8 Questions to Ask a Moving Company

Moving is stressful, but choosing the wrong company only makes it worse. Deceitful movers overcharge their clients, deliver shipments late, and damage your belongings. Don’t fall prey to moving scams. Here are eight questions to ask a moving company before you hire them, to ensure they’re on the up-and-up.

Woman talking on phone with son by her side

Are You Licensed?

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 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?

Moving companies train their crews to handle heavy and delicate objects, so accidents are rare. However, in the unlikely event something is broken or misplaced, licensed movers are required to offer at least two types of liability coverage.

  1. Full Value Protection. Provides comprehensive coverage in case your belongings are lost or damaged. Customers who choose this plan are paid for the full replacement value of their shipment. However, the moving company may ask for an additional fee when you sign up.
  2. 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. If you’re placing items in storage or transporting an automobile, for example, you may need extra protection over and above what these basic plans offer.

Can You Provide a Binding Quote?

Most quotes are non-binding. Movers estimate the cost to pack and load your belongings, but are free to tack on extra fees if the job is more difficult than they anticipated. Perhaps your belongings are heavier or require more manpower than they thought. Conversely, if everything runs smoothly, you might end up paying less than originally quoted. That’s the benefit of a non-binding quote.

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. It forbids movers from going over the original estimate. In case extra work is required, it clearly spells out the rules and limits how many additional charges can be applied ‒ a great choice for people working within a tight budget.

Do You Guarantee Delivery Dates?

Moving companies always do their best to accurately estimate 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. 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 who 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.

  1. 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 sometimes leads to miscommunication and not everyone is comfortable handing their belongings to a third party.
  2. 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.
  3. Hybrid Movers. While carriers do their best to handle everything in-house, they sometimes hire outside companies when dealing with specialty items, such as 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 them. 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 they 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-September.
  • Labor Rates. Movers charge for the time it takes to load and unload your belongings. Prices vary according to season and local labor conditions.

  • There may be additional fees as well, based on your circumstances. 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 is Your Cancelation Policy?

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 policy before you book.

Do You Have References?

The final but one of the most important questions to ask a moving company. If you want to learn whether they're honest, 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 large household, so don’t settle for the first reputable company you find. Do your research. To determine whether they’re the right fit, here are a few more questions you may want to ask a moving company:

  • 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?

North American Moving Services not only has a sterling reputation, but the tools and experience to help with any type of move. So whether you’re heading to a new city, state, or country, trust North American to get you there safely. Contact us today for a free quote and learn why each year, thousands of people trust us to transport their belongings to their new home.