Red Flags & Industry Secrets
Moving is a significant event in anyone’s life. While the overwhelming majority of moves go well, there are a few less-than-honest movers out there, which may try to take advantage of your situation. The best defense against a bad experience or even moving fraud is to be 100% informed and aware of your options when choosing a moving company. Listed below are some important points you should know to avoid becoming a victim of a negative moving experience. For more information about protecting your move, we recommend you check out ProtectYourMove.Gov and the new DOT brochure Moving Fraud Prevention Checklist...
Are you being charged by the hour?
By law, any move across state lines going over 150 miles can be priced in one of two ways; by weight or by cubic feet. We recommend going by space rather than weight because it is easier to asses and can eliminate unexpected costs, but both are recognized by the D.O.T as acceptable. Paying an hourly rate is only acceptable for a local move within the same state, and does not include additional taxes or tolls which you may be responsible for paying out of pocket.
Are you dealing with a moving broker?
A moving broker is a sales office that makes you an offer on an estimated move cost and then sells your move to the highest bidder. You do not get to pick the company which will be picking you up on move day, nor will you have the opportunity to see their contract. Make sure you check using the DOT or MC licensing number of each company whether or not they are a moving broker, and read their contract carefully as due to recent laws it is likely to be stated there, and in any case there will be a clause there giving the broker legal power of attorney over signing a moving contract on your behalf.
Is it a binding estimate?
Check what your estimate is based on, and whether or not it is binding. The word binding should appear in the body of the estimate, and all of your inventory items should be listed. If there are any missing inventory items or the allotted space seems too low compared to other estimates you've received, remember you'll still end up paying for the whole nine yards, even if you were only priced for half of that distance...
Does the company's DOT # appear on the quote?
Any registered company should have their DOT number listed and clearly visible within the body of the estimate. If a company does not have their number listed that is a serious red flag and you should make sure you are dealing with a legally registered and licensed company before you go any further.
Use the DOT number to look up each company's registration, as another way to avoid shady practices (like operating under an unlisted name) and unnecessary risk (like a high incident / accident occurrence)
Is there anything you requested which does not appear in writing?
Even in the case of good and reputable companies, you must make sure anything you were promised appears in writing, no ifs ands or buts. If there is missing information in writing it could mean a misunderstanding between you and your representative as to what the service includes, and in any case the people who you speak to over the phone and the ones who come out to your home are not the same people, meaning your crew will honor and follow only the written contract and no verbal agreements.
Do not agree to a partial contract; you don't have to deal with any vendor that refuses to include in writing what they guarantee over the phone, and you don't have to listen to excuses when it comes to your move.
Do they have a good reputation?
After ensuring a company is listed with the DOT and has a good safety record, look them up online. Any company that has been in business for a while is bound to have a few displeased customers out there, but if there are more than just a few bad reviews or the reviews are alarming in nature (there is a difference between 'the movers were late' and 'the driver screamed / cussed at me'…) you should reconsider dealing with the company all together. There are tens of thousands of licensed carriers in the country, all of which would be happy to earn your business, so make sure you choose carefully.
What happens if you change your mind?
Check each contract for a clarification of what happens if you cancel on / before move day. If there is no mention of the reservation deposit being refundable (typically up until 72 hours before the move), then you run the risk of losing your investment due to a sudden change of plans.
More importantly, make sure there are no cancellation fees, or any clauses in the contract that allow the company to charge additional funds, should you decide to cancel at the very last minute. Cancellation fees are common with 'low-ball' companies, who routinely under-quote and then charge their customers a great deal more upon move day, being used to having customers cancel at the last minute and knowing that they will make a profit either way.