Moving soon? Get the movers lined up ASAP (and avoid scams)

With peak moving season getting underway, consumers should be aware of an increase in moving company scams.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration alone received more than 7,000 complaints about movers from consumers in 2021.

With so many moving companies to choose from, including some that have popped up recently, checking a moving company’s reputation should be step number one.

“A reputable mover can be found by checking Google reviews, by going to organizations like the Better Business Bureau, by going to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website to see how many complaints have been filed with the Department of Transportation, and check with your friends and neighbors who have used movers before,” said David Cox, an executive vice president at Sterling, Virginia-based JK Moving who oversees its residential moving business. “Referrals are a great way to determine the honesty of a mover.” reports some of the more frequent moving company scams include: requiring a deposit up front, sight-unseen estimates, and passing off one kind of liability coverage for something more comprehensive.

The next step, especially right now, is to get several estimates and line up a moving company as soon as possible.

“People typically want to move while their kids are out of school. The months of May through September are extremely busy in the business, and reputable movers fill up fast,” Cox said.

Reputable moving companies provide estimates for the cost of the move up front, but estimates are not necessarily set in stone. There are generally three types of estimates a moving company will provide.

“A binding estimate means the moving company is going to provide you with a fixed price for the move. A nonbinding estimate means they are going to give you a range, and they are not going to lock in that price. A guaranteed not-to-exceed estimate is one where they lock in the highest amount you would possibly pay, while recognizing you may pay less than the amount if your weight comes in less or services are less,” Cox said.

It is also important to know all of the services that are included in the estimate, such as packing and unpacking, short-term storage if needed, and insurance against breakage and damage, in writing.

JK Moving, the largest independent moving company in the U.S., also warns consumers against moving service “brokers” who promise best prices. They are not movers and do not have staff, trucks or facilities. If a mover does not have a facility, Cox recommends against doing business with them. If they do, he suggests taking a tour.

Federal law requires movers to give consumers a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move before any interstate move.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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