Let's face it: Moving is always a big pain. You have to pack everything up, carry heavy items around awkward corners and hope you don't break anything fragile. While you may be excited about moving into a new house or apartment, I'm willing to bet that you're not excited about the actual act of physically moving your belongings. That's where a moving company comes in handy.
Moving companies, while they are always going to be more expensive than moving on your own, save you a lot of energy and stress. There are so many things to worry about when you're traveling to a new place (and potentially town), that the few extra dollars required to hire a professional company may be well worth it to you. Plus, once you've calculated your final U-Haul bill (including gas, mileage, and your time), you may find that the price difference isn't as big as you thought it was.
After you've done your comparison shopping and decided that your back and your sanity are worth saving, it's time to choose a moving company. Each one is a little different and will offer unique pricing plans and additional services. It's best to get quotes from a handful of companies before making a final decision.
The first thing to do is make a list of these businesses that service your area as well as the area that you're moving to. You'll want to compare their services, reputations and prices so you're sure that you're getting the best deal from a reliable company. Once you have your list, you can begin your research. Some things to consider when you're comparing moving companies include:
- International, National or Local Moving Company? You may want to decide between a national moving company and a local one. And of course, if you're moving out of the country, you should also look into international moving companies. If you're going out of state or your move will include many large items and additional services, you may want to opt for a national company such as Atlas or Mayflower. These companies have a lot of experience moving people to all different areas under all different circumstances. They may be able to handle a bigger job better than a small, local company, or they may have policies and services that better suit you.
On the other hand, a local company may take more care with your belongings and work a little harder in order to ensure your happiness and keep your business, especially if your new home is local. It may also be easier to negotiate rates and terms with a smaller company, since they are likely able to be more flexible with pricing. Do some research to ensure that the company you're considering can handle your job before you make your decision.
- What's Included? Find out what exactly each company includes in its base rate. Some may include free boxes, packing (up to a certain number of items) and/or unpacking, while others may charge extra for these additional services. Talk to someone at the company and ask specific questions about their costs. For example, many companies tack on a fee for bringing things up and down stairs as well as the distance items are carried. So if the truck is parked a block down the street you may be charged more than if parking is readily available in front of your house or apartment. Most companies will include a limited number of free boxes and other packaging materials, but ask first to determine exactly what they will give you.
: If your costs are estimated based on weight, make sure you're crystal clear about what the additional charges will be if your belongings end up weighing more than the estimated amount. In this case, since your belongings won't be weighed before they are moved, the price you are quoted is indeed an ESTIMATE.
- Additional Services? Determine what additional services you will need and call the companies that you are considering to establish whether they offer them and what the price is for each service you will require. While some companies may include certain of these services in their base rate, most will likely charge an additional fee for at least some of the following: carrying items up or down stairs, maneuvering items around any especially tight or awkward corners, packing boxes, packing larger items like a television set or your bed, unpacking boxes and/or setting up your furniture at your final destination, the distance from the moving van to your residence (both moving in and out), transporting fragile items, storing your items for any amount of time if you won't be at your destination when the van arrives and any other special requests or instructions you may have.
- Reputation? We've all heard horror stories about movers breaking someone's favorite lamp, tracking mud onto the new carpet or even losing people's possessions. That's why it's so important to look into your chosen company's reputation before you sign a contract. Personal referrals are always best, so ask your neighbors and family members who they used the last time they moved. Ask them if they were simply satisfied or if there was anything out of the ordinary (good or bad) that stuck out.
Find out if the company you are considering is a member of a professional association or trade body. This in and of itself does not prove outstanding service, but it indicates that the company is legitimate and adheres to certain standards and that you will likely have some form of recourse if something goes awry. As a final check, ask the company itself to provide you with some references from previous customers. They probably won't send you to someone who will give them a bad review, but if they balk at providing you with a reference it should raise a warning flag.
- Liability? Determine what the company is liable for. If they are moving fragile items, precious pieces of art or expensive electronic equipment you may want to purchase insurance (or additional insurance) to safeguard those items. Sometimes a company is only liable if you hire them to pack the item as well as move it, so it may behoove you to pay a little extra so that they are responsible for packing big, expensive items. If you pack them yourself and the company damages them, they may claim it was due to poor packaging and you could be out of luck. Talk to a representative about their liability and what your recourse is if something goes wrong.
- Initial Estimate? Now that you've narrowed your list down to companies that provide the services that you need, you can start to compare what everyone is most interested in - pricing. You can usually get an initial estimate through email. Most companies will get in contact with you via email (especially if you've found them through the internet) and send you a spreadsheet to fill out. They ask that you itemize everything that you plan to have them move. The spreadsheet will usually remind you about major items (such as appliances) that many people forget to include, but you should still print it out and go through each room of your house, starting at one corner and circling the room until you have listed every piece of furniture and large item that you plan to have them move. You may then need to estimate the number of boxes you will fill with knick knacks, DVDs, books, clothing, etc., but this list should give enough information to work with. They will then respond with an initial estimate. Be sure to include any additional services that you may need so that you're not surprised later if the appraisal exceeds the estimate.
- Final Appraisal? After you've compared the initial estimates you'll want to schedule a final appraisal with the companies that stand out. This usually entails a representative coming by your place, taking a look at all the items you've specified, ensuring that you haven't neglected to mention anything and giving you a final estimate. Remember that many companies charge by weight, so even at this stage your final estimate/appraisal may not match your final bill. Make sure to double check with the appraiser about extra charges for any additional services (stairs, corners, fragile items) or additional weight at this point.
Make sure that what the appraiser promises is written down in your contract so that you won't be surprised later. If there is a discrepancy after the move has started, the company likely has the legal right to keep your belongings until you pay them in full, so it's important that you know exactly what any variables are and exactly what you will be charged if you exceed any current expectations or limits.
- Refund Policy? Before you sign any paperwork, make sure that you're aware of any refund policy. Can you cancel or change your move date if something unexpected comes up? How far in advance must you notify the company to receive a full refund? Does this refund include your initial deposit? Is there a point after which your money will not be refunded? Moving is an expensive endeavor and it's important to ensure that all your bases are covered.
Now it's time to pack up and wait for the movers to arrive. Whether you're going with national or local companies, as long as you've been thorough with your research you should know exactly what you're getting, so you can sit back, relax and actually look forward to your new home.