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8 Things Your Movers Don’t Want You to Know

Get a Move On

After you’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new home, hiring a mover can almost seem like an afterthought. But if you’re not careful about which mover you choose and which questions you ask before you hire them, you can wind up paying unforeseen charges and moving in with damaged property.

A number of federal and state regulations govern how moving companies must operate when contracting a move, and interstate movers are actually required to furnish clients with a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, a publication of the U.S. Department of Transportation. We thumbed through the guide to find out what rights consumers might not realize they have, and spoke to moving industry veterans to get some tips that movers (particularly unscrupulous ones) might prefer that consumers didn’t know.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Service Should Be Quick

When you’re moving locally, you may be paying a few guys in a truck by the hour as opposed to a flat fee. Allen Costa, who worked as a mover with United Van Lines, says that if you sense that your movers are lollygagging to stretch out their billable hours, you should call the company’s office right away.

“Guys doing local moves are paid by the hour, so you should tell the company,” he says. “If they’re slow-dogging it, then the company's paying more money for less work.”

In other words, unless you’re dealing with a small “man with a van” operation, chances are the moving company has just as much incentive as you do to see the job done quickly. And even if you’re not paying by the hour, you should still make sure you have an office number you can call in case there’s a dispute with the moving team that can’t be resolved on the spot.

“Even on weekends we have a cell number of someone familiar with the job,” says Mark Ehrhardt, founder of New York-based green moving company Movers Not Shakers. “Get some assurance from the person who gives you the quote that someone outside the crew will be reachable.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Save Money By Disassembling Furniture Yourself

Another thing to keep in mind when paying movers by the hour is that they’ll need to disassemble and reassemble anything that’s too big to get out the door. That can take a lot of time – if you have a big bunk bed, for instance, you could be looking at up to 45 minutes on each end, says Costa.

“The general rule is that if they take it apart they have to put it back together,” he says. “Maybe you want to take it apart yourself and save money.”

As with all transactions, it comes down to how much you value your time. If spending hours taking apart your bed and then putting it back together is worth the money you’ll save, by all means break out the toolbox.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Get An In-Home Quote

Of course, you won’t know – and the movers can’t tell you – how much time they’ll need to break down your bed until they’ve actually seen it. And that goes for every aspect of your move: Any quote you get from a mover on costs and time must be based on an on-site inspection.

“It’s best to get an in-home estimate so they can make an accurate estimation of moving costs,” says Sheila Adkins, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau. She notes that some “rogue movers” will provide an estimate over the phone or Internet, then charge more when it comes to the day of the move by claiming that there was more inventory than they expected. Any mover who gives a price quote without seeing what needs to be moved is likely up to no good.

“Every company should go and get a look at the move,” agrees Ehrhardt. “With an in-home [estimate], there’s no reason a mover can’t stick to their quote.”

Indeed, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires an interstate mover to give you an in-home estimate if your current home is 50 miles from the mover’s (or the agent’s) place of business. And you’re entitled to getting the full quote in writing, which should itemize all charges associated with the move.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Make That ‘Quotes’, Plural

When it comes to getting the quote, let market competition work for you. Movers would love for you take their offer without shopping around, but you could wind up paying too much or not getting the best bang for your buck.

“Get at least three written estimates, but don’t just select the lowest price,” says Adkins. As with any product or service, you want the best combination of quality and cost. Get written, itemized estimates from multiple moving companies in your area, then choose which one looks best. And if you’re having trouble deciding, don’t hesitate to ask for references.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Check Their Credentials

Avoiding scams or misconduct is often a simple matter of sticking with a licensed and reputable moving company. Fortunately, there are certain boxes that can be checked off to ensure that you’re working with a legitimate mover.

If you’re moving from one state to another, the moving company must be registered with the FMCSA, which you can confirm by looking the company up on protectyourmove.gov. And for the sake of your property, make sure the mover offers liability insurance as required by law.

“Any legitimate moving company will be insured and bonded and be a part of a legitimate trade association,” advises Costa. “You can always find someone on Craigslist and those people are going to cost less, but there’s a reason they cost less. You won’t be able to recover any damages from them.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Take Pictures of All Your Property

Speaking of insurance, remember that you’ll have a lot more luck claiming damage to your property if you can actually show that it wasn’t damaged before the move took place.

“Look at the condition of your stuff before you move it,” says Costa. “If you have pictures of your stuff before and after, it’s easier to claim [damage].”

A legitimate mover should inventory your property before the move to make sure nothing is lost, but taking photographs of all valuable property provides an extra layer of protection should things go south and you find yourself needing to file an insurance claim.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Protect Your Walls and Floors

Furniture isn’t the only thing that can be damaged during a move. Walls and doorways in both your old and new houses can be nicked during the moving process, and carpets can likewise be damaged by muddy boots trekking in and out.

Most moving operations will have rug runners and door pads to protect your carpets and doorframes, but whether they are included in the cost or show up as an extra charge varies from company to company. To make sure that the moving company doesn’t spring any last-minute charges on you for the use of these pads, make sure they’re included in the contract you sign with the mover, also known as the bill of lading. Indeed, charges for all services – from insurance coverage to shrink-wrapping your couch to protect it from dust damage – should be itemized in the bill of lading to prevent any unforeseen charges.

“That material usage should be in the quote, not a line item you get hit with later,” says Ehrhardt. “Get it all in writing.”

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Do Your Homework

If you’re like most savvy shoppers, you’re careful to read product reviews before you make a big purchase. The same holds true for moving, especially given the money and personal property involved.

You can research prospective moving companies on the Better Business Bureau’s website, as well as on peer review sites like Angie’s List. But Ehrhardt warns not to put too much stock in online reviews, saying he suspects that many moving companies write their own reviews to inflate their ratings.

“Tap your own network,” he suggests. “[Online reviews] may not be reflective of what’s happening in the last few months. … Go more with your gut and who your friends like than what’s on the Internet.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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