How Not to Get Swindled by Moving Companies

Moving this spring or summer? Join the club. Each year, more than 40 million Americans pull up stakes and move into new homes. And while moving house is certainly exhilarating, there are aspects — especially finding and working with a mover — that can be extremely stressful. While most moving companies are legitimate businesses, a growing number of complaints have been filed in recent years against interstate movers. Here are eight things you can do to ensure you have a good moving experience:

Find a legit mover
To find an interstate mover, search for companies that are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) — part of the U.S. Department of Transportation — at For an in-state mover, visit the American Moving & Storage Association’s (AMSA) consumer website at to find screened and approved companies.

Beware of rogue movers
Movers should answer the telephone with the company’s name, rather than a generic term like “moving company.” Once you’ve chosen a company, stop by its office — or at least view the building online using Google Maps — to make sure it exists and is in good condition. On moving day, make sure a company-owned and marked fleet truck — not a rental truck — arrives.

Get in-person estimates
Movers covered by federal law must view your belongings in person before giving you an estimate if they have an office within 50 miles of your home. AMSA recommends getting in-person estimates from at least three companies. The estimates should be similar in price. Do not hire a company that gives you an estimate much higher or lower than competitors.

Also, beware of movers that try to give you a phone estimate. They can later say you have more stuff than you told them about. If a phone estimate sounds too good to be true, it likely is!

Consider a binding agreement
With this type of agreement, you’ll pay what the movers estimated regardless of what your shipment ends up weighing. But the movers can still charge extra fees for moving into a home on a steep hill, with many steps, or in a crowded city. Ask about those fees ahead of time.

Understand your rights
Under federal law, movers cannot charge you more than 110 percent of their original estimate (not including fees and extras), even under a non-binding agreement. They also cannot require full payment before final delivery. Expect to fork over a down payment of up to 10 percent.

Think about buying insurance
Purchasing insurance with full liability will cost you extra, but the movers will be responsible for any items they packed that get damaged or lost. Be sure to list china, antiques, and anything with a value of more than $100 per pound on shipping documents. Take jewelry, important papers, and other valuable small items with you rather than packing them.

Time your move
If possible, move during the off-peak season (October to May). You’ll likely receive better service. If you must move during peak season, try to move mid-month and mid-week.

Consider shipping your car
Moving your car across the country can cost you at least $1,000, but that’s less than the roughly $1,500 in mileage and gas at current prices (plus food and lodging along the way) it’ll cost you to drive.

Sources: Associated Press, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, American Moving & Storage Association

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