There are more than 5800 U.S. licensed household movers and yet the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has reported an increase in the complaints against movers – from 2.851 complaints in 2011 to over 3100 in 2012. So, it turns out that despite the variety of possibilities out there, it is not so easy for consumers to make the right choice. Regardless of the regulatory agencies’ efforts made to fight rogue moving practices, as licensed movers can legally limit their liability through overwhelming loads of paperwork (consumers get at the last minute), it shouldn’t be a surprise that complaints continue to increase. So checking the mover’s operating authority (USDOT number) is a must, but shouldn’t be the only research you make when hiring movers. There is a whole list of do’s and don’ts for hiring movers:
Do: Check whether mover is licensed. Access to licensed movers’ and brokers’ records is public. Consumers can go to the FMCSA website. By just filling in the USDOT number or the name of the mover, consumers can confirm legitimate status and check mover’s complaints history. If it’s an overseas move, movers (OTIs) must be registered with the Federal Maritime Commission. The FMC provides a list with licensed ocean transportation intermediaries.
Don’t: Do not just assume movers are licensed because they say so.
Do: Check other credentials such as membership in recognized association/s. Look up Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and scrutinize reviews. Some reviews’ websites give the opportunity to contact reviewers. Get as much information on movers as you can, do not pick a mover randomly.
Do: Look for movers based in your city/state and ask for a binding estimate after a visual survey of your household furniture. Movers are by law obliged to execute visual surveys of consumers’ items if the place of their business is located up to 50 miles from consumer’s home. Especially for big moves, the most accurate estimates are the on-site ones. Ask for at least 3-5 moving quotes.
Don’t shop by price only. If a quote is significantly lower than others, be suspicious. You are most probably on the hook of some rogue mover. Mind that in the end you always get what you pay for.
Don’t pay that outrageously high deposit! During peak season (summer) movers may ask for a booking fee, but asking for thousands of dollars before the move has started should be an alert.
Don’t pay cash for the moving service. In case of an issue, you won’t have any evidence of payment. If movers insist on paying cash only, do not agree.
Do: Ask for an arbitration program in advance. Movers are obliged to provide dispute settlement program to their customers. Be aware of how and under what terms you can file a claim in case of a dispute.
Do: Ask for waiver of valuation coverage. Movers can legally limit their liability under certain circumstances. Your mover may assume no responsibility for damage or loss to china, breakable and fragile items, unless they are packed and unpacked by the carrier itself. Movers won’t be liable for internal damages to electronic devices or machines, regardless of the fact that they might be packed by the mover. Your mover won’t be liable for jewelry, furs, art collections, stocks, picture albums, antiques and cash, or items valued at more than $100 per pound, unless additional written agreement is made upon reservation. Hazardous materials are forbidden too – flammables, corrosive, perishable items, liquids – not allowed in the truck.
Do: To avoid surprises and save money when moving, ask movers to provide you with a list of charges on accessorial services. Some of those are packing, storage, shuttle service, long carry, hoisting, stairs, and fuel surcharge.
On moving day, do check whether your estimate describes each service and its rate as it is. Never sign blank or incomplete estimate or “Revision written estimate”. Check whether everything is noted in the inventory.
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