Moving can be a very stressful and pricey process that can quickly develop into a nightmare if you’re not careful. It’s important to find a trustworthy moving company that you can trust with all your possessions, but how do you find a company that you can feel safe with? Depending on your circumstances, you may need the services of a company that can pack all your things and move them for you across the country. Here are some tips on finding a reputable company for your upcoming move.
It Pays to do Your Homework on Your Moving Company Get Some Referrals
The first thing you should do is stop relying on the internet to help you in your search. Most of the people that have been victimized by moving companies found them online so that is the last place you need to start your search. Instead, call a couple of local real estate agents and ask them for reputable moving companies that they would recommend. Ask for companies that have been in business for at least ten years and avoid moving brokers. Existing consumer protection laws for household good brokers are not sufficiently written or enforced.
Next, you need to set up at least three appointments with moving companies to come out to your house and do an in-house estimate so you can rate them from your favorite to least favorite company. Make sure to ask them up front whether or not the company will be doing the move themselves or if they sub-contract out the jobs to other companies. If they are not doing the moving themselves, look at another company that will. It’s also a good idea to visit their office and verify that they are who they say they are and, while you are there, check out their trucks and ask to see their storage facility. If their trucks aren’t permanently marked with the company name, keep looking. Magnetic signs are not permanent signs and many disreputable movers will just attach a sign to a rental truck so that they can do business that day. Bottom line, find out as much as you can before the day of the move.
Get an Estimate
At their appointment, each moving company should give you an estimate based on their walk through. Make sure to ask a lot of questions, especially if you see differences in pricing to see if they offer different services that the other companies don’t. Also find out how much insurance they include and what they valued your belongings at. Avoid movers that give you a quote based on the cubic feet of your home. And, never, ever sign blank paperwork or anything that the movers haven’t fully explained to you. Read over the document, ask questions, make sure you understand it and don’t be worried about making the moving company wait.
By law, every moving company must give you a booklet titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” and if they do not give this to you, look for another mover. Here are a few more important details to get from the sales person:
• Complete company name plus any DBA names (doing business as)
• Find out how long they have been in business
• Physical address of the company
• Company phone numbers, both local and toll-free
• MC and DOT license numbers
• Web site address
• Email address
• Three references (and call all of them)
When you get all three of your references it’s time to get on the internet. Now the internet can help you research these companies and verify the information you just received.
Most states actually make it easy to look for business information online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for online, call you’re the secretary of state’s office and request the articles of incorporation. This will tell you how long the moving company has been in business and verify the address of the company and the owner’s name.
The MC and DOT License Numbers that you got from the sales person will now come in handy. This can help you verify if the moving company has the license authority to actually do your move plus the insurance that makes the move legal.
First, get on SaferSys.org which is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) web site and search for the license information for motor carriers. Here you can do a search of the moving company’s DOT number which will give you a lot of information. Key information to look for is making sure that the moving company name, address and phone number match with what you were given. Also make sure that the field “Out of Service” says “no” and the “Out of Service Date” reads “none”. This will also tell you how many trucks and drivers they have so if the company tells you they do over a hundred moves a month and they only have one or two trucks, is that even possible?
You will also find out the following:
• When they applied for their license
• If they are authorized to be hired
• If they are authorized to move you between states
• If they are authorized to carry household goods
Finally, you will be able to check their inspection record and compare it to the national average. If the moving company has received a higher number of inspections than the national average or they have been in business for a few years and haven’t received an inspection, something is not right.
Licensing and Insurance
Next, you need to check out their insurance. At the bottom of the SafeSys page will be a link to the FMCSA Licensing & Insurance site. This site will give you the details on your company’s insurance and will tell you if the “Authority Status” is active. It will also tell you what “Authority Type” they have and it should at least say “common” for the type. If it doesn’t say “no” for either “Application Pending” or “Revocation Pending” under a “Common” Authority Type, something isn’t right.
It is required for a moving company to have a minimum $750,000 BIPD as well as Cargo insurance filed with the FMCSA. On this site, if the BIPD says $0 or the Cargo says “no”, look for another company. You then need to call their Consumer Complaint Hotline at 1-888-368-7238 to see if there is a complaint history for the moving company.
Better Business Bureau
At this point, if your company is passing all the requirements you are heading towards the home stretch. It doesn’t hurt to contact the Better Business Bureau and find out how many complaints have been filed about the company.
And, again, if another company shows up on moving day, fire them immediately. And never sign blank paperwork, make sure you read what you are signing and understand it completely.