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Primer: Hiring Cross-Country Movers

No one likes moving. In fact, moving may be one of those activities — like, say, vomiting — that is truly universally reviled. Particularly stomach-churning are cross-country moves. After all, who hasn't heard (or lived) the horror stories about moving companies losing or damaging goods, delaying customers' deliveries for weeks, and massively exceeding their estimates?

But moving doesn't have to be awful. A bit of due diligence early on can ensure you don't get duped by the moving company. For a list of pointers on hiring the right cross-country movers,

  • First and foremost, make sure the moving company you hire is a member of the American Moving and Storage Association.
  • Next, get a written estimate, preferably in-home rather than over the phone or Internet.
  • Consider at least three estimates. Whichever estimate seems really high or really low should be tossed out immediately. Of the two closer estimates, choose the mover you feel most comfortable with.
  • Read and get copies of the three pre-move documents that moving companies are required to share with customers: Your Rights and Responsibilities, Ready to Move, and info on the arbitration program your mover participates in.
  • If possible, get a binding or "not-to-exceed" estimate. Moving companies love to give estimates, because the final price you pay may vary based on the weight of your items and how long the trip takes. With a binding estimate, the moving company cannot charge more than the pre-set amount. (In theory, a non-binding estimate means you might pay less than the quoted price, but really, the chances of this happening or slim.)
  • If your estimate is non-binding, understand that the moving company can only collect 10 percent more than the price it originally quoted. If your movers try to charge more than that, you're being duped.
  • Finally, as a just-in-case, be sure to buy full-replacement-value insurance on your items.

Got any other tips for a cross-country move? Share them below.


Join The Conversation
gruaig_rua gruaig_rua 9 years
Jennifer you've had terrible experiences with movers! :(
lady_jade lady_jade 9 years
oooh ladies this is such a help-thanks! I'm moving to NYC in a few months from Chicago and I'm very nervous about the move and whether I should use movers or what. I was thinking of using pods but they don't deliver to manhattan so there goes that idea.
ggianella ggianella 9 years
I am moving 1800 miles away next month and I am in the midst of purging my stuff. Not fun, but it will be worth it! I am renting a U-Haul trailer to take my stuff. I am selling the big stuff and just taking the things I really want to keep. It will be a little cheaper than movers, but I will be with my stuff and that means a lot to me.
Fashion Fashion 9 years
I have a cross-country moving company I'd recommend! I used Flat Rate Movers to move from NYC to SF. They did not go over the rate they gave me, arrived within the estimated time, and nothing - and I mean nothing - was broken or missing. However, my mom, brother and I were really good packers. ;) xo
ziggy ziggy 9 years
I used North American van lines when I moved from Canada to the USA. I liked their questions, methods, price (though I was being reimbursed with a relo bonus, so that wasn't a huge factor), etc... Anyway, prior to my move I liquidated. I sold. I donated. I got rid of a lot of stuff figuring it'd be easier to move and reduce the cost. It did. But it increased the time to get my stuff. The 1 1/2 - 4 week estimate was on the long end at 3 1/2 weeks. In speaking to the delivery men when they got to my new place I found out why - I wasn't the only customer on the truck. So the truck had travelled over much of the upper US befoe it got to me in the midwest. Had I had more crap (ie: not sold any of it) I could have easily sold the truck instead of only 1/3 of a truck. And I could have done my donations, sales, etc here, with my stuff sooner :)
Molly Molly 9 years
I could have used this advice before my big move from NYC to SF. Our movers lost our GIANT coffee table as well as the one box holding every single one of our photos. Obviously in retrospect we shouldn't have let a box with such sentimental value of our sight. Sigh. :(
designmilk designmilk 9 years
Important: Get the insurance!
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
I would have such a problem with this. I'd probably sell most of my stuff and start new at my new location. I couldn't do it.
amybdk amybdk 9 years
Be sure to check out the Better Business Bureau for your specific moving company. I just moved from Ohio to Colorado and ruled out several places this way. I am happy to report that we had zero incidents with our guys.
ktacce ktacce 9 years
i'm about to move, so this was PERRRRRFECT casa! :)
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Oh! And, I usually put together a binder that has things like our bill of lading, any itinerary information, claim information, paperwork for our dog (like shot records, etc...), confirmations for lodging, numbers we'll need when we arrive, etc...and guard the binder with my life.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Good list! Also, make a very, very thorough video inventory of your items being sure to really capture good images of things that are very valuable or very important to you. Consider packing very valuable, sentimental and fragile items yourself. They will not hold themselves responsible for boxes you pack, but if you pack your stuff well enough, don't worry about it. Be sure to locate and safekeep receipts for important items. Consider getting professional appraisals of very valuable jewelry or art. We've moved quite far a few times and we've had movers take a small, porcelain wall hanging that belonged to my great-great-grandmother and toss it in a box full of books. Of course, it broke. We've had movers steal my husbands weights. We've had movers steal EVERY PIECE OF JEWELRY I OWN. We even had movers steal part of our bathroom set - the canister that holds the toilet brush! It was pretty, but seriously... :? We've had movers rip off a part of our entertainment center rather than unscrewing it, which of course broke the wood completely. And don't think being nice to them will make a difference. With the movers that stole the most from us, we had bought pizza for lunch for the whole crew and tipped them each nicely.
smartsio smartsio 9 years
Once all your stuff is packed up and ready to go, make sure the mover gives you a copy of the shipping bill, which lists all your boxes and furniture according to their tag/sticker...just do an inventory check and make sure everything is tagged so you can check things in, using that same inventory listing, at their final destination. speak up right away at the drop off point if anything is missing or damaged. this will help in case you later have to file a claim for loss or damages. Great list!
bgirl bgirl 9 years
this article is actually PERFECT for me right now. today i'm moving from NJ to south's been extremely stressful, but these tips are very helpful
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