How to Choose a Moving Company: Evaluating Reliability and Cost


There are two basic types of moving companies:

  1. Full Service Movers – These companies load all of your belongings onto their truck, drive your goods to the new location, and unload them into your new home. For an extra fee, they will even pack up belongings into boxes and ready them for transport.
  2. You Pack/They Drive Movers – These companies drop off a trailer at your residence and leave it for a set amount of time (normally three days), allowing you to load your belongings into it. They then drive your goods to the new location, park and leave the trailer for a second amount of time, while you unload your belongings into your new home.

Your local phone book is a good place to start when narrowing down options for moving companies. There are many online moving companies, but these are likely brokers and will not be able to give you in-home estimates.

Pros and Cons to Each Type of Company

Full Service Movers

Typically full service moving companies are going to charge more, as they perform the majority of the labor and provide a minimal-effort, no-hassle option for the homeowner.

Important things to consider:

  • Have the moving company come to your house and give you an in-home estimate. Do not accept an estimate online or over the phone. Get a written estimate. Some estimates are binding – that means what they quote you that day sticks, no matter the actual space used/weight of your belongings the day they load them. Other estimates are just that – estimates – and may change once your belongings are loaded and actually weighed. Check whether they charge by area used or weight.
  • Have three companies come give estimates for comparison.
  • Get confirmation of pick-up/delivery dates.
  • Confirm method of payment at delivery.
  • Be sure the company uses a certified scale, and ask if you have the option to be present at the time of weighing if you choose to.
  • Understand the company’s responsibility for any loss/damage to your belongings. The standard liability option offered, which is free with your move, is released value protection, which means the company will reimburse you at 60 cents per pound for any item lost or damaged. Therefore, if they break a $200 antique vase that weighed 10 pounds, they will reimburse you $6. If you desire more coverage, you must purchase full value protection.
  • Make sure the company can access both locations with their truck, otherwise they will have to shuttle the goods in a smaller truck and charge an extra fee.

You-Pack Movers

Although the company provides the truck, drivers, gas and any interstate tariffs, you are responsible for loading and unloading your belongings. However, if you do not feel up to providing the labor yourself, many local companies can be hired for this job at a modest hourly price, in which case you get most of the benefit of the full service mover at less cost.

Important things to consider:

  • Most of these companies charge by how many linear feet of the truck you use. Online calculators can be used to convert weight (if you obtained a quote from a full service moving company) into linear feet, to provide an idea of how much space you may require.
  • Confirm the amount of time you have to load/unload the truck, and the pick-up/delivery dates.
  • If you choose to load/unload yourself, be aware that divider walls must often be installed to seal your goods into a section of the truck. Be prepared to have help for this part.
  • It is advisable to take extra time in packing your belongings, because if something is damaged the liability is on you. Pack items into boxes tightly, with no excess space for them to rattle around during transit. And pack the truck tightly from floor to ceiling, so boxes cannot shift and fall en route. A ladder, dolly, and ropes are helpful materials to have while packing.
  • Often times these semi-trucks can access locations more easily than full service movers, whose trucks have a compartment that rides extremely close to the ground, eliminating the possible need for an extra shuttle. However, the ride is a bit more bumpy in these trucks.

No matter which company is chosen, make certain you obtain a copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” (a full service mover should provide you with this when they do the in-home estimate). You can also call their Safety Violation and Complaints Hotline at 1-888-368-7238 to check on the company you are considering.

Additionally, they have a website with helpful links, such as “Protect Yourself From Moving Fraud” and “Ready to Move”. Make sure the company you choose is an actual moving company and not a broker (which means they do not perform the move themselves but hire someone else to do it). All moving companies will have either a DOT or MC number. MC numbers denote brokers – choose a company with a DOT number, and check out their performance here.

Finally, check the company against the Better Business Bureau.