Ask the Expert: Moving Companies Debunked (Part 1)
Hiring a moving company to relocate all your worldly possessions can be stressful, awkward and downright expensive. The Moving Mom had the chance to get an insider view on the moving industry from Nancy Zafrani, General Manager at Oz Moving Company. Their company has been in business for more than 20 years and maintains six locations located in New Jersey, New York and California. Oz typically moves around 20,000 jobs a year.
1. Why should someone hire professional movers instead of move themselves with a rental truck?
Professional movers are experienced and come equipped with everything you need to get your move done right. They also have the strength and stamina that is the result of doing heavy manual labor day in and out. With moving, equipment and experience are key. Everyone can make a cake, but you probably wouldn’t bake a cake for your son’s wedding because it takes equipment and experience to do something well and on time.
In addition, you are able to insure a shipment moved by a professional. You might not be able to insure property packed and moved by yourself. Moving yourself seems like a good idea in theory, not so much in practice.
2. What qualifications are important when researching different move companies?
You need to find a company with experience and a good reputation. Ask friends and family for recommendations and get straight word-of-mouth, authentic reviews. If you live in a building, ask your doorman or superintendent – they see the local movers in action. Make sure the company you choose is approved by your building management if you’re living in an apartment building. Have the company put everything discussed in writing, and read what they provide you carefully. Make sure you are moving with a licensed moving company and not a third party “agent” that will essentially sell your job to a moving company.
3. What kind of process can someone expect when they hire a professional mover? How soon should you book a mover prior to when you want to move?
The moving company should either send a representative to your home or take a thorough inventory over the phone. The estimator should promptly provide you with a detailed estimate in writing that includes a list of all the property being moved and all services being rendered to assure you are all on the same page come move day.
Do not assume any services or materials are included, and do not assume things not on the inventory list are included in the price quote, unless you see it in writing. Especially in the case of a telephone estimate, the estimator is relying on you to provide the information – they can’t see all the miscellaneous items, books and toys you need to move; you need to accurately relay that. If there is something missing or off about the estimate you receive, contact the estimator and clarify before you sign. It’s very likely that they will amend the agreement to include whatever it is that you feel more comfortable seeing in writing. Protect yourself before the move to avoid a hassle on the day of the move. Ideally, and depending on the season and time of the month, you should book your move at least two to three weeks before the move date. Summer and the very last/first days of the month (when leases start and end) are busiest. Allot yourself enough time to obtain and consider cost proposals and book the move.
4. Should you consider what kind of mover to hire based on the kind of move you are making?
Absolutely, as always, experience and reputation are paramount. You may have a great local mover that simply doesn’t have the volume to do long distance moves timely. Or, you can have a large van line with connections across the country that is simply out of your price range. There are also different licenses and regulations for different move types. A good source for information is the state’s DOT or the FMCSA for interstate moves. Ultimately you need to find a reputable, professional company that meets your needs price wise and fits your time frame.
5. What are some things that should raise red flags when you are researching moving companies? What are some things that you should never see a moving company do/say?
A friend of mine recently moved from the Midwest to South Carolina, and while Oz could not help her directly with the move, I did review some of the price quotes she got and I was shocked at some of the sneaky stuff I came across! Be sure to look for conflicting information. One of the quotes had a “Pick Up “ date listed at the top, and lower in the fine print it stated the “pick up window was within three days of the pickup date listed above.” One provided by an agent had an “estimate fee.” The proposal should be clear and concise. If you see important information on one proposal that is not listed on another, ask the estimator to clarify and include it. Again, it’s never safe to assume anything that is not in writing.
In addition, consider price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Any lack of information on a company’s website – such as no physical address, no DOT number, inconsistent information–should also raise red flags. Companies who quote you without asking too many questions about what, where and when you are moving should also raise red flags.
6. How is cost calculated for a move?
Cost is calculated, essentially, by volume and services. The more you move, the more it will cost. The more services the movers provide, the more it will cost. The more you do before they get there, the less it will cost.
Distance may also play a significant factor in pricing for local or long distance moves. If you are moving locally, the services are generally based on either an hourly rate (again, the more you have or have the movers do, the more it will cost) or by volume (a written binding estimate or “flat price” based on the list of property). Long distance or interstate moves are based on volume, either cubic foot or pound.
Be sure to check back on Monday for more of our conversation with Zafrani when she details how to make sure your moving company is well-insured and what she says you should NEVER pack!
-by Emily Robertson