When analyzing estimates from three different moving companies, I struggled to understand what the numbers represented. First I tried to sort the different figures into those based on miles between houses, versus those related to the overall job. It was confusing when the same numbers were presented differently by each moving company. It made me wonder if this was done on purpose, to make it difficult to compare the various moving estimates.
After asking numerous questions, I figured out that the costs between the moving companies were almost identical. What I discovered is the moving industry is regulated by the federal government, which is a good thing based on my experience. The question then is how do you pick a moving company to work with?
My experience is already documented in several articles, but further research was needed to provide the best recommendations for people preparing a long distance move that will almost always involve a national moving company.
- A report card rating those involved, in a Moving Company Fails to Deliver Customer Service.
- Review the moving process from a homeowner perspective, written as a Letter to Bekins Van Lines.
Pick a Moving Company Based on Customer Service
If all interstate moving companies charge the same prices, then you don't have a lot of variables on which to base your decision. My recommendation is to pick a company that delivers excellent customer service. So how do you as a consumer know how to do this? My list is based on personal experience and here's a link to the list at ProtectYourMove.com.
- Does the company proactively explain their moving process, and the documents you'll be asked to sign? Tucking a link to download the federally required Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, isn't adequate. As I live online and didn't follow the link, so I doubt that anyone else will find the document.
- Are all packers employees of the company? The best way to verify this is to ask for their names during your confirmation call about when they will arrive. As there was no confirmation call from Bekins local agent, it was the first question I asked when the packers arrived.
- Does the van driver work for the national moving company? When discussing the quality of these people with the estimator from Tobins & Sons, I learned about their rating system for these people for quality control. Only later did I learn that your driver is either an employee or owner/operator, and owner/operators are better as they've made a serious investment in their business.
- Mileage drivers are employees of the moving company, and get paid based on the miles they drive.
- Owner/operators are independent business owners, who own their truck, or in the case of my recent move, lease their truck from the national company.
- Are all people loading/unloading the van employees of the company? Remember that local agents are different between your two locations. The van driver is responsible for loading/unloading and if they don't bring a helper with them, they'll pick up guys up off the street who have no moving experience.
Savvy Homeowner Tip – Never allow non-employees into your home as the company won't have insurance to cover accidents. Even more important, never allow packers or movers to work in your home when you're not there. On our second corporate move, we let the driver load while we went out to dinner, and ended up with a hole in the stairway wall.
Savvy Homeowner Tip – Never put your belongings in storage. More problems happen with storage, maybe because it's not supervised? When moving to NH we negotiated selling and buying houses on the same day, and ended up in storage for two weeks. On delivery, they didn't tell us they dropped a pallet. We found broken dishes, the door fell off the dryer and there were missing pieces of furniture … and then the truth came out (this was Graebel Van Lines).
Savvy Homeowner Tip – Always check items off the inventory list as they come off the moving van. Keep your copy of this paperwork and spot check while the packers are working, and the movers are loading the van.
- Is there a 7 x 24 emergency contact to handle problems? This was the biggest flaw in Bekin Van Lines process, because my assigned move manager doesn't work on the weekend. Having run a handyman business for 8 years where my answering service screened calls around the clock, I personally took calls 3 to 5 times a year for jobs that might (no guarantee) result in a job worth a few hundred dollars. For a signed moving contract over $12,000, the lack of 7 x 24 emergency coverage was unacceptable.
How Many Complaints Does a Moving Company Have?
The challenge is knowing which moving company to research, and where to find reliable information. The Internet should make this feasible but it feels like the industry is organized to hide the data. The Bekins story outlined here is a perfect example – I found the local Bekins agent but as my move progressed, it wasn't clear who was in charge?
- Bekins Van Lines was bought by Wheaton World Wide Moving in 2012.
- Wheaton World Wide Moving acquired Clark & Reid in 2013.
- Olympia Moving and Storage Company, a Wheaton agent manages Clark & Reid's day-to-day operations.
- On the Bekins company website, they state that “Wheaton Van Lines, Inc. is partner to approximately 348 Wheaton, Bekins and Clark & Reid agents nationwide … with my agent, Tobins & Sons being one of them.
Resources Online to Assist You When Moving
There are resources online to help you prepare for a move, pick a moving company and then proactively manage your move. They weren't easy to find, and each website offers different information so we've organized them …
Photo credit (emergency button) to Syntero.org.