How to Keep the Move to Your New Home from Becoming a Nightmare

Every year, nearly 36 million Americans move — and whether that move is around the block or across the country, the process is almost always stressful.

How much will it cost? What if all your stuff doesn’t fit in the moving truck? How will you get your couch down the stairs? Getting ripped off by a dishonest moving company or rogue mover is the last thing anyone needs.

Yet about 3,000 people make complaints about their movers annually, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which has coordinated the Protect Your Move consumer-protection program.

The offenses can range from goods delivered late or not at all, to charges that were far more than what was originally agreed upon. Fortunately, there are some proactive measures you can take to ensure your move goes smoothly.

“You want to make sure you hire a reputable mover and that you have a full understanding of the process so you’re not surprised by anything,” says Mike Keaton, the director of public relations for American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

1. Start with referrals and do your research

Ask your friends and family which moving companies they’ve used and liked. Once you’ve compiled a list, you can investigate each business.

  • Get the company details To ensure you’re hiring a reputable mover, first talk to a company rep and get the full company name and any doing-business-as names or company aliases, and ask how long they’ve been in business. Make sure they have working phone numbers, a website and a physical address.
  • Verify their license and registration If you’re moving between states, check to make sure your mover is registered with FMCSA. The latter also tracks complaints filed against companies. States have varying regulations, so if you’re moving in-state, check with your state’s regulatory agency.
  • Look for reviews In addition to the FMCSA, several organizations including the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List and even Yelp offer customers a chance to review, recommend and make complaints about companies. You can also check with AMSA, which certifies quality movers via their ProMover program.

2. Before you decide, get estimates

Keaton advises getting in-home, written estimates from at least three different movers. A representative of the company should come to your home to see what needs to be moved and give you a quote. Take the time to ask what services their fee covers. Also beware of any mover that pressures you into making a decision on the spot. “That’s a red flag,” Keaton says.

3. Put everything in writing

Once you’ve selected a mover, get your contract with them in writing and make sure you understand everything in the document before signing it. Ask about how to insure your goods for the journey, and then be sure to contact your renters’ or homeowners’ insurance provider to start coverage on your belongings as soon as they arrive at your new residence.

Get the name and phone number of the truck driver, and give him or her your contact information as well. And finally — even after taking all these precautionary steps — take your valuables and irreplaceable items with you.

Moving is no small task, but taking the initiative to find a reputable mover can help ensure your transition to your new home is as smooth as possible.