Might there be a move in your future? If so, brace yourself: Moving is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful things human beings ever do.
That said, it’s possible to reduce at least some of that anxiety by working with a company or with individuals you trust and knowing you’re not paying too much. The following tips can make it easier for you to ask the right questions, hire the right help and avoid spending too much.
1. Shop around. In addition to getting prices from full-service moving companies and U-Haul-type options that have you do all the work yourself, look into how much it would cost to use a shipping container or an over-the-road truck-trailer. Those two alternatives involve dropping an empty box in front of your home. You do all the packing, filling up and unloading of the box, but someone else drives the truck for you.
2. Talk to folks you know. Ask people who recently moved about their experiences. Find out whether they would hire the same moving companies again.
3. Get at least three written estimates. Estimates should include prices for specific services such as loading and unloading the truck if you hire someone to do that; making deliveries to multiple destinations; special handling for breakables and valuables; short- or long-term storage; and relocation of cars, boats and items now in storage.
4. Ask detailed questions. Will packing materials be included in the overall price, or will you be charged for them separately? If you hire a full-service company, will the mover take beds apart, remove pictures from walls and prepare major appliances for the trip?
5. Choose an estimate. Estimates can be binding, meaning the mover guarantees the price before the move, or non-binding, meaning the mover estimates the price and provides final charges after the shipment is weighed. While non-binding estimates usually reflect an amount less than what you’ll actually pay, movers can’t charge you more than 10 percent above the estimated price.
6. Don’t fall for hype. Be suspicious of unusually low prices or promises that sound too good to be true – especially if they’re given to you over the phone or Internet without an inspection of your belongings. If one mover’s estimate is much lower than the others, be sure the company is willing to make the estimate binding.
7. Investigate the company. Check the mover’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau and with your state’s consumer affairs or attorney general’s office. (To start the process of figuring out where to call in your state, click here.) If you’re moving across state lines, make sure the mover is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration by visiting this site.
8. Get the right insurance. The standard “released value” protection offered by most movers provides only 60 cents per pound of damaged goods. Consider paying more for “declared value,” “lump-sum value” or “full-replacement value” coverage instead. Also, find out whether your homeowners policy covers any aspect of your move, and check to make sure the mover has an appropriate level of insurance by calling the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at (202) 385-2423.
9. Read the contract carefully. The final contract between you and your mover is called the bill of lading. Read it before you sign it, and keep it handy until your shipment is delivered and all charges and claims, if any, are settled.
10. Seek out tax breaks if you can. You’ll get a break if you move more than 50 miles for a new job. The moving expense deduction is an “adjustment to income,” so it’s available to you whether or not you itemize deductions.