How to Check if a Moving Company Is Legitimate – 4 Ways to Pick the Right Team

August 18, 2021Moving Tips
Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

With more than 13,000 complaints and negative reports Better Business Bureau gets each year, learning how to check if a moving company is legitimate should be one of your prime concerns when relocating. Your stress levels during a move will be significantly reduced when you become confident that any kind of moving scam is not in your future – and following our tips and methods will provide you with that certainty. Let’s begin!

1.  The First Step On How to Make Sure a Company Is Legitimate  – Searching For Licensed Moving Companies

Rules and regulations are different when it comes to local and cross-country movers. In the first case, they are provided by the state a local mover is doing business in. In contrast to that, all companies must be licensed by the federal government when it comes to an interstate move. That is why the first stop on your relocation to a new state must be the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – a leading regulatory body for the trucking industry.

When you contact relocation teams to assess the possibility of hiring them, your initial question should be about their USDOT (Department of Transportation) number. Every reputable relocation team will provide you with it or even make it transparent on their website. There should be no more questions on how to check if a company is licensed and insured – it will help you trace and get a hold of this information on FMCSA’s website. Not only that – by using the DOT number in the search tool, you will get accurate information about the company’s safety and compliance history.

When checking for validation, ensure to compare the name on the FMCSA’s website and the one you are provided with – one of the frequently used scams is stealing DOT numbers from legitimate movers and tricking you into believing that the company’s insured and licensed.

Which Type of Insurance Must Moving Companies Provide You With?

There are two types of insurance a federal law obligates relocation teams to provide each customer with – Mandatory Liability Coverage and Full Value Protection. The first type should be a part of a basic cross-country moving service, with the coverage of 60 cents per pound of the damaged item. The second type, however, is an additional service that guarantees that the damaged item will be replaced, or you’ll be paid the total amount of its value.

If you are opting for car shipping services, your vehicle’s insurance must be covered with it. Note that companies (both relocation and auto transport) must have their own insurance, too, which could be checked with FMCSA, as explained above.

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Having Business Certifications Is a Significant Bonus

Aside from federal certification, reliable and legitimate relocation movers are also certified by some recognized trucking industry associations, such as ATA (American Trucking Associations). ATA has continued with a strict certification program called Pro Mover, initially created by American Moving and Storage Association. In order to become a Pro Mover, the relocation team must pass serious background checks, have a valid license and insurance, have excellent ratings on BBB, meet all ATA’s safety standards, follow ATA’s work ethics, and so on. One thing is certain – becoming a Pro Mover is not easy, so the team that has succeeded in it is the one you should consider the most.

Two professional movers
Legitimate movers have federal and business certifications

2.  Demanding an in-Home Estimate – Why Is This Kind of Estimate So Important?

So that the quote a company’s representative gives you could be valid and relatively close to the final price of a move, in-home, or at least video estimate, is a must. Note that virtual estimates are a lot more common these days, with a global pandemic and the rules regarding social distancing.

Those willing to give you a quote without going through your home inventory will usually make you a part of relocation scams. In addition to that, you need to monitor the behavior of the company’s representative when the time for an estimate comes – it is not a good sign if he seems uninterested and assesses your inventory just by throwing glances here and there.

Furthermore, you should not stop at one estimate. The best way to determine if you are going to work with a reliable interstate relocation team is to compare multiple estimates. With a relocation budget always in mind, one of the most common things people forget to do when relocating is to question if the price sounds too good to be true. When it does, consider it a red flag.

One of the most important relocation tips we could provide you with is not to accept an estimate based on the surface your inventory will occupy in the relocation truck – it is too easy to manipulate your items to occupy a lot more space in the truck’s storage than needed. If this is how a relocation team operates, instead of giving you a quote based on your inventory’s weight or the inventory itself, look for another.

