14 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Movers

Sometimes you just don’t know how much you don’t know, and that’s especially true when you’re moving. Most people only move a handful of times in their lives,1 so it’s understandably difficult to keep track of the ins and outs of the moving industry.

Unfortunately, this can leave you at the mercy of moving companies with unfair prices, unsafe services, and even fraudulent business practices.

That’s why we’re here.

You can avoid these bad apples by asking a lot of questions before you sign any contracts or pay any deposits. You can usually get answers by talking with a customer service representative over the phone, asking an in-home estimator, reading customer reviews, or perusing a company’s website.

Questions to ask before hiring movers

To help you navigate the sometimes sharky waters of the moving industry, we’ve thrown together a handful of questions you should ask every company you might end up hiring.

1. Is this company licensed through the FMCSA?

Why you should ask this:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a government agency that regulates commercial vehicle operations to guarantee safety for companies and consumers alike. Though FMCSA accreditation doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a mover will give you fair prices or top-notch service, it does indicate that a company isn’t just a front for a scam.

Since any company can say it’s properly accredited, even if it isn’t true, we recommend you check this one for yourself.

Here’s how:

FMCSA databaseEvery reputable moving company should list two numbers at the bottom of its home page: its MC # and its U.S. DOT #. These are identification numbers assigned to that company by the federal government. Plug either of these numbers into the FMCSA’s database and read the information listed under “Operating Status.” If it says “Authorized,” you’re good to go.

2. Is this company a broker or a carrier?

Why you should ask this:

All moving companies fall into one of three categories:

  • Brokers (also called brokerages)
  • Carriers (sometimes called van lines)
  • Broker/carrier hybrids

Brokers outsource their moving services to companies they have partnerships with. After you tell your broker about your move, it will post your information to a marketplace-type community board where its partners can bid on the job. Since multiple companies compete for your business, working with a broker can result in lower prices for you.

However, working with a broker also has its downsides.

For one, a crew from a different company than the one you talked to will actually show up to load and drive your belongings to your new home. It’s possible that this crew never even spoke to the broker. This can result in miscommunication and even additional costs and fees on moving day.

Carriers handle all of your moving services with their in-house staff, so your experience will almost always be more seamless than working with a broker. However, it can cost you a little extra.

Broker/carrier hybrids handle some moving services with in-house staff, but they outsource specialty services—typically jobs like auto shipping or piano transport—to other companies.

Before you work with a mover, it’s important to know how they operate and if a different company will actually be handling your belongings. Learn more about the different types of moving companies by checking out our guide to brokers and carriers.

3. What coverage options does this company offer?

Why you should ask this:

Moving coverage is an insurance-like service that covers the cost of your items if they break or go missing during transit.

All moving companies are required to provide basic liability coverage free of charge. This coverage insures your items for $0.30 per pound for intrastate moves and $0.60 per pound for interstate moves.

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HOW BASIC LIABILITY COVERAGE WORKS

HOW BASIC LIABILITY COVERAGE WORKS

Imagine you’re paying a company to move a 200-pound sofa. If your sofa falls out of the moving truck on the freeway and breaks into a hundred cozy pieces, your moving company would reimburse you only $60 if you were moving within the same state and $120 if you were moving to a different state.

That’s probably not enough to buy a new sofa. Luckily, some companies offer additional coverage options.

Full-value protection (FVP) covers your items for their current market value. If you have FVP and your sofa falls off the moving truck en route, you’d be reimbursed enough to repair it or buy a replacement of equal value. However, full-value protection usually costs extra and isn’t offered by every company.

Coverage options differ from one company to the next, and some companies offer their own home-brew coverage plans. You should always ask what coverage options a company offers before deciding to hire them for your move.

To learn more about moving coverage, go read our guide about moving insurance.

4. Can this company do everything I need?

Why you should ask this:

Moving companies aren’t created equal, and each one has a unique menu of services you can choose from when you’re planning your move. You should never assume a moving company offers a service you need.

Below are just a few of the services that a moving company might offer:

  • Loading and unloading
  • Packing
  • Custom crating
  • Furniture assembly/disassembly
  • Transportation for specialty items like pianos and hot tubs
  • Storage
  • Vehicle shipping
  • Cleaning services

However, for every company that offers one of the services we’ve listed, there is another company that doesn’t. If any of these services are crucial for your move, you should make sure that service is provided by any company you might hire.

5. Does this company provide binding estimates?

Why you should ask this:

Moving companies may give you an estimate designed to entice you with a low price. Unless that estimate is binding, the company could very well increase your price later on. Some moving companies are notorious for increasing their prices on moving day, long after it’s too late for you to find a different option.

You can avoid this situation by working with a company that provides binding estimates. Binding estimates ensure that your price won’t increase as long as your move goes as planned and you don’t add anything to your inventory at the last minute.

Of course, there are trustworthy moving companies that don’t offer binding estimates, so you shouldn’t necessarily be deterred by this.

6. Does this company have any hidden fees?

Why you should ask this:

Most moving companies that increase prices on moving day do so using hidden fees. These fees are either buried under mountains of legal-speak in your contract, misrepresented, or undisclosed before they show up on your final bill.

It’s also unlikely that you’ll get a straight answer from a customer service representative. If a company is hiding its fees, it probably directs its staff to hide them as well.

