It’s no secret that moving is a stressful experience regardless of whether you’re moving locally or long distance. Packing up and shipping all of your belongings takes an emotional toll on people as well as a financial and physical toll. We wrote this guide here at FlatRate on how to avoid a bad moving experience and five red flags to watch out for.

Stories about moving scams are all over the internet. Some are unlicensed companies who make their living from theft. Most are simply inexperienced, dishonest, or a combination of both. All result in added stress on the day of the move. Post-move, the headache may continue if items are damaged or lost.

1. Basic Information (Or lack thereof)

Do your research prior to booking your moving company! A simple search on google will satisfy most of this research. Certain things to look out for include having a physical headquarters listed on their online business listing or website.

The basic details on the moving company should also be included in the Google Business listing or website including contact information and some services that are offered. Beware of moving companies in which this kind of information is difficult to find. Not having a physical address is a huge red flag as is an unprofessional looking website.

The other key piece of information (and potentially the most important) is their DOT number. This means that the company is registered with the Department of Transportation. It should be easy to find on their website and can be referenced on the DOT database. All moving companies are required to be registered with the DOT for interstate moves and in many states (including NY) for local moves as well.

One other good way to check on the reliability of a moving company is to check out the American Moving and Storage Association list of Pro-Movers to see if the company you’re considering is on this list. This is just further validation that the moving company is reputable.

2. Online Reputation

Reviews don’t often tell the whole story about a moving company (especially with the prevalence of fake reviews from businesses and their competitors). Nevertheless, looking at Google+ Reviews, Yelp, Facebook and the BBB for reviews is never a bad idea.

Ideally, you’re looking for positive experiences as people are much more likely to leave reviews after a negative experience than they are after a positive one. That being said, reading negative reviews that relate to your current situation (moving locally, interstate, etc.) will give you a good idea of true customer experiences. Everyone’s situation is different, which is why it’s so important to actually read these reviews rather than pass judgment on a star/overall rating alone.

While we advise customers to not jump to conclusions based on a few bad reviews or an overall rating, negative reviews across the board on multiple platforms are definite red flags.

3. Knowledge is Power

It’s no secret that any moving company that’s worth their salt will know the answers to any questions that you may have. Asking questions like the ones below can give you a good idea of the reputability of the company:

  • How does pricing work for local/long distance moves?
  • What services are offered as part of the move? What services come standard and which result in an additional fee?
  • How are certain specialty items packed and protected?
  • What insurance/valuation coverage is offered? In the case items are lost or damaged, what is the claims process? To learn more: read our article on moving insurance
  • Is storage available as a service (whether long or short term)? Is it a 3rd party storage location or owned by the same moving company?
  • Logistical questions – Things like how long the move will take, how many movers will be in the crew on the day of the move, and if the company is packing for you so they need to come the day before or can they pack the morning of (also how this will affect the price). Also, can the moving company offer a Certificate of Insurance (COI) that meets your apartment building’s qualifications?

Companies that aren’t reputable or are inexperienced simply won’t be able to answer these questions. If you’re getting shaky or uneasy answers it may be time to choose a different company. The main goal of a moving company should be to be able to answer your moving-related questions. They should be experts on whom you depend. Ask, if not listed on their website, how long the company has been in business.

4. Suspicious Estimates

The old adage, “If it feels too good to be true, it probably is,” rings especially true when it comes to professional moving companies. If you’ve received multiple quotes and one is coming in much lower than the other it should raise suspicions. It doesn’t mean the company is trying to scam you necessarily, but additional fees on move day could be incurred resulting in a much higher price than you were expecting.

This is why all reputable moving companies should be happy to send out a consultant to evaluate the move in person to give you the most accurate estimate. Learn more from the blog article in the link directly above.

Professional moving companies that ask for a large deposit upfront when booking your move should be avoided at all costs. While it’s common practice to keep an uncharged credit card on file to reserve a move date, any large deposit is a major red flag.

Any company, for obvious reasons, that only accepts cash payments should also be avoided. Reputable moving companies generally accept credit cards, cashier’s checks as well as cash.

5. Details and Intuition

The details listed above, dodgy answers to questions and unbranded trucks are all small details that can add up to an unpleasant move day experience. Reputable moving companies take every opportunity they can to market their services as the competition is so high in the industry. An unbranded truck is not only a missed marketing opportunity but also a red flag.

Using your intuition when it comes to moving companies is a great piece of advice as well. In-home estimates should always be free. A visible red flag is if the estimator shows up in an unprofessional manner. Are you treated with respect and prompt service when you call the company? If not, this may be an indication of how you will be treated during your move and post-move.

We hope here at FlatRate Moving this guide will help you identify red flags and choose the right moving company. If you’re ready to receive an estimate, request a quote on the form above or give us a call. Thanks for reading!