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Think first about what moving-related services you need. You’ll save a lot of money by doing work yourself—particularly packing your own stuff. But keep in mind that having a company pack 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.

You’ll want a moving company that provides reliable pricing and other helpful information, takes good care of your belongings, takes care of both the home you’re leaving and the home you’re moving into, and does the job on time. Our ratings of moving companies will steer you to an outfit that can do it.

Have several different companies send representatives to your home to give you written estimates showing the rates used to calculate the estimate. Our undercover shoppers collected prices for both local moves and long-distance moves and found dramatic company-to-company price differences. Estimates you get 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 the estimate 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. Carefully read the bill of lading before you sign it. As your goods are unloaded, make sure each item is in good condition. Don’t sign the inventory or any other paper without first noting any damage that has occurred.