4 ways not to get ripped off when you move

Moving to a new home can be a stressful time. Don’t add to the stress by dealing with a rotten moving company. Here are some things to look out for when hiring a company to move your stuff.

Make Sure They Are Insured

You might think that all you need to start a moving company is two strong movers and a truck, but you’d be wrong. You need two strong movers, a  truck and insurance. While you can probably save some money up front by hiring an uninsured moving company, you have no guarantee that your stuff will arrive in one piece and you’ll have little recourse if things break or go missing. Before even getting an estimate from a company, ask if they are insured and find out what their policy is for replacing broken or missing items. Most moving companies offer two different kinds of insurance. The cheapest — released value — only gets you around 60 cents per pound of lost or damaged goods. So if a 50 pound flatscreen television goes missing, you’ll only be reimbursed $30, significantly less than the cost of replacing the TV. Full-value insurance is more costly, but will ensure that you’ll be reimbursed for the full cost should things get damaged or go missing.

Document Everything

The best time to deal with lost or damaged goods is while the movers are still there. That way they can’t claim that items were damaged after the move. In order to stay on top of things, you need to document everything. Number each box and keep an itemized list of what’s inside. As the boxes come off the truck, check them off and give the contents a quick scan for damage. That way if a box goes missing, you’ll know immediately. If something does get damaged or go missing, get a receipt from the movers, so that you have it in writing.

Do Your Homework

While you can ask for references, most companies will be able to dig up a few happy customers to put in a kind word. To get an honest, unvarnished look, you should spend some time reading online reviews on Yelp and other review sites. If you’re hiring a moving company to take your stuff across state lines, the company needs to be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal agency has a helpful site — ProtectYourMove.gov — that allows to you to look up driving records, customer complaints and other info about all interstate moving companies. Many states also require moving companies to be licensed, so check you state laws and make sure your moving company complies.

Get an In-Home Quote

Over-the-phone estimates might be convenient, but they often aren’t accurate. Many people get an unpleasant surprise on moving day when the moving company suddenly jacks up the rate and holds their belongings hostage until they pay up. With an in-home estimate, you’ll avoid miscommunication and get a chance to size up a potential mover. Do they seem shifty? Are they vague about costs or seem to be making things up as they go along?

You also have to keep in mind that there are three types of estimates. A binding estimate is a contract that the moving company has to to stick to. A non-binding estimates is a ballpark figure that can change after the fact. Finally, there’s a “binding-not-to-exceed” estimate, which means the job might end up costing less, but can’t cost more than the estimated amount. When possible, get a binding or binding-not-to-exceed estimate so that you know the exact cost before you sign a contract.