How to Check if a Moving Company Is Legitimate

It’s always difficult when we get scammed, but it’s even harder to trust someone again. When it comes to relocation, we know many cases when people got badly scammed by long-distance movers. Fortunately, there are ways on how to check if a moving company is legitimate, and the key is diligence and research.

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August 2, 2021 Posted in How-to

How to Make Sure a Company Is Legitimate

We know you’re wary of potential relocation scams, and who wouldn’t be? Trusting your stuff to a cross-country moving firm just to have them turn out to be scammers is an absolute nightmare. However, the cheapest way to move out of state is booking a relocation company. To reduce the dreaded relocation stress, you can find legitimate information on most cross-country movers that could help you decide who to book, and ultimately, who to trust. You’ll be surprised to hear that most of the necessary research can be done online, too.

Check Moving Companies by Doing the Basic Research Online

Researching relocation companies is one of the most important things to do before relocating. This isn’t only to verify their legitimacy but to compare their relocation quotes, too. Each company provides information on its relocation costs, and you can get a reliable car shipping quote alongside the regular service costs. In case a firm you’re interested in doesn’t have a well-developed website or a free quote option, you should be wary and perhaps look elsewhere, too.

Of course, when we say basic research, we literally mean the bare minimum. You can type in the phrase “long-distance movers near me” and rely on the results that come up on the first page. Then, take a good look at the company’s website – can you find everything you’d like to know about them? Do they offer options for each of their long-distance moving services? If yes, then you can proceed by vetting them in other ways, too. If no, well, you get the point.

a woman researching long-distance movers online
The internet is your best friend when it comes to looking for legitimate relocation firms

How to Vet Relocation Companies Online in Detail

We’ve mentioned the bare minimum of research you need to do, but what to do next if you find that a business has all the basic information on its website? Firstly, see if there are customer reviews written about them, whether on their site or some other forums. There’s no better way to find out if a business is good than by asking others or reading about their experiences. You can even ask your inner circle because no one would be more truthful to you than your friends and family.

We only recommend that you take positive and negative reviews with a grain of salt as people’s expectations are typically very different, and sometimes heightened emotions influence their impressions. However, you’ll get some good insight into what’s good for you and what’s not in this manner, so don’t forget to look for tips from previous customers, too.

Visit FMCSA and Look for a USDOT Number

One of our main relocation tips is to head over to FMCSA (short for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) and look up the firm you’re interested in on their website. All relocation companies must register a USDOT number via this administration to monitor the businesses and make sure they comply with the regulations. People can also lodge a complaint on their website about any firm they may cover.

This is good for you because you won’t only find out how to ship your belongings to another state, but which firm to hire and entrust your things to, as well. Using the FMCSA website is the best way on how to check if a company is licensed and insured. Even if you’re relocating at the last minute, you should still take the time to double-check all possible info on your mover.

Look Them up on ATA and the Better Business Bureau Website

Another method of vetting a firm online is to look up their work licenses on sites like the American Trucking Association (ATA,) which provides professional movers with a certificate of validity called ProMovers. This certification isn’t so easy to get, so you can trust ATA and their judgment overall. One thing to note is that ATA is the heir to AMSA (American Moving and Storage Association,) which got dissolved, so if you see their logo attached to the ProMovers badge, it’s the same deal.

The other website to use is the one from Better Business Bureau (BBB.) They function as a non-profit organization that ensures people get in touch with the best businesses and get all the necessary information. The BBB is an excellent way to choose a long-distance moving company you can trust. The companies registered with them are rated all the time, so the quality of all movers can be checked at any time of the year, especially at the best time of the year to move.

two people looking up a long-distance moving company
Vetting companies on official websites and according to reviews can help you a lot

How to Check If a Moving Company is Legitimate In Person

If you’ve decided to contact some long-distance movers, you’ll know if their operations are by the book if they provide the following service: asking you for a detailed inventory list, the destination, and the date. They also have to give you an in-person valuation of the relocation costs, or at least do a video survey of the belongings you want to have moved. Then, they’ll give you the cost of their mover service for a two-bedroom apartment, a home in the suburbs, a tall metropolitan high-rise, wherever you want.

If They Don’t Come to Your Home, That’s Bad

Contrary to what you may believe, a respectable relocation firm does, in fact, send people to their clients’ homes for a visual estimate. If the mover in question doesn’t bother visiting your home before the move, you can rest assured that they’ll wing it when it comes to pricing, which can lead to a scam in no time. Every reputable interstate relocation firm has a set of rules they need to follow under the regulatory body’s decisions, in this case, FMCSA.

