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How to pick a moving company

delivery men unloading boxes from van
Whether you're a renter or homeowner, choosing a moving company involves several important considerations. Getty Images

Moving can be hard enough from emotional and personal finance perspectives. But what makes the process even more challenging is logistically figuring out how to get your furniture and other possessions from one home to another.

Whether you're a renter or homeowner, choosing a moving company involves several important considerations. You want to balance multiple factors like price, convenience and quality. 

But don't make it harder than it needs to be. You can hire a moving company for a reasonable price (with no hidden fees) right now. 

To figure out the specifics, consider the following seven steps to choose the best moving company for your needs:

1. Determine your services

Before you get too far into choosing a moving company, determine the scope of services you're looking for. That starts with the location and distance of the move. Your options for cross-country moving, for example, will likely look different than if you're in the market for local moving services.

Also, think about whether you want services like packing or junk removal along with the actual transportation of items. You also might need special help to move particularly bulky, fragile, and/or valuable items. 

2. Compare baseline rates

Once you have an idea of the services you're looking for, shop around for different rates. You might get estimates at first, as some factors might have to wait until the move itself. If you use an hourly rate, for example, you won't know before the move exactly how many hours you'll pay for. But you can at least get a sense of what different moving companies charge so you can weigh your options.

Try to get quotes in writing. That way you have something to refer to if a moving company you end up choosing later tries to switch up the pricing on you. To get a more thorough moving rate, consider having the moving company come see your moving situation in person or via video conference.

It's easy to compare moving companies. Do your research and compare your options to get the best moving company for your needs.

3. Consider flat rate vs. hourly pricing

When comparing rates, don't just look at the estimated cost. Also, consider whether the movers charge a flat rate vs. an hourly rate.

Flat-rate moving companies could be preferable in the sense that they're incentivized to get the job done efficiently. While you don't want them to rush and damage your items, you also probably want the move to be completed relatively quickly.

In comparison, hourly movers could be incentivized to take additional time with the move to increase the fee. Or, if they get stuck in traffic, for example, you could be paying for that time. However, you might prefer hourly movers if you're confident that the job will be quick. In that case, the math might work in your favor.

4. Investigate additional charges

Watch out for additional charges that can skew the affordability of hiring movers. These expenses can cover areas such as:

  • Administrative fees, e.g., to supply a Certificate of Insurance (COI) to your building. A COI is a document that verifies the insurance coverage of that company, which can help in case anything in the building gets damaged during the move.
  • Additional mileage fees, such as if your move extends past a given radius of the mover's base rate.
  • Complexity fees, such as if movers charge more depending on how many flights of stairs you have.

Plus, if you want additional moving-related services like packing or storage, those can carry extra costs. So, compare moving rates based on the full slate of charges, not just the headline rates.

5. Find reviews

Ideally, you can look into reviews of different movers before choosing one. Better yet, you can find someone who went through a similar process. A homeowner moving cross country might ask friends and family who've made the same long-distance moving journey for honest reviews of the companies they've used. And a renter new to their neighborhood might ask the previous tenants who they used.

If you can't ask someone you know, look for online reviews. Plenty of moving companies have reviews from others who've used their services. That way, you can get a better sense of whether the movers are honest, efficient, safe and have any other qualities you may be looking for.

Check out reviews online today

6. Review licenses and insurance

If you're picking a professional moving company, review their licenses and insurance to make sure they're legitimate. Your state or city might have certain license laws that movers have to meet, which could help give you confidence that your possessions will be properly handled.

Also, consider the insurance that movers carry. Renters, for example, might need their movers to provide a COI to a building manager.

Plus, you likely want to know what insurance the mover offers to protect your own items. If you have home insurance, that could provide some protection, but you should specify with your policy provider. Either way, you likely want to know what the mover offers so you can get a full sense of your options if items break or get lost.

7. Think about what happens during the unloading process

Lastly, think about what happens after movers load up the truck.

For one, you don't want to end up in a position where movers try to extort you to pay extra money to unload the truck or take items up the last flight of stairs. Having a contract in place before the move, as well as reading reviews, can help you avoid these types of situations. If necessary, however, you could report moving companies to authorities or find legal support.

Assuming that doesn't happen, you should still be prepared for other scenarios. For example, what do you want movers to do with furniture that needs to be taken apart for the moving process? Would you rather them re-assemble the furniture in your new home or just leave you with the pieces? That could affect total moving costs.

Some moving companies might also provide unpacking support, though this could also be arranged through a separate company. And if you have reusable boxes, movers might need to come back in a couple of weeks to pick them up again, so consider how quickly you can unpack those boxes.

Finally, consider tipping your movers. This can be a personal choice, with wide ranges depending on the scope of services. 

That said, many people tip in the general range of what they would at restaurants or for other personal services — roughly 20%. With movers, you might split that total fee to directly tip each worker proportionally, or you might give the fee to the crew lead to have them split the tip amongst the workers.

Follow these tips to simplify moving

Moving can be a difficult process, but following these seven tips can make life easier. Choosing a good moving company can minimize stress and help you start enjoying your new home on the right foot. 

If you need additional support in choosing a moving company, consider looking at resources from your state or local government, such as your state's attorney general office. These offices often publish moving tips online that can help you safely choose a qualified moving company.

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