When you move, you need to decide on a lot of things in a short time span. The ultimate goal is to make sure that all your stuff reaches your new house safely. Planning the whole move by yourself can become frustrating and that’s where a moving company can help you out. The quality of services provided by the moving company is a deciding factor on whether your move was successful or not.
Some moving companies are extremely trustworthy while the others may turn your move into a nightmare. Thus, it is crucial that you know what exactly you need to be asking these movers before you hire them. This will help you to sift out a few bad apples and hire the company you think is the best for you. Here are some questions pertaining to certain areas you must ask your movers before you hire them.
About The Company
1. Has your company fulfilled the essential licensing requirements?
All companies are required to possess certain documents that are issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which will help you ascertain the fact that the company is lawful and not a front for fraud activities. The FMCSA is a federal agency that develops safety standards for operators of commercial vehicles and also maintains records of their safety performance. Having a license issued from FMCSA doesn’t mean that the company will offer your fair prices or high-quality services. It just means that the company isn’t a scam and it abides by the federal laws.
A certain company might falsely claim that it has acquired the necessary licensing. You don’t have to trust what they claim, you can verify these claims by yourself. You should ask the company for its USDOT number (U.S. Department of Transportation) and MC (motor carrier). You might be dealing with con artists and frauds if their USDOT number says it’s ‘out of service’. For that matter, even if the contact information you have does not exactly match up to the contact information given in the records.
However, if you see the words ‘Authorized’ under the operating status option, you can rest assured that the company is legitimate. It’s essential to also ensure that the MC records include a safety rating. A simple ‘satisfactory’ rating is good enough if you are considering hiring that particular company.
In case you still wish to acquire more evidence of the reliability and the trustworthiness of the company, there are 2 reliable sources for the same. You can see whether the company is a member of the American Mover and Storage Association (AMSA) and the Better Business Bureau. A membership with these agencies signifies the company’s professionalism and compliance with laws.
2. Why has the company changed its name multiple times?
Avoid doing business with companies that have changed their name often. Some companies dodge getting assessed by the Better Business Bureau by indulging into business with different names. Other companies give themselves a name which is very similar to the name of a reputable company. They do this in order to trick you into thinking that you are dealing with the reputable company. You can ask them for a reason for their name switch. If their reason sounds invalid or shady, avoid hiring them.
3. What service options does your company offer?
It would be unwise of you to assume that a moving company will offer all the specific services that you need. All companies offer a unique set or combination of services and most of them specialize in some type of a move. It may happen that they do not provide a specific service that you might be looking for. Here are some of the common services that you might be looking for:
● Packing and unpacking
● Loading and Unloading
● Furniture assembling and disassembling
● Cleaning service
● Custom crafting
● Transportation of very heavy objects like pianos
● Shipping your vehicles
● Temporary storage facilities
4. Is the company a carrier or does it subcontract the work to someone else i.e., is it a broker?
Before you hire a company, you need to figure out what kind of a moving company it is. All the moving companies can be subdivided into three categories:
● Brokers or Subcontractors
● Hybrids (Carriers and Brokers)
If your company is a carrier, it will send its own in-house employees for the job. They are the ones who will be working throughout the process of your move. The chance for any miscommunication is very less if your company is a carrier. However, it might cost you more as compared to the other two types.
Brokers or agents are the ones who you consult when you need movers. Then the broker will outsource this work to firms that pay him/her commission. Similarly, if you approach a big company, they might subcontract the work to a smaller company they know. In both cases, you will get your move done at a lower price.
However, there is always a chance of a major miscommunication occurring in such scenarios. This happens because you talk and deal with someone else, while a third-party person is actually doing the job. The third-party company might also charge you some additional fees, the fees you didn’t agree to with your broker in the first place.
Hybrids are companies which will send its employees for the job. But, if you need a specific service that the company does not provide, it may outsource the service to a different mover.
5. Can your company provide us with more than three references of your previous clients?
Ask the company for at least three references. Make sure these references are the past customers of the company. You can then talk to these references and ask them about their experience with the company. If the majority of the references have positive things to say, you are good to go!
See also: Top-Rated Affordable Movers in the U.S.
6. Since how many years has your company been in business?
If you are hiring a well-established and a reputed company, you can expect the quality of the service provided by them to be good. However, they might also give you a higher estimate. Avoiding new companies is not what we are suggesting. Our objective is to inform you that if you hire a newly established company, you can’t always expect them to provide a high-quality service, as they may not be having any prior experience. On the flipside however, you can expect them to charge you a lower price for the move.
