Moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. Without adding the pressure of a bad moving company or a moving scam, you have enough to do. You have to clear out a place you’ve lived in for who knows how long. You have to get everything together, remove it from your home, and then move to a new place. And you have to get all of your furniture from one place to another.
You could move down the street, across town, or to a new state. No matter what, you can’t deny how long and arduous the moving process can be. Of course, hiring a moving company can take so much of the pressure off your back—and your muscles, bones, and joints.
But what are you supposed to do when you have a set of subpar movers or a moving scam? Or perhaps they belong to a fraudulent or disreputable company. What do you do then? Without a doubt, it is important to do your research on whatever company you want to hire to help you move. Keep reading to find all you need to know in the event you deal with bad movers or a moving scam.
Table of contents
- How to tell if you have found a bad moving company
- Bad moving companies: transport companies
- Tips from Others
- Reporting bad movers
- Key Takeaways
How to tell if you have found a bad moving company
To protect yourself from a fraudulent or devious and disreputable moving company, do your research! Think about finding a moving company like you might a car or a house. It is important to take the time to verify that the company you choose to help you move is a legitimate business.
We will look at ways to check whether you have found a scam. However, we will look at methods of identifying bad moving companies for labor-only businesses. That is, businesses that load and unload storage units, moving trucks, etc. These are NOT the companies that transport goods from one place to another.
The following is a list of red flags to look out for when researching a suitable moving company:
Go to their website
We live in the digital age now. Any business person should know the necessity of having a website for exposure. Does the moving company you are looking at have a website? If they don’t have a website, raise your eyebrows.
Now, if they do have a website: what does it look like? What kind of information are they displaying? This is the first step in simply verifying whether to look further into a company. If the website is bare-bones and doesn’t have certain information, then pass on it!
Better yet, if you have more questions, does the website offer a phone number to call? Never feel that you can’t ask a question; it’s your money, so do your best to protect it!
How does the mover provide estimates?
Some disreputable and untrustworthy companies might try to provide estimates to you over the phone or online. But how could a mover adequately give a price estimate on a phone call or via email??
A good mover would want to (and need to) see the furniture and items in person.
They would also come to your house, apartment, townhouse, or condo to appraise and take inventory of everything that needs moving. At the very least, you can request an in-house inspection from a representative of the company.
Your representative should also take down final perceived costs for packing, especially regarding moving valuables or difficult moving spaces like narrow hallways, stairwells, etc, into transportation or a storage unit.
Is the moving company providing you with the proper insurance information?
Law requires moving companies to assume liability for moves. That is, when a moving company relocates a client’s items from one place to another, they are to assume the liability for said items’ protection.
As a client of the moving company, you are free to ask for proof of insurance. Of course, it is always smart to get extra reading material to check their insurance policies.
Be sure to ask your moving company if they have proper moving insurance. If they react poorly to this question, red flag! A company that resists giving you insurance information is sketchy.
You’ll want an insured company to handle your belongings. Here are two types of moving insurance:
- Released Value Protection: This is a default coverage plan which rarely covers everything. If there is damage to an item or an item goes missing in the moving process, the moving company only has to pay 60 cents/pound for the lost item.
- Full Value Protection: Full-value protection typically costs more. However, it is certainly worth it to protect your belongings. If something were to happen to your things during the move, the moving company is liable for any and all of the repair or replacement value.
If the options above don’t work for you, consider a third-party insurance provider. You may be able to contact your house insurance company and ask them if your current policy applies to a move. If they do not, they might have an extra add-on plan for the duration of your move.
Other red flags of bad moving companies
While what we discussed above are important things to watch out for in movers, there are a few others to keep in mind. Trust your instincts when you talk to a moving company, they are often right!
A few more red flags to look out for:
- The moving company demands a certain form of payment. Any company should be able to comply with credit card, debit card, cash, or check purchases. If a mover will only take cash payments…something is sketchy! (Check out our article: When Should You Pay Your Movers!)
- Slow responses or lack of responsiveness. If you need to get in contact with your moving company and find it difficult or impossible, that should be a red flag!
- Incomplete or blank contract documents. If your mover attempts to get you to sign a contract with little to no information, do not sign! Make sure that you read the documents as well in order to avoid a loophole you weren’t expecting.
Bad moving companies: transport companies
In the section above, we talked about how to find out if a moving labor company is trustworthy or not. Instead, we will now discuss how to tell if a transport moving company is reputable.
But what is a transport moving company you may ask? Well, these are the companies you would hire to move your belongings (furniture, etc.) from one place to another. Moving labor, on the other hand, only removes or puts the furniture (or whatever else) inside.
So, let’s take a look:
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Federal law requires interstate movers to be registered and licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can quickly check a company’s licensing status by using the FMCSA’s website. All licensed interstate moving companies have U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) numbers as proof of legitimacy.
If you find that a moving company doesn’t have proper licensing, avoid them at all costs.
However, with local moving companies that don’t operate outside of state lines, FMCSA licensing and registration are not necessary. Instead, state rules and laws govern those companies.
In the case you work with a local, state-only moving company, feel free to ask them about their licensing status. Any trustworthy company will provide you with the right information.
If a moving company doesn’t provide licensing or registration information (on either a local or interstate level), do not engage in business with them!
Note that labor-only movers do not need licenses and registration information.
Tips from Others
We reached out to people who had bad moving experiences for some wisdom. Here’s what they told us:
Understand your requirements
Cathryn Bailey, a home renovation professional and founder of bomisch.com, has a tip for anyone requiring movers.
Understand your requirements! “It’s important to understand that not every mover is capable of fulfilling every job,” Bailey said.
If you have something difficult to move, it might be worth it to find a specialized mover (labor or transport). Bailey offered the example of a client trying to move granite countertops. Granite requires greater care, but the client chose to stay with the already-hired moving company.
As you might imagine, granite countertops were scuffed and a client left unhappy. Bailey said that a moving company is unlikely to turn down a job if it offers money, so do extra research on what your move might require.
For more information on how to find the perfect fit in a company, check out our post: Hiring a Moving Company: What Movers Are Right for You?
Pay the extra money
Another respondent, Chaz Wyland, said, “I figured [moving] wasn’t a difficult job, so why should I pay a lot of money for the well-known business?”
Of course, valuables and fragile items ended up broken without a care. Wyland’s tip?
“Pay a little extra to get the job done right!”
Get multiple estimates
Have you called a moving company and gotten a price so good it couldn’t be true?
Do a double-take. It may be a moving scam. Bad moving companies might deflate their prices to get extra business. But that means they also might not perform well.
Do yourself a favor and get multiple estimates before you make a decision.
Reporting bad movers
To report or file a complaint with the FMCSA you’ll need a few things:
- Your name, phone number, and address
- The name, phone number, and address of the company
- The addresses of the origin and destination for the shipment
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and Motor Carrier (MC) identification numbers, if you can supply them
- An account of what went wrong during the move
For in-state complaints, the FMCSA provides another platform to report bad companies. You will need to provide the information above, if available, to call out your moving scam or bad moving company.
Now that we’ve gone through ways to identify and deal with bad movers and moving companies, remember a couple of key things. First of all: you can ALWAYS say no to a company.
You are the client, and you get the final say. Do your research, of course. Purchase the insurance, if you want. But in the end, if something doesn’t feel right to you–walk away!
Again, verify who you’re working with. Do they have a website? Are they professional when you speak to them? Do their prices seem reasonable (but not too good to be true)? Trust your instincts, so you have an easy, carefree move to your new home!