Written by: Benjamin Smith | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Have you ever had to hire a moving service to help with your move? The process of hiring a mover may seem simple, but in the end, choosing the wrong one can have unpleasant consequences. Some of the most common complaints found in customer reviews relate to hidden fees, scams, and damaged goods.To help people avoid these moving pitfalls, we asked some experts in the moving industry for some insights. Here is what they have to say:
What are the most common hidden fees?
For those who do not have the ability to move all of their things by themselves, hiring a moving service is super important. Before doing so, there are some things that you should take into consideration. Luis Perez, Founder and CEO of Remoov, warns, "Very few things are more stressful during the moving process than being charged more than you anticipated paying." Here are some of the most common hidden, or extra fees that our panel of experts has identified:
You can end up with extra fees for everything from the number of stairs to the time of day, not to mention supplies, heavy items, etc. How you can protect yourself against unexpected costs is to ensure that you discuss and ask questions before starting the move.
— Ryan Carrigan, Cofounder of moveBuddha
Delayed delivery — Especially during the busy summer months, moving companies can take longer to deliver than usual. Many customers expect their items right away and don't plan for delivery lag time. This can add a lot of cost to your move if you have to stay in a hotel or go out and buy emergency supplies while waiting.
Packing materials — If you plan on preparing and packing fragile items like flat-screen TVs or glass table tops, make sure you meet the mover's packing standards. We often see people pack these items improperly only to be charged a lot in packing fees when the movers have to repack them on moving day. Always ask the moving company about packing requirements.
Shuttle truck — For those moving without a specific delivery address, there is a chance that when you find a place to live the 53-foot moving truck won't be able to park there. This means a smaller, shuttle truck will be required to do the local delivery. Shuttle truck fees can run hundreds of dollars. Make sure to get the price of the shuttle truck ahead of time in case you end up needing it.
Sometimes moving companies will adjust their costs based on travel time, weight of a shipment if going across state lines, or moving supplies.
— Lior Rachmany, CEO of Dumbo Moving + Storage
Excessive carry charge — If your movers can not park their moving truck in front of your building or house and they have to carry you items down the street, you could be looking at an extra charge. The greater the distance the movers have to carry your items, the longer your move will take (and the more difficult the move becomes) and that will cause the movers to be late to other moves that day.
Assembling/disassembling fees — Assembling and disassembling is an extra service that is usually offered by your moving company. If you want any furniture assembled or reassembled like a bookcase, bunk beds, Murphy beds, or an entertainment center. So make sure to take stock of everything that needs to be disassembled or you would like to be disassembled for you when you do your moving consultation so the movers will know beforehand what tools to take on their job.
Bulky or heavy items — If you have any items that need special handling please make sure to inform your moving company before the day of your move. There is usually an extra fee for certain items because they are more difficult to move and protect. For example, chandeliers, pianos, or pool tables require special handling and crating.
Last minute cancellation — Moving companies usually require a least a four-day notice for a cancellation of the move. Towards the end of the month, moving companies are at their busiest and may require a few more days’ notice to avoid a cancellation fee.
— Sara Cifani, Dumpsters.com
Some moving companies charge extra to move common appliances like refrigerators and washing machines and large items like hot tubs or pool tables. Fees for large items should especially be considered when moving in or out of a high-rise apartment where movers will need to navigate stairs or elevators.
What are the most common frustrations people have with moving companies?
Moving companies are not always upfront concerning ensuring cargo content make sure you are clear on what is covered versus what is not. Some companies won't cover boxes that are packed by the owner.
— Oshrin and Perumal
Each moving service handles specific charges differently. Here are some of the red flags to look out for: If a company changes the price last minute or if a company charges by the box or the number of items you put in the moving truck. Usually moving companies charge by the pound, and they have to give you a quote in the beginning. Make sure this is the case. Do your research and make sure that loading and unloading are included in your service.
Some moving companies may roll packing services up into their quote. This means that your quote will be much higher than you are hoping it to be if you plan to do all of the packing yourself. Make sure your moving company quotes the cost for your packing services separately.
— Mike Glanz, CEO and Cofounder of HireAHelper
In what ways do moving services take advantage of you?
You typically get what you pay for when it comes to moving services. The benefits of going with a professional moving company is that they usually have adequate insurance and also a tried and tested claims process if anything does go awry. Hiring a man with a van from Gumtree to do a move can often end in tears. We know of countless people who have skimped on the moving costs for expensive or one-off pieces off furniture and ended up getting burned whenever they weren’t adequately insured.
