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Choosing a Moving Company

Choosing a moving company is easy, but choosing a good moving company is difficult and takes time and preparation. You’ve probably heard some hair-raising stories from friends and families. It’s extremely important to sort the good from the bad quickly. No matter where you live, there will be a number moving companies just waiting to help you out. The most difficult task is to choose one that’s right for your situation. Getting it wrong can cost you time, money and heartache. This is an individual choice and your decision should be tailored to your actual needs.

Choosing a moving company for your next move requires you to start as soon as possible, clearly define what you need from a moving company, research and select a shortlist of movers, contact your selections and negotiate the terms, and finally, decide and sign.

Start Early

If possible, begin this process 4-8 weeks before your selected move date. If that’s not possible, start as soon as you can. Movers’ schedules fill up quickly and you should give yourself enough time to plan, research, and contact your shortlist of moving companies.

What Are Your Needs?

Beyond loading, transporting, and unloading your possessions, are there other services you require? Do you require packing services or simply packing materials? Do you need to store your possessions before moving into your new home? Do you require unpacking services?

All of these services will cost you more money, so you knowing what you need and how much you’re willing to pay is very important.

Make a checklist of what you need them to do to get the best quotes. For example:

  • Are they available on your preferred moving dates
  • Are you looking to move locally, long-distance or, even internationally
  • Do you want help with packing or do you want to purchase packing materials
  • Will you need the moving company to transport valuable or fragile items
  • Do you just want to hire a vehicle to move yourself
  • Do you need storage facilities
  • How much stuff do you have
  • How much insurance will you need

It’s wise to draw up a quick list before you start talking to people, as you don’t really want to be thinking on your feet here. Write down how many rooms you have, list big items of furniture and try to estimate how many boxes you’ll be packing. The easiest way to do this is to mentally go through every room in your house, list the big items and then work out how many boxes it’ll take to remove the rest of the stuff in the room. Don’t forget to think about garden furniture and the contents of your garage! Don’t worry about it being exactly right – the moving companies don’t expect it. But it won’t suit either of you if you get it completely wrong and they send a mini-sized vehicle for a juggernaut-sized job! If in doubt, ask a couple of the moving companies for advice on how to estimate. You’ll be surprised at how helpful they’ll be – many will happily send estimators to your home to put together a quotation, especially if they price by weight.

Making Your Short List and Checking It Twice

The best way to find a reliable moving company is by recommendation or reputation. Check out friends and family to find those who had a good experience. You do still need to be careful, however. If a local moving company successfully moved your mother-in-law across town, they won’t necessarily have the skills, resources and experience to move you internationally, for example:

Talk To Your Realtors or Estate Agents

Realtors & estate agents should be able to give experienced and knowledgeable recommendations.

Visit Company Websites

Most companies have websites that list their services, service history, destinations they will move to, and roughly how much it will cost. This is a great place to get background information and to start compiling a list of potential companies and testimonials. Also, most companies will list contact information, including e-mail addresses, allowing you to ask questions and be provided with a written response.

Contact the Better Business Bureau

Find out if any of the companies on your list have generated any reports. Information you can get will usually contain any grievances filed and if the grievances were resolved successfully. It’s rare that a company does not have any unhappy customers; the key is to ensure that if there were complaints, that in the end, the customer was satisfied with the result. Read the report carefully, and if you’re thinking of using a company who had a grievance filed, ask them specifically about this case and how it was resolved. Depending on the severity of the complaint, you may choose not to pursue this company.

Some of us will simply choose a known name – i.e. a national company. While others feel it is important to search for smaller local companies.

Always Hire An Accredited Company

In all cases, it’s especially wise to choose companies that have taken the time and trouble to become accredited members of a moving association or trade body. You can assume from this that they take themselves seriously and you can probably do the same too. They will probably have to adhere to certain standards, and you’ll have recourse to action if you do have problems.

Check Membership

But you should still beware – if you are at all suspicious, check out their membership. You can even ask them for referrals from previous satisfied customers. You don’t have to follow up on this but, if the company seems less than keen to let you talk to people they’ve dealt with in the past, then you need to start thinking hard about whether they’re right for you.

Contact Your Shortlist of Moving Companies

When you’ve drawn up a shortlist of potential moving companies you need to start the negotiation process. You’ll find a wide variety of costs and services out there and various types of pricing. Some companies will charge you on an hourly rate, some by estimated volume based on the rooms of your current property, some by estimating what types of furniture and goods you need to move and others by the estimated weight of your load.

When it comes to costs, you should be looking to get at least 2-3 quotes before you make a decision. Don’t just look at price but look at what they’ll offer you for the cost. It may be more cost-effective to pay a little more to get more services. Don’t be afraid to ask them about how long they’ve been in business, their experience, or for customer referrals.

Talk to them about how long it will take to move you. DO ask them about their insurance coverage, claims protection, and how far it extends (and doesn’t!). You should NEVER choose a moving company that doesn’t have adequate insurance. If possible, get a quote in writing and make sure that you completely understand how the quotation works. This is one of the times in your life when it really does pay to read the small print. For example, some moving companies won’t cover you for damage if you pack goods yourself unless they play an obvious role in damaging them. You must make sure that they not only explain your quote to you but that you get a full copy that includes any relevant terms and conditions, bills of lading etc.

It’s also good to ask how many people will be assigned to your move – the more there are, the quicker it’ll go. Most people generally find that 3 is an ideal number – this gives you 2 people to do most of the loading/unloading and 1 to sort out the vehicle. It also means that somebody is with your possessions most of the time for added security.

You need to be particularly careful if your moving estimate is based on weight. This type of quotation has specific problems, as it is hard to estimate the weight of goods before you actually weigh them. In these cases, an estimator will generally work out the weight for you before you are given a price. But, your goods will be weighed once they are packed up and, if the weight is higher than the estimate, you might be liable for extra costs. In these cases always check first about how the moving company’s system works and establish how binding their quotation is or isn’t. If you run into problems here, you really will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Refuse to pay excess charges and the mover will simply hang on to your possessions until you resolve the dispute. It’s vital to spend time here assessing the company. For example, you have the right to be present when your goods are weighed to check the accuracy of the process and you can ask for a reweigh if you aren’t sure – make sure that the company agrees to this upfront.

Seal the Deal

Once you have talked to your shortlist of moving companies and have read through their quotes, you’ll be ready to make your choice. Whether you choose on cost or prefer to go with the company with which you feel most comfortable, you’ve made a more informed decision on this most important aspect of your move.

Once you’ve made a decision you may be asked to sign some kind of confirmation that outlines your agreement. This is always a good idea, as all parties then know where they stand. At this point, all you need to do is to get packing!