How do you know you've picked the worst moving company?

You know you’ve picked the worst moving company when they demand full payment upfront, avoid providing binding estimates, lack proper licensing, become impossible to reach once they have your belongings loaded.

Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t realize you’ve hired a terrible moving company until it’s too late. However, there are a few clear red flags that may indicate you are dealing with an unreliable or scam moving company:

  • They demand cash or large deposits upfront: Reputable movers may require a small deposit, but scam movers will ask for most or all of the payment before your belongings are loaded. If a moving company demands a large deposit before the move, it could be a sign of a scam. According to American National Movers, customers should avoid moving companies that ask for more than 20% of the total cost of the move upfront.
  • No in-home estimate: Legitimate long-distance movers will want to do an in-person estimate to get an accurate sense of the size of the move. Estimates sight unseen are sketchy.
  • Lack of licensing and credentials: Check they are registered with FMCSA and have necessary state licenses and insurance for household goods moving before signing a contract.
  • Vague about pickup/delivery dates: Dishonest movers often delay pickup or delivery times. Pin them down on firm dates in writing before paying anything.
  • They raise the price mid-move: Some bait-and-switch by inflating the final costs, often by thousands of dollars. Make sure binding estimates are in writing.
  • Difficult to reach by phone/email: Red flag if a company becomes hard to contact once your belongings are loaded up. Legit businesses are responsive.

To find a reliable moving company, trust your gut and double check. If a mover seems shady, keeps changing details, asks for unusual payments – it’s best to back out early from bad movers.

Author: George Nicola
Author: George Nicola

George is a seasoned interior designer and property marketing strategist with over 13 years of experience. He specializes in transforming properties into visually stunning spaces, helping clients recognize the potential and beauty in each property. With an impressive international client base of exciting projects throughout Europe and America.

Moving to a new home can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially when you’re dealing with a bad moving company. Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent and unreliable moving companies out there, and it can be difficult to know which ones to avoid. Knowing the warning signs of a bad moving company can help you protect yourself and ensure that your move goes smoothly.

One of the most common warning signs of a bad moving company is a lack of transparency. If a company is not willing to provide you with a clear and detailed estimate of their services, it’s a red flag that they may be trying to scam you. Another warning sign is a lack of licensing and insurance.

Legitimate moving companies are required to have proper licensing and insurance, so if a company is not able to provide you with proof of these documents, it’s best to look elsewhere.

Avoid moving scams by sticking to these four tips:

  • Trust your gut instinct: If something feels off, walk away. There are plenty of other moving companies out there.
  • Do your research: Check licenses, insurance, and online reviews before choosing a moving company.
  • Pay with a credit card: This offers some protection if things go wrong.
  • Get everything in writing: Make sure you have a signed contract that outlines the scope of the move, the cost, and your rights.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Typical moving service ranges and common scams

A man and woman standing in front of a worst moving company.
A man and woman standing in front of a worst moving company.

The typical service ranges and common scams vary for local, long-distance, and international movers:

Local Movers:

  • Service range is within a metropolitan area, moving within 50-100 miles typically.
  • Scams include quoting a low price then jacking it up last minute, holding belongings “hostage” for more money, damaging goods deliberately.
  • On-time frequency is usually quite high, often over 90% since distances are short.
  • But some scams include arriving late deliberately to rush packing or extend storage fees.

Long-Distance Movers:

  • Service range is state-to-state, usually over 100+ miles.
  • Scams include hugely underestimating weight to inflate final costs, refusing delivery until uncovered fees are paid, stealing goods in transit knowing they have little recourse.
  • On-time frequency drops on long-hauls, with over 50% arriving late.
  • Scams include underestimating drive times to secure jobs then delaying delivery for more pay.

International Movers:

  • Service range is overseas moves between countries.
  • Scams include mistaking cubic volume estimates leading to surprise fees, “losing” shipped containers and making false insurance claims, delays at customs leading to extra storage fees.
  • On-time frequency varies widely depending on origin/destination and customs. Only 10-30% arrive as scheduled.
  • Scams include falsely promising quick transit times then stringing storage fees while goods are stalled.

To protect yourself, get guaranteed pickup/delivery dates in writing in your binding estimates from movers. Confirm penalties they will pay if missing contracted arrival times. And avoid large upfront payments in case they damage, lose or stall items – withhold final payment until receiving all goods intact.

Checking FMCSA complaints can reveal patterns of delays. Planning flexibly for unpacking helps too if movers don’t adhere to timelines.

