Since March of last year, roughly 20% of the U.S. population either made a move or knows someone who did. Hot real estate markets, high costs of living, remote work opportunities, and other factors from the COVID-19 have motivated more individuals to move cross country. Understandably, demand for and competition within the moving industry has surged as a result.
Better Business Bureau Great West + Pacific completed a moving industry analysis during the first quarter of 2021 to raise awareness of common issues consumers have encountered using a mover. Moving ranks as one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. Hiring the wrong mover can make a challenging situation especially difficult.
BBB’s report drew from the 1,711 moving-related companies identified in its regional database as well as more than 1,400 complaints filed in its service area. Companies receiving the most complaints and negative reviews provided insight into what consumers should be mindful of as they hire a mover to transport their belongings.
Don’t let someone else do all your homework.
Brokers are a third party responsible for setting up moves on behalf of the consumer. While it may be tempting to have someone else sort all of the tedious logistics for you, that means you no longer have control of who the broker contracts for your move. The farther your destination is from your location, the more likely your load may be bid out to multiple movers for storage and transportation. Unfortunately, consumers frequently report brokers hiring unlicensed and uninsured movers.
Additionally, brokers typically underestimate the cost of the move to earn the consumer’s business. When the actual moving company arrives, they demand a higher price since what was previously communicated wasn’t accurate.
Julia and Chris Marcum, renowned home renovation bloggers and Instagram influencers, fell victim to a moving operation. After originally being quoted $26,000 by a moving broker, their move ultimately cost the couple more than $80,000.
“We were not aware we were working with a broker…The quote doubled again by the time the packing was finished. And even MORE was added to our final costs/contract AFTER they drove the truck away with all of our belongings. Our movers demanded cash — a scary red flag — and held up the move-in crew in our new home’s driveway until more cash was dispersed.”
“Hostage” situations in the moving industry are a thing.
Shady movers, referred to as “rogue operators,” bait consumers with low estimates and then surprise them with hefty, hidden fees. BBB consistently receives reports of rogue operators holding consumers’ items hostage until they pay the full amount. Once the consumer caves, they find that many of their items are either missing or damaged.
Bypassing this issue can be asking the moving company their policies regarding weight vs. volume. Generating estimates using volume (or cubic feet) is considered a red flag, but there are legitimate companies that operate using that approach. What matters most is that the company is willing to explain how they calculate their estimates.
It’s not all about looks.
Consumers love the convenience of a pretty website. That’s why illegitimate moving companies pay top dollar to rank higher in internet search results. They fill well-designed websites with claims of having years of experience, professional employees, and an ability to generate estimates either online or via a quick phone call. Unfortunately, consumers fail to realize that the most accurate estimate is generated either in person or through a virtual video call.
“The problem is that many consumers see moving as a commodity,” says Alan Holm, vice president of sales for Hansen Bros. Moving & Storage. “They get on the internet; they get wowed by somebody that’s got a decent looking website…but that’s just a shell,” Holm recommends finding a vetted mover through a major association or van line.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
BBB’s Ad Review program found that many companies falsely claim to be properly licensed. Consumers are urged to ask for license numbers and verify them. However, even if you are able to confirm whether the license number is legitimate, conduct further research since having a license isn’t the end all be all. BBB found widespread and frequent misleading practices that are non-compliant with BBB’s Code of Advertising guidelines:
- Licensed and bonded claims that were not substantiated by current information from the Public Utilities Commissions (PUC) and/or U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Permit numbers not displayed in all advertisements belonging to a mover, agent, broker, employee, or representative of the mover, as required by applicable State statutes and Federal regulations.
- Superlative statements, such as “#1” claim the product or service that is not supported with reliable information.
Cover your bases.
Have an understanding of insurance claims for lost or damaged items. Interstate movers are required to offer two specific coverage options, and many companies offer these same options for local moves, too. There’s Released Value Protection and Full Value Protection.
Released Value Protection is the basic option at no additional cost, but it only covers items at $0.60 cents per pound. Whereas the Full Value Protection covers the full replacement cost of lost or damaged goods. Additionally, consumers have the option to purchase third-party insurance policies, which some moving companies will offer to obtain on their behalf.
BBB compiled a checklist with all the crucial questions to ask moving companies on your candidate list.
Tips for Hiring a Trustworthy Mover.
- Ask for onsite inspections and estimates from at least three companies. That way you can compare and determine whether one is completely off (Remember what we said about low estimates? It's not worth it.)
- Ensure the mover is properly registered, licensed, and insured in your state and with the DOT for interstate moves.
- Check the company’s history for any recurring patterns of complaints, potential BBB alerts, and Accreditation status on BBB.org.
- Have a clear idea of how many items you will be moving to help generate a reliable estimate. That way you have a clear inventory to help you and the mover keep track of everything.
- Ask about the company’s insurance and liability coverage in case of lost or damaged items. There's Released Value Protection and Full Value Protection. Released value only covers items at $.60 cents per pound, whereas Full Value covers the full replacement cost.
FMCSA - The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), regulates interstate and international moves.
Move Rescue - Mayflower and United Van Lines have set up and funded a group that provides free help for moving victims.
State or provincial regulators - For problems with moves within a state, contact the state regulators to complain. FMCSA provides contacts for each state.
BBB.org – Consumers can view a Business Profile for BBB Accreditation status, rating, reviews, and complaints or alerts on businesses.