Hiring a Professional Mover

Here’s how to find a reasonably-priced and reputable mover.

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Arrange Your Move

If you’re moving into a one-bedroom condo and you have very little furniture, you might do fine by enlisting the help of a few friends with a pickup truck, and the promise of a pizza dinner. But it’s much easier (especially if you’re moving into or out of a space with a lot of stairs, or you have a lot of heavy furniture), usually faster, and not always more expensive to hire a professional mover. And by using a professional, you won’t have to worry about your friends’ hurting their backs, accidentally dropping your prize record collection, or expecting payback when it’s their time to move.

Choosing a Professional Mover

You have several choices for professional movers. The most expensive is the full-service mover, who packs everything for you (from the contents of your medicine cabinet to your oversize armoire) and whisks it away. Another option is to pack everything up yourself, then have the mover pick it up—this tends to be cheaper. Finally, there are companies that deliver storage units to you, then pick them up and ship them to your new home. These are typically the cheapest, but of course you do most of the heavy lifting.

Your best bet is to get recommendations for movers from relatives and friends. Be sure to check out Better Business Bureau complaints against the mover, Yelp reviews, and complaint data available on government sites, such as your state department of transportation.

Check for Household Mover Licensing

If you’re moving a long distance or interstate, choose an interstate mover licensed by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Ask for a license number, and look up basic information at the DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website on protecting your move. Your state may also have licensing requirements for in-state movers, and it’s a good idea to check up on those. You’ll also find links to the relevant state agencies at the site.

Get Written Price Estimates from Movers

Before hiring a mover, get in-person, written quotes from at least three different companies. If you’re getting extremely low rate quotes over the phone, be suspicious—reputable moving companies are usually in line with each other, and looking at your furniture and belongings allows them to make reasonable estimates based on the amount of stuff you actually have.

For price quotes, see the following websites:

Keep in mind that long-distance moves are charged by weight. Plan for the truck to be weighed twice—once when it’s full of your stuff and again when it’s empty. And know this: Movers regulated by the DOT can’t charge you more than 10% over a given nonbinding estimate, so don’t let the mover pull a fast one.

Do Your Homework Before You Move

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website www.protectyourmove.gov, offers great advice on packing and planning for a move and dealing with any problems along the way, including:

  • what to look for in a mover’s order of service (the list of what and when the mover will be picking up and delivering your furniture and household goods)
  • what to expect in a bill of lading ( the contract between you and the mover), and an inventory list (the items you’re shipping and the condition of each item)
  • how to settle disputes with a movers or file a claim regarding loss or damage of goods, and
  • how to file a complaint against a mover.

Some of the websites listed above that provide price quotes often provide useful tips on planning for and arranging a move.

 For more advice on preparing for a move, see the Nolo article Relocating: Planning Your Move.

And for tips on other important tasks involved with moving into a new house (such as setting up utilities), see the Nolo article Relocating: Changes to Make After the Move.

Finally, for special tips on moving with young children and/or pets, see the Nolo articles Getting Young Children Ready for a Move, and Getting Your Dog Ready for a Move.

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