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What You Need to Look for to Make Sure a Moving Company Is Legitimate

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerMar. 12, 2020
How to Make Sure a Moving Company Is Legitimate
Moving house is something that most will have to do several times during our lifetime. Whether it’s moving away for college, for a new job, or when you are ready to settle down and start a family, moving can be stressful and exhausting.

Hiring a reliable moving company may be more expensive than hauling your stuff on your own - but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Plus, not having to deal with it yourself may be worth the added cost. The typical range of cost for DIY moving runs between a few hundred dollars for local moves and several thousand for long-haul moves.

Between truck rental, packing equipment, gas, and other peripheral costs, hiring a moving company may actually save you money - but only if they’re a reliable and reputable company. Don’t fall prey to scammers or subpar movers who may break your precious property or rip you off. With over 7,000 certified moving companies across the US, finding one that works for you shouldn’t be difficult. Just take a bit of time to research companies before committing.

Read over our handy guide to finding a legitimate moving company before signing any contract, and you'll be on the way to crossing the threshold of your new home without hassle.

Make Sure You Can Find Them Online

Before you even reach out to a moving company for an estimate, there are a few things you can do to avoid wasting time on a less-than-reliable outfit. Even just searching for them online will let you know a bit more about whether or not they are legit. Reputable moving companies will have a website and an actual street address. Of course, even if there is a listed street address, it’s worth an extra couple of minutes to make sure it’s a valid one and not just a PO box or a front. Of course, it’s a good idea to hire local - this lets you get reviews from people in your area or even drop in on the company office, so you can check it out in person.

Check Their Business Certifications

Reputable movers will be registered or carry certificates attesting to their business practices. Moving companies that operate between states must be registered with the Department of Transportation, and 33 states also require that moving companies register with the DOT. This means that the company will have a license identifying commercial transport vehicles in interstate commerce. DOT-licensed movers must display their number both on their website and in any advertising, so a quick search will tell you a lot.

TheFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also issues carrier numbers to moving companies that you can check to make sure that a company is legitimate - this organization requires that moving companies offer free estimates, so one giveaway of a shady moving company is if they don’t comply with this regulation. The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA)is another organization that issues certification to moving companies, indicating that they are a legitimate service provider. One requirement to be certified is to agree to a thorough background check and to commit to upholding association standards. If the moving company is an AMSA member, you can rest assured that they are likely reliable and legitimate.

Request a Free Estimate

A reputable moving company registered with FMCSA is obligated to offer free estimates to potential clients, so this a great way to narrow down your search. These estimates are offered after in-home consultations where the movers will get a good understanding of the size of your move, whether you have specialty items to move, and other indicators that will let them give you an accurate estimate. It’s a good idea to get at least three estimates in writing and following an in-house appraisal. If the estimate you are given seems too low in comparison to others in the running, this is suspicious. Of course, if the company only wants to give an estimate by phone without sending a representative over, then this is a dead giveaway that something is amiss.

Create a Checklist

Comparing moving companies will give you a better idea of who is trustworthy and who will break your grandmother’s china without compensation. To accurately gauge how they stack up against each other, consider using a checklist. This will let you compare like to like. Here are a few of the questions to include when weighing your options:

  • Was the company representative professional, responsive, and courteous during initial contact?
  • Was it straightforward to book a home consultation, and did they show up on time? 
  • During the home assessment, did the representative answer your questions and address any moving day concerns?
  • Are the moving trucks recent models in good condition?
  • Is the company available for the dates that you need them, and what is the estimated time necessary for the move?
  • How many years has the company been in business?
  • Are all workers legal, experienced, and insured?
  • What extra services does the company offer (i.e., storage, professional packing, packing materials, oversized items)?
  • Is the company licensed?
  • What insurance or liability coverage does the company offer?

Read Reviews

In today’s online world, it’s easier than ever to vet potential service providers, including moving companies. Look for review sites or search the net to see what comes up when you type in the company name. It’s likely that if there have been complaints against the prospective moving company in the past, then they’ll pop up. You can also see if complaints have been lodged against a company through the Better Better Business Bureau(BBB). For over a century, this organization has helped consumers across North America vet potential companies. The BBB has over 20,000 moving companies rated on their site, including complaints or actions against them, so this is a very useful resource for weeding out shady prospects.

Don’t Give a Large Deposit

While many moving companies will require some kind of a deposit for you to secure your booking, anything over 20% of the total estimate should raise red flags. Look out for companies that only require payment upon delivery, and if you are asked for a deposit, don't give it in cash - this will make it impossible to recover if the deal goes south. One worst-case scenario is hiring a disreputable moving company that tries to shake you down for more money by refusing to release your property. If this happens, contact the police immediately - this is illegal.

Use a Comparison Tool

Now that you are armed with information begin your search using a handy website delivering quotes from a range of reputable moving companies. Top moving companies let you cut through the clutter and access multiple moving companies with one quick search. Once you have a couple of decent quotes, go through the checklist we included above and make sure you get quality moving services at a fair price.

Happy moving!

Sarah PritzkerBySarah PritzkerMar. 12, 2020