Here’s Some Practical Advice on Avoiding Scams When Hiring a Moving Company

I have never been scammed by a moving company, because I have never used one. The last time I remember seeing a moving company truck at my home was when Mayflower moved my family from Maine to Denver in 1953. As an adult, I always used U-Haul trucks until I bought my first box truck as a Realtor in 2004.  

So, I have no personal experience to call upon when it comes to being scammed by movers, but, according to a federal agency, 1 in 10 consumers falls victim to a moving scam. That agency, which is part of the Dept. of Transportation, is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Stop Moving Scams in their Tracks” is just one useful section at fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move.

I was reminded of this topic last week as Rita’s son and daughter-in-law hired a moving company to move from L.A. to Denver. They described the experience of hiring and working with their movers as nightmarish. Coincidentally, this week I also received and read a blog post on this subject by Anita Clark, a Coldwell Banker agent in Florida.  Much of the following is inspired by (or from) her useful blog post.

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to have a written contract that clearly states what the mover will do as part of the terms of the contract. If the contract is vague or does not specifically identify what they are responsible for, you will need to resolve those issues before signing any contract. You do not want to get caught with questionable fees at the end of your move.

As with anything in life, if a mover’s quote looks too good to be true, it probably is. Quotes from legitimate companies should be within 10% of each other. If one quote is much lower, you’d be wise to not go with that company because they’ll probably get you later with hidden fees, as described below.

Typically, movers ask for a deposit up front and full payment before they open the truck at your new home. That’s when they could hit you with those unexpected charges, with urgency and lack of management present working against you.

In her blog post, Anita listed the following common hidden fees consumers might encounter:

Gas fees: Gas costs to pick up and deliver items.

Assembly/disassembly: To take apart or put items back together.

Bulk items: Piano, large appliances, outdoor equipment, etc.

Environmental: Typically seen as a disposal fee, such as for moving materials.

Insurance: Moving companies are required to assume liability for the items they are moving.

Packing labor & supplies: This can be costly, so consumers should understand what is included in their contract.

Tolls: You shouldn’t pay these.

Weight: A company might give a low quote based on a weight estimate but a new and higher price once they drive to the scale and weigh the truck. Another way these movers overcharge customers is by adding weight (e.g., fuel or passengers) to the truck before weighing it.

 Some of the key things you can do to avoid moving scams are:

Online company check: Review their history, reviews, website and BBB rating and interview past clients if possible.

In-person quote:  Always ensure that a moving company representative comes to your house so he/she can prepare an accurate estimate.

Written contracts: If you aren’t offered a written contract or the contract does not itemize the services and fees, avoid that moving company.

This is just some of the information and advice which you can find at that FMCSA website mentioned in the second paragraph above. If you are contemplating a move in which you can’t use Golden Real Estate’s moving truck, moving boxes, packing material and personnel, definitely learn all you can from that website.

A recurring issue that my own clients have described when moving to or from another state is a “delivery window” of 10 or more days written into the contract. The mover may insist (verbally) that the truck they loaded is going directly to your new home, but unless your stuff filled an entire semi trailer, it’s quite likely that they will wait to combine your stuff with that of another party moving to the same city or state. This might, of course, entail moving you furniture from one truck to another or into a warehouse, then into another truck.

To avoid this double or triple moving of your stuff, I suggest using a “pod” moving company. You load the pod (container), lock it, and it is delivered to your new home.