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Ask the Expert: Should I Make a Deposit on My Move?

Question: My moving company is asking me for a down payment – should I pay it? When is a down payment reasonable – and what's a reasonable down payment?

Answer: In certain parts of the country, particularly in New York City and Long Island, deposits or down payments are a fairly common thing.  However, in most other places, consumers are seldom asked for a deposit or down payment except possibly in the extremely busy months of May, June, July, August and September -- unless the company is a 'scammer' or a moving broker -- a moving broker is a person who sets up a move but then parcels out the job to a moving company that you often know nothing about.

At a moving company I used to work for in Pennsylvania, we collected deposits on local and intrastate moves during the summer for moves taking place the last week of May, the last two weeks of June, and the months of July and August. The deposit requested was $200 for a Monday-Thursday move and $500 for a Friday or Saturday move. Deposits were refunded with sufficient notice of a cancellation (usually about two weeks) or were carried over to the next date if a move was postponed. 

Is there anything wrong with a mover asking for a deposit or down payment?  From my perspective, no. But in my opinion, the deposit or down payment should usually only be a few hundred dollars. Many other service industries require deposits, particularly for new customers. Why should movers be different? If a crew shows up and the consumer is not there or has already moved (and yes, it does happen), the moving company deserves to be compensated for the charges it has incurred. 

Many legitimate movers make a big deal out of not working with a mover asking for a deposit or down payment because the 'scammers' or 'brokers' have traditionally been the only companies asking for them.  As I mentioned before, I personally do see anything wrong with a mover requesting a deposit or down payment, as long as the amount is reasonable ($200 to $500) and you get provisions for getting your money back if the move is cancelled within a reasonable timeframe (my thoughts are two to three weeks in the busy summer months, and as little as one week in all other months).  

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