HOW TO CHOOSE A MOVING COMPANY
Moving is a stressful experience at the best of times. Add to that the leap of faith involved in trusting all your worldly goods to a moving company—and the horror stories we’ve all heard, or worse, experienced firsthand—and it’s easy to feel nervous about finding the right mover. However, there’s a lot you can do to make the experience relatively worry-free, and even pleasant. The secret to a stress-free moving day is to do your homework in advance, so that by moving day there are (virtually!) no surprises.
Look for recommendations
The best place to start is to ask friends or your real estate agent for recommendations. You can also check out professional association websites like the Canadian Movers Association (www.mover.net). Many larger companies have their own websites as well, giving not only the main details about the company and its services, but helpful moving tips as well.
Once you’ve narrowed down three or four companies you want to check out, make appointments to have a rep from each one come out and give you a written estimate. It’s essential that the company see your stuff before they can give you an accurate estimate; rule out a company that tries to give you a quote over the phone, or tells you that seeing your possessions in advance isn’t necessary.
Questions to ask and tips for an easy move
Over the phone, ask if the company and its employees are bonded, licensed and insured (long-distance movers require a different license than local-only companies), and what their insurance covers, especially if you pack yourself. Are the movers who will do the job employees, or contractors or day labourers? (Full-time employees tend to be more honest, experienced and conscientious than casual workers.) How long have they been in business? If possible, visit the company’s offices and check out its facilities. Are the trucks in good condition and marked with the company name? What about storage facilities? Is the office clean and professional-looking? Finally, ask for (and check out) references.
Identify items to be moved
When the rep arrives, take him/her through your house and list exactly what will be moved, pointing out special items like mirrors, fragile antiques, a piano (if you’re not having it moved by a specialty piano mover, which is highly recommended) or a pool table. Spell out what you want the movers to handle and what you will do yourself, such as packing or dismantling beds. Know the exact address of the new home, and any obstacles such as stairs or narrow hallways, and if any items will be put into storage.
Within a day or two, the company should furnish you with a detailed written estimate, listing everything you discussed: date and time of move, old and new addresses, estimated number of boxes, size and value of items, special needs, cost of packing (if you are not doing it yourself), and an estimate of how much time and how many movers will be needed. Be wary of a company that offers to waive the GST/HST if you pay cash; not only is it illegal, but it could void your insurance and leave you without recourse if there is a problem. And shun any company that asks for all or a large part of the cost up-front; the industry norm is to pay in full, or all but a token deposit, upon completion of the move.
Keep reading to learn about moving insurance and moving day.Inquire about moving insurance
Many companies offer optional insurance at a reasonable cost, usually a few dollars per $1000 of value; if you have valuable items, it may be worthwhile, but check first to see if your homeowner’s policy already covers you. Also, some companies limit their liability if you pack yourself, even though having the mover pack for you can double the fee. Only you can decide if it’s worth the extra cost, but generally speaking, there’s no reason you can’t pack all but the most fragile items yourself; spread the packing over several weeks, and anything that is really fragile can either be left for the pros, or transported yourself in your car on your stress-free moving day.
Ideally, you’ll find one company’s service and demeanour stands out above the rest, and it needn’t be the one with the lowest estimate. There’s nothing wrong with negotiating a bit, especially if you can show them a lower estimate from a competitor. (However, if one quote is considerably lower than the others, find out why; the company may not provide the same level of services, or tack on extra “unforeseen” costs on the day of the move.)
Supervise moving day
On moving day, make sure you are present to supervise, but do try to resist the urge to micro-manage or blow up at the movers, unless they’re doing something really stupid. If you go out of your way to be nice—bringing them coffee (or cold water on a hot day), or by simply being pleasant to deal with—they’re more likely to go the extra mile for you or throw in extras that normally would cost you. (Movers have horror stories about clients, too.) If you’re really pleased with the service, it’s optional but appreciated to tip each of the movers, usually about 5% of the total cost of the move.
After the move is complete, look through your possessions carefully, and if anything is missing or damaged, notify the company right away. A reputable mover will usually reimburse you for minor damage within a few days, but if you have an insurance claim, it must be dealt with as quickly as possible, or it may be disputed. But if you’ve packed well and followed our guidelines, here’s hoping your moving story is a happy one and that these tips make it an easy move!