After life-changing events such as divorce and death of a spouse, moving comes in as the third most stressful event in a person’s life. It’s not hard to understand why: new house, new neighborhood, new routines—and an awful lot of physical work.
Your movers have a lot to do with your stress level. After all, you’re entrusting total strangers with your worldly possessions, family heirlooms, and favorite things. Once the moving van drives away from your old house, all your stuff is completely out of your control. Who wouldn’t get anxious about that?
The honest truth is that nothing can make moving anxiety-free. Even the most careful planning can’t guarantee that your things will arrive intact and on time. Still, there are some ways to go about selecting a mover that will at least give you the best chance of having a hassle-free move.
Find Out Who You’re Dealing With
Know the difference between a mover and a broker. A mover is a company whose employees move your things and are financially responsible for taking care of them. A broker is a middleman that generates quotes, handles paperwork, and selects carriers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
In theory, a broker may be able to move you for less by putting the job up for bid by the carriers in its stable. You know that commercial that says, “When banks compete, you win”? The principle here is the same. In theory, brokers weed out incompetent and shady movers to protect their own reputations.
But there’s often a big difference between theory and practice. If things go wrong with a move that a broker has farmed out to a carrier of his choosing, you have no recourse against the broker. Instead, you have to deal with a company you didn’t choose and people you never talked to. Maybe they’ll be great. But if they’re not, sorting things out can be immensely frustrating.
There’s no single answer to the question about whether to go with a mover or a broker. But at your initial contact, you should ask questions to find out which type of company you’re talking to.
Get In-Person Estimates
One common complaint about moving companies is that they show up on the day of the move, throw your estimate out the window, and demand a higher price. Since movers can’t be rescheduled on short notice, you’re stuck between a rock (cancel the move) and a hard place (pay the additional charges).
You can make this outcome less likely by getting actual, in-person estimates. When you’ve found a likely company, walk the representative through your old house and point out what’s to be moved and what stays, things that are of special or antique value, and things that are exceptionally large or heavy. Get a detailed estimate in writing.
Then wash, rinse, repeat. Get at least two more in-person estimates. Compare them carefully. Don’t feel pressured into signing up with someone just because they came to your house to look around. You’re going to be spending thousands of dollars and entrusting all you own to this company. You have every right to be picky.
Do Your Homework
When you’ve zeroed in on one or more companies that you’re pleased with, check them out before you commit.
Find out if the companies you’re interested in are licensed. For interstate moves, check out protectyourmove.gov; for in-state moves, consult your state’s licensing authorities. Ask who insures the people who will be moving your things. And do a drive-by at the company’s address of to make sure it’s real and not just someone’s house. If you don’t feel comfortable with what you find, go on to another firm.
Beware of online consumer reviews; reviews written by professional consumer reporters are generally more reliable. Unfortunately, some moving companies post fake consumer reviews praising their own firm or disparaging competitors. Then too, most genuine consumer reviews skew sharply negative—not many people take the time to leave a review that says that the move was unexceptional and went more or less as planned.
But that is the outcome everyone wants. So you owe it to yourself to do whatever you can to make it more likely.
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