Remember the last time you moved, in the pouring rain, and the truck broke down, and you threw out your back, and it took 17 zillion hours, and you somehow lost both your wallet and your cell phone, and you swore you would hire professionals next time?
But then next time rolled around, and the movers you hired cost way too much and broke your grandmother’s vase, and now you don’t know how you’ll ever move again.
Phew. It’s OK—we’ve been there, both places—but you don’t have to schlep your stuff around forever to avoid the hassle of dealing with incompetent and expensive “professionals.” Good movers really domake your life better, and they don’t have to cost a ton. To get the best deal (and save your sanity) you just need a few insider tips, the stuff the moving company won’t tell you over the phone. Luckily for you, we’ve found those out.
1. You won’t get the best quote online
Unlike comparison shopping for a new vase (because you need one now), you won’t actually find the best deal on movers by getting quotes online, or even over the phone.
If you want the best deal, invite potential movers over. Seriously.
“For most accurate estimates on large moves, in-person is the way to go,” says Heidi Davidson, representative for Zootly, an on-demand moving service in the New York City area. (FYI, “large moves” are considered to be anything bigger than a studio apartment.)
2. A by-the-hour estimate isn’t always your best bet
Most estimates are by the hour, but that isn’t the only way movers price moves—and it may not be your cheapest bet.
“Hourly works best for smaller moves, but weight works better for the larger moves,” Davidson says.
To make sure you’re getting the best deal, ask for quotes based on hourly rate, weight, and distance.
3. You shouldn’t have to pay (much) before your move
Some moving companies may want a deposit up front. This isn’t unusual, but use caution.
If a moving company asks for money before it has actually done anything (and most won’t), the amount should be nominal.
“Use caution if they require a large deposit or only accept cash,” Davidson says.
If they’re asking for a lot up front, you might be getting scammed.
4. You’ll save money if you disassemble stuff yourself
“If everything is packed and whatever can be taken apart is complete, you’ll save [the mover’s] time—and, yes, time is money,” Davidson says.
On the other hand, if your time is your biggest motivator, you’d be better off leaving some stuff for the pros, like disassembling your bed, which a pro can do in about 15 minutes, according to Davidson.
5. You aren’t on the hook for their parking mistakes
If your mover blocks a fire hydrant and gets a ticket, you might feel obligated to pay it (it was your building, after all), or they might even just tack it on to your bill. Those incidentals, however, aren’t your problem.
“It is illegal to charge for parking tickets that the mover received while moving the customer—in most cities,” Davidson says.
6. The basic insurance won’t cover everything
Typically, movers offer basic liability coverage in the event your stuff is damaged, but we’ve learned the hard way that doesn’t mean they’ll replace your expensive antique hutch.
“The basic insurance is $0.30 per pound for local and $0.60 per pound for long distance,” Davidson says. “It does not cover much.”
Instead, you should check if your renters or homeowners policy covers damages from moving, and if not, ask the mover for a higher coverage option.
7. If something does go wrong, you may not get compensated
Most movers will tell you that if something is damaged, they’ll pay (at least partially) to have it repaired or replaced, but it may not be as easy as it sounds.
When you call to file a repair complaint, the mover may have forgotten (or chosen to forget) the damage, and say it never happened. Without proof they caused it, you might be SOL.
“Take some pictures of your most important pieces, with a time stamp,” Davidson says.
8. And the sketchy ones might kidnap all your things
And damaging your stuff isn’t even the worst that can happen. If you get into a dispute with the movers, or refuse to pay, they may drive off with your stuff.
“We’ve heard of this for disreputable movers,” Davidson says.
In some cases, moving companies held on to belongings for days or even tried to sell them off. To keep this from happening to you, make sure you go with a licensed mover—they’ll be on the hook if you threaten to file a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation.