Think first about what moving-related services youll need. Youll save
a lot of money by doing work yourselfparticularly your own packing. But
keep in mind that having a company pack both saves you time and improves
your basis for filing a claim if damage occurs. No matter who does the
packing, plan to pack and move fragile items, jewelry, framed art, and
other especially valuable belongings yourself.
Youll want to hire a moving company that provides reliable pricing and
other helpful information, takes good care of your belongings, takes care
of both the home youre leaving and the home youre moving into, and does
the job on time. Our ratings of area moving companies will steer you to
an outfit that can do it.
To get a good price for your move, have several different companies send
representatives to your home to give you written, signed estimates showing
the rates used to calculate the estimateeither per-hour rates or rates
based on weight and mileage. Our shoppers collected prices for a local
move and three hypothetical long-distance moves. As tables 1 and 2 indicate,
we found dramatic company-to-company price differences for each of our
Estimates should detail the services to be performed and include an inventory
of items to be moved; otherwise, on moving day you may get into a dispute
with a mover who wants to charge extra for work you thought was included.
Be on the scene and attentive when your belongings are loaded and unloaded.
Make sure the moving company prepares an inventory of your belongings (including
cartons) by number, and that it specifies the condition of each item. Carefully
read the bill of lading before you sign it, and retain it until your shipment
is delivered, all charges are paid, and all claims, if any, are settled.
As your goods are unloaded, make sure each item is in good condition. Dont
sign the inventory or any other paper without first noting any damage that
Determine in advance whether you need to purchase extra insurance protection.
Before you pay several hundred dollars for moving insurance, check your
homeowners or renters insurance policy: You may already have the coverage
Once there was a time when you could call your cousin who had a pickup
truck. And your friend The Bull, who could carry two bookshelves all
by himself. And an assortment of buddies easily recruited by the promise
of free pizza and beer.
That was a long timeand a lot of acquired stuffago. Your cousins pickup
has been replaced by a family-friendly minivan, The Bull has had back surgery,
and your pizza-and-beer-hound buddies now spend their weekends coaching
kids soccer. You now need professional help to sort it, pack it, move
it, and unpack it. And since you too have grown up, you want a crew who
will handle your possessions with more care than your friends did.
We sort out your moving options and provide evaluations of local moving
companies. We also advise you on how to prepare for the move, deal with
the moving company, and keep costs down.
To deal effectively with moving companies, it helps to know how the industry
works. A key is to know about the differences between local and long-distance
Long-distance interstate movesfrom San Francisco to Chicago, for exampleare
regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an
agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FMCSA has rules regarding
documents movers must provide to customers; the movers liability for loss
of, or damage to, your belongings; types of estimates that can be provided;
and other matters. Intrastate movesboth local and long-distanceare regulated
by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Along with differences in regulations, there are also differences in practice
between local and long-distance moves.
For local moves, you contract with a single company that does the entire
job; for long-distance moves, the process is more complex.
For long-distance moves, interstate carriers (for example, Allied, North
American, and United van lines) coordinate the operations of many independent
moving companies throughout the country. The various small, medium, and
large companies that own trucks arrange to carry customers belongings
long distances, obtain loads to utilize their equipment for return trips,
and find personnel to pack, load, and provide other services wherever needed.
The roles of interstate carriers, their local agents, and independent contract
truckers vary among companies and moving jobs.
Some interstate carriers maintain employee-staffed branch offices, but
most rely on independently owned moving companies to serve as their agents.
The agent sends a representative to your home to prepare an estimate and
order for service. If you agree to use the agents affiliated interstate
carrier, the agent will notify the carrier, which will dispatch a driver
and truck to pick up and deliver your goods at the scheduled time.
Most local agents have their own trucks, which they use both for local
moves and long-distance moves performed under contract with the interstate
carrier. If your move is only a few hundred miles, the local agent will
likely ask the long-distance carrier to give it the contract to do the
haul, and the interstate carrier is likely to honor that request. But for
longer moves, the interstate carriers dispatcher will use any trucks that
happen to be in the area and are available to travel in the direction of
your move. These will probably not be the local agents trucks.
Even if the interstate carrier dispatches a contract trucker from some
other part of the country for your move, the agent that prepares your estimate
and books your move is likely to have a substantial role in the move. Your
agent can offer advice, provide packing assistance, and may arrange for
local hourly labor to load your belongings.
Invite several movers to your home to help you think through the best way
to do your move and quote a price. But before you have anyone out, think
about what services youll want and need; then refine your plans as you
learn more about your options and likely costs.
What Can You Haul Yourself?
