The right moving company can make or break your moving experience.
These tips will help you find a reliable mover that will treat you (and your belongings) responsibly.
It’s nerve-wracking enough to coordinate the transfer of the entire contents of your home. But that stress can only skyrocket when you’re watching the movers drive off with all of your furniture and packed boxes. After all, your entire life is in that truck!
The good news? There are steps you can take to find a moving company you can trust. And simply by doing the research to find a reliable mover, you’re already headed in the right direction.
In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to tell if a moving company is legitimate and how to find a reliable mover who will complete your move with as few snags as possible.
Are They Legitimate?
Unfortunately, the moving industry is notorious for scams.
The most common one is to give you a super-low quote, then claim that your belongings exceeded the initial weight estimate for the truck. Your belongings are then “held hostage” until you pay a huge rate. Other moving companies may load up your goods and drive off, never to be seen again. Some may take an upfront deposit and simply never show up on moving day.
Other scams are a little less obvious.
Most moving companies charge per hour, and many less-than-honest companies will take advantage of this, intentionally underestimating the number of hours the job will take. You get a low quote upfront, only to get slammed with a high bill at the end of the move.
Picking a reliable mover starts with finding someone who will actually do the job they’ve been hired to do. So the first question you need to ask yourself when selecting a moving company is: “Are they legitimate?”
You can spot moving company scams easier with a few tips.
Check their online presence.
At the time of publication, it’s the last half of 2020. Even small businesses (including moving companies!) should have an online presence (such as a website). Just having a Facebook page isn’t enough.
Where are their headquarters?
Once you’ve located their address on their website, look it up on Google Street View to see what the facilities look like. If the address is a suburban house or apartment building, that’s not a good sign. Maybe other types of companies can be run out of people’s houses, but moving companies need a lot of space for the trucks and equipment.
Even worse? If they don’t have an address at all.
How long have they been in business?
As you might expect, an illegitimate moving company couldn’t operate under the same name for too long. (Their bad reputation would catch up with them.) Career con artists have to change the name of their company frequently so customers don’t wise up to their wrongdoing.
One good way to check their longevity is in any reviews you find. Sort by date and you’ll have a good timeline of how long they’ve been in business.
Are They Licensed?
Any moving company you use should be licensed! Having a license does NOT automatically mean they are legitimate, but it is a good way to weed out obvious scams.
If you’re moving within Florida, start by looking the business up on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. All moving companies in Florida are required to register with the FDACS as an intrastate mover.
Next, make sure the company is registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) and has a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.
Look up the company name here to locate their USDOT number and make sure the company name and contact info matches the information you have (some companies have been known to hijack a real USDOT number and pass it off as their own).
Next, click “HTML” to view a full report. This will pull up several important details, as shown below.
The first thing you’ll want to check (other than the USDOT # and the company info) is the Authority Type. You’ll want to make sure the moving company has either Contract or Common authority (marked as “ACTIVE”).
If they only have Broker Authority, they are not technically a moving company, but a broker. Brokers are middlemen; they don’t have their own trucks and will be hiring another moving company to handle the move. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it will take some of the control out of your hands, as you won’t be able to research the company who will actually be responsible for your things.
The next thing you’ll want to check is whether they are licensed to move household goods. The “Enterprise” is for cargo and “Property” specifically excludes household goods.
If they pass this (basic) test, you can ask the next—very important—question.
Are They Insured?
If you’re concerned about hiring a less-than-reliable mover, you already know the importance of protecting your belongings. And the best way to do that is with insurance.
Sure, most companies will say that they’re insured when asked, but don’t take their word for it! Get them to back up their claim by doing some background research. The amount and type of insurance coverage will be listed on the FMCSA report.
As you can see in Cento Moving’s full FMCSA report above, we carry $1 million of insurance coverage, even though we are only legally required to hold $750,000.
You should also ask them to provide a Certificate of Insurance.
Moving company insurance comes in two different types: Released Value and Full Value. Released Value Protection is offered at no additional charge to you, but only reimburses you for around $.60/pound for lost or damaged items. For very expensive items that don’t weigh very much, this probably won’t provide sufficient protection.
The cost of Full Value Protection varies by company, but provides much more thorough coverage. If any items are lost or damaged, your mover will a) repair it, b) replace it, or c) reimburse you with a cash settlement.
Are They A Reliable Mover?
Just because a moving company is legitimate doesn’t mean that they’re a truly reliable mover. So you need to do a bit more research to figure out if they’re any good.
The first thing you can check is how many complaints the FMCSA has received about them. Look up the company here and check the number of complaints vs. size of the fleet. Five complaints against a huge company with a fleet of hundreds of trucks wouldn’t be so bad. But a company with only two or three trucks and 12 complaints a month? That’s a different story.
As you can see in the image above, Cento has no recorded complaints through FMCSA. If there were any complaints, they would appear in a chart by category. The category allows you to see what people are complaining about.
Note: If people are complaining about being charged more than they were originally quoted, take these with a grain of salt. This isn’t always the fault of the moving company. We frequently visit homes on moving day, only to find a LOT more furniture and boxes that we were originally told!
Last but not least, read online reviews for the company to see what other customers had to say. Keep in mind, not seeing a single bad review is just as suspicious has too many. That could be a sign that the reviews are fake.
Moving is stressful enough without worrying about the quality of your movers. But by doing some upfront research, you’ll be well on the way to finding a reliable mover and avoid scams.
If you’re looking to move from or within the Central Florida area, we’d love to help! Cento Moving & Storage has been operating since 2012 and have moved families just like yours to nearly every state in the U.S. Not only do we follow all the right procedures for keeping your items safe during the move, we carry $1 million in insurance.