Avoid issues by vetting a mover company carefully, get binding estimates in writing outlining all costs pre-move, specify pickup/delivery dates and penalties if missed, plus confirm their licensing and insurance verifies. Caution using overseas movers with no US presence or recourse. Paying with credit card offers some fraud protection too.

Questions to ask a moving company

Three men are moving boxes in a living room while pretending to be the best moving company.
Three men are moving boxes in a living room while pretending to be the best moving company.

If any moving company seems vague, hesitant or annoyed answering questions about important details like licensing, insurance and pricing – it should raise red flags. Quality movers will be happy to openly share specifics. Asking lots of questions protects against moving scams.

Here are some of the most important questions to ask any moving company you are considering hiring:

Licensing & Insurance questions

  • Are you licensed and insured with the FMCSA and DOT? 
  • Can I see your registration?
  • What level of cargo and property damage coverage do you carry?
  • Can I get a copy of certificates?

Estimates & Pricing questions

  • Do you provide binding, guaranteed price quotes? 
  • Offer payment plans?
  • Are there any situations where prices could change?
  • Do you have an hourly rate or flat-fee structure? 
  • How are accessories like packing supplies factored in?
  • Charge more on weekends?
  • Work on weekends?

Services questions

  • What size trucks do you use? 
  • Can you move pianos, safes, antiques and other specialty items?
  • Do you offer packing and unpacking services? 
  • Storage options?
  • Ask if they disassemble furniture?
  • Do they move plants and pets?
  • Do they move guns?

Timing questions

  • What are your guaranteed pickup and delivery dates? 
  • What penalties or refunds apply if dates are missed?

Employee questions

  • Are your employees screened, bonded and insured? 
  • How are they trained?


  • Ask the moving firm to send you their checklist for a smooth move along with your quote, some companies do things differently

How to compare moving companies?

The most important factor when comparing moving companies is to vet experience, an experienced mover is more likely to have trained staff, safe practices and accountability manager. Get binding in-home estimates to assess pricing models – both service tiers and total costs. 

Also, verify required licensing and insurance coverage exists. Additionally, nail down guaranteed timeframes in contracts to avoid delays. 

Follow your instincts on professionalism as you evaluate movers, aiming to find the optimal balance of fair pricing, great service and reliability. Transitionally, lean on referrals from trusted friends when possible. But thoroughly examine credentials yourself before signing contracts or handing over possessions.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you find the perfect fit for your move:

1. Define your needs:

  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international?
  • Size of move: Studio apartment or sprawling family home?
  • Services needed: Packing, furniture disassembly, storage?
  • Budget: Be realistic about what you can afford.

2. Gather information:

  • Get recommendations: Ask friends, family, or colleagues for their moving experiences.
  • Read online reviews: Check review websites like Yelp, Google Reviews, and Angie’s List.
  • Research websites: Visit the websites of potential companies to learn about their services, experience, insurance coverage, look at their website how useful is, look at their Intagram, TikTok, Facebook, Blog; do they share information or is a total blackout?

3. Request quotes:

  • Get at least 3 quotes: This gives you a good comparison of pricing and services.
  • Provide accurate details: Share your move date, origin and destination addresses, and a detailed inventory of your belongings.
  • Ask questions: Don’t hesitate to clarify any concerns about estimates, insurance, or additional fees.

4. Compare apples to apples:

  • Focus on overall cost: Consider not just the base price, but also additional charges for services, travel, packing mater

Services Offered:

  • Packing and unpacking: Do you need this service? Compare costs and quality of packing materials.
  • Furniture disassembly and reassembly: Important if you have large or complex furniture.
  • Storage: Do you need temporary or long-term storage? Compare prices and facilities.
  • Specialty items: Do you have valuable or fragile items requiring special handling? Ensure the company has experience with such items.

Evaluate insurance coverage: Make sure the company offers adequate coverage for your belongings.

  • Check credentials: Verify the company’s licensing,  Better Business Bureau, insurance with the FMCSA for interstate moves, and with your state agency for local moves.
  • Professional Affiliations: Look for membership in reputable associations like the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) or the National Association of Certified Moving Estimators (NACME).
  • Read their contract: Understand the terms and conditions, including dispute resolution processes.

5. Choose the right fit:

  • Get multiple quotes: Don’t settle for the first offer. Compare prices from at least three different companies.
  • Understand the estimate: Ask for a detailed breakdown of costs, including base rate, hourly rates, fuel surcharges, packing materials, and any additional services.
  • Beware of lowball quotes: Extremely low quotes might be a red flag for hidden fees or poor service.
  • Trust your gut when vetting a potential moving company that makes you feel comfortable with their services and confident in their promises.
  • Confirm everything in writing: Get the agreed-upon services, cost, and dates documented in a signed contract.

