The Better Business Bureau said it received 8,486 complaints about movers in North America last year. Common complaints included final prices greater than original estimates, damaged or lost goods and, in the worst scenarios, movers who held belongings hostage until customers paid thousands of dollars. But consumers can avoid the same fate by following some simple guidelines for finding a mover. What to look for when researching potential movers: For interstate moves, make sure the mover is licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (you can double-check a mover’s license at www.protectyourmove.gov). You can also search for interstate movers and complaints about them here. For moves within states, check for similar resources in your state. In addition, regardless of the type of move, check to make sure the company has at least a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the trade association for moving and storage companies, interstate movers must be rated at least satisfactory to display the association’s ProMover logo and be considered “a quality, professional” mover.
Get a written estimate from several movers: According to guidelines recently released from the Better Business Bureau and American Moving and Storage Association, “no legitimate mover will offer to give a firm estimate online or over the phone.” Instead, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s guidelines for “choosing a reputable mover,” the estimate should be based on actually looking at your belongings. In addition, remember that the lowest estimate you receive may be an unrealistically low offer just to rope you in and you’ll end up having to pay more in the end, warned the Better Business Bureau and American Moving and Storage Association. Also, keep in mind that movers are required by law to deliver your goods for no more than 10 percent above a “nonbinding estimate” of what your mover believes the cost will be.
Watch for other red flags: Other signs of a rogue mover to watch out for, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, include the requirement of a cash or a large deposit before the move; a rental truck arrives on moving day; the mover’s telephone line isn’t answered with the company’s name; the mover claims all goods are covered by its insurance and the company’s Web site has no local address nor information about licensing and insurance.
In addition, for an interstate move, movers are required by law to give you a copy of a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” as you are planning the move (a book you should read before an interstate move to familiarize yourself with your rights).