12 Questions to Ask a Moving Company
Moving is stressful enough on its own, but the wrong moving company can make it worse. Deceitful movers overcharge their clients, deliver shipments late, and damage your belongings.
Don’t fall prey to moving scams! Here are 12 questions to ask a moving company before hiring them to ensure they’re on the up and up.
Is Your Moving Company Accredited?
This is the most important question to ask a moving company. By law, every interstate mover needs to register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can check their license number through the FMCSA website.
Local movers, on the other hand, are regulated by state agencies. While rules vary depending on location, every local moving company is legally required to be licensed and registered with their state’s authorities. A license number allows customers to review the company’s safety rating, operational range, and the types of moves they’re allowed to perform.
Many reputable movers also register with the American Trucking Association (ATA). Visit the ATA website to find local members in your area.
What Kind of Coverage Do You Provide?
Reputable moving companies train their crews to handle heavy and delicate objects to minimize the risk of accidents. However, in the unlikely event something is broken or misplaced, licensed movers are required to offer at least two types of liability coverage:
- Full Value Protection. Provides comprehensive coverage in case your belongings are lost or damaged. Customers who choose this plan are paid the full replacement value of their shipment. However, the moving company may ask for an additional fee when you sign up.
- Released Value Protection. An economical plan provided free to all customers. If something goes wrong, the movers are required to pay 60 cents per pound for every missing or damaged item.
Some companies may offer additional plans. For example, if you’re placing items in storage or transporting an automobile, you may need additional protection beyond what these basic plans offer.
Can You Provide a Binding Quote?
Movers estimate the cost to pack and load your belongings beforehand. Most quotes are non-binding. The benefit of a non-binding quote is that if everything runs smoothly, you might end up paying less than initially quoted. On the other hand, the movers can charge additional fees if the job is more difficult than anticipated (for instance, if your belongings are heavier or require more manpower than expected).
Rogue movers, however, often take advantage of these plans. They use low quotes to lure unsuspecting customers, then raise the price once they’ve got your belongings on the truck. Some customers end up paying double or triple the amount they agreed to.
Asking for a binding quote protects you from these kinds of scams by forbidding movers from exceeding the original estimate. The limits of additional charges for extra work are clearly spelled out in advance to rule out surprises — a great choice for people working within a tight budget.
Do You Guarantee Delivery Dates?
Ask your mover if they can provide you with a guaranteed delivery date for your belongings. You don’t want your items in transit for days or weeks longer than you planned.
Moving companies always do their best to provide an accurate estimate of when your belongings will arrive. They don't always get it right, but if they don't agree to a delivery date in writing, they can show up whenever they want with no consequences. This is a great question to ask movers. Guaranteeing a delivery date ensures that if they don’t make it on time, they’ll have to pay you for the inconvenience.
Are You a Broker or a Carrier?
It’s natural to assume the company you hire is the one that will transport your belongings, but that’s not always the case. Just because a company organizes your move doesn’t mean they’re the ones who show up. Before hiring a moving company, make sure you know what kind you’re dealing with.
- Brokers. Do not do the work themselves. Instead, they outsource it to local companies who bid on the project. The company with the lowest price wins the contract. Working with a broker generally results in lower prices. However, it can also lead to miscommunication and working with a third party with whom you’re neither familiar nor comfortable.
- Carriers. Do all the work themselves from beginning to end. Working directly with a carrier ensures you’re in direct communication with the crew carrying out the job, which generally leads to a better experience. However, they usually charge a bit more.
- Hybrid Movers. While carriers do their best to handle everything in-house, they sometimes hire outside companies to handle specialty items like pianos, pool tables, or hot tubs. For international moves, they may have overseas partners who will transport your belongings to their final destination once they arrive in your new country.
How Do You Calculate Prices?
Never trust a company that charges based on volume or cubic feet. It’s illegal. Legitimate companies base their estimates on four factors:
- Weight. Transporting heavy objects is more expensive than light ones. In order to get an accurate assessment, companies weigh their trucks before and after loading. By contrast, estimating cubic feet is far less reliable.
- Distance. The further you have to travel, the more you have to pay. However, the route the movers take is just as important as the distance covered. Driving along a highway is easier and less expensive than back roads.
- Time of Year. Summer is moving season. Because of the surge in demand, moving is more expensive from May to September.
- Labor Rates. Movers charge for the time it takes to load and unload your belongings. Prices vary according to the season and local labor conditions.