Additional tips:

  • Be flexible with your move date: Moving during off-peak times can often secure better deals also booking reputable movers companies can get booked up quickly, especially during peak moving seasons.
  • Declutter before you move: Donate or sell unwanted items to reduce the moving load and cost.
  • Prepare your belongings properly: Label boxes clearly and pack fragile items securely.
  • Communicate effectively: Stay in touch with the moving company and clarify any concerns promptly.
  • Ask questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the company about their services, experience, and policies.

By following these steps and putting in the effort, you can find the perfect and legitimate moving company that fits your needs and budget, ensuring a smooth and stress-free relocation!

How to find how legitimate moving company is?

Verify if a company is reputable or not, check the reviews for complaints, confirming licensing and insurance registration, getting recommendations from past users, ensuring trade association membership, interviewing thoroughly about processes, requiring binding in-home estimates, and documenting pickup/delivery dates explicitly in contracts. Vet thoroughly upfront to avoid fraud and ensure a trustworthy, professional move.

Here are the best ways to verify if a moving company is legitimate before hiring them:

  1. Check Reviews: Search online reviews on Google, Yelp, BBB and other independent consumer sites. Look for consistent complaints about damages, delays or scams.
  2. Confirm Licensing: All interstate movers must be licensed, bonded and insured. Verify they are registered with FMCSA and check their DOT number at
  3. Get Recommendations: Ask friends and neighbors for referrals to movers they have used personally in the past without issues.
  4. Check Associations: See if they belong to trade associations like American Moving & Storage Association or state associations which indicate accountability.
  5. Interview In-Depth: Ask lots of questions about their processes, insurance coverage, employee screening etc and verify everything said matches their website/collateral.
  6. Require Binding Estimates: Make them conduct an in-home walkthrough inventory and provide a binding estimate outlining guaranteed pricing. Do not do business with movers who will not provide such estimates.
  7. Confirm Pickup/Delivery: Make sure the dates and location details are explicitly documented in the contract before your move date.

What are moving services scams?

Here are common moving services scams to watch out for:

Disappearing movers – Vanish with your belongings after being paid upfront. File police reports and insurance claims if this occurs.
The Faked Paperwork – Use alternative business names and bogus DOT numbers. Verify licensing before booking.
Unprofessional invoices: Watch for poorly formatted PDFs, missing company addresses, or inconsistencies with other information.
Flytipping – Dump your items illegally rather than delivering goods. Document evidence and sue if happened.
The Vanishing Act – Quote a lowball price, then demand more money mid-move and refuse to unload the truck unless paid. Get binding estimates in writing first.
Hostage goods – Refuse delivery unless you pay massive unforeseen price increases. Involve authorities to retrieve belongings if so.
Bait-and-switch estimates – Guarantee a low price to secure job, then jack up fees substantially after loading possessions. Demand binding estimates upfront.
Fake insurance – Claim to be insured, but actually lack coverage when making claims for theft, loss or damage. Verify policy details first.
Fake positive reviews – Manufacture glowing recommendations under alias names and profiles. Independently research companies.
Moving truck scams – Use rental vehicles and pockets your payment rather than legit company services.
Hidden fees – Add on various administration or density fees undisclosed in initial quote. Ask for all-inclusive quote.
Fake moving companies – List convincing websites and details, but no actual trucks or manpower exist – they pocket payments.
Uninsured or underinsured movers – Lack sufficient liability limits to cover replacement of stolen or damaged items.
Holding your belongings hostage – Refuse delivery unless unexpected additional charges are paid immediately. Lawyer up if so.

The main first thing you should do if a moving company is unlawfully holding your belongings hostage is to send a formal demand letter. Draft a letter clearly requesting the immediate return of your items by a specific reasonable deadline, and send it via certified mail with delivery confirmation.

The letter should outline that you will pursue legal action if the timeline is not met. It creates important documentation of formally asserting your rights. Retain a copy of the demand letter along with the delivery confirmation.

After demand letter delivery:

  • Review your signed contracts and highlight relevant dispute resolution terms you expect the company to follow. Send reminders referencing these.
  • File complaints detailing the situation with consumer protection agencies and business review boards to prompt investigations.
  • Consult a lawyer about sending a strong final demand letter on law firm letterhead before taking court action.
  • Contact local law enforcement to standby while you retrieve items if the company continues resisting return after the deadline.
  • Check renters or homeowners insurance about coverage for temporary lodging costs incurred.
  • Ultimately follow through with small claims court or civil court filings if the demand letters fail to resolve the hostage situation.

