There are a few things you should look for when hiring a mover. The first is to check that the mover is licensed with the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT). Be sure to check your mover’s license certificate and call the DOT for verification. You may also want to check with the local Better Business Bureau to make sure there aren’t any complaints filed against him or her.
Each company will structure their fees differently. It is a good idea to talk to a few companies to see how they work. As with any service professional, ask around for recommendations. You may have neighbors and colleagues who have moved recently and who can steer you toward a company.
Another way to gauge a moving company is by the estimate they offer. Remember that estimates are not guaranteed prices. They are ballpark figures. Your mover cannot give you a binding estimate over the phone or Internet. On-site estimates are the most accurate. Most moving companies offer free estimates, so take them up on it. Get on-site estimates from a few companies to compare services and prices. Be sure to note which items you will move or pack yourself and which you need help with from them. This will make your estimate even more accurate.
Most companies will give a “not to exceed” estimate following an on-site inspection. This estimate will have qualifying statements attached. If the conditions of the move change in any way, such as you don’t finish packing and they have to complete it for you, the price will go up. If you cannot get a “not to exceed” estimate or a binding estimate, look for another mover. Always get the estimate in writing and look for the “not to exceed” qualifying statement.
Look for moving companies that are established. Check how long they have been in business. Look for membership in professional associations or certifications from organizations.
Getting a Mover’s Estimate
The first place to start with an estimate is to only call on reputable movers. Look for moving companies that offer free on-site estimates and get a few of them to compare prices. Be sure to compare apples to apples. Give each moving company the same information when getting the estimate. It might help to write it all out and make copies so you can directly compare prices.
Here ‘s a look at how moving companies estimate the final bill.
For Local Moves
The tentative final bill for a local move follows a pretty standard formula.
(The number of movers + truck) x number of hours = final price.
The final price will also include materials provided by the mover, insurance, and incidental expenses such as tolls.
However, estimating moves is not an exact science. It includes a variety of factors that can change the price. Here are a few of those factors:
- The time it will take from the moving company to your current home to the new location.
- The availability of suitable parking for the truck-i.e. one that makes for easy loading and unloading for the movers.
- Any additional supplies you will need from the mover, such as blankets, boxes, tape, etc.
- Whether you are completely packed or not.
- The scope of the work does not change-i.e. you didn’t forget about the grand piano in the attic or the garden shed outside filled with tools.
- The availability of suitable elevators in apartment complexes or condos.
- Traffic from your old home to your new one.
Everything that changes between the day of the estimate and actual moving day can alter the price. Be sure you give complete information to your mover, so the estimate can be as accurate as possible.
Long Distance Moves
These are normally charged based on weight and space. They weigh the truck before loading your goods and again after. You pay a certain price based on the weight multiplied by the distance they have to move. Goods from a two bedroom house moved from Washington DC to Atlanta will cost less than goods from a 4 bedroom house moved from New York to LA.
Types of Estimates
There are three basic types of estimates you can get from a moving company.
- Binding-this is a flat price with a small percentage of deviation that binds the customer and the mover
- Non-binding or hourly-this is not an estimate, it is a price sheet
- Not to exceed-this is a quote that is binding only on the mover. The final price cannot exceed that amount if conditions remain the same.
Ideally, you will want a not to exceed quote. You don’t want your movers working against the clock, you want them working with you.
Even with good planning and a not-to-exceed price, you could face additional charges for unforeseen problems. These could include:
- A change in destination for some reason
- Restricted truck access, especially in long distance moves
- Lack of elevator access in multi-family structures
- Acts of God, such as fire, flood, earthquake, etc.
Is a Do-It-Yourself Move for You?
Depending on how much stuff you have and how far you have to haul it, doing it yourself may just save you money. Here are some factors to consider when looking at a do-it-yourself (DIY) move.
- If you are going a long distance, consider the truck rental rate, gas, oil, food and lodging. Many rental places assess a fee for one-way rentals.
- How much property do you have to move?
- Will you have access to people in the new location to help you unload?
- Have you ever done a move by yourself before?
- Can you get packed and ready in time by yourself?
- How much will it cost to feed your friends when they come to help? You need to factor in funds for pizza, sodas and beer (in most cases).
- Are you licensed and able to drive a big truck or do you know someone who is?
- What will you do if your friends bail the night before the move?
- What if they drop your goods and do damage?
- Do you have the time?
DIY moves can be extremely stressful and tiring. They can save you money in some cases. In others, the cost of pizza and beer may exceed the cost of a local moving company. Check out all your options. Be prepared to compare the costs (both direct and indirect) to find the right solution for you.