If you have plenty of friends and family willing to help you load and unload the moving truck, renting and driving the truck yourself is probably your best option.
You might consider hiring a moving company, though, if you’re moving far away, if you have large household or if your employer is going to cover your relocation costs. (Or if the promise of a free lunch isn’t enough to make friends and family give up an afternoon to help.)
Hiring a moving company is more complicated than many other kinds of service transactions. These complications only increase when you cross state lines because moving company regulations vary from state to state. If you sign on with a bad apple, you can end up with a nightmare scenario in which the mover threatens to put your stuff in storage if you don’t pay more money immediately. For that reason, it pays to do your due diligence. Here are some trusted tips for hiring a mover.
- Ask for referrals. Ask your landlord, realtor, employer, family and friends for suggestions. Don’t exclusively count on online reviews, because companies can pad their rating with fake accolades.
- Know your rights. The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Though movers are by law supposed to furnish this to you, it’s a good idea to read up on it ahead of time. Before you sign the contract for an interstate move, consider hiring a lawyer to review it to get advice on how to respond if your moving company charges you unexpected surcharge or damages your belongings. This could save you thousands of dollars in the future.
- Get estimates from at least four companies. You will want a binding estimate, which is the maximum amount that the moving company will charge you based on weight and mileage. Reputable companies will come to your home to help them make this estimate, so be wary of companies that claim it can figure it out over the phone. Also, be wary of bids that come in much lower than the rest of the pack. In short, don’t sign anything without doing your due diligence. Finally, ask for a complete list of possible surcharges, such as gasoline, additional weight and stairs.
- Do a background check. A company that runs afoul of the law, gets sued or gains a bad reputation can easily change its name and start over. Find companies that have been established for at least a few years by checking your state’s secretary of state’s website. Along with finding the company’s Better Business Bureau rating, look for companies with the ProMover Status on the American Moving and Storage Association website—only companies with a clean record for 18 months make this list.
- Ask about insurance. A good moving company will have its own insurance in case an item is stolen, lost or damaged in transit. Your contract should stipulate the kind of insurance the mover has and the limit of liability. Your own homeowners policy can serve as a backup if something is stolen, lost or damaged—talk with your insurance agent ahead of time to learn how your policy would work in these situations.
Once you find a reputable mover, you’ll want to get a few key things in order before the big day.