Youll save a lot of money by doing all of the work yourself (see below),
and you may even cut costs considerably by dividing up the work. For a
local move, you can make trips back and forth with your car. For either
short or long hauls, you can rent a truck. You could haul boxes and other
small items that account for a substantial amount of the weight and cost
of a move, and let a mover handle the piano, dressers, and other heavy,
Plan to move jewelry, framed art, and other especially valuable belongings
Who Will Pack?
You can also save by doing the packing yourself. On some moves, especially
local moves, having the moving company pack can amount to half or more
of the total price.
But having a company pack for you saves you time and gives you a better
basis for filing a claim if damage occurs. Most movers will not pay a claim
for damage to items you packed unless the outside of the carton is visibly
damaged. One solution is for you to pack items that arent fragile and
let the mover pack high-risk items.
Youll be able to make a better decision on how to divide up the packing
if you get companies to give you alternative price quotesfor packing by
you and for packing by them.
When to Move?
Think carefully about the date for your move. If you can be flexible, give
yourself a lot of lead time. Preparation will probably take longer than
you expect, and an otherwise easy move can be miserable if you have to
work frantically to meet a short deadline.
It may be hard to get the best mover at the best price during certain peak
times. May through September are the busiest months; some companies charge
10 or 15 percent more during this time. Also, the end of each month is
usually busier than the middle, and Saturdays are usually the busiest days.
What to Move?
Go through your entire home and identify the items youll want the mover
to handle. Get rid of anything you can bear to live without. The longer
the move, the more you save by lightening the load. Have a yard sale or
place ads on Craigslist to sell what you dont need. You can also donate
belongings to charities or give them to friends and neighbors. Or just
recycle or throw stuff out. (Get estimates for moving with and without
certain large items to help decide what to leave behind.)
Where to Get Boxes?
Having your mover supply the packing boxes can cost more than $600 for
an average-size home, and our surveys revealed a wide variation in prices.
But some movers will supply used boxes for free, and you can often get
discarded boxes from local retailers or other companies that receive shipments
in boxes (such as supermarkets and copy shops). In addition, check prices
for new boxes from companies that sell packaging materials; their prices
may (but may not) be less than the movers prices.
Your movers standard contract language probably severely limits its liability
for loss or damage (scratches, broken legs, fire damage, etc.) to your
belongings. Most movers offer additional valuation insurance protection.
But before you pay several hundred dollars for moving insurance, check
your homeowners or renters insurance policy; you may already be covered.
If not, youll need to decide how much risk you want to take (see below).
How Tight a Schedule?
To be profitable, long-distance companies often cram several households
on a single truck: One trailer can carry three or four loads. Setting accurate
pickup and delivery dates is very difficult because a delay with one load
affects the others. Long delays (five days or more) are more common on
deliveries than on pickups, but the problem can occur at either end.
At best, delays are inconvenient. If pickup is late, you may wind up with
your belongings packed, utilities shut off, and a commitment to a buyer
or landlord to vacate by a certain date. If delivery is late, you may have
to live with the bare essentials you brought with you, and be forced to
check in to a hotel. Although you can make a claim for costs resulting
from delays, there is no way to be compensated fully for the inconvenience.
If you have room for errorfriends to stay with at your destination, no
date for vacating your old homeyou can afford to hope for the best. But
if the date is critical, you need to focus on movers with high ratings
for promptness on our customer survey (see our Ratings Tables). Also,
many movers offer an option called guaranteed pickup and delivery service.
With this option, if the mover fails to pick up or deliver the shipment
on the agreed-upon dates, the mover will reimburse the customer for the
delay, typically $100 to $200 for each day that the shipment is delayed.
Another common practice is for the mover to reimburse customers for a portion
of their living expenses (hotels and meals) caused by the delay. A guaranteed
pickup and delivery provision will spare you from having to prove damages
and give your mover a strong incentive to be on time. Although a premium
is usually charged for this provision, it may be worth it if you are on
a tight schedule.
Will You Need Storage Services?
If your new home wont be ready by the time you must leave the old one,
or if your new home is too small for some of your belongings, have the
mover arrange for storage. Obtain documents indicating where the goods
will be stored and check on the charges. If possible, inspect the storage
facilities. Also get proof that insurance will cover your belongings against
theft, fire, and other risks while in storage, because insurance for goods
in transit will not cover them while in long-term storage.
If you arent present at your new home when the mover arrives, to get at
another customers belongings on the same truck the driver may place your
goods into temporary storage. Try to avoid this extra unloading and loading,
which substantially increases the risk of damage.