Leading with a formal written demand letter asserting rights and expectations, with defined follow-up actions, is the most effective first step to dispute hostage household goods. It also builds your case evidence should legal proceedings become necessary. Don’t delay sending it through proper channels.

The main first thing you should do if a moving company is late is to immediately contact them requesting an estimated time of arrival (ETA) update. Communicate professionally to get clarity on the delay reason and new delivery timeframe.

After contacting for a status update:

  • Document details of the calls, who you spoke with, and what explanations were provided. Save texts/emails to keep a record.
  • If needed, ask about compensation for incurred costs like housing or storage from the lateness per terms in your signed contract.
  • Check if they provide real-time GPS tracking of trucks so you can monitor latest transit progress.
  • Mark a reasonable extension deadline before planning next steps to retrieve items yourself with police escort if communication ceases.
  • Research consumer complaint and legal options in case therevised timeframe also passes without satisfaction.

Leading with prompt communication asserting your expectation updates and accountability if further delays happen is the most effective first step. Establish records of all correspondence to support backup plans involving advocacy groups, attorneys and law enforcement down the line if initial discussions prove unfruitful.

The priority is opening a constructive dialogue to get your belongings back on track soon. But know your rights and don’t rule out enforcement actions if collaborative resolution attempts with the moving company ultimately go unheeded.

Unworkable disputes triggering arbitration clauses as an alternative to court, contractual consent by the customer to this format, binding decisions from a designated arbitrator, and relinquishing avenues for litigation on issues getting arbitrated. Understanding these arbitration implications ahead of time allows proper planning.

Moving company arbitration typically comes into effect when:

  1. There is a dispute between the customer and moving company that cannot be resolved directly through standard complaint or claims processing procedures outlined in the contract terms and conditions.
  2. The moving contract signed by the customer contains a binding arbitration clause or agreement to mandate that any disputes must be handled through arbitration rather than taking court action.
  3. Either the moving company or the customer can request settling unresolvable disputes related to the move through arbitration, as stipulated by the arbitration agreement. Common reasons involve damage claims, fees, delays, or other loss allegations.
  4. An independent arbitrator will hear arguments from both sides and make a final decision on any monetary awards or settlement terms in the case. Arbitration aims to offer a faster and less expensive resolution compared to traditional lawsuits.
  5. The customer must agree to forego taking the moving company to court over the disputed matters submitted for arbitration, except under limited circumstances where challenging aspects of the arbitration outcome itself on legal grounds.

The main first thing you should do if a moving company loses your stuff is to file an official claim for the lost items and their replacement value. Itemized documentation is key.

Create a comprehensive list of every item confirmed as lost, along with estimated dollar values, receipts if possible, make/model details, and any other descriptions authenticating your lost possessions. Submit this inventory along with an overall claim demand through proper company channels. Follow up persistently until receiving claim confirmation.

After submitting the loss claim:

  • Review your signed contract, especially liability coverage exclusions and claim procedure rules to follow. Send periodic reminders about expected processing.
  • Contact your renters or homeowners insurance provider to ask about submitting a claim for reimbursement if the van line denies liability or drags its feet.
  • Be prepared to replace crucial items like clothes or personal documents on your own while awaiting claim resolution. Keep all receipts for claim augmenting later.
  • If claim denial seems improper or reimbursement insufficiently low, consult a lawyer about consumer rights you can pursue against the company.

Leading with a thoroughly detailed loss inventory claim puts the moving insurer on formal alert faster so you get accounted for. But know additional avenues in case pushback arises over every dimension of replacement cost obligations.

All scam tactics come with red flags, which can be spotted earlier in the process. 

Moving company red flags

The main red flag of a mover scammer is the lack of physical address or vague licensing details. If you notice one or more of these red flags, it is safest to avoid signing any contracts with the company and search for a more transparent, reputable, and ethical moving provider that better meets your needs. Doing thorough upfront vetting protects against moving scams.

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Here are some important red flags to watch out for when evaluating and selecting a moving company:

🚩 Won’t provide in-home estimate after assessing your inventory

🚩 Quotes very low price without seeing items to be moved

🚩 Demands large cash deposits or full payment upfront

🚩 Never pay for a moving service through these methods, as they offer little to no recourse if things go wrong.

🚩 Does not clearly specify pickup/delivery dates

🚩 Is unwilling or unable to prove cargo insurance coverage

🚩 Look for lack of online presence, fresh domain registration, and inconsistent information like phone numbers and addresses.

🚩If the listing, profiles, or website vanish before the move, it’s a major red flag.

🚩 Answers your questions too vaguely

🚩 Be wary of unprofessional language, typos, or grammatical errors in correspondence.

