First Time Moving Tips

There's no doubt that moving is a difficult process- whether you're moving around the corner or around the world. If you've never moved before, you're probably unsure of where to start and how to prepare yourself (and your possessions) for this life-changing transition. And if you have moved before, you may have forgotten exactly what's involved in the process. Worse, you may have been traumatized by a horrific moving experience which has left you afraid to move again. But don't let this fear paralyze you into inaction. By approaching the move calmly and rationally, you can survive the moving process- and possibly even enjoy it!

The first step of the moving process is finding a reliable and responsible mover. Asking friends for recommendations is one way to spearhead the search process. Consumers can also look for movers online or in their local Yellow Pages. Once you've narrowed down your options, investigate the 4 Rs of every mover on your list- or, at the very least, your top three choices. The 4 Rs include:

  • Reputation
  • Rates
  • Reliability
  • Resources


Reputation. As any savvy consumer knows, a company's reputation is not limited to the praise printed on their advertisements or website. Instead, consumers should ask for references from any potential moving company that they're seriously interested in and should check whether the company has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, some states require movers to be licensed, and checking for this certification is essential.

Rates. One of the most important factors for most consumers is the price of the move. In general, moving quotes (commonly called estimates), are based upon the weight of your belongings, the distance of the move, insurance, taxes and other services that you require. Consider whether you want a mover who will pack up your things, or whether you'd prefer to do it yourself.

Do you want the mover to provide you with packing supplies or will you acquire them on your own? Do you need special services such as the move of a piano or anything especially fragile or valuable?

When providing an estimate, a moving company will offer one of three options. A binding estimate is ostensibly a 'fixed' price to move the contents of your home, once the mover has seen in person what you own in its entirety. This name can be misleading however, because truck drivers have a right to challenge the binding estimate if they find the load to be dramatically different than the load mentioned in the binding estimate. This ability protects consumers from overpaying if their load is significantly lighter than the load mentioned in the original binding estimate. It also protects moving companies from consumers who try to smuggle additional items onto the moving truck once the rate has been confirmed. Consumers should know that the binding estimate must be challenged before the loading begins in order to be upheld. Binding estimates must be submitted to the consumer in writing and must include a list of all services that will be provided. All additional services requested will likely be subject to additional fees.

A binding-not to exceed estimate is similar to a binding agreement in that it obligates the consumer to pay only the sum agreed in the moving contract and no more. A binding-not to exceed contract, however, will specify that if the moving load is smaller than that load stipulated during the estimate, the consumer will only be required to pay a lower price. A binding-not to exceed estimate offers the most protection for consumers as it is designed to prevent consumers for overpaying for loads that were not part of the move. By law, the binding-not to exceed estimate can fluctuate up to 10%, which means that the final price will be no more than 10% above the quoted price, but can be as low as 10% below the quoted rate. Consumers should make sure to receive a binding-not to exceed estimate in writing and to provide the moving company with a list of required services before receiving the estimate. The third type of estimate is a non-binding estimate, in which a moving company provides a ballpark estimate to the consumer. Non-binding estimates are written estimates that are often given before the moving company surveys the consumer's load. As its name suggest, movers are not required to adhere to the rate set forth in the non-binding estimate, and consumers relying upon a non-binding estimate may find themselves facing significantly higher moving fees than they expected.

Reliability. When evaluating a moving company's reliability, it is essential to examine several factors. Does the mover arrive on time (both to load and unload)? Will the price estimate be reasonably close to the final price? Does the moving company often break items or do they deliver most things in tact? Again, you should not rely upon the promises of the moving company- speak to people who have used this company and determine for yourself whether the company will be reliable.

Resources. Every person who needs to move has unique circumstances and requirements relating to the move. Consider what makes your move unique, and ask each moving company whether they can meet your needs. For example, are you looking to move your motorcycle or piano? Do you need to vacate your home before your new residence is ready? Is your new home difficult to access? Will you require a smaller moving truck to help transport your things to the front door? Do you need to move bulky office furniture or organized office files? Choosing a moving company that meets most of your criteria will likely lead to problems, so finding one that can get the job done properly is critical- even if it costs a bit more. Once you have evaluated the 4 R's of at least 3 moving companies you can make an informed decision about which moving services to choose.

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