Do You Have Special Items?
Most companies charge extra to handle certain bulky or exceptionally heavy
items, such as pianos, ride-on lawnmowers, and grandfather clocks.
Is Your Move Unusual in Some Way?
Because movers charge more if special conditions increase the time or effort
required, discuss such matters with company representatives when getting
estimates. For example, movers price schedules may include special charges
if the truck is too big to get down the street to your home and a small
truck is needed to shuttle your belongings, or if the truck has to pick
up or drop off belongings at an additional location.
Once you have thought about the details of your move, select companies
to come to your home and bid on the job. Naturally, youll want companies
that provide reliable bids and other helpful information, take good care
of your belongings, take care of both the home youre leaving and the home
youre moving into, and do the job on time. Our ratings and advice will
help you find such companies for both local and interstate moves.
Feedback from Customers
Where did they find these guys?
Our subscribers make this comment about movers time and again, the tone
depending in large part on which company they hired.
Often, it is said in appreciation
These guys are awesome! They moved our four-bedroom house (with garage
and basement) in eight hours. Three guys worked nonstop with only a 20-minute
lunch break. When it became obvious that a second truck would be necessary
to remove all of our belongings in a single trip, they provided it at no
Employees were pleasant and respectful throughout the
day. I hope to never move again, but if it was necessary I would definitely
Great company. Very careful with items. Pointed out damage on things before
moving them. Arrived exactly on time and worked hard all day. They moved
two houses into one for us, which was complicated. They were very willing
to relocate items that didnt fit in rooms. Cannot recommend them enough.
This was by far the best move Ive ever had. They wrapped everything that
wasnt boxed that could get damaged. I had almost 300 items and they were
done in 6 1/2 hours. Wow.
We met with the estimator, and he informed us fully of all of the costs
and made a recommendation as to how we should accomplish our complex move.
The movers arrived ahead of schedule and worked diligently to complete
multiple stops. One piece of furniture was scratchedit was repaired without
hassle and looks good as new.
Made moving easy.
But on an alarming number of occasions, it is said with disgust
I would not recommend these folks if you are emotionally connected to
the items you are having moved.
Very poor. Six hours late. Rude service. I had to pitch in or else they
wouldnt have finished by 9 p.m., when they threaten to charge for storage.
These people should not be in the business. They broke many pieces of
furniture. They changed the price of services when they arrived.
Bottom line: Never, ever hire these movers. They showed up seven hours
late and took 24 hours to move a townhouse and quadrupled the quoted rate.
They also damaged furniture, and it took forever to get them to pay for
The worst move of my life even though just across town. They completely
underestimated the time and size of truck. Had to call in an extra truck
and crew and grumbled as if it were my fault. They left a full pickup load
of stuff behind that I had to collect and move myself
Every single lamp
ended up needing repair. Also some dings in some furniture. They did not
do very much to protect my belongings, just threw things on the truck.
Our Ratings Tables tell you how local consumers (primarily CHECKBOOK
and Consumer Reports subscribers) we surveyed rated moving companies they
had used for local moves. Our survey asked them to rate movers they had
recently used inferior, adequate, or superior on several questions
related to service quality: doing service properly on the first try,
starting and completing service promptly, letting you know cost early,
and overall performance. For companies that received at least 10 ratings
on our survey, our Ratings Tables report the percentage of surveyed
customers who rated it superior (as opposed to inferior or adequate)
on each question. Our Ratings Tables also report the percentage of
surveyed customers who rated it adequate or superior (as opposed to
inferior) for overall performance. Click here
for further description of our customer survey and other research methods.)
As you can see, there are substantial differences in how the companies
For firms that were evaluated in our last full, published article, our
Ratings Tables also show tallies of complaints we gathered from local
Better Business Bureaus (BBB) for a recent three-year period.
You can check current BBB complaint information on any company by visiting
www.bbb.org or calling the BBB that serves the area where the company
is located (click here for contact information).
You can check current customer survey ratings by clicking on the companys
name on our Ratings Tables and, in the details under our listing for
the company, click a link to go directly to the BBBs most up-to-date report
on the company.
When using the complaint information, keep in mind that complaints are
not always justified; sometimes customers are unreasonable. Remember that
we didnt have a measure of business volume; large companies are more likely
to incur complaints simply because they serve more customers. Also be aware
that some companies may be at greater risk of incurring complaints than
others because of the specific types of business they do.
