Unfortunately, there are some moving companies that use the Internet to attract consumers to their Websites and then take advantage of them. They have been exposed in newspaper articles and several TV programs, as well as, the Internet itself through Websites like Movingscam.com and Ripoff Report. According to moving and relocation industry professionals, there are ways a consumer can select a mover to handle their relocation to their new home and feel comfortable they chose an honest moving company with the consumer's best interest at heart. Here are my 10 ways an individual can spot a qualified mover they can trust:
Choose a mover with local representation. Always work with a company that is locally based or has a local agent. Only use a mover that does an in-home visual survey of the items you want to move. Avoid booking your move with an Internet based moving broker. Most hand your move over to a different company, a company you know nothing about. On moves out of state, if you are not sure what you are taking with you and what you are leaving behind, the mover can give you a non-binding estimate with a guaranteed discount. However, if you know exactly what you want to be moved, get a GUARANTEED PRICE or GUARANTEED "not to exceed" PRICE, in writing. For moves within Pennsylvania, guaranteed prices and discounts are not allowed. All estimates are non-binding. A written estimate is required in most situations and strongly recommended.
Make sure you mover is licensed. If you are moving within Pennsylvania, make sure the mover is licensed by Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and has household goods operating authority for the area of the state you are moving from or to. If you are moving to another state, make sure the mover is licensed by the U. S. Department of Transportation, by checking them out on the Protect Your Move website. Don't just take the company's word for it. Contact the regulatory agency and find out for yourself.
Check with the Better Business Bureau regarding constant, numerous complaints. Please note that a responsible mover may have a few complaints lodged against them -- the more moves they handle the more likely it is that they will have at least a few complaints. Also, the bigger the city in which the company is located, the more likely they may have a few complaints -- but their record with the Better Business Bureau should show that they have a satisfactory rating and that they respond to and resolve complaints.
Be sure the mover carries proper insurance. Ask your potential mover if they carry Workers' Compensation Insurance. If you have doubts ask to see "proof of insurance" in the form of an "Insurance Certificate" issued by their insurance carrier. Without Workers Compensation Insurance you will be potentially liable for anyone hurt on your premises. Workers' Compensation Insurance substantially adds to the mover's cost of doing business, but it protects you if someone is injured during your move. Be suspicious of the "very low" bidder. They may be cutting costs by "cheating" on essential Workers' Compensation Insurance protection. Ask the mover about protection on the items you are moving. Movers provide valuation for your goods for loss or damage. There are two basic options: Carrier's Liability which is part of the moving package and does not cost the customer anything extra. The mover is required to offer 60 cents per pound per article protection. You can also purchase additional coverage, with or without deductibles, for the full replacement value of your furnishings. This can add a few dollars to the bill, but is well worth the "peace of mind" it gives you during the move.
Make sure the mover's place of business actually exists. Beware of companies that provide no business address on their Website, have no business documents, or when asked, are hesitant to provide you with their physical business address. It is important that you know where to find the company down if you have a problem. Again, if you only choose a mover with local representation this will not be a concern. The locally based mover has their reputation at stake with every move they do.
Don't listen to sales people who tell you "negative" stories about others. A high-quality firm with a good reputation does not need to knock their local competition or criticize other van lines to make themselves look good. However, please be open to advice the moving consultant can offer you on how to protect yourself against the "bad apples" in the moving industry.
Get a recommendation. A satisfied customer is the best sales pitch. Asking for individual references has never made much sense to me. After all, what moving company is going to give you the name of someone to call who is going to give them a bad reference? Instead, I suggest asking what local companies the mover does business with on a regular basis. The fact that a particular company uses the mover over and over again is a good indicator they are doing something right.
Check the mover's credentials. Is the moving company a member of the Pennsylvania Moving & Storage Associates or Tristate Tariff Bureau? Are they or their van line affiliated with the American Moving & Storage Association? Are their salespeople Certified Moving Consultants? A reputable company will usually be involved in one or more of these moving industry groups.
Understand the pricing. Local moves (40 miles & under within Pennsylvania) are quoted on an hourly rate for the time involved in doing the move plus travel time to and from the jobsite. Intrastate moves (over 40 miles) are based on weight. On a move within Pennsylvania (intrastate), there is limited competition for price, since most movers file through the same tariff bureau and have similar rates. Those rates are then approved by the PA Public Utility Commission. Movers can file an exception to the tariff or put together a totally different tariff, so there can be differences in price, but in my experience, the differences are usually minimal. A move from state to state is regulated by the U. S. Department of Transportation, Surface Transportation Board. The price of moving interstate is somewhat standard and based on a combination of the shipment weight and miles traveled from old address to new address. However, with changes which took place in January 2008, each mover or van line must now file their own individual tariff. As a result, comparing companies is not "apples to apples," anymore. Also, there is more leeway on price when moving interstate. Movers can discount their rates and/or give you a "flat" GUARANTEED PRICE or a GUARANTEED "not to exceed" PRICE. If you are moving within Pennsylvania, read the "Information for Shippers." The mover is required by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to give you a copy. If you are moving interstate, read the federally mandated publications, "Ready to Move" and "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move." The mover is required to give you copies of these booklets.
Get a written quote. If you are moving to another state, insist that you receive the following federally mandated documents from your mover. If the mover is hesitant to provide you with any of these items, you should reconsider using that company and probably call another mover to assist with your relocation.
An "Order for Service" signed by your mover. The Order for Service protects you by spelling out the agreement between you and your mover regarding the dates the shipment will be loaded and delivered, the estimated cost, and the fact that the mover can only collect 110% of the estimate at the time of delivery. Should final charges exceed the estimated cost, you will be billed for those services 30 days after your delivery and then have an additional 30 days in which to pay the additional charges.
If you have a GUARANTEED PRICE, the GUARANTEED PRICE is the maximum amount you must pay the mover upon delivery. Many movers will offer a GUARANTEED "not to exceed" PRICE estimate. With this type of quote, your final charges are based on the actual weight of your shipment or the GUARANTEED PRICE, whichever is lower.
If you are paying by credit card, most movers will process the credit card payment prior to loading. By doing it that way, the mover can verify your "credit worthiness" and avoid costly delays at delivery.
A written estimate that itemizes all of the services that makes up the estimate for your moving cost. Again, always insist on an "in-home" visual inspection of the goods you are moving. Accurate estimates cannot be provided over the telephone or online. A phone or Internet estimate given by a mover, will NOT be the actual cost of your move. For the best protection get a GUARANTEED PRICE or GUARANTEED "no to exceed" PRICE when moving interstate. A visual survey is required on all moves originating within 50 miles of the mover's office unless you sign a written waiver. It is strongly encourage that you only work with movers willing to do an in-home visual survey and estimate.
A "Table of Measurements" (also known as a "Cube Sheet") listing all of the items that you will be moving (pieces of furniture, number of boxes, etc.). The mover creates the Table of Measurements in order to calculate the size and weight of your move.
For moves within Pennsylvania, the mover MUST give you a written estimate itemizing all charges related to your move. It should include a "Table of Measurements" or "Cube Sheet". Also, as mentioned previously, the mover MUST provide you with a copy of the "Information for Shippers". As with interstate moving, the maximum the mover can require you to pay upon delivery is the estimate + 10%. Should actual charges exceed the estimate, you have 15 days to pay the balance due.
Retaining the services of a high quality, licensed mover requires a little work on the part of the consumer, but the reward is great; a high quality move with minimal stress. I urge you to spend a little extra time to assure that you locate one of the many quality minded licensed moving & storage professionals operating in our industry.