The task of packing up all your things to move to a new place can seem daunting at best. A move, whether it's cross-town or cross-country, is often fraught with anxiety and headaches: Which mover should I use? Am I getting a good deal? Will my belongings be safe?
Because moving expenses can run high, it's smart to do a little research before handing your money — and your hard-earned possessions — to just anyone. Follow this advice from Real Simple on how to hire a mover:
Start by getting recommendations for movers from family and friends. Real estate agents are also a good source. Look for companies that will offer you estimates in person — those are the only ones that will give you a reliable figure.
Once you have a few options, conduct a background check on the Web. It's easy enough: Start with the Better Business Bureau and try the American Moving and Storage Association, as well. If a moving company belongs to AMSA, it has agreed to follow AMSA's published tariffs and to participate in its arbitration program. (Since membership in AMSA is voluntary, don't rule out a company if it doesn't belong.)
You should also visit two Web sites that provide a list of companies that prompt frequent consumer complaints: MovingScam.com and MovingSham.com.
Next, get several in-home estimates, and ask for a written, binding one if you're moving to another state. Remember, a nonbinding estimate is just that — an estimate. The U.S. Department of Transportation warns that final costs are almost always higher. Show the mover everything you have to move (that means stuff hidden in basements and attics, as well), and be specific regarding details that might make the move harder (stairs, cramped spaces). Ask for references, and get the company's USDOT and motor carrier license numbers.
If one company offers a much lower bid than the others, it's smart to be skeptical. You can also negotiate with companies to get a good rate. Once you choose a company, make sure it's licensed to legally move you: Visit Safersys.org and enter the company's USDOT number. Check to see the company's profile matches the following:
You can also call the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hotline at 1-888-368-7238 to check if there have been any complaints filed against your company.
By Marshall Loeb