Moving Step 1...Do Your Research
What to Expect With a Mover
The vast majority of professional moving companies are reputable, honest, and dependable. Many are family-owned businesses who have made a long-term investment in their community, and their best source of new business is a satisfied customer.
Iggy's tip: Remember that prices too good to be true probably are. Legitimate business people have legitimate expenses, such as license, taxes, insurance, employee wages, benefits, and quality equipment. A legitimate mover must consider all those things when determining the price for service ... and so should you.
Iggy’s Tip: State and federal law require your mover to provide you with a free, written estimate up front! That means the salesperson should visit your home to look at everything you want to move. Filling out an internet questionnaire is NOT adequate; nor, in our opinion, is merely a conversation on the telephone!
The sales person should ask questions about your new home, too, including stairs, elevators, low trees, etc. Be sure to show the mover everything you will be moving. The ease of your move and the final price will be determined by all these things, so don't hold anything back. REMEMBER: An internet questionnaire is not adequate!! You should want to meet a representative of the company before you hire them.
Iggy’s Tip: An estimate is not a guaranteed price! If you've been forthright about details, a good mover will come very close to the actual final price.
Even if you agree to a telephone estimate, which we don't recommend, be sure the mover follows up and provides you with a written estimate. It's a good idea to get written estimates from at least three movers. Don't let the same salesperson give you an estimate from more than one company -- think about it: how reliable would it be?
Consider more than just the rate! The lowest estimated price doesn't necessarily mean it will be the best move, nor does it mean that is the actual price you will pay. If you are quoted a price significantly lower than your other estimates, or if they throw in a lot of "free" things, be careful about choosing that mover. The service and overall quality of your move could be reduced, too.
Ask friends, relatives, and business colleagues about movers they have used and liked. Be careful about relying only on references provided by the mover (would they provide a bad reference?). Never, ever, do business with a company with only a phone number … especially if you found them on the Internet. After all advice against it, if you feel you still want to go with an Internet mover, make sure when you visit the mover's website that they SHOW a physical location (and not merely an 800-number) -- just in case you need to track them down later.
Stop by unannounced to see their place of business. (Another good reason to use a mover from your community.) Look at their equipment and buildings. Are they clean and well maintained? This is particularly important if you're placing your goods into storage. How about the employees? Are they neat and clean? Are they answering your questions or giving you the bum's rush? Observe moves in progress -- are the movers careful with the property they're loading? Remember, you're entrusting all your worldly goods to the care of these people. Is your instinct a good one?
For residential moves within Illinois, a mover is not allowed to give you a discount except on certain limited local moves. Movers' rates must be published in their tariff with the Illinois Commerce Commission. If the mover is offering you a lot of "freebies" (such as cartons, tape, etc.) just to get your move, ask questions. Unless the "freebies" are included in the tariff, the mover could well be required to bill you later. You have the right to see the mover's tariff.
For interstate moves (crossing the state line), movers may say they're offering you a discount. But be careful about choosing the mover with the lowest price if it is significantly lower than your other estimates. The larger the "discount" offered to you by the sales representative, the less revenue the driver (who does the work) is paid. Big "discounts" could result in cutting corners on the quality of your move.
Know Your Affiliate
Be sure you know the actual name of the company you hire. A mover's van line affiliation is only significant as part of a larger network across state lines. Nearly every van line agent is an independently owned company (like a franchise.) On local moves and moves within the same state, each mover is responsible for its own business and must be licensed independently. Every van line agent has a "local" company name behind it, too. That's the name you want to know.
For your own protection, be sure the mover you hire is licensed. By law, the mover must show its license numbers in every advertisement - including the internet. Our office can help you, or you may contact the Illinois Commerce Commission (217/782-6448) to verify the license and insurance and check complaints that may have been filed about movers in Illinois.
Visit our "Resources" page for helpful links, including the Illinois Commerce Commission's website for household goods movers within Illinois. For more, information about interstate moves, check out www.protectyourmove.gov. This is the consumer information site of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Iggy’s Tip: “Craig’s List” has become a popular online resource to find movers. Be aware, however, that most of the listed movers are unlicensed, they use throw-away cell phones, and you have no way to track them down later if things go wrong! Always look for a license number, and then check to be sure it's legitimate.
Who will be responsible? Hiring an unlicensed person to do your move can set you up for grief -- you will have no recourse if things go wrong. If anyone is injured (workers or others) or if anyone else's property is damaged during the move, you are liable. An unlicensed mover is breaking the law -- is that who you really want to trust with all your personal possessions? So avoid the cheap guy on the grocery store bulletin board or in the truck rental agency. It isn't worth it.
Loss & Damage Protection
Be sure you understand the type of loss and damage protection you agree to in your bill of lading (which is your contract). Basic moving rates only cover a minimal amount of protection, because every customer has different needs based on the nature of their possessions. Some customers need $500,000 of coverage, while others might need only $500, or even no extra coverage. Extra coverage (based on your own needs) will cost extra. This coverage may be in the form of insurance, for which you should receive a certificate of insurance, or in the form of "declared valuation," which is increased liability assumed by the mover.
Click here for "Understanding Your Options for Loss and Damage Protection," prepared by IMAWA to explain your options for Illinois intrastate moves. Options on interstate moves are similar, but the amounts differ. Details for interstate moving can be found at www.protectyourmove.gov. The time to make the decision about this coverage is before the move starts.
You should also be aware of the law. Regulations for moving within the state (intrastate) are different from moving from one state to another (interstate). All states have their own requirements for intrastate moves, and some are more stringent than others. Check with the state movers' association or the state regulatory agency for more information. (Visit our "Resources" page for links.)
If your mover is taking custody of your property to place it into storage for you, be sure you know specifically where the storage will be. Inspect the warehouse. Are they taking good care of other customers' property? Is the warehouse licensed?
Iggy’s Tip: In Illinois, a separate warehouse license from the Illinois Commerce Commission is required, and the warehouse is inspected for security, fire protection, and property damaging infestations of rodents, bugs, mold and other items. Be sure to check to see if the mover you're considering has a legitimate warehouse license. (Self storage is not the same thing!) After all, how will you know where your goods are stored if your mover doesn’t have a licensed warehouse?
Be sure to receive a storage contract warehouse receipt, which will include a detailed inventory of your goods, specify the storage rate, loss and damage protection, etc., along with the specific address where your goods will be stored.
A good warehouseman will not suggest long-term storage of your property in an unused trailer -- the risk of loss or damage is too great. Never allow a mover to place your goods in a self-storage (mini warehouse) or public storage facility in the mover's name. If the mover doesn't have a licensed warehouse (in his/her own name), it is against the law to be performing warehouse service.
If you place your property in a self-storage facility, be aware that unless it is specifically climate controlled it is like renting a nice garage in which to store your goods. Extreme temperature changes, mice and bugs, and security should be considered. Be sure to receive a self-storage lease in your name. You should have your own lock and key for this kind of storage, and you are responsible for any damage that occurs to your property.