When moving locally,
different rules apply
When you relocate across state lines, the company
that moves you must uphold federal law and usually follows a tariff
that governs rates, rules and charges. In a local move, which is
generally defined as within 30 miles, there's no such animal --
it's buyer beware.
Rule No. 1 -- get references. Talk to friends, relatives and colleagues
about their moving experiences. As you narrow down the companies
you're going to pick from, call the Better Business Bureau or, even
better, visit your county courthouse. Lawsuits are public record
and many courts make computers available so that we, the public,
can look up cases on our own and not bother the clerks. It's usually
pretty easy to do a search; you need to know the full name of the
company. In just a few minutes the computer will spit out every
local lawsuit filed against the company. Then it's up to you to
decide if you still want to hire them.
Don't pick a moving company because it has the best
ad in the Yellow Pages. And don't pick a mover because it's affiliated
with a big name interstate carrier. When it comes to local moves,
that affiliation doesn't mean a thing, says Mary Scott Tuck of the
American Moving and Storage Association, based in Alexandria, Va.
"If anything goes wrong with the local move, the national
company has no responsibility," she says.
On the other hand, an affiliation with a national
carrier isn't something to sniff at, either.
"Often they'll have a good reputation on interstate
and local moves," says Paula Selbein of Naperville, Ill.-based Allied
Van Lines. "We expect our agents to uphold standards and we poll
customers to get feedback on interstate moves, but it should be
Visit their facilities
As you further narrow your choices, take a trip to their facilities.
Make sure they're not some fly-by-night operation that may not be
around later if there's a problem. That doesn't mean automatically
eliminate the three hard-working neighborhood guys who have a truck
and work out of an office in one guy's basement. If you know people
who swear by them, they might be the best option.
When it comes to pricing, it may be by weight or distance, but most
local movers will charge by the hour. Tuck says customers are buying
a van and so many men at so many dollars an hour. Just as with an
interstate move, she advises getting three estimates. If two are
in the same ballpark and the third is very low, eliminate it --
they may be taking shortcuts or you may get hit with a higher bill
than expected when the move is completed. If one estimate is significantly
higher than the others, look for clues that the mover is jacking
up the cost by demanding that things such as chairs, tables, etc.,
There's no guaranteed price in a local move. Even
a "guaranteed price estimate" isn't set in stone. It may be a guarantee
that the move will cost "x" amount if it takes six hours, but if
the move takes more than six hours, the "guarantee" is out the window.
Tuck says the main reason local movers don't give
a guaranteed price is because there are too many variables, such
as heavily congested local traffic, that are out of their control.
Down payment concerns
Another area to watch for is the down payment. According to Tuck,
it's not unusual for a mover to ask for 50 percent upfront, the
remainder due on delivery. Anything above 50 percent upfront should
be a red flag.
The most important advice of all, get the terms of
the entire deal in writing.
-- Posted: July 7, 2004