Start contacting movers at least one month ahead of time. Keep in mind that moving in summer (particularly near the end of a month) is like flying at Christmas.
Select a company from references given by friends or co-workers, for example ShipSmart. Check the company with your local consumer protection agency for a history of complaints.
Be aware that when you hire a nationally known moving company for an interstate move, you need to check out that company’s local agent.
Unless you are just moving a few items locally, get a “binding” estimate in writing. Binding estimates mean you can’t be required to pay more when your goods are delivered unless additional services are required (such as the need to use elevators or carry things down a long driveway).
Non-binding estimates are initially cheaper but you can wind up paying much, much more.
Get a copy of a signed and dated binding estimate and make sure it includes any extra charges, such as packing, warehouse handling, storage, travel time, fuel surcharge and containers.
On interstate moves, ask to have pick-up and delivery dates and a dollars-per-day penalty for late delivery spelled out on your contract. If the company can’t guarantee a delivery date, ask the driver, when he arrives to pick up your things, how many loads he has, where he’s going and where your goods will be in the truck. That may give you an idea of your chances of an on-time delivery.
On all moves, get pickup and delivery dates in writing. Do not accept “as soon as possible” in lieu of dates.
Do not release your goods at the movers’ minimum liability limit of 10 or 30 or even 60 cents per pound per article. Should your video camera be lost or damaged you may collect less than $1. Ditto your grandmother’s Waterford vase.
When movers limit their liability, they are required by law to offer valuation alternatives. Be completely sure of the coverage you have before you move.
Ask to see the moving company’s certificate of insurance for Worker’s Compensation (without it you could be sued if an employee is injured). Also ask to see proof of the company’s liability insurance (without it the company may not be able to pay should you need to file a claim).
Interstate movers by law must give you a copy of the Carriers Annual Performance Report.
When packing, number each box and write on it the room into which it should be delivered but never write the contents on the box.
Make a separate list of each box number and the contents of each box.
Do not pack family heirlooms, expensive jewelry or anything that is irreplaceable. Take these with you.
If your goods need to be stored, be sure to inspect the storage facilities in person for signs of leakage, rodent or insect infestation, etc.
If you did not get a binding estimate on an interstate move, the law says you do not have to pay more than 110 percent of the estimated cost when your goods are delivered (plus or minus any change orders). Interstate moving companies are not allowed to keep any of your possessions if you pay that amount. Call police if the driver objects and attempts to withhold some of your goods. You have 30 days to pay the balance.
The above rule does not apply to local/intrastate moves.
Be sure to have at least two other persons on hand to help you when your goods are delivered.
Do not sign a receipt for your goods until you have inspected each delivered item, checked it off your own inventory list and made a note of damages or missing items on your own inventory and that of the driver. Action solves problems and gets answers for you.