Whether you’re off to college or moving the contents of your entire home or office, starting out fresh is exciting. But before you can get settled in your new place, you have to get your stuff from A to B. Hiring professional movers can make it easier, but chances are that things will go more smoothly if you stay organized and plan ahead. Follow these tips to arrive at your new digs calmly and confidently:
1. Do a little digging
If you trust all your stuff to the first moving company that pops up on Google, you are putting yourself at risk of having items lost or damaged with no recourse. After all, anyone can make a web page calling themselves a mover, but their business may not be credible, and they may not even be operating legally.
Since you’re trusting a moving company with your valuable belongings, make sure the company is not only legit, but also reliable. Start by asking for recommendations from trusted family and friends. Once you’ve compiled a short list of companies, power up your computer for some digging:
- Visit protectyourmove.gov to make sure the movers on your list have good records. Request U.S. DOT numbers from the companies you’re considering. Enter the numbers on Protect Your Move to view information including licensing, safety rating, complaint history, and whether they are insured against injuries to their workers and damage to their property. Glance over the company’s contact information to be sure it matches the details provided by the company.
- Review complaints about the companies logged on the Better Business Bureau website.
2. Make sure you’re covered
Imagine the absolute heartbreak of seeing a mover drop a box of your wedding china, or finding out that your favorite pair of diamond earrings is nowhere to be found once you’re in your new place. These things happen, even when you are selective about which moving company you hire. Although you can’t always recover the emotional attachment you felt for a lost or damaged item, you can make sure you are fairly compensated in the financial sense. That’s why it’s important to understand the insurance being offered by the company, and to supplement it with your own policy if you want more protection for your most treasured items.
Movers are federally required to offer two different types of insurance options to protect your belongings:
- Full Value Protection: The mover generally must repair your damaged items, or replace lost or damaged items with something similar. The mover may also reimburse you for the market value of the item. High-value items that are worth more than $100 per pound may be limited, unless they are specifically listed on shipping documents. Make sure you ask your potential movers what their policies are for high-value items. You should also find out what the cost is for full value protection, and whether deductibles may reduce your cost.
- Released Value: Moving companies should not charge for this type of coverage, since it is the minimum amount they are responsible for on damaged or lost items. The dollar amount the company could owe you equates to $0.60 per pound, per item. Released value insurance should only be offered if you turn down full value protection.
Some moving companies offer optional third party insurance to supplement released value coverage. In this situation, the mover is still liable for $0.60 per pound, per item, and an outside insurance company provides additional coverage. You may purchase insurance through a company of your choosing if you prefer, but check first to see if your homeowner’s policy protects against moving damage or losses.
Don’t forget to find out if the insurance policy has specific provisions for packing of hazardous materials, and whether or not you can do any packing on your own.
3. Call around to get the best rates
Some movers have more overhead costs than others, causing major differences in pricing. They may even charge more when they know you aren’t considering any other companies.
Invite at least three separate movers to provide written estimates. Be clear in showing the movers all the items that must be moved, and go over any special provisions you require. If a hired mover feels that you failed to disclose all the work necessary, he may try to charge more than the estimated figure on moving day. The mover should, however, inform you that he intends to up the charges before he begins to remove your items.
If you’re mover doesn’t have an agreement at the ready, here’s a moving contract you can create yourself.
4. Be a list person
It’s smart to use a moving checklist, because it’s so easy to get confused amid the chaos on moving day. If you aren’t completely sure you accounted for all your items to be moved, your mover may try to charge you an amount that’s higher than your estimate. It’s also easier for items to become lost or left behind when they haven’t been inventoried.
Conduct a detailed inventory of all the items to be moved. Make special note of items that are worth more than $100 per pound, in case additional documentation is required for insurance. Once you’ve hired a mover, have him go through the inventory with you (either on moving day or during a separate appointment). He should have his own inventory sheet. Make sure it matches up well with yours. Also, if the two of you are together you can resolve any questions that come up about specific items.
5. Stay around to help
Although the movers will be the ones doing most of the packing and lifting, you should spend as much time as possible overseeing things. If questions come up about how a fragile item should be packed, or whether a very expensive item was properly documented, you can save yourself a lot of hassle (and extra $$ if you’re being charged by the hour) instead of leaving it up to the mover to track you down for clarification.
The mover will provide you with a Bill of Lading, which is a receipt for your items and a transportation contract. Read this document carefully. There should be no errors, and the information should be consistent with your estimate. Keep the Bill of Lading in a safe place until all your items are delivered and looked over, and any claims are settled if necessary. Keep a copy of your mover’s contact information with you, and give him a phone number where you can be reached. Look the house over as the truck is about to leave, making sure nothing was left behind.
6. Make sure things arrive safe and sound
If you bring up potential problems while the movers are still around, they can fill you in if, for example, an item you think is lost was actually placed on a different truck, or an item you think is broken was actually just dismantled to fit in the box.
Check items off your inventory sheet as they are moved from the truck and into your home. Make notes if anything looks damaged, and give all your items a thorough review once you’re totally unpacked. Check your delivery receipt to see if there’s any wording that releases the mover from liability for your items within 90 days of the delivery date.
7. Damage? Don’t walk away empty-handed
Even the most diligent movers can make mistakes from time to time. If you end up with a lost or damaged item after you move, make sure you get compensated.
Record details about lost or damaged items, and take photographs if possible. You generally have 90 days to file an insurance claim for replacement, repair, or reimbursement. Keep all correspondence with the insurance company and moving company until your claim has been resolved to your satisfaction.
Hardly anyone looks forward to the actual process of moving, but if you plan ahead and get it done the right way, and you’ll be relaxing in your new home in no time.