Rachael Ravner
December 21, 2020
Article type:
Moving Help & Tips
Applies to:
Local Moving

7 Essential Questions to Ask Your Local Mover

It is not every day that you need to shop for a local mover, and we want to make sure you know what to look for.

Let us help you to shop and evaluate who the best local mover for you will be! Below we compiled a list of (what we believe is) the top 7 most important questions to ask every mover you consider using.

1. What are your payment options and expectations?

Payment options range from cash, certified check or credit card. Some movers have other options, but credit card is typically the most common. If you use a credit card, you'll likely have to get a card pre-authorized and then charged. That may seem different from what you do when you buy most products or services, so let's talk about why it's done this way.

Pre-authorization is a credit card company process that allows a company (like your moving company) to make sure that you'll have enough money on your card when they actually go to charge it. It's like placing a hold on funds without actually collecting them. In many cases, a moving company will pre-authorize your card for more than the move amount a few days ahead of time - in order to make sure they could collect the full amount in case move charges went over estimate. Most moving companies will then charge your card on the day of your move after the final amount of your move is settled.

Be sure to know what payment forms your moving company accepts, as not all companies will accept credit cards. This type of payment is called "collect on delivery" (COD) and has been a common type of payment for goods being shipped for hundreds of years. In COD, the driver will typically not unload the moving truck if you cannot pay at the time of delivery. Why? The biggest reason comes down to trust between customers and moving companies. Many customers in the past have collected all their belongings and then failed to pay the moving company at all. At that point, it's hard for a company to collect and they end up losing a lot of money (performing a move for a customer costs a lot!) and it's a hard way to run a business. To help, most moving companies have adopted the practice of collecting before delivering to ensure they get paid.

TIP: Credit Card payment is still technically considered COD but because it's easier to complete (without having a driver physically collect a check or cash), it's easier for most customers and most companies - so it's preferred in many cases.

If you can't pay before delivery, the moving company will bring your items back to their warehouse storage until you can pay in full. If this happens, you will be responsible for paying both the storage fee and extra transportations charges as well as your original move costs. It's best to avoid this all together by planning ahead!

2. Is your price based off of weight, time or cubic feet?

Moving companies might charge a move in a variety of ways, but time is most common for local moves, while weight is the standard for long distance moves. This is typically because local moves are easier to plan and don't have as much variation in time. The further away you move, the more variables like traffic, weather and even which road you take can greatly affect the move time - so it's not a reliable way to prepare an accurate estimate for you before the move. Every moving company has a different way to decide whether they'll charge you on time or weight for your move distance - so if you aren't sure by which they're planning on charging you, ask!

Whether it's time or weight, both of these measurements are easily verifiable so you know you're charged for what you actually used. Time can be verified with time sheets and a clock, while a public scale can show you the heavy and empty weights of the truck.

However, please consider double-checking estimates from companies that uses cubic feet. Why? Cubic feet is almost impossible to measure accurately, which means there is no good verifiable way for you to ensure the accuracy of your bill unless you go into the truck on move day with your tape measure! Even then, it can be hard for both you and the moving company to get a firm measurement of cubic feet. This leads to errors in the bill a lot, and can be a way that a scam moving company can overcharge you. Not all moving companies that use cubic feet are scams, but it does make it difficult to charge appropriately.

3. Are there any extra charges because of specific items or based on my location?

Yes, there might be. Extra charges for specific items may include certain workout equipment, extra heavy items such as large gun safes, pianos, large mirrors or pictures and grandfather clocks. Items such as these might require additional help from a highly specialized third party.  Extremely fragile, heavy or expensive items are typically the ones that will need extra care and might require extra charges. Other items that need special attention might be TVs or appliances. These sometimes need extra packing or hardware to secure properly before a move. It's impossible to list every item that might need extra charges - which is why most moving companies prefer to have you speak with a move consultant before a move to make sure that you are prepared (and so are they).

Additionally, if you are in a more remote location or if a moving truck cannot easily access your home, the movers might need to use a "shuttle" to drive all your items to the moving truck. This means using a smaller truck to pick up items and shuttle them to the larger truck. This would incur an extra charge due to labor and time.

4. What is your cancellation policy?

This is a very important question to ask your mover. Are you selling your house? Are you buying a house? There are many events that affect if you even need to move and when.  Always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Make sure you are aware of any cancellation deadlines or if there is any room to change the move date if need be.

5. What protection do you provide me for my belongings if they break or are damaged?

This is an important question, and while all movers try and limit damage - it still happens. It's a lot of items moving all at once. Sometimes things break. All moving companies are required by their state or the FMCSA to assume at least some liability for the value of the household goods they transport. However, how much liability is typically determined by the customer because it's based on the value of what you're moving (called shipping in the industry).

If you think about that for a moment, it could be almost impossible for a moving company to accurately value every possible item in your home before you move. There are so many factors! For that exact reason, you are the one who has to decide what the value of your items are. Because you're determining the value of your shipment - the term for liability is called "valuation". There are two different levels of valuation that you can put on your shipment:

Full (Replacement) Value Protection - This means that you're electing to have your items protected, and you determine the value of your shipment. The minimum level for determining the Full Value Protection of your shipment is $6.00 per pound times the weight of your shipment, but your mover may have a higher minimum value. You may also want to declare a higher value for your shipment (at an additional cost) if you think it's not high enough. This is a great option to keep your items protect but under this option, you still have to specifically list items of extraordinary value for loss or damage. Talk to your moving company if you have anything that you think is of High Value to make sure it's protected correctly.

Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection - This means you are waving any liability from the moving company in case things break. For this reason, it's commonly called "Released Value".  That being said, it doesn't mean you have no protection at all, but is minimal. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. For example, if a 10 pound stereo component valued at $1,000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x $.60). If you need to save money on your move - you can use this option to reduce your cost, but it comes at a risk in something breaks.

If you want to read more about this directly from the FMCSA's website, go here:

It is your responsibility to read over each option before choosing  a valuation level and make the necessary declarations for your items, because nobody knows your items better than you.

6. What items can you not move for me?

Learning on moving day that some of your items cannot be transported is stressful. Make sure you speak with your moving company prior to moving day and arrange for the safe transport of these specific items.

There are certain items that most moving companies will not move due to the safety of the item itself or the safety of the driver and truck. Below are the most common "non-movable" items.

  • Aerosol Cans
  • Ammunition
  • Cleaning Products
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Gasoline
  • House Paints
  • Open Alcohol Containers
  • Open/Perishable Food
  • Pets
  • Plants
  • Propane Tanks
  • Welding Gas

The general rule of thumb is anything explosive, perishable, flammable or corrosive is probably not going to be taken by your mover. Always do your research and consult with your mover to ensure there are no additional items that they will not transport for you.

So what do you do with these items? You have a lot of different options! You can sell them locally, throw them away, use them before the move, or transport them on your own. Whatever works best for you!

7. What is your claims process if an item is to get lost or damaged during transit?

It is important to know what the moving company will do for you if any of your items gets damaged or lost in transit. The claims process will vary between companies, but typically you will need to declare the items in question within a certain timeframe. Once you identify that these items need to be addressed by the moving company, they'll take a look at the valuation you selected and begin the claims process for you to get you taken care of. It's best not to try to fix anything that is broken before submitting the claim and always take pictures of the items and boxes they arrived in. Again, this comes down to trust - many customers have tried to scam moving companies into paying for items that weren't really broken during a move, so documentation helps make sure that everyone is aware of what happened and when!