Hiring a mover is simple. You just ring up a few, ask them for a price and pick the cheapest one. Right? Well, that depends. If by “right” you mean the right way to ensure a nightmare then you’re correct. The fact is, price is just one of many considerations. With that in mind then, here are 21 questions you’ll want to pose to any moving company before signing on with them.

  1. How long have you been in business? – If they’ve been around awhile they must be doing something right. They may not be “the one” but they’re probably worthy of consideration. New companies usually take a while to work out the bugs and you don’t want them working out bugs with your stuff on the line.
  2. Can you provide references? – No references no deal should be your mantra. If they can’t find anyone who will speak up on their behalf there must be a reason. If they refuse to provide references that should be the end of the conversation.
  3. Are you licensed and insured? – It’s a plus if they belong to the Canadian Association of Movers or a similar organization. They should also provide proof of insurance, including workman’s compensation insurance. Failure to prove insurance should be a deal breaker.
  4. What type of vehicles do you use? – You don’t want your beautiful furniture dumped into the back of a dirty, poorly maintained truck. Ask to see pictures and, if possible, state in the contract the type and number of vehicles to be used.
  5. How much notice do you need? – The amount of advance notice they need to schedule the move will likely depend on the amount of stuff and the distances involved. For your particular move how far in advance will you have to commit?
  6. How many people will you bring? – This is particularly important if you have a lot of things to move. Make sure they’re ready to commit an adequate number of staff to your move and that those staff are properly trained. If it’s just 1 guy and his buddy you may want to take a pass.
  7. Do you perform background checks on your staff? – For this type of work it’s important the staff be trustworthy. You don’t want a stranger in your home, around your kids that has a history of violent offenses.
  8. What happens if you arrive late? – If they show up in the afternoon instead of the morning as they agreed you should get a discount. If they fail to show on the agreed date you should get your deposit back in full.
  9. What happens if something breaks? – Reimbursement will likely depend on what type of insurance coverage you sign on for. That said, if the broken item is in a box you packed yourself you’re probably in for an argument about who’s responsible.
  10. Can you provide storage? – Sometimes there’s a gap between when you have to vacate your current premises and when you can move into your new home. If that’s the case can the company provide short term storage for your items?
  11. How long will it take to load the truck? – While there are always unforeseen circumstances that could slow things down they should be able to provide a reasonable estimate for how long it will take to load (and unload) the truck
  12. Are there any things you won’t move? – There are laws governing what can and can’t be transported in a moving truck. For instance, ammunition, propane tanks and open liquor bottles are prohibited. Ask for a list of things they won’t transport.
  13. Who obtains any necessary permits? – Sometimes a large moving truck will need a permit if it’s going to block the street either at the origin site or the destination. Who is responsible for obtaining any permits that might be needed?
  14. Can I pack my own things? – Some companies insist on doing the packing. Others aren’t so particular. Most however, won’t cover things under their insurance that you pack yourself, as noted above. They may also have restrictions on the size and type of boxes you can use.
  15. Who does the unloading? – If you’re moving a great distance it’s possible a different team will be doing the unloading. Find out who they are. Are they subcontractors? Can the mover provide contact information for you so you can talk with them before the move?
  16. How did you arrive at the estimated price? – Find out how they arrived at their estimate. If it’s a local move you’re usually charged by the hour. A long distance move is usually charge by weight and distance. Most companies have a minimum charge as well.
  17. Is your estimate binding? – If you’re to make an informed decision you need the estimate to be etched in stone not written on the wind. If they insist on giving you a non-binding estimate over the phone you can be pretty sure you’re in for some unwelcome surprises.
  18. What additional charges could there be? – It’s important you nail this down before you sign any contracts because each company is different. Additional charges typically include long carrying fees, premium packing services, fuel surcharges, stair charges, parking fees and more.
  19. What size deposit do you need? – If they ask you to put down more than 20 – 25% of their binding estimate it should raise a red flag. Also, any deposit should be refundable because you just never know what might happen.
  20. How long is your estimate good for? – In all likelihood you’ll need time to interview other prospective moving companies in which case you’ll need to know how long the estimate they provide will be valid.
  21. What type of payments do you accept? – Most established moving companies will accept credit cards or bank checks. If they insist on cash it should raise red flags and you should probably take a pass.

Moving doesn’t have to be one long hassle. Make sure you get answers to all your move-related questions before you sign on with a mover.