Contrary to the picture you’re getting from most of the media in this country, millions of people are still moving. They’re hiring movers, packing boxes, loading up the truck and moving on with their lives.
Most moves will be local. Others will be cross-country. There are simple moves and complex moves, but there is a method to the moving madness, according to Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO of the American Moving and Storage Association (www.amsa.org).
“The most important thing you need to do when you’re preparing for a move is to put your to-do list together,” she explains, adding that the hard part is figuring out how much stuff you’re trying to move and how long it will take you to get it all together.
“People lose perspective, and they get excited about their new house and they think about the house they’re leaving. Hiring a mover is at the bottom of their list,” she observes. “The first thing I’m going to do is figure out the mover I’m going to hire. It might not be sexy or glamorous, but it’s important.”
While not everyone needs a mover, or can afford to hire a professional company, the process of getting ready for a move remains the same, says Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Chicago region of the Better Business Bureau (www.bbbonline.org).
First, you have to figure out how you’re going to transport your stuff from your current home to your new home. If the amount is small, you may be able to use your car or borrow a friend’s van or truck. If the amount is larger, but you still feel you can move yourself without injury, you can hire a small moving truck.
If you decide to hire a moving company, Bernas suggests asking friends, family members and work colleagues for recommendations of moving companies with which they had a good experience.
“Ask your friends or family for movers with which they have felt comfortable. Then, get a listing of our accredited moving companies online. Do your own research and ask around,” he says.
There’s no easy way to pick a good mover, he admits. Finding a company that won’t rip you off requires you to do some serious homework.
“The Internet is a good tool but consumers need to realize that just because a company’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s a good company,” he warns.
Bauer Darr says you should check out the moving company in person. “The company’s office will mirror the kind of service you can expect, and will help you identify whether or not the movers are a real company.”
Each moving company must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA). Check out your mover online at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. You can use links on the site to check whether the company is licensed, bonded and insured.
Before you hire a mover, Bernas suggests asking how long the business has been operating (a fact you can check online with the agency that regulates businesses in your state); whether it has the proper insurance (ask to see a certificate); how personal goods are handled; what type of wrap is used; if climate-controlled trucks are used; if your items will be stored between a move, will the storage facility be climate controlled; can you speak with clients who have used the service; are the employees background-checked and are the individuals who will be moving your furniture employees or independent contractors.
Moving experts suggest you get estimates from at least three different moving companies. The best estimates come from a personal visit to the home, where the mover has the opportunity to assess how much stuff you have and accurately predict how long it will take to pack it onto the truck and unpack it at your new home.
“It is a hassle,” admits Bauer Darr. “Each one can take an hour or two but it’s well worth it.”
While the movers are there checking out your stuff, you should ask them how much they charge for moving supplies. Then, compare their price to the cost of buying moving supplies at office supply stores like Staples, Office Max and Office Depot, at Costco, or at other supply stores.
The cost savings can be significant. A mover might charge $2 or more per roll of 50 meter packing tape. You can buy the same stuff in a six-pack roll for $6.59 at Office Depot or buy nearly three times as much tape at Costco for $15.25.
Don’t underestimate the number (and sizes) of boxes, tissue and tape you’ll need, experts say. And if you’re packing up yourself, be sure to leave plenty of time. Any extra time the movers spend putting your stuff in boxes will be billed at the prevailing hourly fee, which can add up quickly.
With enough planning, everything can go smoothly with your move – unless you have the misfortune to hire a rogue mover or a scam moving company.
Next week, we’ll look at some different scams proliferating in the moving world, and what you can to do protect yourself. (See the link below.)