7. Can you provide the permanent business address of your company?
You may face a monetary loss if you pay an advance to the company. This is because some companies tend to vanish into thin air after they have your money. It is always better to know and verify the physical location of their office before making any sorts of payment.
Services Provided By The Company
1. Will the company send someone to do an in-house estimate?
You as a customer should always insist that the company sends an employee to your house to get an in-house estimate. Getting an inhouse checking of your belongings can help you to get a realistic and an accurate estimated cost of your move.
2. Do you have the necessary equipment for the move?
Reputable and professional moving companies make sure that they are using the new and updated versions of the equipment. Ask them whether they have tools like trolleys, moving dollies and shoulder straps. Also enquire about their usage of ramps. A ramp will make the process of lifting, loading and unloading easier and it might save your stuff from getting damaged.
3. Are you renting the moving trucks or using your own vehicles?
Some companies own a fleet of vehicles while others rent them whenever they get a moving job. It is easy to deduce that a company which owns trucks is more established in nature. Moreover, the transportation costs offered by these companies are comparatively lower.
4. Does your company offer temporary storage facilities?
It may happen that your new house is not ready by the time you are about to move. You should always ask the company whether they can temporarily store your belongings in a warehouse. If they do not own any warehouses, you can enquire about whether they can arrange for places to store your belongings. Don’t forget to ask about the additional charges for this storage service provided by them.
5. Does your company use new and good quality packaging supplies?
Movers tend to use old boxes and cartons in order to save money. If they are using new supplies, check whether they are using good quality packaging supplies. There is a risk of your objects getting damaged during the move if they aren’t packed properly. Always demand for new and good quality packaging material.
6. Does your company provide shipment tracking?
The answer to this question ideally shouldn’t be a deal breaker. We all tend to get anxious while we wait for our things to be transported to our new homes. Some companies will provide you with the GPS tracking option so that you get real time updates on where your stuff has reached. Meanwhile, some companies do not provide this service. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be one of your bigger concerns. But if they have it, then it’s an added benefit.
7. What can we do if you do not deliver the stuff in time?
It is advisable to agree on a definite penalty if the moving company doesn’t deliver your belongings to the new house as per the schedule. They will make a lot of excuses to justify why they failed to adhere to the schedule. Moving is expensive. If you have paid for the service, they shouldn’t be neglecting their job and causing you inconvenience.
About The Cost Estimate
1. Will your company offer a binding estimate?
A company might try to lure in customers by offering a low estimate. However, suddenly on the day of the move, the movers might start talking about some extra costs and demand additional payments. Movers increase their prices on the moving day as you won’t have back up movers at the last moment. You will eventually have to comply and pay the higher price.
All of this can be avoided if you insist on a binding estimate. A binding estimate disallows movers from demanding any additional charges apart from the quoted price. There won’t be any price rise unless things don’t go according to the plan or if extra items are added to inventory after you receive the estimate.
2. Are there any extra charges or hidden costs that haven’t been included in the estimate?
Find out if you need to pay any other additional charges apart from the quoted estimate. The movers might charge you extra for navigating staircases or elevators. They also may ask for more money if you have some very heavy items at your house. An additional fuel charge might also be added to your overall bill towards the end of the move. Make sure that you inquire about all the additional fees beforehand so that there are no surprises in the end.
3. Can the company explain the exact breakdown of the estimate?
The moving estimate given by the mover consists of several smaller expenditures. The way the ultimate cost is calculated is a complex process. These smaller expenditures could include things like hourly labor rates, fuel costs, packaging fees, elevator charges etc. Make sure that you ask your mover to provide you with a detailed costing for each and everything. Ensure that they write down the cost heads for each of the services that you need along with the applied taxes. You are a customer and you have every right to know how and where your money is getting spent.
4. Are there any discount offers that can be availed?
Most of the companies offer different types of discounts. The common ones are Military discounts, AAA member discounts, senior discounts and seasonal discounts. Generally, the company will talk about them explicitly when you discuss the estimate. If they don’t say anything about them, it is recommended that you enquire about them.
5. What are the modes and terms of payment followed by your company?
Before you sign a contract, make sure that you ask your mover about the mode of payment preferred by them. Some movers tend to offer you discounts if you pay for the whole move in cash. Furthermore, some movers do not accept credit cards or cheques at all. Additionally, make sure that the company offers flexible payment terms. It is advisable that you don’t make the entire payment before the move. It is recommended for you to be fully informed about this as there shouldn’t be any surprises in the end.