Certified Moving Consultants
A moving consultant is the person who comes to your home to give you an
estimate and advice on packing and other moving matters. To become an American
Moving & Storage Association Certified Moving Consultant, a consultant
must pass written and practical tests. Certification indicates knowledge
but says nothing about whether an individual practices lowball bidding
or other unethical behavior. In fact, we find that companies with Certified
Moving Consultants score somewhat lower on our customer survey than other
Affiliation with Interstate Carriers
We have indicated which companies serve as agents for interstate carriers.
Although you might expect interstate carriers to appoint only the cream
of the crop as their agents, our customer survey data do not support this
theory. In fact, companies that act as agents of interstate carriers rate
lower than independent interstate carriers or local movers.
Be sure that the company you use carries liability insurance coverage for
damage to your house, your neighbors property, or any person, and that
it has workers compensation coverage to compensate any of its workers
injured while working on your propertyotherwise you could be liable for
these workers. Ask to see proof of insurance before signing a contract
with a mover.
In addition, consider only companies that offer the level of insurance
you desire against possible damage to your belongings. Some companies offer
only limited coverage on local moveseven if you are willing to pay for
more (see below).
For long-distance interstate moves, there are other quality factors to
Each major carrier uses several local agents and hundreds of driver-operators.
While interstate carriers presumably make an effort to maintain overall
quality throughout their systems, industry experts believe there is substantial
You can enhance the odds of a successful interstate move by choosing a
high-quality local agent. Although your local agent probably wont actually
haul your goods or unload them at the other end, it is likely to do the
packing and may provide help loading the truck. In addition, a good local
agent can advise you on how to make your move go smoothly, pack properly,
and minimize costs. And your local agent can step in on your behalf if
problems occur with the driver or personnel at your destination.
You can get additional protection on interstate moves by making sure your
mover is properly registered and insured. Check www.protectyourmove.gov
or call the FMCSA at 888-368-7238 to look up the licensure status of any
interstate movers you are considering.
Good service is only part of the pictureyou also want a good price. And
youre likely to find substantial price differences.
For moves within California of 100 constructive miles (actual miles adjusted
for driving conditions) or fewer, almost all movers set prices based on
the number of workers and the amount of time needed for the job. For longer
intrastate moves, charges must be based on mileage and weight, subject
to a maximum set by state regulations; carriers usually charge less than
the maximum rates. For packing assistance on both short- and long-distance
intrastate moves, the price will also include charges for labor and for
any company-supplied containers.
The only way to get a good price is to have several companies bid competitively.
Get each mover to come to your home and give you a written estimate. Ask
for an estimate that includes the total dollar cost for the move, rather
than just a rate quote.
Before your move begins, the mover must give you a not-to-exceed price,
which means that you wont pay more than that price but will pay less if
the job is smaller (less weight or fewer hours) than the estimate assumes.
For within-California moves, a written estimate that states total dollar
cost is automatically a not-to-exceed price, because the mover is required
to enter the estimated total dollar cost as a not-to-exceed charge in an
agreement for service document before work begins.
A few companies may offer a fixed price, which means that you will pay
neither more nor less than the estimated amount regardless of how much
your shipment actually weighs or how many hours are required. When getting
quotes, keep in mind that, if the amount is the same, a not-to-exceed price
may be preferable to a fixed-price contract, because there is a chance
the job will come in at less than the not-to-exceed amount.
For local moves, estimates should include number of workers, estimated
hours, hourly rate, and any other details; then you can check whether the
job went faster than estimated. For long-distance moves, you can be present
at the weighing of the truck or have the mover inform you of the charges
immediately after the weighing. If you disagree with the total weight,
you may request a reweighing before delivery (although you may have to
pay for it).
Make sure your quote details services to be performed and goods to be transported.
Otherwise, on moving day you may find yourself in a dispute with a mover
who wants to charge you extra for work you thought was included. Prepare
a written inventory describing the rooms and major items to be moved; then
have the estimate refer to this list, with an attached copy.
To illustrate the range of prices you might expect to find when getting
bids, Table 1 shows illustrative prices for a local move. As Table 1 shows,
our shopper collected widely divergent prices.
|Ben‘s Moving & Trucking||$1,430||$800||$2,230-$2,400|
|Celtic Moving & Storage||$1,470||$1,550||$3,020|
|Cummings Moving & Storage||$1,765||$1,175||$2,940|
|Delancey Street Movers||$1,872||$1,830||$3,702|
|Shamrock Moving & Storage||$1,865||$1,300||$3,165|
|Waters Moving & Storage||$2,413||$1,850||$4,263|
Our Ratings Tables report hourly labor rates each company told us it
charges for three-, four-, five-, and six-person crews. As you can see,
the hourly rates vary substantially, ranging from $200 to $325 for a five-person
Since the charges for local moves are based on time and materials, a movers
hourly labor rate may be indicative of a relatively low bid. But dont
assume that youll get a good price from a company just because it charges
low hourly rates. It might be very slow, and cost more than another mover
with higher hourly rates. The only reliable tactic is to have several companies
come to your home to bid. Youll also learn a lot in the process.
