Most of us have been there: the moving van is stacked floor to ceiling with boxes and items comprising almost everything you own. As the moving truck pulls away, you have that sinking feeling that something will go wrong somewhere along the way. The best way to avoid that feeling? Do your research. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers helpful tips on how to avoid common moving pitfalls and find a trustworthy moving company.
May is National Moving Month, which marks the busiest time of year for Americans on the move. While there are many reputable movers in the industry, people need to be wary of the handful of unlicensed or dishonest operators that seek to take advantage of trusting consumers. Nationally, BBB received 1,456,550 moving-related inquiries and 5,915 complaints against movers last year. Complaints included damaged or missing items, charges over originally quoted estimates, late deliveries, and even goods being “held hostage” for additional – previously undisclosed – payments.
Here are some tips to help ensure that your move is smooth and as stress-free as possible:
Plan ahead. 37 million Americans move every year, and May is peak season. It’s always a good idea to begin planning your move well in advance.
Research and verify the company. You can research companies by accessing BBB Business Reviews and customer reviews for free at bbb.org. Make sure that the company provides a physical address and contact information. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), which assigns a unique motor carrier number that can and should be verified at protectyourmove.gov.
Get at least three written, in-home estimates. Quotes given online and over the phone are unreliable by nature. If a mover insists on giving you a final estimate without an in-home visit, find another mover. Also, remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic number thrown out to get your business – and could well cost you more in the end.
Know your rights. Research your rights with either the FMCSA for interstate moves or with the appropriate state agency for in-state moves. Interstate movers must give you two booklets detailing your rights. Be sure to enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if any moving company threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
Follow safe moving practices. Research how to correctly pack fragile belongings such as large mirrors, glassware or electronics to avoid damaged possessions. Warn the moving company about any obstacles in the moving process, such as flights of stairs or narrow hallways.
Consider purchasing full value protection. This coverage may cost more money upfront, but it can provide peace of mind and eliminate potential headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or replace it at its current market value. It’s important to note that the minimum required coverage of 60 cents per pound – for an interstate move – would likely not cover, for example, the replacement cost of a flat panel TV. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move. FMCSA also requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.