Smooth Move: Relocation Tips

May 01, 2014

Late spring is the beginning of the busy season in the moving industry.  According to U.S. Census estimates, the average person will move roughly twelve times in their life.  With the challenging economy of the past several years, that number may be higher as many people relocated to find employment.  Moving is a fact of life and it is full of stress. 

With some basic, advance planning and due diligence you can reduce the consternation in your relocation.  Failure to do your homework can send your life’s possessions and your emotions on a wild and unpredictable ride.  The moving and storage industry has historically ranked as one of the most inquired and complained about industries at the Better Business Bureau (BBB).  This high level of activity is for good reason. 

There are plenty of good and honorable companies that can help you with a move.  However, there are also more than a handful that have earned their failing grade with the BBB.  Some of the consumer complaint allegations are down right scary.  What if the mover never shows -but they asked for and got a large up-front deposit?  What will you do if the mover is short-handed, careless, ill-equipped or reckless?  What if the mover loads their truck and hijacks your goods by refusing to unload the items until you pay cash for a price that is higher than what was quoted?  What if the mover sells your goods? The possibilities for problems are endless and the damage to your well-being can go way beyond scratched furniture or broken glass. 

So how do you go about eliminating the risk of dealing with a rogue mover?  The short and long answers are the same:  Know your rights and your responsibilities.  At the federal level (state-to-state moves) regulatory responsibility rests with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  At the state level (local moves), either the Attorney General’s office, the Public Utilities Commission,  or your local consumer affairs department depending on your state will have information about licensing and other requirements. 

To minimize the potential for misadventure, the BBB offers the following tips:

1.  Check the mover’s reliability report with the BBB at  Do they have a good rating?  Are they a BBB Accredited Business?  Are they part of the American Moving & Storage Association?

2.  Obtain a number of written bids based on onsite inspections.  Phone and internet estimates are not always reliable. Ask if the estimate is binding and be certain to inquire about the various trade names used by the mover.  Oftentimes, a single company advertises under various names in the phone book.  Therefore, you may unknowingly be shopping the same company.

3.  Ask the mover if they have a customer check list to help coordinate and organize all of the details.  Also, find out if they are the actual mover or a broker who is hiring the mover for you.  If they are only the broker, issues of liability should be defined.

4.  Inquire about any and all miscellaneous charges for stairs, long driveways, hallways, elevators, etc. and do not make your decision based on price alone.  Reliability and customer service are equally as important.

5.  Check for the terms of liability, make certain they are explained in advance, ensure you understand the Bill of Lading and confirm how payments are to be made.  Verify your insurance for coverage in case of damages and strongly consider the “excess valuation insurance” offered by the mover that is over and above the normal coverage.  The normal coverage may be as little as $.60 per pound which may not cover the replacement cost if, say, your 200 pound dresser falls down a flight of stairs!

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