The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that 40 million people move every year. Unfortunately, a large percentage of those people will end up paying more than they bargained for, or even losing belongings altogether. And since most Americans move between May and September, Billshark wants to focus on things to look out for when moving, whether locally or out of state.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives thousands of complaints about movers every year. Some of the most common complaints against movers include:
- loss of belongings
- damage to belongings
- delays in arrival
- belongings held hostage for more money
There are many others. According to the DOT, rogue movers typically work like this: Without ever visiting your home or seeing the goods you want moved, they give a low estimate over the telephone or Internet. Once your goods are on their truck, they demand more money before they will deliver or unload them. They hold your goods hostage and force you to pay more—sometimes much more than you thought you had agreed to—if you want your possessions back.
So before you sign up with a mover, be sure you:
- Get in-home estimates of the cost from at least three different movers.
- Understand what costs are included, and which might be tacked on later. Some types of extra fees can include:
- shuttle service fees if it’s necessary to switch to a smaller truck
- charges for two-story or higher homes
- an extra charge if the truck can’t back up to the home/apartment
- dismantling/reassembling large pieces of furniture
- Understand the difference between a binding or non-binding estimate. A binding estimate includes a flat fee. If additional fees are required, you have 30 days after delivery to pay them. A non-binding estimate can either increase or lower your final cost after the shipment is weighed en route.
Here are 12 “red flags” DOT warns consumers to beware of when looking for a mover:
- The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an onsite inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the telephone or online—sight unseen. These estimates often sound too good to be true. They usually are.
- The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- The mover asks you to sign blank or incomplete documents.
- The mover does not provide a written estimate (can be binding or non-binding).
- The mover doesn’t provide you with a copy of the booklet, “Your Rights and Responsibilities Before You Move” and a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s brochure, “Ready to Move,” which movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
- The company’s website has no local address and no information about their registration or insurance.
- The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
- When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic “movers,” or “moving company,” rather than the company’s name.
- Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
- The mover says they will determine the charges after loading.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives, rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
- The mover claims, “You’ve got more stuff than estimated.” Should this occur, be sure the mover provides a revised estimate that you both sign, listing the additional items and/or services, as well as a price that you both have agreed to and signed BEFORE they begin packing or loading. They should also provide you a copy of this new estimate.
The FMCSA provides a search tool allowing you to search by company (for interstate movers only) showing complaints, safety information, and company contact information.
Remember that Billshark is always watching out for your money. This includes a free opportunity for us to try to lower your bills. If we don’t save you money, you don’t pay.