Moving Center

Everything You Need to Know about Using Movers

Deciding to use movers when it’s time to relocate to your new apartment can help save you time and stress. It does, however, come with a cost. Whether they’re in your budget or not, here’s everything you need to know about movers, from figuring out who to hire to tipping them after the last box is unloaded.

Know Your Rights

“Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” is a booklet prepared by the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration that explains your rights when using professional movers. By law, it should be given to you by the moving company before work commences.

Gathering Quotes

Moving companies provide a variety of services for a range of fees. It’s a good idea to talk with different movers and compare their services. Before selecting your company, check with a consumer organization such as the Better Business Bureau In the Moving Center, you can request free moving quotes from licensed and insured movers.

Where to start

Before you begin your moving company search on your own, consider checking with friends and family for referrals. Having first-hand experience with a mover can provide you with better feedback than checking ratings and reviews online. Form a small list of potential candidates and then reach out to start collecting and comparing estimates.

Gathering estimates

Most moving companies offer more than one level of service, each with its own cost. Talking with different moving companies allows you to get an idea of what each one charges for their varying degrees of service. Each moving company you contact should send or email you a physical estimate. It should include enough detail to make the costs perfectly clear.

The total cost of your move is usually based on a variety of factors, such as:

  • The actual weight of your belongings
  • The total number of rooms you’re moving
  • The unique features of your apartment like flights of stairs, elevators or oversized pieces of furniture
  • The distance between your current and new home

Deciphering types of estimates

Whether you get a visit by a mover or not, there are three different types of estimates you may receive. What’s important is that it’s clear which type of estimate you’re given so that you can properly budget. The three types are:

Binding estimates mean the price you’re quoted is the price you’ll pay for your move. Even if they’ve underestimated the weight of your stuff or the hours it will take, you don’t pay anything above the price listed on your estimate. This is the best way to budget your move accurately, since it’s not uncommon for last-minute costs to come up when moving.

Non-binding estimates are more of a guess. They’re the most common type of estimates for movers, giving you a projected cost that could be higher, or even lower. It will help you get a rough idea of what your budget should be for the move, but you’ll need to plan for some wiggle room in case costs change.

Not-to-exceed estimates are actually the best kind if you can get a moving company to provide one. Make sure it’s a binding, not-to-exceed, which means if the cost to move is more than what’s estimated, you’ll only pay the estimated amount. However, if the cost is less, you pay less. You’re not locked into the estimated price regardless.

Requesting an in-home estimate

If you’re concerned that an estimate done through an online form or over the phone won’t be accurate enough to budget properly, you can request one be done in your home. While not every mover may offer this service, if you live close enough to the moving company, they should be able to comply. 

Once a representative arrives, you’ll walk them through your home, pointing out anything that they won’t need to move. From there, an accurate estimate of everything making the move gets tallied to generate the estimate. You should still receive a written estimate at the end of the interaction.


Alternatives to traditional movers

As you collect quotes from traditional moving companies, you might want to consider going through an alternative method to plan your move. This strategy is helpful when you just don’t have the time to do all the legwork of tracking down moving companies yourself, although these alternative options can come with an extra fee.

Contacting a moving broker

Brokers typically don’t own their own moving trucks like traditional movers. Instead, they’ll collect a deposit or fee from you and then plan your move for you through their affiliated movers. Using their services provides an extra convenience when you have to move, since they technically sell your move to an actual mover. You won’t have to spend time collecting and comparing estimates yourself.


Working with referral companies and lead agencies

When you work with referral companies and lead agencies, you don’t have to guess whether or not your mover is good because they will vet them for you. This can save you a significant amount of time, especially if you live in a city where there are a lot of moving companies. It can help you find the best deal without having to individually look at each moving company yourself, however, it is important to do a little research on your own, even with a referral. Make sure all movers have the proper licensing and a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau before signing a contract.

Liability types

Whenever anyone handles your stuff, there’s the potential that things could accidentally get broken or damaged. Rather than getting stuck with the added cost of dealing with damage yourself, you have the option of adding in one of a few different protection plans, offered by either your movers or a third-party vendor.

Paying for full protection

Full value protection is the most comprehensive choice because you get replacement-value protection. If anything is damaged or lost during the move, the moving company will take the necessary steps to repair or replace it. This means restoring the item to the same condition your movers picked it up in, paying for you to get the repairs done, replacing the item or paying you the full cost of replacement. If you want this level of protection, expect to pay a little bit more for your move.

Using third party insurance

While your moving company may offer access to third party insurance, they can’t actually sell it. The policy, which you should get in writing, will come from somewhere else. Standard coverage is a little different than the above options in that it focuses on damage related to natural disasters and primarily covers items of extraordinary value. Policies can supply supplementary protection for the rest of your items, but carefully read over the policy before purchasing so you know what kind of coverage you’re getting.

Waiving full protection

If you’re not worried about what you’re moving, or your items don’t have enough value to warrant paying extra for full protection, you can waive full replacement, going down to a lesser level of coverage. This is the standard liability a mover provides automatically at no additional charge to you. Liability is based on the weight of items rather than their original value, and movers will only cover 60 cents per pound, per article.

The pricing for different types of moves

Moves are subject to different charges based on the distance you’re traveling. Costs are estimated using different methods based on how far you’re going. Leaving one state for a new one will have different associated costs than an intown move. International moves will be different as well.

  • Intrastate or local moves are usually priced out on a per-hour cost based on the number of movers and moving trucks required to complete the move. In a perfect situation, these moves go from start to finish within the same day.
  • State-to-state moving costs are calculated by the weight of your items and the distance they’re going. Based on your mover’s schedule and truck availability, your move can take a few days or weeks to complete. Some movers won’t go until they fill a truck a certain amount, which can delay the delivery of your stuff. If you need to move within a certain time period, you may end up paying extra.
  • International moves have a variety of additional charges to factor into the overall cost. These include land change costs, ocean transports, customs fees, portage and handling costs. The amount of charges depends on how far your stuff is traveling and how many different modes of transportation it will need to get there. Moving a large volume of stuff internationally can become costly.

Last-minute cost adjustments

Nobody likes last-minute costs but it happens often in moving situations if you don’t take the proper precautions beforehand. This means showing your movers every single item they’ll move. Don’t forget any storage areas outside your apartment, along with what’s in your closets. You’ll even want them to see what’s hiding under the bed. Any surprise items not in the original estimate will get added into the cost during the move. 

You also want to make movers aware of any unique conditions that can impact the ease of your move. This includes narrow streets, steep hills and the distance between where the moving truck will park and the entrance to your apartment. If the mover’s normal truck and equipment can’t make a safe approach to your building, you may end up paying what’s known as a “shuttle” charge for movers to get your stuff onto their truck.

What to bring the day of the move

While you’re not obligated to do anything for your movers the day of, it’s always nice to be polite. It also can’t hurt in getting your stuff delivered faster if you treat your movers kindly. Consider buying a case of bottled water the night before to chill in your refrigerator. Then, offer your movers cold water at the beginning of the move that they can keep with them all day.

Once the move is done, if you want to show your appreciation for their hard work, think about tipping your movers. There’s no standard percentage they’ll expect, but a good rule of thumb is to tip each mover $20 for a full-day move.

After that, it’s time to say a friendly goodbye and move on to the final moving-day step, starting to unpack.

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