— David Ewart, Director at Pavilion Broadway
Besides taking too much money for the moving service, these are the most common signs that the moving company is a scam:
- False promises
- Wrong handling of your inventory
- Using bad-quality moving equipment and supplies
- Shady moving contract
- Bad communication skills
- Lack of flexibility when offering a moving service
Some moving companies might ask you to pay a deposit upfront or to sign a blank contract. Payment should not be made until the moving service is completed. Also, a trustworthy moving company will review all of the costs before asking you to sign so you can verify that the fees and anticipated moving dates are correct.
Rogue moving companies will often employ the "hostage" tactic — where they load your belongings into their truck, then suddenly demand an above-quoted price and keep your belongings under lock and key until you pay up. The U.S. Federal Government reports that 36 million people move every year, and one in 10 will report that their moving company is holding their furniture "hostage" for suddenly higher service fees.
How can you make sure that you are never swindled by a moving company?
In order to avoid a moving scam, the best advice is to give yourself time and find a moving company you can trust. When preparing for the move, it’s always better to start on time. Enough time to prepare for relocation will offer you more opportunities and help you avoid a moving scam.
First, talk or walk through the complete scope of service as well as the pick-up/drop-off locations, then get in writing any additional fees. Also ask for recommendations, of course, or check out online reviews.
Verify the mover's claims, credentials, and professional memberships — Scammers and fly-by-night operators won't be able to substantiate a good reputation. Ask for proof of licenses, insurance, etc.
Get it in writing — Get three written estimates from different movers based on visits to your home. Though most professional movers do give quotes over the phone, it’s still a good idea to get written documentation of all the services you are receiving. If an estimate seems too good to be true, it likely is. If at any point the services change, whether on your part or the part of the professional, ensure that these changes are documented and understood by both parties.
— Lisa Schiller, Better Business Bureau
A smart first step is to take a moving inventory. A reliable company will help you make a room-by-room list, including all of the items that need to be moved. This helps you to avoid losing items and calculate an accurate estimate.
To ensure that you never get swindled by a moving company, consider the following:
- Check for reviews and complaints through a neutral third party like the BBB, HireAHelper.com, or the AMSA ProMover program.
- Get a quote in writing with a clear understanding of every possible extra charge. The cheapest quote up front might end up costing thousands more in travel fees, gas surcharges, or anything else rogue movers can dream up to charge for.
- Book with someone that offers Full-Value Replacement Coverage. The industry's most basic and common form of insurance is Standard Repair Coverage. This level of insurance only offers $0.60 per pound per item towards replacement or repair. Heaven forbid the movers drop your 30-pound, $500 flat screen TV. With standard coverage, you’d only see an $18 check to cover your broken $500 TV. Most reputable moving services will offer another form of insurance, called Full-Value Replacement Coverage, which covers (just like it sounds) the full value of every item listed in your inventory. This coverage is generally available as a paid upgrade but is relatively cheap.
What should you do if the moving company damages your belongings?
Unfortunately moving personal and household effects, short or long distance, is not an exact science — things can and do wrong. Most movers will offer insurance, check the policy through to see what is and isn't covered, or speak to your own broker, but the key takeaway here is having some form of insurance. If you are a risk taker maybe just go for loss only (which means just that — the complete consignment is lost) or if you're the cautious type go for full cover, including breakage and individual loss. Yes, of course you'll pay a premium, over and above the removal cost, but it's like you insure your car. You don't plan on having an accident, but in the event that you do you are covered and won't personally bear the financial cost.
If you don't want insurance, check the mover's contract to see what, if any, liability they have if they destroy your possessions. Most moving companies will contract out of any liability, howsoever caused unless willful negligence (which is unlikely).
Your state or country will have some sort of Consumer Guarantee enshrined in law so check that out too. Remember that you are paying the movers to move your goods from A to B and get them there in the same condition, so they do have a responsibility in law to provide the service at a reasonable standard that you have contracted them for. How far you get though with compensation will depend on the contract you've signed with the mover.
— Matt Woodley, Founder of Moverfocus
A mistake a lot of customers make is they sign the delivery paperwork stating all items were delivered in good condition before actually inspecting all their belongings. Be sure to notate any damage prior to signing the delivery documents.
It is of the utmost importance for the customer to inspect the shipment with the movers before and after the job. If upon delivery the customers goods have been damaged, they should note it on the bill of lading or inventory, somewhere on the multipart move day documents that both the mover and the client will retain a copy of. Do not wait for after the movers leave to inspect your shipment. You will need to sign off on receipt of the goods, and any damage or loss needs to be noted ASAP on delivery.
— Nancy Zafrani, General Manager of Oz Moving and Storage