Fundamental Questions To Ask Before Hiring Professional Movers: Part 1
Once you've bought a home, there’s nothing that could be more stressful than moving. This is why it's a no-brainer to hire a professional moving company to help you with your valuable possessions, especially if you’re making a long-distance or interstate move and you’ve got bulky items to bring with you. Choosing a mover, however, is the tricky part since there are thousands of companies out there that provide a wide range of services. It’s a very important decision to make and could mean the difference between having a smooth relocation and a complete disaster.
This is when asking the right questions proves to be crucial. You want to make sure you hire a dependable and trustworthy company that will save you a lot of time, money, and headaches. Especially if it's the first time you have hired a mover, here’s a great list of questions you could ask them during the interview so you can easily narrow down your choices. Make sure you get as many of these questions answered in any form of writing. Such precautions will help you identify any red flags and hopefully hire a reputable company that will deliver.
1. Is your company properly licensed?
The first thing in your checklist to make sure you choose a trustworthy moving company is to determine whether they are properly licensed. The good thing is that it shouldn't be hard to check. All professional interstate moving companies should have a license number issued by the United States Department of Transportation—their MC # and USDOT #—which should be listed at the bottom of their home page. Likewise, you can also check for the company’s license number and even complaint history at the USDOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database.
On the other hand, local moving companies who only relocate customers within the same state are only regulated by the state, which means they should hold a state license. Just remember that each state has titsown set of moving regulations and license requirements.
Knowing that the moving company is legitimate and reputable will guarantee that they’re compliant with the federal laws, which means it’s highly likely that the move is in good hands and your items will be handled safely.
2. Can you show referrals or recommendations?
To avoid moving scams and rogue movers, it's also best to hire movers that have been in business for a few years. And part of your homework is to check for references and recommendations. See if they can show you letters of recommendation from past customers. The moving company representative should be able to provide you with all the information you need should you ask for it.
In this day and age, it’s also easier to check for testimonials, reviews, and ratings on their website. There are also numerous forums and sites where people share their experiences about moving companies. You may be able to know if the movers overpromised, underdelivered or overcharged their customers, although it might be helpful to take any reviews with a grain of salt. Don’t forget to also ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, as word-of-mouth is still one of the most reliable routes to finding a trustworthy mover.
3. What kind of liability coverage does your company provide?
It's also crucial to ask what coverage options a moving company offers before deciding to hire them. This is to make sure your belongings are covered in case of a mishap during the relocation. According to FMCSA, interstate movers are required by federal law to offer two types of liability options: thll Value Protection and Released Value Protection.
Under Full Value Protection, your mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. For instance, if any of your articles are lost, destroyed, or damaged during the move, the FVP requires the moving company to either have the item repaired so that it’s in the same condition as it was before being damaged, replace it with something similar, or give you cash to replace it.
The Released Value Protection, on the other hand, is the most economical protection available since it is offered at no additional charge. However, the protection for this option is minimal. The mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per item.
You also have the option to purchase full-value protection or insurance from a third-party insurance company, especially if the mover doesn’t offer it. But before purchasing insurance, the FMCSA recommends checking your homeowner’s insurance policy as well to make sure you’re not already covered.
Moreover, ask to see the moving company’s own proof of insurance, which they should be able to show you if they are legitimate and licensed.
4. Do you offer an in-person or in-home estimate?
There are several ways you can get a moving estimate: over the phone, online, or in-person. However, any moving company can only give you rates by phone and not the actual estimates. Getting an in-person or in-home estimate, where a sales staff or a representative goes to your place to perform an on-site virtual estimate, is still the best idea. This way, the mover will see all the items that need to be moved, and can determine any complications that might make the relocation more difficult and more costly. They should be able to check ahead of time the big items that need to be shipped and any potential problems for the moving truck and the crew, such as the presence of low-hanging tree branches, elevators, parking situation, etc. They should also discuss with you any potential problems with the delivery at your new place.
Ask the company what their rate is, and keep in mind that most companies will provide a rate per pound and a distance rate, instead of based on cubic feet. Otherwise, some companies might charge a per hour rate for short distance moves.
The moving company must give you an estimate in writing and provide you with a copy. It should state the name, contact details and address of the company. It should also include all the charges, the payment method, and the agreed delivery dates or time frame of the move. Both you and the mover must sign it to make it an agreement.
5. Which services do you offer?
Each professional moving company has a unique menu of services you can choose from when you're planning your move. Here’s a shortlist of a few of the services that they might offer:
- Packing and unpacking
- Loading and unloading
- Custom crating
- Transportation for specialty items like pianos and hot tubs
- Temporary storage
- Furniture assembly/disassembly
- Appliance disconnection
- Vehicle shipping
- Cleaning services
Good, full-service movers will do these things automatically as part of their services, but you may need to confirm exactly what services are provided with smaller firms. Sometimes these services are also known as accessorial charges. This is why you should never assume a moving company offers a service you need. And if any of these services are crucial for your move, you should make sure that service is provided by the company you might hire.
6. Are there additional fees? When do these fees apply?
After getting your moving estimate and clearing up concerns about which services the movers will cover, don't forget to ask about potential additional charges. The last thing you’d want is to be surprised by a series of extra charges that showed up in your bill once the move is completed.
Ask the moving company what additional moving services you should expect to be charged for, and when these fees apply. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you can, such as but not limited to:
- Is there a charge for stairs?
- Is there a charge for heavy or oversized items?
- Is there an extra charge for moving things from a basement or from a garage?
- Do you charge extra on wet moving days? (They might have to pull out a few tarpaulins.)
- Is there a charge for more than 2 floors up or for moving things from the attic?
- Will there be an extra charge for travel time to and from my house?
- Will you charge me if the building elevator is out of order or missing in action?
- Will you charge me for refueling costs? (Especially for long distance moves)
- Do you charge a long carry fee if the crew cannot park the truck close to the entrance of my home?
Just take note that every moving company has its own way of evaluating the fees associated with each move.This is why it’s imperative that you speak with the company representative about all possible hidden fees and charges in advance.
7. Do you have the necessary moving equipment?
This might seem obvious to ask, but you want to be assured that they have the proper moving equipment that is required for your specific type of move or situation. You also want to be certain that the professionals will be able to protect your items and move them safely to your new home.
Aside from having the right size of moving truck, they also need to have the proper furniture and appliance dollies, moving blankets, furniture sliders, and all the necessary packing supplies. Special hoisting equipment or more heavy-duty dollies may also be needed for bulky furniture, household appliances, and other extra large items, like a grand piano or a pool table. Ensuring that the moving staff you hire have the necessary moving equipment will not only make the move less complex and dangerous, but will also help them complete the job as scheduled.
8. Are there things you prefer not to move?
If this is the first time you're hiring a professional moving company, you should be aware that there are a number of items that some movers won’t allow on the truck. They may refuse to move certain things, including photos and photo albums, fragile family heirlooms, plants, flat-screen televisions, fine art, and other valuables. They believe the risk of losing or damaging those precious belongings is too great. This is why it’s important to ask for specific things the movers would prefer not to move so you can plan ahead, pack and bring those items yourself.
Likewise, hazardous materials such as fertilizer, paints, aerosols, pesticides, propane tanks, batteries, pool chemicals, and others are absolutely out of the question because these things are flammable or potentially explosive.