There may be additional fees based on your circumstances as well. These include:
- Flight Charges. A single flight of stairs is generally included in the price of your move. However, movers charge extra if they have to carry your belongings up or down multiple flights of stairs.
- Long Carry Charges. If the moving truck has to park more than 75 feet from your home, you’ll either pay for the additional time movers spend carrying your belongings or for the additional distance they have to cover. In this case, charges would be based on the weight of your shipment.
- Elevator Charges. Moving into tall buildings requires the use of a freight elevator. Because there is rarely more than one, movers have to reserve it in advance or wait for it to become available. Additional time increases costs.
- Fuel Surcharges. Over short distances, fuel costs are included in your hourly rate. However, over long distances, you’ll have to pay for the gas. Companies charge either a flat fee or a per-mile rate.
What If I Want to Cancel My Move?
Plans can change unexpectedly. In order to protect themselves from lost revenue, most moving companies ask for a deposit. However, honest movers never ask for more than 25 percent of the final cost. If a company wants you to pay 50 percent or more, they’re most likely running a scam.
Deposits should always be applied to the cost of the move. When a company asks for a deposit in addition to the final payment, it’s a red flag.
Most companies have a deadline for cancellations, after which they keep some or all of your deposit. A few even charge a cancellation fee. Don’t be caught blindsided. Before you sign the contract, ask about their cancellation policy.
Whether you didn't close on your new home as quickly as you expected or decided not to move, this is a question for movers to prioritize. You should know if you can freely cancel moving services without a fee or penalty and when you need to cancel to get your money back. All this information should be clear and in writing for your protection.
What Services Do You Provide?
One of the most important questions to ask moving companies is how they can help you. When planning your move, it’s critical to make sure your moving company of choice can accommodate all of your needs.
Services you should look for include:
- Full-Service Packing
- Fragile Item Packing
- Long-Term and Short-Term Storage Solutions
- Furniture and Appliance Installation
- Loading, Transporting and Unloading
- Debris Removal
- Auto Transportation Services
How Does Packing Work?
Depending on their capabilities and training, moving companies may have different approaches to packing your belongings. When researching moving companies, provide a brief breakdown of the items you need packed to ensure they can accommodate your needs. Services to look for include custom crates, specialty boxes, and furniture disassembly.
At North American, we provide custom services based on the help you need. Whether you need assistance with self-packing or fragile-only packing for your wine collection, we're here to help.
Is There a Tracking Service?
A tracking system will give you peace of mind while your items are moved from point A to point B. With shipment tracking, you'll always know where your items are in transit and when you can expect them to arrive at their new location.
How Does the Claim Process Work for Lost or Damaged Items?
A trustworthy moving company should have a simple, straightforward claim process you can rely on if anything happens to your personal belongings during a relocation. Neglecting this critical question can lead to weeks or months of headaches as you try to navigate complex or nonexistent claim procedures.
The best moving companies have a streamlined, easily accessible online form and process to follow. This is the quickest and easiest way to file and receive updates on the status of your claim.
Do You Have Testimonials and Reviews?
This is one of the most important questions to ask a moving company! If you want to learn whether they're honest, reliable, and able to handle your move, read what people are saying about them. Better yet, ask them for their references or if there is a third-party website where you can find customer feedback (e.g., Angie's List). Legitimate companies encourage online reviews and are only too happy to share customer experiences.
Other Questions to Ask a Moving Company
Moving is complicated, especially for a business or large household, so don’t settle for the first reputable company you find. Do your research. If you’re torn between multiple promising options, we’ve provided some additional questions to ask a moving company to make the process easier:
- Have you handled this type of move before?
- What forms of payment do you accept?
- Do you provide packing materials?
- What packing restrictions do you have?
- How do I contact your driver during the move?
- Do you assist with packing?
- Can you provide custom crating?
Of course, these questions won’t be of much use if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Before you start thinking about questions to ask movers, take some time to consider what you need and what services are most important to you. Do you need help moving big, bulky items? Are you going to need additional assistance with appliances or furniture? Is transportation your only concern?
Knowing what you need from a moving company will help you make the most of the questions you ask moving companies.
Work With a Moving Company You Can Trust
For over 90 years, North American Van Lines has provided superior moving services to families, individuals and businesses across the United States and Canada.
Our sterling reputation is built on having the tools and experience to help with any type of move. Whether you’re heading to a new city, state, or country, trust North American to help you get there.
Contact us today for a free quote and learn why thousands of people trust us to transport their belongings to their new homes every year.