🚩 Claims all online complaints against them are false

🚩 Says concerns over binding quotes are not industry standard

🚩 Pressures you to book quickly to “lock in rates”

🚩 Sob stories like a deceased spouse or sudden relocation can be used to pressure you into rushing decisions

🚩 Does not detail binding estimates with guaranteed pricing

🚩 Employees look unprofessional in uniforms or presentation

🚩 No in-person estimate. Legitimate movers will always do an in-person assessment of your belongings before providing a quote.

red flags in Online Reviews and Ratings

One of the easiest ways to evaluate the reputation of a moving company is by checking online reviews and ratings.

Check multiple sources, such as Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau, to get a comprehensive understanding of the company’s reputation. Look for comments for damages, delays, overcharging and their ratings, and the company’s resolution effectiveness. If it’s a minor issue vs. major complaint. How well and quickly the company resolves customer issues.

There’s a significant difference between minor issues and major complaints when it comes to moving companies’ reviews:

Minor Issues:

Expected inconveniences: Minor delays due to traffic, unexpected stairs requiring extra work, or slight cosmetic damage to packing materials are within the realm of possibility for any move. These are typically understandable hiccups, especially with complex moves or challenging circumstances.

Communication mishaps: A missed call from the movers, a slightly inaccurate estimate due to miscalculation, or a forgotten packing list item are examples of minor communication issues. While frustrating, these can often be quickly resolved with open communication and understanding.

Minor property damage: A scratched piece of furniture during loading, a chipped plate in a well-packed box, or a scuffed wall corner are examples of minor property damage. While regrettable, these are often accidental and covered by reputable movers’ insurance.

Major Complaints:

Significant financial discrepancies: Exorbitant price increases compared to the estimate, hidden fees, or unauthorized charges are serious red flags.

Lost or severely damaged belongings: Missing boxes, broken furniture, or irreparable damage to valuable items due to negligence or improper handling are unacceptable major complaints.

Undelivered belongings: Movers disappearing with your belongings, holding them hostage for ransom, or delivering them significantly late cause immense stress and financial hardship.

Dishonesty and fraud: Falsified paperwork, insurance scams, or deceptive practices like unlicensed operation or fake credentials constitute major complaints and require legal action.

Why minor issues are possible:

The nature of moving involves complex logistics, physical exertion, and handling diverse belongings. It’s impossible to completely eliminate unexpected situations or human error. However, reputable moving companies have systems in place to minimize these issues and strive for customer satisfaction. They provide clear communication, proper training for their personnel, and adequate insurance coverage for unforeseen mishaps.

These can provide valuable insights into the quality of the company’s services and the experiences of its customers.

When checking online reviews and ratings, it’s important to look for patterns and common themes. If multiple customers have had similar negative experiences, it could be a red flag. On the other hand, if the majority of reviews are positive, it’s a good sign that the company provides quality services.

Complaint History

Another way to evaluate the reputation of a moving company is by checking its complaint history. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a database of complaints filed against moving companies. By checking the FMCSA’s database, you can see if the company has a history of complaints and how it has resolved them.

It’s important to note that some complaints may be frivolous or unfounded, so it’s essential to consider the nature and severity of the complaints. If the company has a history of serious complaints, who are not resolved, such as damaged or lost items, it may be best to avoid hiring them. It’s not uncommon for a complaints from customers, what’s more important is if they are resolved successfully or not. 

How should a professional moving company should respond to inquiries?

High quality moving companies should demonstrate responsiveness, transparency and accountability when interacting with prospective customers during the research process. This helps build trust that they will also be reliable on moving day and stand behind their services. Dodging questions or responding vaguely could signal issues down the road. So professional movers should answer all inquiries thoroughly.

Two men are moving boxes into a room working for a bad moving company.
Play Video about Two men are moving boxes into a room working for a bad moving company.

A professional moving company should respond to customer inquiries promptly, transparently, and with detailed information and these are the best practices they should adopt:

  • Responding to all inquiries within 24 business hours, if not sooner
  • Being upfront about company history, credentials, licensing, and insurance coverage
  • Answering questions clearly and providing additional resources/documentation
  • Explaining processes for in-home estimates, binding quotes, contracts
  • Specifying what is/is not included in quotes and associated fees
  • Providing references from past customers upon request
  • Giving firm pickup and delivery dates in writing
  • Outlining all binding pricing and guarantees in a contract
  • Being clear about dispute/claims processes if damages or delays occur

Licensing and Insurance Verification

When hiring a moving company, it is essential to ensure that they have the proper licensing and insurance verification to protect your belongings and provide peace of mind during the move.