Rates often vary depending by time of year, with higher charges during
peak season (May through September) than during other months. The rates
on our Ratings Tables apply to peak season.
For interstate moves, moving companies must operate under a tariff system
that calculates the cost of moves using weight and mileage, not hours.
Company tariffs also stipulate special charges for packing and exceptional
matters, such as storage, extra stops, and waiting time.
However, a companys specific tariff rate for a given move is somewhat
irrelevant, because it can still impose exceptions to the general tariff.
Usually, a company simply agrees to discount its tariff rate, or portions
of its tariff rate, by a specified percentage. It might, for example, agree
to give you a 35 percent discount for the long-haul part of its charges
and a 20 percent discount for packing.
If you wish to have your move governed by the tariff less specified discounts,
have the company give you a nonbinding estimate that shows its rates and
the promised discount. Actual charges will be determined during the move
itself. For example, the companys estimate will include an estimated weight;
the truck will be weighed before and after your load is added; and you
will be charged for the actual, not estimated, weight of your load.
Alternatively, a mover can offer a binding estimate. You will pay no more
and no less, as long as you make no changes in the job. If you add work
after the estimate is preparedadditional furniture you hadnt planned
to take, for instanceyour estimate will be refigured.
In preparing binding estimates, a company considers the same factors as
when it prepares nonbinding estimatesweight, miles, special circumstances,
etc. Having estimators follow similar guidelines ensures carriers that
different agents will prepare similar bids. Thats important because the
revenue of carriers, independent driver-operators, and destination-city
agents are all affected by the price charged by the booking agent. But
guidelines for binding bids are important only for the companys internal
purposes: You pay the bottom-line quoted price even if the load weighs
far more or less, or packing takes far longer or shorter, than expected.
Many companies offer a third option: estimates with a binding maximum,
usually referred to as a not-to-exceed price. You wont have to pay more
than the maximum, but youll pay less if your load is lighter than expected.
The easiest way to compare movers is to get binding estimates or estimates
with a binding maximum. If you dont yet know which items you will move,
you can use a nonbinding estimate for the long-haul charges. Just be sure
to get estimates in writing, and understand what each estimate does and
does not include. Not getting a binding total price for the packing and
packaging materials portion of the job is risky, however, because youll
have no way to make sure the company packs efficiently.
Table 2 includes illustrative prices for three long-distance moves quoted
to our shoppers (who did not disclose their affiliation with CHECKBOOK)
by phone. These prices are estimates based on a specified shipment weight,
mileage, and level of valuation insurance coverage. No packing is included
(because estimates for packing cant be given by phone). The prices simply
reflect each companys tariff and the discount it was offering at the time.
Prices might have been significantly different if the companies had gone
to the home and offered binding estimates. We found big price differences.
|Ahmed’s Moving Express||Wheaton||$4,118||$799||$7,874||$562||$7,097||$487|
|Chipman United Relocations||United||$3,940||$798||$7,700||$560||$6,742||$486|
|Cummings Moving & Storage||Wheaton||$3,694||$787||$6,634||Included||$8,217||$485|
|Delancey Street Movers||Independent|| || || || ||$6,000||$464|
|Golden Gate Moving & Storage||Allied||$5,500-$5,800||$823||$7,200||$577||$8,300||$501|
|Locatelli Moving & Storage||United|| || ||$8,100||Included||$6,200||$486|
|Shamrock Moving & Storage||Independent||$5,500||$950|| || || || |
|Waters Moving & Storage||Independent||$5,800-$6,100||$7,500|| || || || |
1 Prices were quoted in response to CHECKBOOK’s telephone inquiries and are for moving only (customer will pack).
2 $100,000 of full replacement value coverage with no deductible.
3 $40,000 of full replacement value coverage with no deductible.
4 $50,000 of full replacement value coverage with no deductible.
Our comparative data on moving companies will help you find a good one.
But getting the best possible service from the one you choose still takes
a good deal of care.
Pack properly. If you have decided to do your own packing, ask the mover
for advice. If you dont pack properly, the mover may not be liable for
damage to packed items. You can buy packing materials from your mover or
from local suppliers. Some movers will loan or give you used packing materials,
if they have materials available.
