers don’t have the knowledge and experience required to perform a safe and efficient move. Besides, they may not be properly insured, so you’ll be held responsible for any injuries or accidents that may occur on your property.
11) There may be considerable delays
The moving truck may break down or get caught in a traffic jam; a previous move may take longer than expected; etc. As a result, the movers may arrive much later than scheduled or not show up at all. So, when discussing the details of your move with your chosen company, make sure you ask about their policy regarding a missed date or late arrival and find out who to call if the truck is late.
12) It’s better to book an early move
Not only is it advisable to book your movers as far in advance as possible, but it is also a good idea to book your move for early in the morning:
- the movers are unlikely to be late for the first move of the day (there will be no delays because of previous moves);
- the movers will be well rested and will work faster and more efficiently than later in the day.
13) The basic insurance won’t provide any real compensation
The basic liability coverage you get for free when you hire professional moving services is just $0.60 per pound per item, so it won’t be of much use if any of your cherished possessions get lost or damaged during transit (not to mention that it doesn’t allow punitive damage claims). You may want to pay a bit more for full value protection under which the movers will be liable for the full cost of repairs or the replacement value of every damaged or missing item.
14) You need proof in order to claim damage
The movers won’t pay for the repairs or replacement of damaged property unless you can prove that they caused the damage. Therefore, it’s advisable to take pictures of your items (with a time stamp) as evidence of their condition before the move. Should something go wrong and you need to file an insurance claim, these pictures will ensure that you get properly compensated.
15) You have other viable moving options
Your movers won’t tell you this, but you can always ask your friends to help you move, rent a moving truck and move your belongings yourself, use portable moving containers, etc. There are options, so make sure you research them all before you make your final choice!
Now that you’re privy to some of the most important moving secrets, you have every chance to ensure a smooth, affordable, and trouble-fee relocation. Good luck!