Before finalizing a contract with a moving company, ensure you have checked these licensing and insurance verifications. It’s also advisable to get everything in writing and understand the specific terms and conditions of the moving company’s liability coverage. This due diligence will help you avoid potential scams and ensure that your belongings are adequately protected during the move.

Here are the key points you should check:


  1. USDOT Number: Interstate movers must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and have a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number. You can check the USDOT number on the FMCSA website to verify the company’s registration status, fleet size, and compliance information.
  2. MC Number: Some interstate moving companies also need an MC (Motor Carrier) number in addition to the USDOT number. This number is another indicator of the company’s legal status and commitment to adherence to transportation regulations.
  3. State Licensing: In addition to federal registration, some states require movers to have a state-specific license. For example, in New York State, ensure the mover is licensed by the state.

Insurance Verification

  1. Released Value Protection: This is the most economical protection available, but it offers minimal protection. By law, interstate movers must offer two different liability options, and Released Value Protection is one of them. It is often included by default but provides coverage based only on the weight of the item, not its actual value.
  2. Full Value Protection: This is a more comprehensive plan that covers the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. There may be different levels of deductible for this option, and it’s important to understand the terms and costs associated with it.
  3. Third-Party Insurance: If you want additional insurance beyond what the moving company offers, you can purchase insurance from a third-party provider. Some moving companies may offer additional insurance options, or you can visit websites like

Additional Considerations

  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance: Verify that the moving company carries Worker’s Compensation insurance to protect against injuries to their employees during the move.
  • Mover Certificate of Insurance: Request a copy of the mover’s certificate of insurance to verify that they have valid and up-to-date coverage. This certificate should include details about the insurance provider, policy number, coverage limits, and effective dates.
  • Check Reviews and Complaints: Look into the moving company’s online presence, read customer reviews, and check their complaint history to gauge their reliability and customer service.

Is Employee Training and Expertise (years in business) matters in a moving company

Yes, the employee training and expertise level of a moving company should absolutely be an important factor when selecting who to entrust your belongings to for a move. Especially considering the years of business experience.

Here’s why:

Trained Staff: Good movers put employees through robust training programs focusing on safe lifting techniques to avoid strains and proper packing methods to reduce damages. Well-drilled staff is critical.

Expertise Level: An experienced moving crew that has been handling household moves for many years will know techniques to navigate tricky furniture or efficiently disassemble and reassemble items. Their expertise matters.

Years in Business: An established company with longevity has good operations and business ethics to survive. New fly-by-night movers may vanish quick. Know their history.

Movers' Contract and Fees

When hiring a moving company, it’s essential to understand the contract and fees associated with the move. There are things movers are required and not required by law to include. 

The specific details of a moving company’s contract and fees can vary depending on the company, the type of move, and the services you need. 

However, here’s a general overview of what you can expect to see in both documents:

An example of a moving agreement to identify a bad moving company.
An example of a moving agreement to identify a bad moving company. / Credit:
  • Customer Information: This will include your name, address, and contact information.
  • Move Details: This will outline the date and time of your move, the origin and destination addresses, and the type of move (local, long-distance, etc.).
  • Services Provided: This will list the specific services you are paying for, such as packing, loading, unloading, and transportation.
  • Estimated Cost: This will give you an idea of how much your move will cost. It’s important to note that this is just an estimate, and the final cost may be higher or lower.
  • Payment Terms: This will explain how you will need to pay for the move, such as by cash, credit card, or check.
  • Cancellation Policy: This will outline the company’s policy on cancellations and refunds.
  • Insurance: This will explain the company’s insurance coverage for your belongings.
  • Claims Process: This will explain how to file a claim if your belongings are damaged or lost during the move.
  • Dispute Resolution: This will explain how to resolve any disputes that may arise between you and the moving company.


  • Base Rate: This is the basic cost of the move, which is usually calculated based on the distance and the weight of your belongings.
  • Hourly Rate: Some companies charge an hourly rate for their services, in addition to the base rate.
  • Packing Materials: If you need the company to pack your belongings, you will be charged for the packing materials.
  • Travel Time: If the movers have to travel a long distance to your origin or destination, you may be charged for travel time.
  • Storage: If you need to store your belongings before or after your move, you will be charged for storage fees.
  • Fuel Surcharge: Some companies charge a fuel surcharge to cover the cost of rising fuel prices.
  • Stairs: If your move involves stairs, you may be charged an additional fee.
  • Large or Heavy Items: If you have any large or heavy items, you may be charged an additional fee.

Tips for Reviewing a Moving Contract and Fees:

  • Read the contract carefully before you sign it.
  • Make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Compare quotes from multiple companies before you make a decision.

