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How to Hire a Mover

The average American makes 11 moves. That's a lot of hassle and stress during one lifetime shuffling your worldly possessions from place to place, not to mention the costs. Packing everything you own into a truck, and paying a mover to deliver the goods on time and intact, is a high-risk venture that deserves careful research. Be sure to hire the right person for the job.

The moving business is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. with thousands of companies to choose from. The best way to take advantage of this situation as a consumer is not to pick randomly from the yellow pages, but to weed through the most promising companies. Get estimates from at least three movers. That means having a representative visit and inspect the items to be moved. Beware of "seat-of-the-pants" estimates delivered over the phone, they are nothing more than glib promises. Local movers generally charge by the hour while long-distance movers charge by weight. Remember that the industry generally offers two types of estimates, binding and non-binding. A binding estimate provides more predictability but less flexibility. You'll know the final price, but you won't be able to add items without paying more. A non-binding estimate allows adjustments in the shipment, setting the final cost according to weight. Remember that most companies refuse to move pets or plants, so you'll need to make other arrangements for the living members of your household.

After comparing costs, your next priority will be establishing their credentials. Ask for two basic assurances. First, get at least three customer references and ask the customers very pointed questions, such as, was the delivery on time? How did the company respond to problems or concerns? Next, ask to see a license from the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the federal licensing agency for movers.

Especially verify that the lowest bidder has a license. Insist on seeing the paperwork. If the price seems too good to be true, don't hire on a promise and find out later that your mover has no license or insurance. Proof of insurance is required for every licensed mover, and provides you with basic protection in the event of loss or damage to your possessions. Ask to see proof of worker's comp, too. Worker's compensation insurance will help in the event that an employee injures himself on your property.

Other important documents come into play before and after the move. The most important is the bill of lading, the legal contract that defines what services your mover has agreed to provide. Always insist on receiving a bill of lading before your move and review it carefully. Ask your mover to clarify any questions or concerns you may have. The inventory is a list of all the items being moved, and requires careful review, too. The driver will ask you to check it and sign it twice, once after loading and again at your destination. Make a note next to the item to keep track of any missing or damaged possessions, before you sign off on the inventory.

Sources used to create this article include Jean Guarino and the Chicago Sun-Times.