By Jim Donovan: Planning to move anytime soon? Moving is big business nationwide: More than 36.5 million Americans—about 12 percent of the population—switched homes in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the summer months are traditionally the most popular for moving.
While there's no such thing as a stress-free move, researching moving companies and choosing one that has a track record of getting the job done right, can definitely help things go more smoothly.
The editors at Delaware Valley Consumers' Checkbook routinely find big differences in prices and quality among movers, and while there are some outstanding companies out there, they've also heard many horror stories about moves gone wrong. Among the most common kinds of complaints CHECKBOOK found in subscriber reviews of moving companies were: Damage to home or belongings, lost items, or alleged theft; lack of customer service; attempt to charge more than originally estimated or quoted; and promptness, meaning work took too long to complete or the firm was late for or missed appointments.
When planning a move, CHECKBOOK recommends consumers do the following:
Stay away from the Internet when shopping for a mover. If a moving company can't be reached via telephone, or won't come to a person's home to provide an on-site, written estimate, it probably shouldn't be trusted.
Have several companies provide written, signed estimates, showing the rates that are used to calculate the estimate—either per hour or rates based on weight or mileage. Ask for a binding estimate/fixed-price contract or an estimate with a cap (consumers won't pay more than the cap and will pay less if less time than estimated is required).
Ensure estimates detail the services to be performed and include an inventory describing the rooms and major items to be moved.
Be present and attentive when belongings are loaded and unloaded, and be sure the mover prepares an inventory, including cartons, by number, and that it specifies the condition of each item.
Carefully read the Bill of Lading before signing, and keep it until the shipment is delivered, all charges are paid, and all claims, if any, are settled.
As goods are unloaded, check inventory to be sure each item has arrived in good condition. Don't sign anything without first writing in notes of any damage.
Think about what services they need. People can save a lot of money by doing work themselves, particularly by packing, although having a company pack saves time and provides a better basis for filing a claim if damage occurs.
No matter who does the packing work, move fragile or valuable belongings on your own.
For more information about hiring a mover and to look at CHECKBOOK's Moving Company ratings for FREE visit: http://www.checkbook.org/interactive/movers/del/article.cfm
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