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How to Set a Delivery Window With Your Moving Company

It's your nightmare moving scenario: You've arrived at your new home, but something's missing. You remembered to bring Spot, the family pet, so that's not it. As you look for a place to sit and think about it, it hits you; what's missing is your stuff! 

As you recline on your air mattress, rest assured that your things should arrive within an established time frame.

Here's a closer look at what to expect when your moving company gives you a range of possible delivery dates, also known as a delivery window.

"It's where we often encounter problems," says Relocation's Charlie Morris, a certified moving consultant who worked in the moving industry for 30 years. 

The biggest reason: Moving consumers often have the unrealistic expectation that they can pinpoint a specific day for a direct delivery of their goods on a long-distance move. The reality is that you will be given a window of possible dates.

How Big Is Your Window?

Be very forthcoming with your moving company about your expectations for a moving date, which depends on a multiple of factors: the closing date for your home, your travel time and when you will receive possession of your new residence. These are details to discuss with your moving company in the early stages of planning your move dates. 

Once the delivery window is scheduled, you are obligated to accept your shipment within that time frame. "You need to be available, or if you can't be there, have someone available in your place to accept delivery," Morris advises.

You should scrutinize your moving paperwork to find the delivery date -- some companies might not be upfront with this information is a long time out, sometimes up to 30 days. That's a long time to be without your things.

Your moving company will weigh a number of factors when they give you delivery dates. For example, the size of your shipment, the number of travel days that they will need to legally drive to the new location (the government sets a maximum hours per day that a driver can operate a truck), and if they will have other pick-ups or deliveries enroute.

If you're trying to get an idea for how long your shipment will take, Morris advises: "Keep in mind, the driver can usually go four to five hundred miles per day." You can also expect that the company will have to allow reasonable dispatch to ensure the safety of the moving crew and your goods.

Depending on the distance the shipment will go and time of year, your window of delivery could range from one day to several days. For example, shipment going 500 miles or less would probably only need one travel day included in the delivery window.

A shipment going 1,000 miles, would need two days' travel, and an extra day would likely be added for each additional 500 miles. Normally, in addition to travel days, the mover will add another day or two to allow for unforeseen problems such as bad weather or mechanical problems. According to Morris, "most consumers will find that the major van lines or other legitimate movers will have similar schedules."  As a general rule, Morris says that, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," such as if a moving company promises a much quicker delivery date than other companies.

Seasonal problems also may add days to your delivery window. In the busiest summer months, your delivery window can be much wider as a result of the heavy demand for movers. Each moving company will have its own method of determining this delivery window. You should understand this delivery window and how it will be determined by your moving company before you commit to any particular mover. Some movers will be able to adjust to your needs; others may not have that flexibility.

So Which Company Will Be More Flexible?

Morris says that for longer-distance moves, "major van lines can sometimes move faster because they have more shipments to work with."  Generally, movers wait until they have a full load going to a certain region or along a route before sending the truck out. 

On the other hand, a smaller company might be better for shorter-distance moves based on the same logic. They have less to work around and can therefore accommodate your needs for certain dates more easily, "sometimes for less money than a larger company," Morris adds.

Your personal need for a particular delivery date should be expressed in the early stages of your conversation with the moving company, and you should be satisfied that you can work within the window of dates that your mover offers. Generally, a mover will be able to tell you approximately when they plan to deliver on the loading date of your shipment, as they probably have their trip planned at this point.

Morris says, "Usually, they can narrow it down as they get closer." However, the delivery window that they commit to in the estimate that they give to you in writing is their legal obligation for delivery. The last date of the spread is the date that they must deliver before penalty to them, either by a company policy to reimburse you for lodging and meals, or some other sort of monetary penalty. Each company should have a predetermined way of handling their failure to meet the required dates, and you should know that in advance.

Moving Without Windows:

What if you can't get there before the truck does? 

If you know you won't be able to make yourself available during the estimated delivery, there are some other options. One is to have your goods delivered into storage at the moving company's local warehouse at destination.  This will be a good option if you will not be immediately traveling to your new location or if your home will not be available right away.

Once your shipment has arrived locally, you can schedule a specific date for delivery out of storage.  However, this will add to your moving cost. Morris says, "The delivery-out cost will be the biggest factor and can significantly add to the cost."  This cost is normally based on the weight of your shipment times a set labor cost for handling the re-loading of your shipment onto a truck, which would have been avoided if the shipment had been delivered directly.  You will also incur storage costs.

Another option, which Morris says many people choose, is to have your shipment delivered into self-storage. This way, you can choose to hire a local company to move the items from the mini-storage to your home on a specific date. Or you can choose to rent a moving van and handle the last leg of the move yourself. 

Some moving companies offer a guaranteed delivery date for which you will be expected to pay a premium. While not all moving companies can offer this, it is worth inquiring with your moving company about the availability and cost of this guaranteed delivery option if you do have specific needs related to the time your goods must arrive.

Most movers will make every effort to meet your needs for delivery. However, it is always wise to be completely informed about all possibilities and to make sure that the moving company clearly understands both your personal needs and expectations.

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In the Press

A Moving Company's Moving Story
June, 2012

Relocation.com's survey was recently featured on the front page of USA Today. The headline entitled "Moving in Hard Times" highlighted our results that moving and relocating behaviors were only moderately influenced by the economy.


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