If any of these details are missing from the contract or they are vague it’s a warning sign and a major red flag that the moving experts may not be a legitimate company.

What is not required by law for a moving company to add in their contract?

Under FMCSA regulations, only basic carrier information and details on accessibility to tariffs are legally required in the contracts. Things like binding pricing lists, remedies for service failures and set delivery timelines do not have to be codified. This allows disreputable companies flexibility for mischief.

Moving contracts can vary greatly, and while certain elements are legally required, there are also things they are not obligated to include. Here’s a breakdown of what a moving company contract is not legally required to contain:

Unregulated Clauses:

  • Guaranteed Arrival Times: While companies can estimate arrival times, unexpected delays due to traffic, weather, or logistical issues are beyond their control. Guaranteeing specific arrival times is typically not legally enforceable.
  • Specific Packing Methods: Though companies may outline general packing standards, they don’t have to specify every item’s packing method. This flexibility allows for adaptation based on individual needs and circumstances.
  • Damage Waivers for Fragile Items: Companies cannot legally absolve themselves of all responsibility for damage, especially to pre-identified fragile items. However, they can limit their liability based on declared values or specific exclusions outlined in the contract.
  • Discounts or Price Matching Guarantees: Offering promotions or matching competitor prices is purely at the company’s discretion and not a legal requirement. These terms can change without prior notice.
  • Customer Reviews or Testimonials: Including positive reviews or testimonials is a marketing tactic, not a legal obligation. Be sure to rely on independent research and comparisons to assess a company’s true performance.

Additional Considerations:

  • Estimates vs. Final Costs: Estimates are good-faith projections, not legally binding guarantees. The final cost can vary based on unforeseen circumstances or additional services requested during the move.
  • Dispute Resolution Methods: While companies can outline their preferred dispute resolution procedures in the contract, these may not be the only legal avenues available to customers. Consumer protection laws and arbitration rights still apply.
  • Force Majeure Events: Contracts often include clauses outlining exemption from liability in case of unforeseen events like natural disasters or pandemics. This is to protect both parties from uncontrollable circumstances.

To protect yourself, only sign contracts guaranteeing totals with penalties for noncompliance. Reputable movers will agree as they stand behind their service quality. If a mover claims too many promises cannot be made “by law” – walk away!

How does dispute resolution work for a moving company?

Reputable moving companies with rigorous customer service practices can resolve most issues amicably. But fraudulent or sketchy movers may force clients towards regulatory bodies, legal demands and financial judgement to recover losses. Know your dispute resolution options.

1. Direct Communication:

  • The first step is always to try to resolve the issue directly with the moving company. Communicate your concerns clearly and calmly, outlining the specific problem and desired resolution.
  • Most reputable companies have customer service departments dedicated to addressing complaints and finding solutions.

2. Contractual Dispute Resolution:

  • Your moving contract may specify preferred methods for resolving disputes. This could include mediation, arbitration, or litigation.
  • Mediation: A neutral third party facilitates communication between you and the company to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation is often faster and less expensive than other options.
  • Arbitration: An arbitrator makes a binding decision based on the evidence presented. Arbitration can be faster than litigation but may offer less flexibility or appeal options.
  • Litigation: If an agreement cannot be reached or the contract doesn’t specify a preferred method, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the moving company in court. This is the most formal and expensive option, but it also offers the most potential for legal remedies.

3. External Resources:

  • You can also seek assistance from external resources, such as:
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): They can help with complaints against interstate movers.
  • Your state’s consumer protection agency: They can offer advice and assistance with resolving consumer disputes.
  • The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA): They offer a dispute resolution service for members.
  • Attorneys: Consulting with an attorney specializing in consumer law can provide valuable legal advice and representation.

Taking the mover to small claims court for monetary damages may become necessary if other resolution attempts fail. Have all your evidence and documentation ready. Most states allow claims up to $10k.

Important Tips:

  • Document everything: Keep detailed records of the move, including the contract, estimates, receipts, photos of any damage, and communication with the company.
  • Act promptly: Don’t delay in raising your concerns with the company. The sooner you do, the easier it will be to resolve the issue.
  • Be specific and thorough: Clearly explain the problem and the desired outcome in all your communication.
  • Be aware of your rights: Learn about your consumer rights and the resources available to you.
  • Consider mediation or arbitration: These options can often be faster and less expensive than litigation.


Even the best moving companies can run into issues during a move, and this doesn’t mean they are bad company or scammers. Most of the times the issues come from misunderstanding or negligence. It’s important to choose a company that has a clear and fair dispute resolution process in place, well explained services, good contract and highly responsive team answering all of your questions. This can help ensure that any problems that arise are addressed promptly and fairly.

quality moving with guaranteed pricing

A moving company promising “quality moving with guaranteed pricing” could be a red flag.

