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Moving Guide - How To Choose Your Local Moving Company

Where do you begin?
The following information is written to make your local move a less stressful and hopefully a pleasant experience. A local move is defined as any relocation of household goods that 
travels less than 100 miles from origin to destination within the same state. Moves over 99 miles within the same state are considered intra-state moves and those traveling across state lines are inter-state moves. Local moves are billed at an hourly rate whereas intra- and inter-state moves are billed according to the size and weight of your shipment.

How do I begin?

The Estimate

Hire the movers not the company

Hiring the packers




How do I Begin?
Okay, you are ready to move. Where do you start? You need to obtain 3 estimates from 3 different local moving companies. Ask your neighbours, friends, or co-workers to recommend a local company that they used. Find out who performed their estimate, the name of the moving foreman, the names of the other movers, and names of the packers if they are different from actual movers. If they can't remember names, they may be able to describe the individuals. If you cannot obtain any referrals, check your local Yellow Pages or an Internet site for local moving companies in your area. Do not base your choice solely on the hourly rate for local moving. This rate, which is usually for 2 movers and a van, may vary by as much as $15 an hour for some companies. This may be a factor in your final decision, but it is not the most important one...more on this to come.

The Estimate
Each of the companies you chose to consider will send a salesperson (estimator) to your house to provide you with a free estimate. The estimate should include a separate amount for men, vans, packing, materials and insurance. It should also include the address you are moving to if possible. If you are not sure of the address you are moving to the day your estimate is made, your guaranteed price will be subject to change based on conditions at your final destination such as the number of stairs, the distance from the truck to the front door, and the accessibility of your destination for a large van. If possible, always have the estimator view your destination before they make their final estimate. Each state has its own rules. In California, the local moving company must provide you with a guaranteed price before they begin to move. A guaranteed price (GP) is the exact amount a company will charge you for the services they agreed to perform on the estimate. This must be in writing, and verbal estimates are considered illegal. This law was passed to stop companies from quoting low-ball estimates over the phone and then charging you twice as much on moving day. Once your receive your estimates, you can compare the GP of each estimate. If Moving Company A estimates your move will take 10 hours and its rate for two men and a van is $70 an hour, the GP is $700. This assumes you did not want packing or insurance and will provide your own cartons (material). Moving company B estimates your move will only take 6 hours but its rate for two men and a van is $90. Even though company A appeared to be the less expensive of the two, company B appears to consider its movers more efficient. Even if company B's movers take ten hours, the most they can charge you for the move is $540. The best way to move, if possible, is with the Not to Exceed Price (NTE) estimate. If company A estimates your move will take 10 hours at $70 and it only takes 6 hours to complete the move, you will only be charged for the 6 hours or $420. The NTE price of $700 would be the most you would have to pay. The movers could "beat" the estimate but can not exceed it. This method of estimating is very common in California and should be requested in other states when you receive your estimates.

Hire The Movers Not The Company
If you chose a company without knowing any of its movers, ask the estimator to provide you with the name of an experienced foreman and the "helpers" who will be on your move. This is the #1 rule when hiring a moving company: make sure you know who your movers will be on move day. Use the names of the movers your friends, neighbours or estimator referred to you. Make these movers part of your contract.

Each local moving company has someone who will be planning your move day once you have chosen the company. It may be the manager, dispatcher, owner, operations manager, or even the estimator who came to your house. This depends on the size and structure of the company. For this article he/she will be the moving coordinator or "MC."

The MC of the company you choose may have a choice of 15 movers to schedule for your move. Of this 15, 5 may be foreman. The next 10 movers of the company are the foreman's helpers. These helpers will be assigned to each foreman depending on the requirements of the move. Their experience may also vary greatly.

If your job requires 3 movers, ask for 2 extra names in case some of the movers cannot make it to work that day. A name of a backup foreman is also important because a "helper" may not be experienced enough to run a move. Size is important The size of your van is very important on moving day and something that many experienced homeowners or renters overlook when choosing a mover.

