Once you’ve chosen the three companies to give you estimates, schedule times for them to come to your home. The estimate process should always be free. The estimator should take a thorough inventory. He or she may take measurements. They should also ask you about anything you might have had trouble moving into your home. You’ll also be asked questions about your new home, but it’s understandable if you have not yet chosen that home. If you haven’t, the estimator should ask you to call once you have to new home in case there is anything that needs to be known.
If you are moving locally, you should always either be charged by the hour or you should be charged a flat rate based on a specific inventory and specific moving conditions (like stairs and distance from the house to the truck.) Movers will also charge you for moving supplies like boxes and tape. They should never charge you for blankets unless your blanketed furniture is moving into storage.
If you are moving across country, most reputable movers will charge you by weight. Some movers will charge you by volume. Since the truck will be weighed at a federally regulated scale, weight can be verified, whereas volume cannot. With most moves, you should also have an option of a flat price or a “not to exceed” estimate, which will mean that your price will only go down, not up.
After you receive the three estimates, pay careful attention to details such as pick-up and delivery windows. You might find that one company might save you a few hundred bucks, but are those savings really worth it if you end up having to stay in a hotel for an extended length of time because you have no furniture? Look and see how much packing the mover is including. If they are packing everything, make sure that all three estimates include similar amounts of packing.
If they included no packing whatsoever, on the presumption that you will be packing everything, you might see packing charges racking up even on top of a flat moving price. Most movers know that there are certain things that are almost never packed by the customer. Those items include things like mattresses, pictures on the walls and large electronics. All movers should ask you if you plan on packing those. If the mover doesn’t address these items and doesn’t include them in the estimate, it’s a red flag. Unless you have every single item packed, except for furniture, the mover will charge you on moving day. If it was already part of the estimate, great! If not, you’ll see the cost rise and there will be little you can do about it. Technically, the mover is performing services not in the original contract. That being said, there are plenty of times where honest movers arrive at people’s homes to find that a lot of packing still has to be done. They will also charge you for that.
Often, the difference between a good move and a bad moves comes down to planning. Clearly, there are things over which no one has control, like the weather, but there are many things that you can control. Make sure that both you and the mover understand exactly what is involved in the move. Don’t try to make the move seem smaller or less complicated than it is. Guaranteed prices only apply when the inventory list is thorough and when the circumstances – such as packing, distance to the truck, stairs and whether a semi-truck can access – are specifically spelled out. Make sure that you explore their Yelp and Angie’s List reviews. Ask for more references, and ask very specific questions of that reference. Does the estimator listen to and answer your questions? Is he or she available when you call?
Remember that even with the best of movers, not all moves will be perfect. The true test of a mover is how they handle claims. Any reputable mover would much rather they be given the opportunity to rectify things than leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.