Having just signed an agreement with one of the major moving companies to relocate from San Francisco to Irvine, CA, I thought it was timely to offer some advice on dealing with the big moving companies. Additionally, I have dealt with these folks on long distance moves two other times in the past. When I speak of the “major moving companies,” I mean United, Mayflower, Allied, Bekins, and the like.
First and foremost, get at least three estimates. Regardless of what they say, the person who comes to your house to give you the estimate has lots of wiggle room. If you mention that someone else was lower, they will budge more often than not.
By the same token, if the estimator asks you what you think it will cost, GO LOW! For my current move, one of the estimators aksed me this question. I came in with a price that ended up being about $1500 less than his initial quote. Shortly thereafter, he “recalculated” some numbers and came up with a price not far from my guess. If they can take you for more, they will, but if they know they are out of their ballpark, they are more likely to accomodate to get the business. As a friend recently told me, for better or worse, moving companies do not plan on having return customers, so buyer beware and be savvy!
This tip is especially important if you live in a dense city, such as San Francisco. If the estimator says that they will send a small truck to pick up your goods, which will then relay them to a large 70-foot truck, balk! Most streets, even in San Francisco can accomodate the large semis, and buy cutting out the middle man, so to speak, you will literally save hundreds of dollars. All that is needed is a parking permit from your local police station to keep about 70 feet of space open for a few hours the day of your move.
Also, make sure the price you are quoted is the price you will pay at delivery. The estimators job is to inventory your belongings that will be moved. If you stay within that inventory list, weight should not matter. The weight of the move is nothing more than the estimator’s best guess as to how much your inventory weighs. No more inventory, no more charges! In fact, make sure that you are assured by your moving company that if your move weighs in at less upon delivery, you will be charged less. Additionally, if there are stairs or access problems at your destination, state this up front. If you do not, you will be charged for the extra work at delivery, and rightfully so.
And last but not least, unless you are doing an intown move, go with one of the big companies. First of all, they are insured. But, more important than that, the people they hire to move your stuff and drive the trucks know what they are doing! Typically, the big companies put these employees through training and moving is what they do for a living. They know how to take care of your stuff and get it from place to place safely and efficiently.