Moving scams happen all the time. And even when they don’t, uninformed consumers coast through the process of hiring a moving company, assuming that everything will be fine.
Sadly, this ‘coasting’ approach too often leads to inconvenience and even disaster. Moving companies can be a great convenience, and can take a lot of the hassle out of relocating your home and family. But remember: whoever you choose to handle your move, you are entrusting with everything you own. That is not a decision to take lightly!
In that spirit, use this guide to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that consumers encounter when dealing with moving companies. These tips can save you a lot of money and heartache.
First – A Little Bit of History
Previous to 1980, moving company prices were regulated by the now defunct Interstate Commerce Commission, or ICC. The ICC governed the pricing structure that moving companies were allowed to charge consumers for moving services.
In 1980, Congress passed the Household Goods Transportation Act. This act deregulated moving industry pricing, allowing movers to issue their own estimates and develop their own pricing structure. This brought new competition into the moving industry, and with this competition came lower prices and an ever dwindling profit margin.
What Does This Mean For Me? Two men and a truck
Moving companies are out to make money. With thin profit margins and keen competition, moving companies will tend to do whatever it takes to squeeze as much money as they can out of your upcoming move. Sometimes this may mean hidden fees or extra charges. Other times it may mean out right scams.
As a consumer, you would do well to be as educated as you can about your moving company and the moving process generally. Here are a few tips to avoid scams, hidden fees, and other moving nightmares:
- Get a binding, in-home estimate. Typically, over-the-phone or over-the-internet estimates are generally not considered binding. Your mover needs to inspect your property and household goods to accurately provide an estimate for you.
- Avoid companies that show no interest in providing an in-home estimate, that only accept cash, or that require large deposits previous to the move.
- Read reviews on the internet. There are a number of consumer watch dog sites as well as user driven review sites that will offer you feedback on your moving company. Google Maps provides a review system, and is often a good place to start for information about your moving company. In addition, ask your moving company to provide references and be sure to call them. Also, contact your local Better Business Bureau and see if any reports have been generated regarding your moving company.
- Ask for a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. Federal regulations require that your moving company supplies you with a copy of this booklet during the planning stages of an interstate move.
- Avoid companies that show up in rental trucks or that answer their phones with generic responses such as ‘Movers’.
- Avoid companies that list no local address on their website or who are unable to produce any information about their state or federal licensing.
- Ask for a copy of your moving company’s insurance certificate.
- Find out if your moving company charges minimum rates (e.g. a minimum billing for four hours of work, regardless of real time expended), travel expenses, fuel charges, or other fees that will be built into your estimate.
- Find out if your moving company is a broker.
- A broker sets up moving jobs for another company. If you choose to go with a broker, research the company that they are brokering your move to.
- Be involved at all times. Read what you sign. Ask questions. Get everything in writing. The better documented your move is, the better able you are to protect yourself.
- At the end of day, there are many good moving companies out there. We’d like to think that we’re one of them! But you do need to look after yourself. Applying the tips above will help you do just that!