Saturday, May 29, 2010 -
By Relocation.com Staff
You might not think that choosing a moving company requires the same level of research and care as other purchasing decisions, like buying real estate or picking the right mortgage.
But here's a sobering reminder: A moving company is going to do the packing, transporting, and unpacking of ALL YOUR WORLDLY POSSESSIONS.
It's not a decision to be made lightly – but if made correctly, you'll get a good deal on price AND the quality of your move.
Moving companies that charge more than their peers can do so for a variety of reasons: a higher level of service, a greater reputation, or a higher demand for their services. On the flip side, companies charging substantially less than the competition are probably pricing their services at this level for a reason – and you might even find yourself the victim of a moving fraud for those rogue movers that give lowball estimates, only to raise the final price later (this article will show you how to find a moving company you can trust).
Before wading into the moving company selection, first understand how moving companies charge for their services. Pricing depends on whether you are moving within your current state (intrastate) or you're heading across state lines (interstate).
Intrastate moves will be priced on either an intrastate tariff or hourly rate that is figured multiplying the number of movers by the number of hours they are working, including the transit time. In most states, there is an intrastate tariff that covers weight and distance for movers in excess of 50 miles; for moves under 50 miles, the hourly rate applies, and this normally includes transit time.
For interstate moves (also referred to as long-distance moves), you will be charged on the size of your move, defined either in terms of the gross weight of your items or the cubic feet that these items consume on the moving truck. (Click here to read more about how weight affects your move.)
With that background, here's a checklist of items to help you determine the best moving company.
1. Plan – The moving business is cyclical, with most moves taking place in the summer, between April and September. The further ahead you plan your move and start your conversations with potential service providers, the better the chance you will be able to have your first choice of movers, and perhaps better service too because they'll be under less stress.
2. Interview – After finding four companies you might be interested in speaking to, get actual written estimates from each company and understand the services included in each quote. Once you narrow down the number of candidates to two or three, get on-site consultations, in which a trained moving company professional does a walk-through of your current residence and crafts a binding estimate – a binding estimate is a guaranteed price for a move; nonbinding is an estimate based on the movers' previous experience with similar-sized moves, and can change depending on how the actual move proceeds. An accurate move estimate is based on the stuff that actually has to be moved, as well as any physical constraints (stairs, etc.) movers will have to deal with. (Read this article for what you should ask your moving company.)
3. Research – Ask about the moving companies' experience, references, the type of equipment that use, and how they screen and train their employees. Inquire if the moving company is a member of national associations like the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) or state associations; this participation indicates an adherence to certain operating principles and training that can provide comfort to you that you are working with a quality, reputable company.
4. Doublecheck – Don't buy moving services unless you know exactly what you're paying for. Asking the right questions – and the same questions – of each mover lets you compare apples to apples.
5. Negotiate – In most moving situations there will be some negotiating room. At worst, you asked and they refused. Most likely, your request will result in some discounts or additional services being provided to help the moving company finalize the deal. You'll have more leverage in the slow season.
6. Follow your gut – If you find two or three companies you are comfortable with, go with your gut. Think about your interactions with the company. Were they responsive and professional? If they weren't during the sales process, will they be professional during or after your move? Were the staff knowledgeable and helpful and would they be available if something happened and you needed to speak to them?