According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 35 million Americans move each year. And, although most movers are reputable companies, the number of complaints is on the rise. Moving into a new home is an exciting event, but the reality is that it’s often stressful for the entire family. That is why the U.S. Government has partnered with the moving industry and various consumer groups to help educate the public in an effort to keep them from being taking advantage of by dishonest movers. Because the process can be rather stressful and overwhelming, you don’t want to procrastinate by waiting until the last minute to start planning. Doing so can lead to poorly packed boxes, unorganized preparation and unnecessary chaos. If you have a big move coming up, don’t despair. With some advanced planning and good packing advice, you can make the process less stressful and more enjoyable.
Let the Professionals Handle the Move
If you have never hired a professional moving company before, Eddie Giles, the proprietor of Professional Movers Incorporated (www.professionalmoversofcharlottesville.com), suggests you begin the search by checking your local phone book. Furthermore, this task can also be accomplished by doing a Google search on the Internet for local moving companies within your locale. According to Giles, some movers will have customers complete an online estimate sheet in order to provide an estimated cost and time. However, if you are moving out of the state, they will give you an estimated weight as well, he adds. Giles doesn’t believe that this is the best practice for providing an accurate estimate. Instead, he suggests that you have the mover come to your current residence and give you a visual estimate. In his opinion, a visual estimate eliminates any frustrations down the road, especially when the customer receives the final bill that exceeds the initial estimated quote. Furthermore, Giles says be prepared for “sticker shock” because prices have changed. If your last move was say 20 years ago, be prepared to pay a much higher premium today. “I’m going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, not what you want to hear,” says Giles. “I’d rather let you know up front what to expect cost wise, rather than quote something ridiculously low because, at the end of the day, doing so makes me untrustworthy.”
Charlottesville has a lot of moving companies popping up constantly, providing customers with many choices and options. But keep in mind, “not all movers are the same,” adds Giles. According to Giles, some of these companies do not have trucks, they don’t have licenses, they don’t carry insurance, they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance, and they don’t have a full-time staff. His advice, “Buyers beware when you are looking for a mover.” When doing your due diligence on a mover, you want to start with the Better Business Bureau. Although many movers are not members, using this avenue for research can help when gathering information regarding customer complaints. In addition, you can go to www.protectyourmove.com and pull up any mover in the United States. If they are not registered with this website, then it’s questionable because all moving companies are supposed to be registered and in their database, according to Giles. You can provide the company’s name, their Department of Transportation number (DOT) or their Motor Carrier number, and their information should instantly pull up, giving you some idea about the company. Giles says that this is particularly important to do if you are moving out of state.
You Pack They Haul
If you have decided to go with a professional moving company but the cost is a looming factor, you could save money by packing yourself and letting the moving company haul everything away. If you do pack yourself, it is very important that you label your boxes: what’s in your boxes, where they need to go in the house, and into what rooms. However, with furniture you don’t necessarily need to label it, says Giles, but once the movers bring it into the house you can show them the designated location. To further make this process run smoothly, Giles likes to visit the new home location when possible (which many moving companies don’t do) because it allows him the opportunity to assess any unforeseen problems before the actual move day. “If I have any questions about driveways, or trees hanging down or the stairways, or questionable pieces of furniture not fitting, I can decide what method we need to use to get it into the house,” he says.
Although packing yourself can help with the cost, keep in mind that many movers will tell you that they are not responsible for damages, according to Giles. For example, if you do not pack a box correctly and you hear something rattling inside, that means the box is not properly packed and the mover should not take it. However, if they do move the box, and you notice that the box is flatten, that means that the movers possibly sat something on top of the box and damaged the items. In this instance, Giles believes that the mover should bear some responsibility for the damages. Although you packed it, they stacked it wrong. Labeling and packing the contents within the boxes properly is very important because it helps the movers strategically stack and place items on the truck.
According to Student Services Moving & Storage Co.’s website, if you have oversized furniture and you are moving into an apartment, there is a possibility that it won’t fit. By measuring your items and the dimensions of your new location, for example, elevators, stairways, door jams, and corners you can avoid surprises and eliminate unnecessary stress on move-in day. Student Services also suggests that you empty your refrigerator, defrost your freezer and disconnect your washer and dryer. Student Services advises that if you are packing your items, you should use an excessive amount of paper on your fragile possessions. Make sure that you label each box and make note of the contents inside and where they should be placed in your new home. In addition, Student Services believes in making use of all available space, which is why they advise packing linens and clothes in drawers, chests, and trunks, and loose items in trashcans.