If you want to find out how scammers usually function and learn some more relocation hacks on how to protect yourself so you won’t make the most common relocation mistakes, ensure to watch the following video:

YouTube video

3.  Exploring the Experience of Others – How Could Reviews Help In Your Search for Trustworthy Movers?

One more method that will help you spot scammers after you decide where to live is to rely on previous experiences. They will give you all the necessary information about how a specific relocation team works, what advantages and disadvantages of hiring them are, and should you entrust your interstate relocation in their hands. You could go through:

  • Reviews on the company’s website,
  • Reviews for independent sites (Yelp, for example),
  • Personal recommendations from a previous customer, which you could gain via a telephone call, text messages, and so on.

However, note that you must be very careful when reading each review and recommendation – many of them could be well-fabricated in order to get your trust, only to abuse it later. Always look for more detailed reviews, use your critical thinking, and read both good and bad. Of course, you must take a company’s size into consideration – it is normal for a big relocation team to have a few more not-so-satisfied customers than the small one.

Get More Information by Asking Around

Recommendations could also be gathered by talking with your family members and friends who relocated recently. Still, you could also search for local realtors and ask them anything you want to know. Their work is connected to the relocation field, so they must be informed about all the local movers and if it is a wise choice to contact them. The question could also be asked on different online groups and social platforms – it’s never been easier to get your answers.

Official Sources – Check FMCSA and BBB

You could see if a relocation team has an excellent or terrible compliant record using a USDOT number on FMCSA’s website and going to the customer complaint database. Every previously filed complaint from a customer to FMCSA is documented and could be seen on the website. As for BBB, you could search through their reviews in order to eliminate those companies you can’t trust when relocating to a new home and find trustworthy ones.

A woman using a laptop to explore reviews on official websites
Do online research of complaints databases

4.  Appraising the Level of Professionalism of Your Long-Distance Movers

You could tell a lot about a person the first time you meet them. The same goes for your relocation team – you could find out a lot about it from the very first contact. During several initial interactions, pay attention to:

  • Preferred payment method – never accept cash as a way of payment because cash transactions are hard to trace.
  • Compliance to give you an official bill of lading – a document that serves as a contract between the relocation team and a customer. Amongst everything else, it should guarantee that there will be no hidden costs that could result in a hostage situation with your belongings.
  • Customer care program – reliable movers care about every potential customer, and their representatives will go out of their way to accommodate your needs.
  • Punctuality – it is never a good sign if the company’s representatives are always late for scheduled meetings.
  • The presence of the company’s logo – reputable relocation teams will have their logo printed on their uniforms and transparent on their relocation trucks.
  • Company’s physical and online presence – not only that it’s not professional for companies not to have a physical place of work and a website, but it could also be a sign of fraudsters.
A moving company representative on the phone with the customer
Best interstate relocation teams have good customer service

How to Ensure That Your Car Shipping Company Is Reliable?

Everything that goes for the relocation team also applies if you discovered all the benefits of car shipping and want to ship a car cross-country. If you want to be assured that the USA auto transport company you chose is a legitimate one, be prepared to go through many auto transport reviews, see the company’s status by using a DOT number, get a quote from a few different teams, go through the car bill of lading carefully, and so on.

The best car shipping advice is to search for an auto transport team that offers many different options when transporting cars from state to state, such as:

In some cases, aside from basic relocation services, for an additional cost, you could be provided with car shipping, too, besides packing and storage services, so that you could move efficiently. In that case, there is nothing to worry about (if you’ve done your homework in the first place, of course) – you are just left with preparing your car for shipping.

An open trailer auto transport
Car shipping services could be added possibility, next to storage and packing

How to Check If a Moving Company Is Legitimate – Trust Your Instincts

Hiring a relocation team you could trust is crucial for stress-free moving and focusing on those important things to do after the relocation. We gave you a few tips on avoiding scamming companies and choosing trustworthy ones, but there is one more thing to keep in mind – go with your gut. If you meet a relocation team that satisfies all of the standards we enumerated above, but something still doesn’t feel quite right, don’t hire them. However, ensure not to do the same if the situation is reversed – if they don’t cover each item from our list, contact others that will. Remember – it is always better to be safe than sorry. Good luck in finding your perfect match!

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