Some regulations every interstate mover needs to follow are: giving a free estimate of the shipment, providing relocation insurance and liability options, informing you about items movers won’t move, and giving you a booklet issued by the regulatory body, called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” This last point, the booklet, is a sure-fire way to know if movers are legitimate because they’re open about operating under federal regulations.

one of the cross-country movers writing down the amount of cargo on paper
Relocation experts visit homes and estimate all costs in person, so make sure that happens before you move

What’s Their Number?

Checking a firm’s phone number and giving them a call is essential. Some people prefer to communicate by email or text, but a phone call is the best way to verify you’re getting a good deal. Get an interstate relocation firm’s digits and listen to how they answer the phone and talk to you. There’s a lot to be said from how someone communicates with you over the phone; if you feel you have to extract info from them, ask about absolutely everything, and explain their service to them – it’s a scam.

Another kind of digit to look out for with a relocation firm is their license plates. When they come to your house for a valuation, write down the license plate numbers and run them through the regulatory body’s database. You should also receive a DOT# or MC# number along with your written cost estimate, and you can run those through the database as well. To better understand the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and USDOT, you can watch the video below.

You Can Easily Recognize Scammers By Their Actions

It’s probably easier to spot a scam than it is to completely trust a relocation firm, even when you’ve done all the necessary research on them. As if it’s not already hard that you’re moving away from your family or trying to relocate with kids and juggling many things at once. You can read about some typical things a relocation scammer would do to get more money out of you.

They Ask For Advances and Cash Only Payments

If some interstate relocation firms contact you for a down payment, especially in cash, they’re probably out to trick you. One of the biggest relocation mistakes anyone who wants to move will make is to trust that giving deposits to their relocation firm is a regular part of relocating. The same goes if they insist on getting paid in cash only when you want to move; this shouldn’t happen because any registered firm out there accepts bank and card payments and doesn’t explicitly ask for either.

In this case, it’s better for you just to cancel the contract and get a rental truck for long-distance moving to do it yourself. You’ll go through the same trouble, but at least it’ll be on your terms. Or, if you have time, contact a different firm and put your stuff in storage while you wait on the right ones to come along.

They Change Their Minds About the Costs and Don’t Provide Insurance

It sounds unbelievable that a relocation firm could change their prices as time passes, but it happens too often. A firm that’s trying to scam you typically doesn’t give an estimate by visiting your home. Instead, they tend to give you a quote on an hourly basis or say that a typical one-bedroom apartment, as an example, usually costs that or this much to move.

Then on relocation day, they come with their storage trailer and say they didn’t expect so much work that they need more employees on-site, a bigger truck, more cash, and so on. With this, your idea of relocating to a new home becomes a nightmare you want to see come to an end as soon as possible, so you give them what they want and end up losing more money than you ever should have.

One more vital thing to remember is that all long-distance relocation firms offer mandatory liability insurance for relocation. They also have to promise and provide full-value replacement if that’s the option you choose. If they don’t offer any options of insuring your stuff while you move, that’s a big red flag, and you should search elsewhere.

They Show Up In Unmarked or Different Trucks

If the gear, outfits, and trucks don’t have the firm’s name proudly displayed on them, how will you know who they are? Indeed, some firms don’t have the budget initially, but the vehicles at least have to represent the business fully. Imagine relocating an office to another state and not being able to get insurance because you’re not sure who your relocation firm is. That’s a nightmare waiting to come true, indeed.

Overall, suppose the firm’s presentation is professional in every aspect, from having positive and negative reviews on their website, making contact with them as easy as possible, and proudly showing their colors on the equipment and storage trucks. In that case, they could be pretty legitimate and easy to work with. Of course, if it’s just a peacock showing its colorful feathers, you can always cancel the work and search for another crew.

a cross-country moving expert taking inventory of cargo
Search for relocation firms that won't ask you for an advance and that provide insurance plans

When You Find Legitimate Relocation Experts, You Will Trust and Feel Good About Them

Sometimes, some relocation firms will give you tips on when to start packing for a move or how to create a relocation to-do list. Maybe they’ll even explain how car shipping works because they also offer auto transport, next to storage, and mandatory liability coverage. What we really mean is – if the communication is professional and informative, you’re free to ask for tips and reviews, and you learn everything with just a few clicks or one conversation, you’re good to go.

The most important person to trust in any given situation is yourself. It’s OK to listen to others in some situations, but there’s nothing more trustworthy than your gut feeling. Whatever feels off about an event or situation, you should feel free to back away and make a different choice. We hope you see the benefits of relocating with a firm nevertheless.

Gemma Collins

Gemma is an NJ local that has explored all the US states, making her the perfect person to write about moving.



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