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Leaving all your possessions in the hands of strangers can be a bit disconcerting. How do you know your things will be safe? By doing some homework up front, you can save money and avoid scams. Here’s what to know before you hire a moving company:

1. Find a Reputable Moving Company

The best way to begin your search is to get recommendations from friends, family and local real estate agents. Be wary of companies that offer to find you a mover – these are typically moving brokers and will often lead to a much more expensive move. Conduct an initial screening online. Sites like the Better Business Bureau, and movingscam.com can help you check the company’s track record.

Once you narrow your search down to three companies, you can do a more thorough check. Moving expert Diane Schmidt advises these four steps for vetting your potential moving company:

  • Do a background check on the moving company: MovingScam.com has a great article on what to include in your background check.
  • Ask the right questions: Diane provides a list of questions to ask your potential moving company.
  • Look for suspicious behavior: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides a comprehensive list of red flags to watch out for.
  • Listen to yourself…if you feel uncomfortable, or something doesn’t seem right, don’t sign the contract. 
2. Hourly vs. Flat Rate
  • Hourly Rates
    Most moves are charged by the hour and this is generally the option you want to choose when moving locally. To get the most accurate estimate, you’ll want to have your potential movers come to your home instead of getting a quote over the phone.
  • Flat Rates
    Flat rates are typically used for long distance moves. This begins with an in-home evaluation of your belongings to estimate the weight and value of the items being moved. When you’re moving across the country there are many things that could affect the time it takes to get there, so the hourly rate is usually not cost effective.

Since there can be many factors involved in moving, locally or out of state, ask for quotes based on hourly rate, weight, and distance to get the best deal.

3. Required Deposits Should be Nominal

While not a common occurrence, sometimes a moving company will ask for a deposit up front. This should be a nominal fee. If a company is asking you to put down a large sum of money or say they only accept cash…BEWARE! Chances are very good that you’re being scammed.

Always ask your movers up front about their deposit policy and any advance notice requirements they need in case you need to change your moving dates(s). MovingScam.com says that “If your move is an interstate move, you should never expect to pay a deposit…”

4. Basic “Insurance” Doesn’t Cover Much

According to FMCSA, all moving companies are liable for the value of any good they transport. However, it’s important to understand the different levels of liability so that you can choose the type and amount of reimbursement you’ll receive if your item(s) are lost or damaged. Be aware that these coverage packages are not insurance policies governed by state insurance laws.

Below are the typical options. The first two types of coverage are provided by the moving company. Some moving companies offer third-party insurance, but it’s always a good idea to shop around.

  • Released Value Protection 
    This is very basic protection and is offered at no additional charge. This type of coverage compensates you on the weight of the item – not it’s actual value. The mover’s liability is no more than 60 cents per pound per item. For example, if your moving company dropped your 100 lb flat screen TV, valued at $1,000, you would only receive $60 in compensation (60 cents x 100 lbs).
  • Full Value Protection
    Under this option, the mover is liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. Unless you specifically select the coverage above – released value protection– your mover will transport your items under this level of liability. Movers may limit their liability on any article that exceeds $100 per pound, such as a piece of art, unless these articles are listed on their shipping documents. Ask your mover for written details of their plan.
  • Third-Party Insurance
    Getting third-party insurance is also an option. Before purchasing additional insurance, check your homeowner’s policy to see if you’re already covered. While homeowner’s policies typically don’t include this type of coverage, there are independent companies that offer moving insurance or relocation insurance. There are polices to protect your goods for single item damage or loss, or for a catastrophic occurrence.

By Neil Christiansen, Branch Manager of Churchill Mortgage Denver, CO

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