Wednesday, January 21 2009
In our continued quest to keep our readers informed about real estate matters, we thought it would be helpful to examine all that is involved in moving. This is the second part out of the series of nine.
How to Pick a Mover
Moving can be daunting, but there are laws that protect you. Although we're not in the business of giving legal advice (as we're not lawyers), we recommend that you stick with an 400N Tariff company. Here are some questions to ask:
Q. How do you charge for moving services?
A: Our best experiences have been with 400N Tariff companies (see our overview of the 400N Tariff). These companies charge by weight and miles, not volume. Volume-based estimates are notoriously inaccurate and we often hear of customers who are charged more when their stuff arrives because the volume-based estimate was wrong. We'd also be skeptical of movers that charge only based on the weight (regardless of how far you are shipping your items).
Q. Can you guarantee that the estimates you give won't be exceeded?
A: The sales line we hear often is "sure, I typically over-estimate to be safe, so your charge will probably be less." It sounds like a great line, but it's not true. Some 400N Tariff movers WILL offer a not-to-exceed estimate based on your accurate representation of the inventory. However, their estimates are generally quite accurate. They're professionals at this and have incentive not to scare you with a high price.
Q. Can you do an in-home estimate?
A. Although it requires a bit more time, any reputable mover should offer to do an in-home estimate, which will be MUCH more accurate than an over-the-phone estimate.
Q. Are you a broker or the actual mover?
A: Many movers that you find online are brokers (people who coordinate local movers, cross-country shippers, packers, insurance, etc). They're effectively move coordinators. Although you won't be dealing with the moving company directly, brokers have direct contact with the moving companies, and drivers and generally detailed tracking tools. We have had equal success with both brokers and moving companies.
Q. Do you offer temporary storage if I need it? How much does it cost? What if I need it longer? Is there an additional cost if I need to get into it while it's in temporary storage?
A: Many carriers offer free temporary storage for a month (particularly for big moves) including the transportation to and from the temp storage while others charge. If the first month is free, make sure you understand the costs for additional months and any hidden costs (like if you need to get into your stuff while it's in storage).
Q. Are all the players (packers, movers, etc) fully bonded and insured?
A: There are a surprising number of fly-by-night operations. Asking some basic questions about the company should help give you a sense of how long they've been around.
Q. What payment methods do you accept?
A: While some moving companies accept credit card payment for the full cost of the move, many do not. You should ask and not assume.
Q. What's your refund policy?
A: Many moving companies have very flexible refund policies (e.g. fully refundable if you cancel within a week or two). This should help alleviate any fear you have booking early with one company.
Other pieces of advice:
Don't be afraid to check the Better Business Bureau for reputable movers
Book early! The moving business is a bit like the airline industry: it's a competitive industry and you can often find deep discounts if you are able to book early, but those discounts disappear if you wait and don't book until the last minute.