Traverse City Record-Eagle

Real Estate News

July 23, 2012

How to Avoid Unscrupulous Moving Companies

Syndicated — The United States is a geographically mobile nation with nearly 17 percent of the population moving each year.

It should come as no surprise that the number of complaints filed against moving companies has steadily increased over the past decade. Do your research and learn the questions you should ask a potential mover.

Get recommendations

Ask friends about movers they've worked with and whether their experiences were positive.

Once you narrow down your choices, check them out with the Better Business Bureau. If one of the companies has complaints filed against it, take a pass. You also can contact the American Moving and Storage Association (moving.org) to learn if a company is a member, which means it has agreed to abide by the organization's guidelines. Don't eliminate a firm just because it doesn't belong - membership is optional.

Also, check out consumer advocacy sites including movingscam.com and Rip-Off Report (ripoffreport.com), which maintain lists of companies with a history of complaints.

Get several estimates

Ask your top three companies to conduct in-home estimates; do not rely on phone or online estimates.

An estimate is a document that, when signed by you and the moving-company representative, serves as your order for service and bill of lading. These, along with the inventory list created when your goods are loaded, are the basic documents any mover should provide.

Make sure the document is labeled "Written Binding Estimate" and is signed and dated by the mover. For an interstate move, the estimate should describe the type and quantity of goods you're shipping, distance to your new home, when your things will be picked up and delivered, and additional services and supplies the moving company is providing.

For an in-state move, for which you can't get a binding estimate, you should still get a written estimate that outlines hourly rates and additional costs you may incur (supplies, tolls, driving time).

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