Instead, we recommend checking customer reviews to see if a company regularly charges surprise fees.

Of course, you should always take customer reviews with a grain of salt. Most of the time, they aren’t fact-checked, and they might be written by embittered customers who had a bad day.

Don’t let a single customer review change your perception of a company. However, if you find a consensus about hidden fees, we recommend finding a different company to work with.

7. How does this company calculate prices?

Why you should ask this:

Moving companies typically charge their customers based on several factors:

  • Shipment weight
  • Shipping distance
  • Seasonality
  • Hourly labor rates

Some companies might also add charges for things like fuel and specialty services.

Ask your mover how they calculate their prices so you can budget properly. Keep tabs on what your move requires and what the company says it charges for those services to ensure your final bill isn’t higher than it should be.

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Bonus question: Does this company offer price matching?

Bonus question: Does this company offer price matching?

We recommend gathering several quotes from competing companies, even if you know which one you want to work with. If one of these quotes is lower than the one you got from the company you’d prefer to hire, bring it in writing to your customer service rep. They may lower your price to match the competitor’s quote.

8. Does this company background check its employees?

Why you should ask this:

With a full-service move, strangers will come to your house, go through your things, pack them up, load them into a truck, and drive away with them. We get it—that can be a scary situation. While it’ll probably never be 100% comfortable, you can make it a lot less stressful by asking your company if it background checks its employees.

Background checks help movers weed out potential employees who have been fired from other companies for theft or damages. They also check employees’ permanent records to make sure they don’t have burglary charges or major drug offenses. This process ensures that a company sends only people it (and you) can trust into your home.

If a company doesn’t background check its moving crews, we recommend steering clear.

9. How does this company handle loss and damage claims?

Why you should ask this:

We’ve already talked about moving coverage, but there’s another side to it. Before you can get reimbursed for damaged or lost belongings, you need to contact your mover and go through its claims process.

Ask your customer service rep what the claims process is like so you know what your recourse is in case something breaks or goes missing en route.

As with hidden fees, you should also check a company’s customer reviews to get answers to this question. If multiple customers complain that they didn’t get reimbursed, consider hiring a different company.

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Protect yourself

Protect yourself

When your moving crew brings your stuff to your new house, carefully go through the itemized inventory they hand you to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is broken.

To make the claims process go smoothly, mark lost items on the inventory, take pictures of damages, and point broken items out to the crew so the company can’t claim that lost or damaged goods arrived at your house just fine.

10. Does this company offer shipment tracking?

Why you should ask this:

When you’re waiting for your furniture to arrive at your new home, it’s easy to get antsy and impatient, especially when you’re eating takeout on a picnic blanket in your empty dining room for the fourth night in a row.

Luckily, some moving companies offer shipment tracking so you can get real-time updates on your furniture. Shipment tracking ranges from GPS tracking through the company’s website to something as simple as calling the company and asking for an update.

Regrettably, this service isn’t always offered, and some companies that offer it don’t do it very well. While it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, shipment tracking can put your mind at ease during a long move.

11. Does this company guarantee delivery dates?

Why you should ask this:

All moving companies give estimates of when your stuff is likely to arrive, but unless they guarantee their delivery dates, they could very well be late without owing you anything.

When a mover guarantees your delivery date, it’s committing—in writing—to have your shipment at your new home by a specific day. If it isn’t in writing, then it’s not a guaranteed delivery date, even if a pushy customer service rep calls it one.

Of course, things happen, and sometimes trucks are late even if you have a guaranteed delivery date. If this happens, your mover should reimburse you for part of your payment. This doesn’t get your furniture to you sooner, but it’s hard to beat a discounted move, even if it’s a little late.

12. What if I need to cancel?

Why you should ask this:

There are countless good reasons to cancel your move. Maybe you didn’t get a job offer you were planning on, or maybe you simply decided you like it right where you are after all. Find out what your options are in case you need to cancel.

Some companies will let you cancel your move free of charge as long as you do so far enough ahead of schedule, and a few will even let you cancel the day before your move without a penalty.

Most, however, will keep all or part of your deposit if you cancel within a certain amount of time before your move, and there might even be extra fees for cancellation.

If there’s even a sliver of a chance that you won’t actually be moving, ask about your moving company’s cancellation policy before you sign any contracts.

13. How should I pay for my move?

Why you should ask this:

Moving can be extremely expensive, so you may end up needing to use your credit card to pay for it. Unfortunately, not all moving companies accept credit—or even checks—as payment.

Additionally, some might offer you a discount if you pay with cash up front.

Ask your mover which payment methods they accept so you’re prepared when the bill comes.

You can learn more about payment options by checking out our guide to paying for a move.

14. Does this company offer any discounts?

Why you should ask this:

Though it’s not standard practice in the moving industry, many moving companies offer promotions and discounts. Here are a few we see pretty regularly:

Companies offer these discounts to bring in more customers, so they’re usually pretty vocal about them. However, if a company doesn’t mention its discounts explicitly, it never hurts to ask.

Recommended resources

If you’re ready to look for your ideal moving company, start with these lists of companies that we recommend:

People also asked . . .

Moving is a complicated subject, and we couldn’t cover it all in this guide. Check out one of the guides below to get answers to your other burning questions:

Sources

About Joe Roberts

Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over three years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at Overstock.com, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.