Finding the right moving company can pay dividends in reducing the stress of relocating your household across the country, across the state or even just across town. There are many guides available to help you. Here is a general overview to help you get started in making the right moves:
Choosing Your Mover
When researching a potential company to handle your moving and storage needs, find out the following information:
- Is the company registered with the California Public Utilities Commission (for moves within California) or the U.S. Department of Transportation (for interstate moves)?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Does the company offer packing, unpacking, storage or other extra services?
- What type of protection does the company offer against loss or damage (full replacement cost, depreciated value, or the basic 60¢ per pound valuation carriers are required to provide)
- Does the company have a good record of meeting delivery schedules?
- Does the mover have a good reputation for settling claims?
- Does the company offer arbitration for claim disputes?
- Can the company provide proof of liability coverage and worker's compensation coverage?
- Is there a local contact person? A company that only wants to deal with you over the telephone or the Internet should raise caution flags.
- Obtain bids and detailed written estimates from at least three movers two to six weeks before your planned move date. Having the mover come to your house to see the size and amount of goods involved will yield the most accurate estimate.
Main factors involved in moving household goods:
- Distance involved
- Time involved (more applicable in local moves)
- Volume of Shipment.
- Weight of Shipment.
- Additional services requested, such as packing, storage and unpacking of goods.
- Declared value of the goods to be moved.
The mover must provide you prior to your move with an estimate and written contract that includes the following:
- Name, telephone number, physical address and state registration number of the mover.
- Date the contract or estimate was prepared and proposed date of the actual move.
- Appropriate pick-up and delivery address, name and telephone numbers of the shipper.
- Name, telephone number and physical address where the goods will be held, if necessary.
- Itemized breakdown, description and total of all cost and services provided.
- Acceptable forms of payment available.
Before you sign an estimate or contract:
- Make sure all the services you requested and require are on the estimate and contract.
- Provide your delivery address and all phone numbers where you can be contacted at origin, en route and at your destination.
- Check your homeowners' insurance policy before moving to see if you are covered for damage or loss during a move by a professional moving company. If not, the insurance company may provide a rider to your policy at an additional fee. You may also be able to arrange with the mover for full depreciated or full replacement valuation.
- Consider packing less valuable items yourself and having the mover pack the rest. Keep in mind that movers generally will not accept liability for breakage of items you pack.
- Before you sign the packing order, check that all items you want are packed and that the total carton count matches the packing order form.
- Most movers will provide detailed descriptions of the pre-existing damage of each item being moved. If the damage description is unclear or confusing, ask for clarification before the items are moved. Be sure to get a copy of the inventory list and contract for your records.
- Moving companies are required to assume some basic liability by carrying legal liability valuation and insurance coverage. Moving companies also must carry cargo legal liability coverage (loss or damage to household goods resulting from the negligence of the mover, its employees, or agents, in an amount not less than $10,000 per incident).
- Movers must provide motor vehicle coverage, including combined bodily injury and property damage liability coverage.
- The law also provides for a limitation on the release of the mover's liability for the value of a shipper's goods at a rate not less than 60¢ per pound, per article. Your mover must disclose this limitation of liability to you, in writing, at the time the estimate or contract for services is executed and prior to any services being provided to you. Your mover must also inform you of the opportunity to reject or select additional valuation for goods being moved.
Moving within California: Public Utilities Commission. This booklet provides consumer tips and outlines the rules and regulations that apply to intrastate movers.
Moving Across States: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, this website offers consumer tips, a searchable data base of licensed interstate movers and a complaint hotline.