When selecting a mover, start looking early


How do I choose a mover?

Although it's possible to line up a mover as late as two weeks before you move, it's wise to start the selection process a month or two in advance. During busy spring and summer months, the peak season in the moving industry, it can take a couple of weeks just to get an appointment with a moving company representative.

Movers are listed in the yellow pages. But, rather than shop blind, ask friends or colleagues who moved recently if they'd recommend their mover to you. Your real estate agent may be able to suggest a good mover. If your move is a work-related transfer, your employer may have a relationship with a reputable mover.

Use a licensed mover. Interstate movers are licensed by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Intrastate movers are usually licensed by a state public utilities commission.

It's a good idea to get estimates from three licensed movers before making a choice. An estimator from each company you're considering should visit your house to examine the items you're moving before issuing an estimate. Verbal estimates aren't binding so make sure each mover gives you a written estimate.

In most cases you'll want a "not to exceed" or "best price" estimate. This will limit your moving expense to the amount of the estimate. If the move ends up costing less than the estimated amount, you'll pay the lower price.

A "nonbinding" estimate will require that you pay the actual amount of the move, even if this amount exceeds the estimated price. But ICC regulations prohibit licensed movers from charging more than 10 percent above the amount of the original estimate.

Thanks to recent deregulation in the moving industry, movers are able to offer discounts. Ask each mover you interview if discounts are available.

Price is an important factor in picking a mover, but service can be equally important. Moving is stressful, even if it goes smoothly. Be wary of someone whose bid is way below all other bids. A low bid can indicate that someone is trying to buy your business, or it can be a sign of inexperience. You're trusting a stranger with your personal belongings, so make sure you feel confident that you'll get the level of service you require to feel comfortable.

The ICC requires licensed movers to provide cargo insurance at no additional charge to the customer. This insurance will pay only 60 cents per pound per article. You may be wise to purchase more insurance through your mover.

Find out each company's policy regarding damage to goods if you pack them yourself. Unless the box itself is damaged in the move, the mover probably won't be responsible for damage to the contents of the box.

FIRST-TIME TIP: You can cut the cost of your move by throwing out, selling or donating possessions you no longer want. Eliminate these items before you have the movers give you estimates.

A good mover will give you tips on how you can save on your move. Ask for advice on how to pack and how to stack boxes so they'll be easily accessible for loading. You may want to move valuables and house plants by yourself. Knowing where you'll put your belongings in the new house will help to make unloading easier and quicker.

THE CLOSING: Be sure to confirm in advance what kind of payment the movers will accept at your destination. Some movers will only take cash or a certified check (not a personal check). Others will take credit cards.

Dian Hymer's column is syndicated through Inman New Features. Send questions and comments care of Inman News Features, 5335 College Ave., No. 25, Oakland, Calif. 94618.

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