6. What happens in case of cancellations from our side?
There are several reasons why you might choose to not move at all. Some companies will allow you to cancel your move free of cost if you do so well ahead in time. Some companies will also let you cancel your moves for free just a couple of days before your move. However, most of the companies tend to keep all or a part of your initial deposit. In some cases, you might be charged with certain cancellation fees too. Which is why if you feel there is even a slight chance of you cancelling the move, make sure to ask the company about their cancellation policies before you sign any contracts with them.
7. To whom do we address the payment cheques to?
Make sure that you address all your cheques to the company instead of writing them to any particular individual unless they have a valid reason for it. If a person from a licensed and reputable company insists without any reason that you address the cheque to his/her name and not to the company, don’t trust them. They could be scamming you.
About the Employees/Workers
1. Does your company conduct a thorough background check of its employees?
If you think about it, hiring a moving company means that a bunch of strangers will be coming to your house and going through your stuff. This thought can be very scary and you would want to make sure that the company is sending employees that are trustworthy. Make sure the company checks the background of its employees. Background checks help companies to avoid hiring potential employees who may have been fired from their previous job for committing thefts or other fraudulent activities. If the company doesn’t conduct background checks, you must move along and hire one that does it.
2. Are your employees well trained and do they have enough prior experience?
The workers are going to be handling your things that might be heavy and expensive. You should make sure that the company isn’t sending under-trained rookies. Untrained and inexperienced workers will most probably end up making mistakes, damaging your things or even injure themselves in the process.
3. Does your company provide its employees with coverage via the Workers’ Compensation and Public Liability Insurance?
You must ask your company to show you a copy of the insurance that is provided to their employees. If workers are not covered by the company, you will be the one paying if they injure themselves while working on your move. You should probably steer clear of such companies.
About Complaints and Damages
1. How does your company handle complaints from clients?
Before you sign any contracts with the company, you must know whether the company has certain unresolved issues with past clients. You can ask them about this in an upfront way. Enquire about the process of filing damage claims. Moreover, you can always take reviews from the past customers. Note down any issues they might have faced regarding not getting reimbursed for damaged stuff.
2. What kind of valuation options does your company offer?
You have to make sure that your company provides you coverage for your belongings. You would ideally want the company to assume liability if your stuff gets damaged when you move. It is mandatory for licensed companies to provide you with the following two valuation options:
Full (Replacement) Value Protection:
In this, the mover takes full responsibility for your goods. If the items are lost or damaged, the mover has to either pay you for the cost of repair or the cost of replacement. However, there is one limitation to this plan. Movers assume liability only for the objects that are of immense value. A valuable item can be anything which costs more than $100 per pound.
Released Value Protection:
This option is very economical in nature. As it assumes liability for all objects of the move, it provides only minimal protection. Under this plan, the mover shall assume liability for not more than 60 cents per pound per object. The mover does not charge you any extra fees for availing this option.
If you feel that there is a huge coverage gap i.e., the valuation options aren’t enough for you; you can ask your movers whether they can recommend any other insurance policies that are sold by third part companies.
3. Is your company insured and can you show us the proof of it?
Many a times, a moving company will store your stuff in their warehouse before they ship it to your new house. This happens for several reasons. However, you need to know what happens if there occurs a mishap in the warehouse. For instance, what if there is a fire in the warehouse. You need to make sure that the company is insured so that both you and them eventually get fully reimbursed for any damaged goods. If the company claims that they are insured, ask for proof. Do not assume that they are always telling the truth.
See also: Do I Need a Moving Insurance
Once you receive satisfactory answers from your company, you need to ask one particular question towards the end. The answer to this could very well prove to be a deal breaker. You need to ask, ‘Is your company willing to give everything that you mentioned in writing’? Basically, things assured to you when you asked the above-mentioned questions.
A company which is honest and trustworthy will never say no when you suggest this. If a company refuses to do this, you should probably not hire them. If the company doesn’t commit to everything in writing, there is a high chance that they will refute things that you say and claim that they never agreed to that specific thing. For example, they will demand a higher price and ask for additional fees by claiming that they never agreed on the said price. In this case, a written binding estimate will come to your aid.
You being well informed about everything is the best thing that can happen to you, especially if you are planning a move. Don’t let scam movers take advantage of you. You can prevent getting conned by asking all the appropriate questions. Once you find the company which can take care of all your queries in a satisfying manner, hire them! We are very confident when we say that a good moving company can ensure that your move happens smoothly and there will eventually be no end to your happiness.
Also Read: How to Hire a Mover – A Detailed Guide