13 Red Flags to Watch Out For When Hiring a Moving Company
Last Updated: August 17th, 2022 at 11:51 am
Depending on how you look at it (and the circumstances surrounding the same), moving can either be super exciting or badly depressing.
Change is not something most of us embrace by human nature, and moving happens to be one of the most disruptive undertakings for the simple reason that it literally involves uprooting your life and routine as you know it and confronting the unfamiliar.
It’s a little surprising then that moving is regarded as one of life’s biggest stressors. Fortunately, there are things we can do to make it less so. Hiring a moving company, for example.
However, finding the right moving company is key as there is no shortage of bad moving companies out there, some capable of making your move a hellish experience.
Knowing the right questions to ask moving companies can help you identify a legitimate moving company from a scammer. More than that, there are red flags in a company that are dead giveaways that you’re dealing with unscrupulous characters.
Let’s walk you through 13 moving company red flags to keep an eye out for if you don’t want to be left holding the bag. If you are considering a DIY move, though, you might want to skip this one.
1. Their Estimate Is Too Good to Be True
If it’s too good to be true, it most likely is. Some moving companies will come promising eternal life, but it’s not until later after signing on the dotted line that you’ll realize they were snake oil merchants.
While there are measures you can always implement to trim your moving bill, moving is not the cheapest service in the world, especially if it’s a long-distance move.
In an attempt to lure customers, some companies tout the lowest estimates, but it is often these types who end up charging you an arm and a leg when all is said and done, as many have discovered much to their chagrin.
It’s essential to know the average cost of your move in advance if you want to avoid nasty surprises down the line.
2. Information Is Hard to Find Online
In this day and age, the least you can expect from any moving company that prides itself as a serious business is a company website. That’s a bare minimum, but beware that some can just put up a domain in order to appear legit.
Said website should carry detailed information about the mover, including physical address (see below), contact details, and other important information that sheds light on the company’s services and its modus operandi.
A lot of business for moving companies comes from online channels, so if the mover you’re considering lacks a solid digital footprint – website, legit customer reviews, and social media for good measure – that’s a reason to raise your right eyebrow.
3. No Physical Address
A moving company is not a drop-shipping company that can be operated from a 10 x 10 foot studio apartment. An entity that claims to own moving trucks, and equipment, and provides packing supplies for its customers (never mind storage) has to have a verifiable base of operation, no two ways about it.
It’s important to keep in mind that some “movers” operate as brokers and can indeed point you to verifiable addresses, but that’s one of the biggest moving company red flags. In a real sense, they are just intermediaries between customers and the actual moving company they’re liaising with.
That’s why it matters to have the right questions to ask moving companies when evaluating them.
4. Not Properly Licensed or Insured
A business license is one of the most obvious ways to identify red flags in a company.
Local movers must be licensed within the state, and if the company provides interstate moving services, they should have a USDOT number from the US department of transportation. Make sure to request this number to avoid getting yourself in a mess.
5. They Don’t Offer Valuation Coverage
Any reputable mover worth their salt must offer liability options for their customers which holds them responsible for part of your shipment. This should definitely be right up there on the list of what to ask a moving company before signing up with them.
If the mover caters to interstate moves, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) requires the company to offer two types of valuation coverage: Released Value Protection and Full Value Protection.
6. Bad or Few Recent Moving Reviews
Negative reviews are obvious moving company red flags as they open the mover up to scrutiny, revealing a record of how they have been conducting business and treating previous customers.
Reviews are easy to manipulate, especially the dross you’ll find on the company website. This is why you might want to focus on the reviews and ratings on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp, and Angie’s List. Google and Facebook reviews can also give you a feel of the company and what you can expect.
A handful of recent reviews (however glowing) can be red flags in a company and need to be taken with a pinch of salt as they could be a sign of bad moving companies posing as good guys.
7. No In-Person or Over Zoom Estimate
Typically, a moving company will conduct some type of evaluation to determine the cost of the relocation. This evaluation can either be done in person or through video so as to give you an accurate estimate or the closest figure to the ballpark.
If the mover provides neither, it should send your alarm bells ringing.
8. They Can’t or Won’t Provide You With References
Unless you are their first job, every mover should be in a position to provide you with references that attest to their level of service, should you need them.
Therefore, add this to your list of questions to ask moving companies. In case you’re intent on reaching out to these customers, remember that these people could be anyone (relatives or even friends) so it’s upon you to figure out if it’s a scam or not.
9. Customers Have Filed Complaints With the BBB or FMCSA
If during the course of evaluating the mover, you encounter that more than one customer filed a complaint with the BBB or FMCSA, that’s as compelling as moving company red flags go.
You can access this information from the BBB website or look up their USDOT number with the FMCSA.
10. They Demand Upfront Payment or Ask for a Large Deposit (Or Payment in Cash)
All obvious red flags in a company.
It’s true that most movers ask for a deposit upfront, with the balance to be paid after the job. If the mover you’re dealing with asks for a large deposit or payment in cash, run and don’t look back!
11. They Only Offer Non-binding Estimates and Ask to Sign a Blank Contract
A non-binding estimate means the quoted price is liable to change and is one of the most glaring moving company red flags you’ll find. Even some licensed movers do pull this bunny out of the hat.
Since it’s based on the estimated weight of your belongings, what movers who play this card do is low-ball on the initial estimate with the intention of slapping you with a huge invoice when the work is done. Woe unto you if you forget to confirm this from the onset.
There are always legit ways to compensate the movers if you feel generous enough. Learn about tipping etiquette for movers.
12. No Delivery Date Given
A reputable moving company should not keep you guessing about the delivery date. In fact, this is something you need etched in stone because a late delivery can be hugely inconvenient for you.
Conversely, an earlier delivery (while seeming commendable on the surface) could see you incur extra charges for every additional day the movers hold the belongings for you. Needless to say, some tend to do this intentionally.
13. You Cannot Contact the Driver During the Move
A professional moving company operates above board and is happy to keep you in the loop regarding the current location of your shipment, more so if they are running behind.
Ideally, you should be able to reach the driver or a representative who can communicate with the driver any time you want when your belongings are in transit.
Avoid last-minute frustrations by scheduling your move in advance.
The advantages of hiring a moving company far outweigh the disadvantages. However, it’s important to hire the right mover if you don’t want to find yourself in a situation like the Pear family in the aptly-named film, Moving.
These 13 moving company red flags will help you separate bad moving companies from players of repute.