Make sure you know what size truck will arrive at your house or apartment on moving day. Make van size part of your contract. Some local companies charge the same rate whether you arrange for a 50-foot van or a 12-foot van to move your household items. Make sure your estimator has allowed for plenty of empty space in your moving van. Since you are paying by the hour, having to make double trips will add a lot of expense to your move.

You may want to contract for two vans to arrive on moving day if the size of your van is limited for some reason, i.e. low hanging trees, narrow street, and steep driveway. An extra van will help to speed your move up and may cost you only a nominal fee.

Hiring The Packers
There are three different ways to pack up your household items. You can do it all yourself, have the local moving company partially pack some of your items, or you can have them pack everything. If you have anyone else other than the local moving company pack your items understand that the local moving company is not liable for any of the damage that occurred inside of the cartons during your move.

* If you pack yourself, it is always best to pack the day before if possible. When loading a truck, it is very hard to load your household goods efficiently if the foreman has to wait for all the cartons to be packed. *

Packing by the hour is a good choice if you have hired experienced, fast packers. You can obtain these packers the same way you obtained your movers. Make them part of your contract for packing day. Most local companies have certain movers who are very good packers. The larger moving companies may employ a professional packing contractor who specializes only in packing and crating up household goods. Ask your estimator about this. A unit or carton pack is a very profitable way of packing for a local moving company if the packers are fast. They may be charging $24 to pack up one dish pack.

A good packer can pack 3 of these in one hour which means you are being charged $72 an hour for packing instead of the hourly rate of $40 an hour! You will be charged a different rate depending on the type of carton being packed. A book carton will be very inexpensive to pack because it takes little time to put books into a carton. A painting will be more expensive because wrapping and packing a valuable piece of art is time-consuming. * A good way to save money and also have your valuables insured on moving day is to employ the company to partially pack your household items.

Make sure your estimate is clear on the items to be packed. The packers can pack all of the breakable items such as china, glass, and ceramics. You may also feel safer having someone with experience packing these items. The non-breakable items that do not take much experience to pack such as books and clothes will be packed by you. The best reason to hire the best packers is not to save you money but because of the quality of work. The more expensive your household goods are, the more money becomes a non-issue. Even if you have insured your valuable vase, the sentimental value cannot be insured. Local moving companies have a shortage of experienced packers. Packing is usually done by the more experienced movers in the company, so your good packers may also be your best movers.

Choosing when to move You have the company you want, the movers, the packers, and the exact truck, but now you need to pick a day of the week. Most people choose to do their moving during the summer months when their kids are out of school or during vacation. Moving companies need to hire seasonal help to meet this demand. This translates into inexperienced movers during these busy months. This problem also exists during the end and beginning of each month when everybody's lease is up, and on Fridays when people take off work. You want to avoid moving during these busy periods if possible.

The chance of your crew being inexperienced increases on these days. If you have made certain movers a condition of your contract you have already avoided this problem. Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the middle of the month are the best days to move if you have not planned ahead. By Thursday, the best movers are getting tired from the last three days of tough jobs and on Friday's, all the good movers are usually allocated to the customers that planned ahead. If your move is scheduled to take up only part of the day, I would advise moving first thing in the morning. The movers will be fresher and in better spirits.

The first job may take longer than expected and you may have to arrange to move on another day. Small moves All this may seem like a lot of trouble if you just want to move a small one bedroom apartment with a few pieces of furniture and 20-30 boxes. You may not want to get three estimates - but you should follow my advice in talking to the MC or the salesperson on the phone. Remember to find a respected company and then ask for their best mover, packer, and a truck that will easily fit all your items without much trouble. Inform the movers before the move begins that they will be compensated for being efficient and careful with your items. This should inspire the movers to move quickly and not "drag" out the job.

Good luck.

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