Note the contents on the outside of each carton. Tape cartons shut, so
on delivery day you can see that they have not been opened and that contents
have not been removed.
Prepare appliances. If youre taking large appliances, check owners manuals
for instructions on disconnecting them and preparing them for shipping.
Prepare an inventory. List all important items youre moving, noting any
defects or damage. For books, clothes, and other items of no special value,
list box of books or box of childrens clothes. But list all items
of significant value individually. To document the existence and condition
of items, take photos. Dont take any chances with small items that have
high monetary value, such as jewelry, or items of great sentimental value,
such as photo albums. Just move them yourself.
On moving day, be there. Be attentive.
Make sure your mover prepares an inventory of your belongings, including
cartons, by number. The inventory youve prepared in advance should be
the basis for the movers inventory. Make sure the companys inventory
specifies the condition of each item. If you think the condition is better
than the mover thinks it is, note your disagreement on the document. The
mover will ask you to sign the inventory. He or she should also sign it
and give you a copy. This will be your evidence if goods dont arrive or
For a long-distance move, get the name, address, and phone number of the
agent you will deal with at the destination. Be sure the driver knows how
to reach you if the shipment is delayed.
Read the bill of ladingthe contract between you and the moverbefore you
sign it. The bill of lading is a very important document. Keep it with
you until your shipment is delivered, all charges are paid, and all claims,
if any, are settled.
While your goods are in transit on a long-distance move, keep in contact
with the movers agent at your destination.
Again, on delivery day, be present at the destination. On a long-distance,
interstate move, if you are not there within a few hours of when the truck
arrives (two hours for most movers), the mover has the right to put your
goods into storage and charge you for it.
Unless you have made other arrangements, have cash, a certified check,
or travelers checks on hand to pay the mover. Because many movers expect
to be paid before unloading, make sure that you have enough to cover costs.
If your mover accepts credit cards, take advantage of it. Using a credit
card relieves you of the risks of holding or traveling with a large amount
of cash, and gives you rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act and card-issuer
policies to dispute a charge if you later find goods are missing or broken.
Plan in advance where you want to place your things, so you can tell the
mover where to put them.
Check the condition of each item as it is unloaded, and check your inventory
to be sure each item has arrived. You probably will not have time to open
every carton, but inspect cartons containing especially fragile or valuable
items (dont ship jewelry or other small valuables). The mover will probably
ask you to sign a copy of the inventory acknowledging receipt of the goods
in the condition described. Dont sign the inventory or any other paper
without first noting any damage that has occurred. Signing a document that
does not note damage will make it hard to collect for damage later.
If a carton is damaged on the outside, open it and check for damage to
goods inside. But because items can be damaged even if a carton looks fine,
note on the inventory that your approval is subject to later discovery
of concealed damage.
Open cartons as promptly as possible after moving day to check for damage.
If you find damage, notify the mover promptly, and keep the broken items
and packing materials as you found them in the box, so the movers claims
representative can check them.
If your property is lost or damaged or if you incur expenses because of
a movers delay, you can claim damages.
If you have a dispute with a local mover, first try to resolve it by talking
to the mover. If you cant reach an agreement, you can file a complaint
with the California Public Utilities Commission or the Better Business
Bureau (click here for contact information),
or sue in small claims court.
Long-Distance Interstate Moves
If you have a dispute with an interstate mover, send a claim letter to
the movers headquarters (not its local agent). You have nine months to
file a claim with the mover. The mover must acknowledge your claim within
30 days, and make an offer of settlement, pay, or deny your claim within
120 days (or, if there is a delay, provide a written status report every
60 days after the 120-day period).
No federal government agency is authorized to settle disputes between interstate
movers and their customers. If you have trouble settling, you have two
Binding arbitration. Interstate movers are required by the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to participate in a dispute settlement
program. There are some limitations, however. Arbitration is mandatory
only for loss and damage claims of up to $10,000 on interstate moves of
household goods for individual shippers. Claims other than loss or damage,
or greater than $10,000, may be resolved through arbitration only if both
the customer and the mover agree to the arbitration.
The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) offers an arbitration
program for interstate movers and their customers. To participate, customers
must send a letter to AMSA within 90 days of the movers final offer or
denial of the claim. If the claim cannot be settled and the case proceeds
to arbitration, the customer pays half of the $650 administrative fee for
claims of $10,000 or less (for larger claims, the fee progressively rises).
After reaching a final decision, the arbitrator may decide to refund all
or part of the customers portion of the fee, depending on the circumstances.