Here is why:

  1. Guaranteed pricing upfront is uncommon – legitimate moving companies usually give estimates and final prices after assessing the actual volume/weight of belongings. If a price is guaranteed before evaluating what is being moved, it likely won’t reflect the true cost.
  2. “Guaranteed” pricing may allow scammers to charge more later by adding questionable fees for normal services expected to already be included. So the base “guaranteed” price is misleading.
  3. Claiming “quality moving” services is vague without elaborating on licensing, credentials, years in business, online reviews showing professionalism, or association with reputable van lines. Scam movers may leverage claims about “great service” without evidence backing it up.
  4. Overpromising on perfect, trouble-free moves every time should also prompt skepticism. Problems can occasionally happen with any company. Those unwilling to acknowledge that may not respond well when issues inevitably arise during complex moves.

While enticing claims should inform research on companies, buyers should verify quality, reputation and fair pricing through further scrutiny before signing agreements or paying deposits. Moving scams can be avoided with caution regarding deals sounding too good to be true.


What to do when a moving company steals your stuff?

Act quickly to document missing items, file police reports, contact federal and state agencies who regulate movers, file insurance claims, dispute payments made, leave online reviews to warn others, and hire a consumer lawyer to demand payment if needed. Taking swift action by reporting the theft to authorities and aggressively pursuing financial restitution increases your chances of recovery. Delaying leaves the moving company time to dissapear with your goods and money. So respond right away if you’ve been victimized by a predatory moving scam.

If you suspect a moving company has stolen your belongings, act quickly and decisively:

  1. Document Everything. Take photos and make a detailed inventory of exactly what items are missing or damaged right away. Get it in writing from the moving company as proof of what they delivered.
  2. File a Police Report. Bring your inventory list and other documentation to your local police to file a report for theft and property loss against the moving company. This creates an official record you’ll need later.
  3. Contact Federal Agencies. Notify the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). They regulate interstate moving fraud.
  4. Contact Your Mover’s Insurance. File a claim against their insurance for reimbursement for stolen or damaged goods. If they are unresponsive, contact state agencies.
  5. Dispute Payments. If you paid with credit card, dispute the charges. If you paid cash, demand reimbursement. Take them to small claims court if needed.
  6. Leave Reviews. Post detailed accounts of the theft online to warn others – sites like Yelp, Google, ConsumerAffairs can prevent them victimizing someone else.
  7. Hire Legal Help. If necessary, consult a consumer lawyer to send the movers a demand letter requiring payment and threaten further legal action. A strongly-worded letter from an attorney can be very effective if the company refuses to make restitution.

The quicker you respond, the more chance of recovering your property or money. Don’t delay taking action.

Why are moving companies so shady?

Unfortunately, some moving companies engage in shady practices due to the high incentive and low risk. Primarily, they profit heavily from overcharging vulnerable customers who urgently require their services.

Transitionally, oversight and regulations around household moving lag other industries, enabling fly-by-night operators without proper licensing. Additionally, customers rarely pursue legal recourse over small-scale theft and fraud, allowing such movers to continue operating. If customers do pursue action, it is difficult to prove goods that disappeared while in the mover’s custody.

Essentially the opaque nature of the moving business itself opens the door for unscrupulous companies to scam unwitting customers. Reputable moving associations try incentivizing ethics through reward programs. But disreputable movers are attracted by big profits for little effort. Customers should protect themselves by thoroughly vetting movers on both paper and instinct before entrusting their worldly goods.

Is it worth paying for movers?

Paying professional movers is usually worth the expense compared to doing it yourself, for several key reasons:

  1. Saves Time – Experienced movers work far faster than DIY, saving many hours of grueling packing, loading, unloading and unpacking time.
  2. Reduces Stress – Movers handle the most physically demanding tasks, allowing you to focus on move logistics and family. Less anxiety.
  3. Safety & Efficiency – Pro movers have training in safe lifting, securing loads, and space optimization to prevent damages. Worth it.
  4. No Equipment Rental – Using movers means no need to rent trucks, dollies etc and navigate loading oversized items like mattresses.
  5. Insurance – Reputable companies carry cargo and liability insurance to reimburse for anything broken or loss arising from their negligence.

While pro movers do cost more upfront than doing it yourself, keep the hidden costs of moving mishaps in mind if going the DIY route. Paying movers ultimately saves money long-term through time savings and damage prevention. Just be sure to vet companies thoroughly on paper and instinct.