Anyone coming up on a move can be stressed and nervous about where to place their trust for the safe handling and transportation of their belongings to a new home, whether the distance is a few miles or a few thousand miles. Stories and news about movers who seem to be in business for themselves and not their customers are on the rise and can greatly increase the trepidation around choosing a mover. But it’s also great motivation to become informed.
Knowing that there are good, bad and really bad choices to make is the first step in being a savvy consumer. Having an idea of what belongs in a conversation with a prospective mover is the next.
When you are searching for a mover and evaluating the options, look for signs that the mover is established, has been in business for a while, has roots in the community, and has a physical presence that is more than just a parking lot or garage. Check them out online – do they have any engagement with customers? Social media pages, reviews, photos? The Canadian Association of Movers' advice is good to keep in mind: seek references and referrals ... ask friends, family, and co-workers to recommend trusted service providers they've used.
Be wary of a mover who is content to do all of the pre-move work over the phone. Prior to your move, whether big or small, local or long-distance, your mover should come out to see what you are moving. They should walk through your entire residence (or office), asking questions about what you plan to move, what you plan to move yourself or dispose of, and whether there are any items in need of special care or consideration. When you discuss dates with your mover, they should ask you about closing dates, keys and access. They will also advise you what needs to be done on your part to be ready for the movers (and packers if you are hiring this service).
When you hire a mover, you’re signing on to trust a group of people you’ve probably never met before to pack, load, transport and unload into your new home all of your personal household goods, or your business’s valuable assets, inventory, etc. This is a big deal. So when you are selecting a mover, make sure you’re right to grant them this trust. Ask questions. How have they vetted their staff – anyone who is coming into your home – from the consultant, to the young helper assisting the movers as a summer job? The answer should be that the company requires a clean background check for all of its employees – whether full-time, long-term staff, seasonal helpers, or contractors.
Once your pre-move survey is complete, you should receive a written, itemized estimate from your mover, detailing all costs for all requested services, as well as any surcharges such as long carry, stairs or shuttle, based on the inventory that the mover viewed with you during your survey. A local move is based on time. Many movers will have a minimum fee, e.g. three hours, so even if your move took two and a half hours, you would be paying the base rate of three hours. Local move charges usually include travel time as well, that is, the “clock” starts from the time the movers leave their terminal and runs until they return. This is made clear in your estimate and a discussion of reasonable travel time should prevent any surprises on move day (if you know it takes 15 minutes to get from the mover’s address to your home and at the end of your move they’ve marked down 30 minutes, you can bring this up before signing your bill – usually the office will address such discrepancies and correct the amounts to agreed upon numbers).
Make sure you're given a detailed inventory upon which the Mover's estimate is based - an in-home survey not only supports a more accurate and thorough quote, it also gives consumers a chance to "meet" their Mover before they hire them - since you will be entrusting your personal possessions to these people, meeting them beforehand is not a bad thing at all.
Review your quote carefully and let your mover know if anything is incorrect, missing, or has changed since your survey.
Once you feel as though you have narrowed down your choices, don’t be afraid to ask your mover for references – past customers that you can call for a review of the company’s services. Again, reach out to colleagues, friends, business associations for their experiences.
During the pre-planning and arrangements stages of your move, your mover should provide you with details about the estimated cost, and information and paperwork to cover things such as insurance (replacement valuation protection “RVP”), high value items, etc. They should clarify with you how you will be paying for your move and what is required up front to book the move (a credit card number and/or a deposit for some or all of the estimated amount), as well as how final charges will be assessed and what additional charges you could be responsible for (most companies will provide a firm price quote, a ‘guaranteed not to exceed’ quote or a quote guaranteed within 110% of the estimated amount).
Ask your moving consultant or coordinator what happens if something should be damaged or lost during the move. Coverage and liability can vary depending on the services purchased. The claims process and insurance should be explained to you by your moving consultant in advance of booking your move. Reputable movers are insured and offer options with regard to coverage should any of your items be damaged while in their care. All moves travel released unless additional coverage is purchased. Released is a nominal rate of compensation should damage occur, calculated at $0.60 (sixty cents) per pound. Your homeowner or contents insurance may cover your belongings during a move. Before you choose to purchase additional coverage or let it go as released, clarify with your insurance company as to your coverage. Many people choose to purchase additional insurance. This will provide a more realistic replacement/repair value for any items damaged. Your mover should provide prompt response to your claimed damages following a move, usually involving an inspection and appropriate remediation once cause of damage is determined. Be sure to clearly document the condition of items before and after your move.
If you are able to book your move over the phone without seeing a representative from the moving company, without seeing anything in writing, without signing anything … you should be on alert. A reputable moving company will slow you down and ask YOU for more detail typically if you try to book a move quickly on “ballpark” amounts.
Once you have booked your move you should expect to hear from the moving company no later than one day prior to your move with a confirmation of the arrival time. However, you should be able to reach someone at the moving company at any time during business hours when you call in. A lack of communication or accessibility (unanswered emails or voice mails, phones that are always busy/go right to voice mail or are just not answered) is a reason to be concerned and you should investigate further before committing payment or handing over your goods.
At any point if you feel confused, unsure or uneasy about your move, you should be able to ask your mover and receive clear, informative responses that reflect the information that was provided to you during the quoting, booking and scheduling process. On move day, your crew should arrive within one hour of the appointed time, or call if any delay is expected, and upon arrival the driver should introduce him or herself and the members of the crew. Runners will be put down throughout your house to protect the floors and banisters wrapped to protect the wood. You should expect to walk through your home and property with the driver reviewing what is to be loaded onto the truck. If you are moving long distance, the driver will proceed to tag and list all the items that are to be loaded as part of the inventory process.
Moving long distance? Ask for the actual weight to be communicated to you as soon as the shipment has been loaded and scaled - verify that the mover is using certified, government-approved scales. Ask to see the scale tickets.
Once your move has been completed you will be required to pay any balance of fees owing. If you are moving long distance your move charges will be calculated on actual weight (unless you booked a firm price move). Payment is typically due upon delivery. If you are paying by credit card this is usually prior to delivery, once weight is known. If you are moving locally, your move charges will be calculated on actual time (again, unless you booked a firm price move). This amount is assessed at the end of the move, after delivery has been completed.
With regard to both local and long-distance moves, the moving consultant strives for the most accurate estimate possible, toward the high side of cost. That is to say, the ideal on move day is that your actual fees will come in LESS than the estimate. The firm price, guaranteed not to exceed or guaranteed within 110% quote types are designed to prevent expense to the customer based on poor quoting or unforeseen circumstances. Again, however, the customer should be as upfront and thorough with the consultant during the survey (or interview) stage to permit the most accurate quote.
Changes on move day: If the customer requests the mover move more items than were covered under original quote, this should be noted on the paperwork and it should be explained to the customer that additions will incur additional fees in most cases. A common scenario is a quote for 'large items only', when the customer intends to move most of the smaller belongings (cartons, small pieces of furniture, etc) themselves but come move day, they've run out of time and didn't move all they'd planned to. To avoid frustration it is best that this is brought to the movers' attention and addressed prior to the conclusion of the move.
This is a long article. It’s meant to be. There are a lot of details to cover in advance of your moving day. That is the key. When you hire a mover, expect a fair bit of paperwork and quite a few details (more if you’re moving long-distance) in the process of quoting, negotiating and booking your move. By move day, there should not be any new details, or surprises. A reputable mover will have done their very best to ensure you are informed about every facet of the move prior to move day.