To receive more information about arbitration, visit www.moving.org
or request a copy of the program rules and sample forms from the American
Moving and Storage Association, Attention: Dispute Settlement Program,
1611 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Lawsuit. Customers must bring a lawsuit against an interstate mover within
two years of the date that the mover first gave written notice denying
any part of the claim. The FMCSA (888-368-7238 or www.protectyourmove.gov )
will provide the name and address of the movers agent for service of legal
Interstate movers must provide customers with certain information. If you
are not given the pamphlet Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move
(prepared by the FMCSA), ask your interstate mover for a copy. Interstate
movers must also provide written descriptions of its process for handling
questions and complaints. Make sure you receive this information before
Moving yourself is hard work, but it does have certain advantages over
hiring a mover: Its much cheaper, you can take special care with prized
belongings, and you can move when you want.
If you decide to do it yourself, a truck rental will probably be your biggest
expense. Several factors affect rental costs: size of truck, day of the
week and time of the month of rental, whether you want to drop off vehicle
at destination or return it to rental location, and total mileage. In the
past, we found substantial company-to-company variation on truck rental
rates. It pays to shop.
Rules of thumb for estimating the size of the truck youll need: A 12-foot
truck holds about three rooms of furniture; an 18-foot truck about five
or six rooms; a 24-foot truck about eight or nine rooms. Of course, this
is a rough guide, and the size you need depends on the type of furniture
you have and how you pack. If youre moving old, bulky pieces or large
appliances, youll need extra truck space.
Make the most of your trucks space by disassembling furniture where practical.
Make sure to package and label parts and hardware, and bring along instructions
Always load the heaviest items forward, near the cab. Load belongings so
as to prevent shifting, and tie down your load.
Most truck rental companies rent dollies and hand trucks for $5 to $20
each per day. Some provide furniture pads for free; others rent pads for
about $10 to $15 per day. Drape pads over your furniture to prevent scratching
when a piece shifts or slides.
If you dont want to shell out thousands of dollars to a professional mover
but dread the prospect of driving a large moving truckfilled with all
of your possessionsthrough city streets or cross-country, you can hire
a self-service moving company. Self-service moving companies will drop
off a cargo container, truck trailer, or truck at your house so you can
load it on your own. Then, at a prearranged time, the company returns and
drives the load to the destination, where you unload it.
Using a self-service mover is likely to cost more than renting a truck
to drive on your ownbut much less than hiring a professional moving outfit.
For a local move using a 16-foot container, self-service movers quoted
prices ranging from $250 to $400.
If youre considering the self-service-moving option, find out whether
your homeowners insurance policy will cover your belongings. If not, ask
self-service moving companies the price of extra insurance coverage. Since
self-service movers are simply transportingnot handlingyour belongings,
they are not movers at all, but rather freight carriers. This distinction
is important because basic insurance coverage for freight is set at only
$.10 per poundcoverage almost certainly too low for your belongings.
Self-service movers will also rent out cargo containers for use as self-storage
devices, a very convenient option for homeowners who wish to clear out
a house in advance of a major remodeling project but dont want to truck
belongings back and forth between the house and a self-storage facility.
The American Moving and Storage Association recommends the following steps
as preparation for moving day.
At Eight Weeks
Obtain estimates from different companies, and select the one that best
meets your needs.
At Six Weeks
Meet with your mover and discuss all details, costs, insurance, packing,
loading, delivery, and claims procedures.
At Four Weeks
If the mover will be packing, arrange for it to be done one to two days
If packing yourself, begin packing.
Sort through and throw out, give away, or sell belongings you dont want
If necessary, arrange for storage of your goods.
Send furniture, drapes, carpets for repair or cleaning.
At Three Weeks
Arrange to have utilities, cable, Internet connection, and phones disconnected
in your old house and hooked up in your new house.
Make travel arrangements and hotel reservations for your trip.
Apartment dwellersreserve elevator for pickup and/or delivery day.
Obtain medical, dental, and veterinarian records.
At Two Weeks
File a change-of-address notice with the Postal Service.
Make special arrangements for transporting pets and plants.
Notify sources of bills, and brokerage and bank accounts.
At One Week
Arrange for a babysitter on moving day.
Arrange for delivery services (newspapers, etc.) to be discontinued.
One to Two Days Before
Have mover pack your goods.
Defrost and dry refrigerators and freezers to be moved.
Arrange for cash/travelers checks for trip and expenses and payment to
If traveling a long distance by car, check your tires, oil, wipers, etc.
