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Avoid unexpected moving fees by doing homework in advance

Moving can be one of the most stressful events in your life. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37 million Americans do it each year.

Watching a truck drive away with all your possessions, and trusting they will deliver everything you own in the same condition across town or to another state is nerve-wracking to say the least.

If you do your homework before you hire a mover, it can save you money and jangled nerves.

Moving blankets, packing tape, and professional movers who know what they are doing are all necessary to keep your furniture dent-free during a move.

"Believe me, if we make a scratch or mistake, it hurts us almost just as much as the homeowner because we take pride in this," said Frederick Byers who is a professional mover in Charlotte, NC.  

But not all movers are as conscientious about protecting your valuables as Byers and his co-workers.

According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints about movers primarily focus on damaged or lost goods, and final prices exceeding original estimates. 

So, before hiring a moving company, check the company's credentials at BBB.org.

"We have movers that are A+ rated and some that are F rated. Believe me, you don't want end up doing business with an F rated company," said Tom Bartholomy, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont.

It only takes about one minute and 40 seconds to bring up a company's history through the BBB's website, or to check a moving company's licensing through a state agency.

"That two minutes can give you a greater sense of mind, or wow, this is a great quote—a great price they gave me, but wow, they've got a lousy record," Bartholomy said.

Some companies get a bad reputation because they hire day laborers who don't know the first thing about moving.

"They haven't packed a lunch, let alone a truck and have no experience whatsoever," and Bartholomy added, "We get complaints from people who are watching in horror as their furniture, their belongings are being loaded onto this truck by people who have never loaded anything before, and they wonder—what have I gotten myself into?"

To minimize some of the stress of moving, verify licensing. All interstate movers most be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and are assigned a motor carrier number in which you can verify.

Confirm insurance coverage by asking the company for a copy of its certificate of insurance so you can make sure the mover is, indeed, insured.

Get at least three in-home estimates. How a company calculates the cubic footage of your belongings can make a big difference in price. 

"That way you can have your comfort level with potentially who you are doing business with, and be able to compare those quotes on an apples-to-apples basis and not just on, well, oh yeah, I'll give you an online quote -- you're in a two-bedroom apartment. That will be $1,500. Well, they have no idea what you have loaded into that two-bedroom apartment until they're there and able to see it," Bartholomy said.

There are a number of ways moving companies sneak in extra charges.

For example, if you live in a multi-level home, or if there are several steps leading up to the front door, they could charge more.

Also, if there's not enough room near your apartment for a moving truck to park, they may have stay out on a nearby street, and you'll be charged for this, too.

If you live in a mid- or high-rise apartment building without a service elevator, you may have to pay ‘long carry' or ‘stair' fees.

The BBB strongly recommends you find out if a moving company is hiring a sub-contractor to pack and move your things. If so, find out what their track record is.

If you are making a cross-country move and your possessions don't fill up a mover's big truck, your possessions could be combined with someone else's stuff during transit. This poses the potential of your belongings becoming infested with bed bugs, mice or any other pests from a complete stranger's possessions. So, be sure to ask before you hire a mover.

Find out all the details in advance to avoid getting stressed out when a mover hands you the final bill.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:
The following tips are from the Better Business Bureau:

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37 million Americans move per year. 
  • Unfortunately, not all of these moves go as planned, so the BBB has advice to help make your move hassle-free.
  • In the past 36 months, nearly 44,000 consumers checked moving companies out with the BBB and 169 consumers filed complaints against local moving companies. Complaints about movers primarily focus on damaged or lost goods and final prices exceeding original estimates.
  • Checking out a mover is quick and easy. Last year, more than one million consumers nationwide checked with the BBB to find reputable moving companies that are licensed, bonded, insured, and have good ratings
  • If you are planning a move, the BBB has this advice:
    • Do your homework. Check the company's report with the BBB.
    • Get a written contract. Carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract, as well as the limits of liability and any disclaimers. Make sure pick-up and delivery dates or delivery ‘windows' are spelled out.
    • Verify licensing. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify.
    • Confirm insurance coverage – Ask the company for a copy of its Certificate of Insurance to verify that the mover is insured.
    • Get at least three in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm estimate on-line or over the telephone. Also, keep in mind that the lowest estimate can be a ‘low-ball offer' which can cost you more in the end.
    • Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer in the state you currently reside and in the state where you are moving.
    • Call the police if your moving company holds your belongings ‘hostage' in order to make you pay more than the agreed upon contract price.
    • For more information, please visit the American Moving & Storage Association, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the BBB
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