Choosing a Moving Company

Moving home is often quoted as being one of the most stressful experiences we ever go through in our lives. The whole process of packing up our belongings, leaving our home and moving to pastures new is bad enough – add to that the fact that we have to entrust our possessions and their transport to complete strangers and it’s no wonder our stress levels soar!

The problem is we don’t tend to move often enough in our lives to make it a process we get used to. We’re generally all novices when it comes to moving and it shows! But, like any process, moving is all about being smart and knowing what you’re doing. You’re about to find out more about the hardest part of the process – choosing a moving company. You’ll find more information on the other ins and outs of moving on the menu on the left of the page.

Choosing a good moving company is difficult. We’ve all heard horror stories from friends and families about disreputable companies and it’s vital to sort the good from the bad as soon as you can. Wherever you live, you can guarantee that there will be various moving companies just waiting to help you out. Your hardest task is choosing one that’s right for you – it’s vital that you get this choice right. Getting it wrong can cost you time, money and heartache. Choosing a moving company is very much an individual choice and your decision should be tailored to your actual needs.

Nowadays, moving companies can offer you a wide range of services on top of their basic removal competencies. These can include packing, the sale or hire of packing materials, unpacking and storage facilities. Some companies will even pack your possessions, transport them, clean your new home, unpack your possessions and arrange them at the other end according to your instructions. These additional services will obviously cost you more money.

As a guideline you should have chosen your moving company at least 4-8 weeks before your moving day. Leave it too long and you’ll find that the good companies are fully booked and you’ll have less choice in the matter. It’s far better to choose and book your company as far in advance as possible. You should be talking to your shortlist as soon as you have an estimated moving day. Bear in mind that movers are often busy at the end of the month, on Fridays and at weekends and may charge more for these premium times. Many will tell you that they have certain quiet days – such as Mondays – they may even be prepared to offer you a discount to move during their less busy periods. It’s always worth asking!

To make the best choice, you need to think about what you want from a move – and the first thing you should do before contacting moving companies is to make a quick checklist of what you need them to do. This list will help you get the best quotes, as you’ll be able to be very exact about your needs. Examples include:

  • Your preferred moving dates
  • Are you looking to move locally, long-distance or, even internationally?
  • Do you want help with packing, want to hire/buy packing materials or simply want to pack up yourself?
  • Will you need the moving company to transport valuable or fragile items?
  • Do you just want to hire a vehicle to move yourself?
  • Do you need storage facilities?
  • How much stuff do you have?
  • How much insurance will you need?

The best way to find a reliable moving company is by recommendation or reputation. If someone you know has had a good experience then copy it! You do still need to be careful, however. If a local moving company successfully moved your mother-in-law across town, they won’t necessarily have the skills, resources and experience to move you internationally, for example. Talk to your realtors or estate agents – they should be able to give experienced and knowledgeable recommendations. If you’re looking to move relatively close to home then a quick and easy way to spot local companies is to keep your eyes peeled on the street as soon as you start thinking about moving. You’ll see the vehicles of certain movers time and time again and you can take some comfort from the fact that they are busy.

Many of us will simply pick a moving company from a Yellow Pages type directory or from an Internet search. Some of us will simply choose a known name – i.e. a national company – and others may opt for a smaller local company. In all cases, it’s especially wise to choose companies that have taken the time and trouble to become accredited members of a moving association or trade body. You can assume from this that they take themselves seriously and you can probably do the same too. They will probably have to adhere to certain standards and you’ll have recourse to action if you do have problems. But you should still beware – if you are at all suspicious, check out their membership. You can even ask them for referrals from previous satisfied customers. You don’t have to follow up on this but, if the company seem less than keen to let you talk to people they’ve dealt with in the past, then you need to start thinking hard about whether they’re right for you.

When you’ve drawn up a shortlist of potential moving companies you need to start the negotiation process. You’ll find a wide variety of costs and services out there and various types of pricing. Some companies will charge you on an hourly rate, some by estimated volume based on the rooms of your current property, some by estimating what types of furniture and goods you need to move and others by the estimated weight of your load.

It’s wise to draw up a quick list before you start talking to people, as you don’t really want to be thinking on your feet here. Write down how many rooms you have, list big items of furniture and try to estimate how many boxes you’ll be packing. The easiest way to do this is to mentally go through every room in your house, list the big items and then work out how many boxes it’ll take to remove the rest of the stuff in the room. Don’t forget to think about garden furniture and the contents of your garage! Don’t worry about it being exactly right – the moving companies don’t expect it. But it won’t suit either of you if you get it completely wrong and they send a mini-sized vehicle for a juggernaut-sized job! If in doubt ask a couple of the moving companies for advice on how to estimate. You’ll be surprised at how helpful they’ll be – many will happily send estimators to your home to put together a quotation, especially if they price by weight.

When it comes to costs, you should be looking to get at least 2-3 quotes before you make a decision. Don’t just look at price but look at what they’ll offer you for the cost. It may be more cost effective to pay a little more to get more services. Don’t be afraid to ask them about how long they’ve been in business, their experience or for customer referrals. Talk to them about how long it will take to move you. DO ask them about their insurance cover and claims protection and how far it extends (and doesn’t!). You should NEVER choose a moving company that doesn’t have adequate insurance. It’s also important to get a quote in writing and to make sure that you completely understand how the quotation works. This is one of the times in your life when it really does pay to read the small print. For example, some moving companies won’t cover you for damage if you pack goods yourself unless they play an obvious role in damaging them. You must make sure that they not only explain your quote to you but that you get a full copy that includes any relevant terms and conditions, bills of lading etc. It’s also good to ask how many people will be assigned to your move – the more there are, the quicker it’ll go. Most people generally find that 3 is an ideal number – this gives you 2 people to do most of the loading/unloading and 1 to sort out the vehicle. It also means that somebody is with your possessions most of the time for added security.

You need to be particularly careful if your moving estimate is based on weight. This type of quotation has specific problems, as it is hard to estimate the weight of goods before you actually weigh them. In these cases, an estimator will generally work out the weight for you before you are given a price. But, your goods will be weighed once they are packed up and, if the weight is higher than the estimate, you might be liable for extra costs. In these cases always check first about how the moving company’s system works and establish how binding their quotation is or isn’t. If you run into problems here, you really will be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Refuse to pay excess charges and the mover will simply hang on to your possessions until you resolve the dispute. It’s vital to spend time here assessing the company. For example, you have the right to be present when your goods are weighed to check the accuracy of the process and you can ask for a reweigh if you aren’t sure – make sure that the company agrees to this upfront.

Once you have talked to your shortlist of moving companies and have read through their quotes, you’ll be ready to make your choice. You may simply choose on cost or may prefer to go with the company with which you feel most comfortable. Once you’ve made a decision you’ll probably be asked to sign some kind of confirmation that outlines your agreement. This is always a good idea, as all parties then know where they stand. All you need to do now is get ready for your moving day – just don’t forget to give your movers a call a few days beforehand to confirm your arrangements!