Your homeowners insurance policy may cover losses from specified risks
such as fire and theft while your goods are moved. But the policy probably
wont cover the types of damage likely to be caused by a moverfor example,
scratches or breakage from careless handling. Your mover is theoretically
liable for such damage while the items are in its control, but most movers
contracts routinely limit their liability. For long-distance interstate
moves, your options are fairly straightforward; for local moves, the options
are more muddled. Make sure you fully understand the various options before
making a choice.
There are several forms of protection against loss caused by long-distance
Interstate movers must offer plans that cover the full cost of repair or
replacement of lost or damaged goods. Each carrier sets its own price for
this protection, typically about $9 per $1,000 of coverage. By agreeing
to a deductible, you can dramatically reduce the cost; for example, if
you agree to a $250 deductible, your rate may drop in half, to about $4.50
per $1,000 of coverage.
You can decide at what level to value your goods, as long as the minimum
level of protection is at least $5,000 and at least equal to the number
of pounds of the shipment multiplied by $4. For example, if you decide
to get $50,000 worth of coverage, expect to pay about $450 for the no-deductible
level of liability, or about $225 with a $250 deductible.
To avoid paying the added valuation charges, you can buy very limited coverage
based on the weight of each item. Under this option, if an item is damaged
or lost, you are reimbursed for repairs or replacement up to the actual
value of the item, subject to a limit of $0.60 times the items weight
in pounds. Under this option, you receive only $6 as compensation for a
10-pound item, although its value might be much greater. This level of
coverage costs nothing, but to get it you must specifically request it
on your bill of lading.
Separate Liability Insurance
Some movers sell separate liability coverage through a third-party insurance
company. While the other forms of protection are referred to as valuation
protection, this kind of coverage is properly referred to as insurance
and regulated under state law. If you buy such insurance, the mover is
liable only for up to $0.60 per pound per article (as in released value
coverage). If your claim exceeds this amount, the remainder is paid by
the insurance company.
When you purchase separate liability insurance, the mover must provide
a copy of the policy or a record of the purchase. Otherwise, the mover
becomes fully liable for any claim for loss or damage due to its negligence.
You can determine a local moving companys liability for damage to your
goods by examining its bill of lading and other documents it provides.
Many companies will drastically limit their liabilityfor example, to a
$0.60-per-pound level comparable to the released value option on interstate
movesand try to sell you additional coverage. Some companies include the
cost of damage coverage in their regular rates. Be sure a companys coverage
for damage is set out in writing on your bill of lading or in some other
In recent years, more and more moving brokers have sprung up on the Internet
offering to find consumers the lowest rate from local movers, typically
for long-distance moves. These companies usually do not own or operate
any trucks or equipment themselves; they simply collect a deposit and arrange
for a moving company to handle your move.
The problem with such arrangements is that you have no control over who
actually performs the work. Since the broker chooses the mover, you may
get stuck with an inferior outfit. And because the broker typically collects
its fee up front, it may be uninterested in mediating disputes with the
Even worse, the American Moving and Storage Association has found that
some brokers mainly work with unlicensed or otherwise disreputable moving
companies. And over the course of the last several years, consumer agencies
have received a sharp increase in complaints about moving brokers, many
filed by consumers whose brokers contracted with rogue movers that refused
to honor price estimates once the truck reached its destination.
Our advice: Just stay away from the Internet when shopping for a mover.
If a moving company cant be reached via phone, or wont come to your home
to provide an on-site written estimate, dont trust it with your belongings.
Here are the most common types of complaints we receive for movers from
their surveyed customers:
Damage to home or belongings, lost items, alleged theft. Mentioned in 54
percent of complaints.
Customer serviceLack of responsiveness by company staff, poor communication,
rude treatment by staff or workers. Mentioned in 37 percent of complaints.
Attempt to charge more than originally estimated or quoted. Mentioned in
31 percent of complaints.
PromptnessWork took too long to complete, company was late for or missed
appointments. Mentioned in 24 percent of complaints.
IncompetenceWorkers were untrained, packing work improperly completed,
placement of items was wrong. Mentioned in 17 percent of complaints.
ReliabilityCompany was unwilling to address or resolve disputes, did not
fulfill contract. Mentioned in 14 percent of complaints.
PriceFees too expensive. Mentioned in nine percent of complaints.
Poor cleanup. Mentioned in three percent of complaints.
California Public Utilities Commission
Complaint Intake Unit
Consumer Protection and Safety
505 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3298
Better Business Bureaus
Santa Clara and
Santa Cruz Counties
1112 S. Bascom Avenue
San Jose, CA 95128
All Other Bay Area Counties
1000 Broadway, ##625
Oakland, CA 94607