Whether you plan to go with a professional moving company, or handle the move yourself, Bob Hughes, of Nest Realty (www.nestrealty.com), believes that it’s a good idea to begin planning four to five months out. Doing so allows the homeowner time to de-clutter, and get rid of items that they no longer need or want anymore. It can also help the homeowners’ wallet because they won’t have the extra cost of hauling items to their new location only to later trash them.
Giles also wants homeowners to keep in mind that going with the cheapest price might not work in their favor. For example, according to Giles, if you hire a mover that doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, and the employee gets hurt inside your home or falls down the steps on your property, then the consequences could mean a big lawsuit. Since the employee doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, and he wants to get paid for his injury, he will most likely sue your homeowners insurance, or even worse, you. So taking the risk of hiring an uninsured moving company could prove to be a very expensive consequence later.
If you have items in a storage facility, there is an additional charge. “Extra stop, extra pickup, extra drop off,” means an added charge, says Giles. It is important to let the mover know during the initial assessment because the mover needs to know what’s involved, what size storage unit, where it’s located, etc. All this factors into the final estimate or cost of your move. For example, if you are moving items out of a home and into a storage unit because you have sold your current home and are waiting to close on another, you just can’t take those items to storage and set them in place. It’s like putting a puzzle together, he says. For instance, when Charlottesville Professional Movers put items in storage, the way it comes off the truck is the way it goes back on—in reverse. If the customer wants to save money, having that storage unit packed correctly initially could save them both time and money in the long run. In addition, the homes levels will determine the final cost as well. A homeowner moving into a one level home can expect a different cost than someone moving into a two or three level home with a basement.
Furthermore, if the storage unit was not professionally stacked and packed by his company, Giles says that he likes to visit the storage unit, if possible. Normally, he would not look at units that are 5 x 10 because you can only fit so much into them. However, if his customer has a 10 x 20 or 10 x 30 storage unit, he typically makes the trip to the unit, because in his experience, often times people get larger storage units to accommodate what they thought was a lot. But, what he has discovered is that many of these units are not filled to capacity. By making this trip, it usually means a great savings for his customers.
Making Sure Your Valuables Are Covered
If you are still not sure whether you want to hire a professional licensed moving company, or you just can’t afford one, if you have a homeowner’s policy, some of your valuables might be covered during a move, according to John Egan, editor-in-chief at Spare Foot, the country’s largest marketplace for finding and booking self-storage. Even if you lack homeowner’s insurance, or your current policy doesn’t cover your property while in transit, during a state-to-state move you should be covered, he said. Under federal law, a registered moving company must offer two types of liability coverage: released value protection and full value protection. Release value coverage reimburses up to 60 cents per pound and comes at no additional cost to consumers. On the other hand, full value coverage comes at an extra cost and covers about one percent of the value of your belongings. Egan suggests that you understand what’s covered and what’s not before you allow the moving company to load a single box into a truck.
In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates interstate movers, warns consumers against signing a delivery receipt for household goods if they “spot language about releasing the company or its partners from any liability.” Furthermore, you should keep valuables like “cash, credit cards, coin collections, jewelry, irreplaceable photographs and critical documents like birth certificates and passports” with you, according to Egan. Hughes says that he would not let movers handle anything that is confidential, personal and important. However, things like utility bills, receipts and other non sensitive items can be handled by the mover, but “any personal financial documents should stay with you.” Although some of these items can be replaced with just a phone call, keeping them with you saves the added hassle.
It’s no mystery that a well planned and organized move will make your life so much easier. And for many, hiring a professional moving company is the perfect solution for a stress free transition. However, for many consumers hiring professionals is just not the most economical or cost effective solution, which is why you should turn to organizations like the American Moving & Storage Association, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather helpful moving tips that can potentially save you money and valuable time. Whatever route you decide to take, don’t let your move in day have you pulling out your hair.
By Janet Thomson
Janet Thomson is a freelance writer, copywriter and military wife residing in Charlottesville.