Buying a house is exciting. Moving to it? Not so much!
Of course, hiring a professional mover to schlep your belongings from your old home to your new abode can make things a whole lot easier. Choosing the right mover, though, will require some careful vetting.
While you probably know to ask certain questions—like the cost of moving and what COVID-19 precautions the mover has in place—there’s a lot more you can cover that could help you avoid some chaos-inducing curveballs down the road.
To help you find the right movers, here’s everything you should ask upfront before hiring them for the job.
1. Do you offer in-person estimates?
Though you can obtain a moving estimate over the phone or online, getting an in-person estimate is the way to go, says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association.
“Doing it in person ensures that the mover will see all the items that need to be shipped, and can identify any complications in advance,” Michael says. “For instance, if there are low-hanging tree branches that would prevent the moving truck from being able to pull up to your house, that’s something you want to know ahead of time.”
2. Is there anything you will not move?
Some movers refuse to move certain things, warns Lindsey Schaibly, moving services director at Two Men and a Truck, a franchised moving company based in Lansing, MI.
For example, a moving company may not be willing to transport plants, fragile family heirlooms, or other valuables if it believes the risk of losing or damaging such precious belongings is too great.
3. What kind of liability coverage does your company provide?
Under federal law, most moving companies are required to provide released value protection, or “basic coverage,” where the company is responsible for 30 cents per pound per item for an in-state move, or 60 cents for an interstate move, for any items damaged during the move.
Many moving companies, though, enable customers to purchase “full-value protection”—an insurance policy that offers extra protection. Here’s how it works: If any of your articles are lost, destroyed, or damaged during the move, full-value protection requires the moving company to either have the item repaired so that it’s in the same condition as it was before being damaged, replace it with something similar, or give you cash to replace it.
If you want to purchase full-value protection but a mover doesn’t offer it, you can buy an insurance policy from a third party.
4. Is your crew covered by workers’ compensation?
Reputable moving companies carry workers’ compensation—a form of insurance that pays for medical expenses and lost wages if employees are injured on the job. If you hire a mover that doesn’t offer workers’ compensation, you could be held responsible if an accident occurs during the move.
5. Do you disassemble and reassemble furniture?
Large pieces of furniture—such as bed frames, couches, and dining tables—often have to be dismantled before they can be moved safely through doorways, hallways, and stairs. Many movers will disassemble and reassemble furniture for you, but some won’t—especially when asked to put together antique furniture without an instruction manual—so make sure you know which services the moving company offers.
6. Will you—or a third party—be delivering my items?
While many moving companies have their own movers do the packing and driving, some movers act only as brokers and subcontract their services to a third party. The issue there is that some moving contractors are more experienced than others.
If a moving company says it will be outsourcing the loading, transporting, or unloading of your items, make sure the contractor has a qualified team of moving professionals that is up to the task. Some moving companies will even let you meet the actual movers face to face before the big day.
7. If I pack my own belongings, are there any restrictions on the type of boxes I can use?
Packing stuff up yourself can help you trim your moving costs, but some movers require self-packers to use particular types of boxes or packing materials.
For instance, a moving company may require you to protect items by covering them in protective material instead of towels.
Pro tip: “Boxes and protective material like Bubble Wrap and newsprint are the most effective means of carrying, transporting, and protecting one’s personal items,” says Aaron Steed, CEO and founder of Meathead Movers in California.
8. Can you guarantee my delivery date?
If you’re planning an interstate or cross-country move, certain movers will offer to deliver on a particular day, whereas others may promise to deliver only within a two- or three-day window. The latter can help lower costs, but if you need your stuff by a certain deadline, make sure your movers can accommodate your schedule.
9. How much will it cost—and are there extra fees I should know about?
Moving costs can vary significantly. You can get an instant estimate for your move using Realtor.com’s moving cost calculator, which will give you a ballpark figure on the cost of your move based on the number of rooms you have, how far you’re moving, and other variables.
Brace yourself for some surprises. For one, the average cost of a local household move is $1,250, according to Moving.com. That number climbs to a whopping $4,890 for a long-distance move, based on an average weight of 7,500 pounds and an average distance of 1,000 miles.
Still, every moving company has its own way of evaluating the cost of a move—and some movers will offer significantly lower estimates but bake in hidden fees (e.g., fuel charge, stairs charge, or even heavy-item charge).
10. Do you offer any discounts or promotions?
This question may seem like a no-brainer, but many consumers forget to ask it, Michael says. Some moving companies offer discounts to AAA members, veterans, or customers who are willing to pay in all cash, so don’t leave free money on the table.