NEW YORK (CNNfn) - It's your move. Make sure it doesn't become your nightmare.|
About 42 million Americans changed residences in the year ending March 1999, and undoubtedly many of them limped away from the experience with a van-load of relocation horror stories.
Whether the mover boosted the cost of the service in mid-stream, operated out of an empty storefront, or held the family's belongings hostage until they got more money, a lot people will look back on their move and ask, "What the heck was I thinking?"
Don't let that happen to you. Experts say you should know the people you are dealing with before you let them move your household around the corner or around the country.
"It's amazing how many people will trust all their worldly goods to someone they picked out of the yellow pages and checked no further," said George E. Bennett, vice president of communications for the American Moving and Storage Association, a moving industry trade group.
The AMSA maintains a professional mover can make life simpler and reduce frustration. The organization conducted a study that found, in many cases, the cost of using a professional mover is within $200-to-$300 of a person handling a move entirely on his or her own. And it can be safer than climbing behind the wheel of a rented truck and heading out on the freeway.
A moveable feast
Now you want to pick that pro. The AMSA has several tips for consumers who want to hire a professional mover. They include:
- Check with friends and neighbors to see if they can recommend a mover.
- Call your local Better Business Bureau or consumer office to find out if a mover you're considering has been hit with complaints.
- Get the names of two or three movers from the phonebook or companies you've seen around town.
- Go to the companies' headquarters and look around. Is the place clean and organized? Do the trucks appear to be in good shape? "You can tell a lot by looking at a place," Bennett said. "Also, you can make sure it's there."
- Moving from one state to another? Your mover must have authority from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Call the agency at 800-832-5660 and opt for Menu No. 1.
- Call the AMSA's membership department at 703-683-7410 to see if the mover is a member or to see if a company is an agent for a van line.
Also, avoid moving at the end or beginning of the month when the schedules of most moving companies are filled. You can save time and money by planning your move for a weekday instead of busier weekends.
And remember the worst time of the year to move is around three summer season holiday weekends: Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day. They're long weekends and they come at the end of the month. 'Nuff said?
The cost of an interstate move, according to the AMSA, is based on the weight of your belongings and the distance they are shipped, plus the amount of packing and other services you may need.
Movers will give you an estimate to help you anticipate the cost of your move — but only after they've come to your house.
"Real professionals will not give estimates over the phone," Bennett said. "They will send someone to the home and find out what the customer's needs are."
The AMSA says you can help out the movers by showing them every single item to be moved, including stuff in the attic, basement, garage, closets, and even under the beds.
There are different types of estimates:
- Binding estimates are written agreements that guarantee the cost of the move based on the items to be moved and the services listed on the mover's estimate sheet.
- Non-binding estimates are not guaranteed. They approximate the cost based on the mover's survey of the items to be moved, with the final cost determined after the shipment is weighed. There is no guarantee the final cost will not be more than the estimate. Movers determine weight by putting the van on a scale before and after it is loaded.
Clyde & Shari Steiner, authors of "Steiners' Complete How-to-Move Handbook," say the not-to-exceed estimate gives the best of both worlds. Here, the movers give you a binding estimate, then weigh the vehicle and reduce the price if it is less than anticipated.
The Steiners say you should ask all movers if they offer this service. If not, they recommend the binding estimate.
Also, if a mover gives a ridiculously low estimate, you probably don't want to do business with him.
On the Net
The Internet offers consumers another way of handling the moving game. MoverQuotes.com gives real-time quotes for moves.
To use the free site, type in your point of origin, your destination, and your type of move. This could range from an apartment move of 2,000 pounds to a very large move of 20,000 pounds. One more click and you will get a list of moving companies and their quotes.
The site was recently acquired by Monster.com parent company TMP Worldwide and will be re-launched as Monstermoving.com.
Senior Vice President Mark Sherman said the site monitors the moving companies to make sure they are reputable.
Moving-Guide.com lists movers both in the United States and around the world. The site also provides a directory for related areas such as storage, auto transport and commercial movers.