Two dozen moving mistakes you can avoid
You've heard all the horror stories about moving:
scam movers who hijack your possessions in return for some ridiculously
high ransom; untrained crews who show up late or drunk and proceed
to trash your prized possessions; or moving company reps who are
polite and solicitous until you have a problem, then won't return
With a little planning you can eliminate, or at least
reduce, your own moving horror stories. Here are 24 moving mistakes
1. Not investigating the new
town before you move. "The most disastrous problems
arise if you move someplace you haven't researched first and find
out it's a (bad) fit for your family," says Shari Steiner,
co-author of "Steiner's Complete How-to-Move Handbook."
So if you're faced with the perfect career opportunity
without a lot of notice, look for solutions that give you time to
look before you leap, says Steiner.
2. Not timing your move.
Want a cheaper, easier move? Avoid (in this order) moving during
the summer, the very end or beginning of the month (when people
like to start a new lease), and the exact middle of the month, says
Mike Shaffer, former chairman of the American Moving and Storage
Association, or AMSA. Instead, look for dates around the 7 or
3. Calling the mover at the
last minute. If you start early, you can eliminate stress
and might be able to save some money.
So how early do you need to call? A lot depends on
the time of the year and even the time of the month you're moving.
During crunch periods, allow more time. The ideal planning period
is one to two months. But some movers are happy just to have two
4. Interviewing one mover.
Just like any other professional service, get estimates from at
least three services before you make your choice. The same goes
for renting a truck if you're moving yourself.
5. Accepting the price you're
quoted. Instead, dicker. You don't have to accept the first
price you're offered, says Shaffer, who was also the chairman and
CEO of Atlas World Group Inc. before retiring. And if you're moving
during an off-peak time, you'll have more bargaining power, he says.
6. Automatically hiring the lowest
estimate. Less-than-reputable companies have been known to
lowball the estimate to get your business, then pad the bill on
the back end. Or the low estimate could be a sign that you might not
be getting a professional crew, or that the company will subcontract
your job to another firm. An estimate that is substantially lower
or is calculated by anything other than weight is a red flag, according
to Whitefence.com, a home services comparison Web site.
7. Not requiring a written
estimate. You want to know, in writing, what the company
believes the move will cost. You also want to know, in writing,
what that estimate means to that company. Can they raise your bill
on delivery? Does the contract allow them to bill you for more later?
Once you pay them on delivery, are you done?
to tell the company about the stairs in your new home or that oak
furniture hiding in the attic. If the estimate is based on
a move without stairs and your new home is two flights up, the company
will add that to the cost. So give an honest assessment of the job
and you're more likely to get a realistic estimate.
9. Refusing extra coverage for
loss and breakage. For an interstate move, the default compensation
rate for breakage is 60 cents per pound. That means that 95-pound
flat-panel TV that cost $1,000 is worth about $57 in compensation.
And a typical homeowners policy won't cover broken
items, says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of public affairs
for the Insurance Information Institute.
You have these options, according to the AMSA:
- Full value protection: If your item is lost or
broken, the moving company can choose either to pay you what it
would cost for a new item, replace the article with something
similar or pay you the repair cost. Prices for this extra coverage
- Released value protection: This is what you get
if you don't pay for additional coverage. If something is lost
or broken, the moving company gives you 60 cents per pound.
- Some companies will also offer arrange for added
liability insurance, provided by a third-party insurance carrier,
to cover loss or breakage during the move. Again, prices will
vary, and if you have a claim, you'll deal with the insurance
company, not the moving company.
10. Not asking how the company
wants to be paid or when. Payment is due when your goods
are delivered. And some companies don't take personal checks for
a long-distance move.
"The most important thing is to be wary if the
mover asks you for an unusually large deposit," says John Bisney,
director of public relations for the AMSA. It is reasonable, Bisney
says, to pay a small deposit, but a mover who asks for 50 percent
of the estimate up front should send up red flags.
11.Make sure the moving
company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Also, be aware
that there are some federal protections governing state-to-state
moves that don't apply to in-state moves.
The solution for instate moves is to look for
a well-known, established mover who also does out-of-state moves.
Even though interstate rules don't apply, at least you know you're
dealing with a professional.
12. Taking a moving company
at face value. While the moving pro you met is probably telling
the truth, you have to cull the bad apples. Verify what they tell
you and check references.
13. Assuming that one office
of a national company is the same as another. Just like fast
food chains, some locations are better than others. During your
move, most of your contact will be with the local office. So evaluate
that branch on its own merit.
14. Using an online estimate
to hire a mover. Don't get fooled by con artists posing as
movers, warns Bisney.
"They may just have a Web site and a truck, but
they're not really professional movers," he says.
A mover with a local office is a safer alternative:
Ask the mover to come to your house and provide a written estimate.
But the Internet can be a great tool when you shop.
Check out consumer opinions on various professional and self-move
services. And visit state and federal government sites to make sure
the companies you choose have licenses and insurance.
15. Assuming that moving yourself
is cheaper than hiring a pro. Hey, it might be. But when
you figure in all of the costs (and many people underestimate how
many miles they will drive the rental truck -- a big expense), including
your time, you might find it actually pays to hire someone else.
16. Being a jerk. There
are going to be glitches and delays that are out of everyone's control.
So skip the type-A behavior and don't expect to be compensated just
because the truck is a half-hour late.
17. Ignoring the fact that
the name on your moving van doesn't match the name of the company
you hired. Chances are you've been subcontracted to another
company. Problem: Even if you checked references and licensing,
you're now dealing with a total unknown. You may need to pull the
plug and reschedule.
18. Not getting a dolly. Whether
you're moving yourself or just rearranging things after a professional
move, the money you shell out to rent or buy a dolly will pay for
itself in bypassed back strain and missed ER visits.
19. Neglecting to back up
your computer. When you move, your life becomes a study in
Murphy's law. So if you have vital data in your computer, or anywhere
else, make a couple of copies and stash them in various locations.
20. Not looking out for No.
1. Pack an overnight bag with a few changes of clothes, toiletries
and any meds you might need. Ditto for all your family members,
including the four-legged ones. Put a cell phone in one of the bags,
too. Even if you think you'll be without your belongings for only
a day or two, things can and will go wrong. But that's all OK if
you can shower, put on clean underwear and send out for pizza.
21. Deciding that Moving Day
is too late to put on the brakes. If the crew or truck isn't
what you were promised, or you're unhappy for any reason, call the
company and cancel.
If you decide you want to go through with the move
anyway, call and have them rework your estimate, in writing (have
it faxed or go to their office), to make the inconvenience worth
22. Forgetting your move come
April 15. If you paid for the relocation, Uncle Sam may be
able to help you. Save all your receipts for your next tax return,
and ask your accountant if you meet the time and distance tests
for a tax deduction.
23. Not tipping your movers.
No, it's not included in the bill, but neither is the tip
at a nice restaurant. "It's up to the consumer," says
Rhodes. "Whatever you think is fair, whatever is appropriate
for the work that was done."
24. Acting helpless.
You get to the other end and several items are missing or broken.
Or the bill comes in higher than the estimate for no good reason.
Most companies should take care of any losses, complaints or discrepancies
In the rare instance yours doesn't, you can elect
to take them to small claims court. With interstate moves, you can
have the matter mediated with the AMSA for a minimum fee.
And if you get a scam artist who hijacks your furniture
for ransom, call the police, says Rhodes. He remembers one Tampa, Fla.,
man who was ready and waiting when the truck finally arrived --
with the cops. "Police departments are becoming more and more
aware of this problem," says Rhodes.
Even though it may be technically a civil matter,
he says, "a lot of times, the police will step in."
Dana Dratch is a freelance
writer based in Atlanta.
-- Updated: July 16, 2008