There are fewer things more personal—or more stressful—than moving your entire household to a new location. If you’re moving to or from Hawaii, that move often involves a period of a few weeks when almost everything you own is in someone else’s hands.

So given all of this, how can you find a mover you can trust, one you feel confident is experienced and professional enough to safely get your possessions from your old home to your new one?

When it comes to hiring professional help for your Hawaii move, we recommend that you start by interviewing and getting a formal quote from at least three, independent moving companies. This gives you a chance to get a good grasp of the landscape, and it gives you enough information to make a meaningful comparison between operations.

So now the question becomes: What should you ask these moving companies? In other words, when you’re moving to or from Hawaii, what are the key pieces of information you need to know before hiring a mover?

Below, we’ll share eleven questions that will help you understand 1) whether the company you’re talking with is a professional operation that will treat your belongings with care, 2) how that company runs its business and treats its customers, and, perhaps more importantly, 3) which one is the best fit for you.

Question #1: Are You Licensed?

Moving scams, unfortunately, do exist. So it’s important to start with the basics and make sure that the company you’re working with has the proper licenses in place.

If you’re moving interstate—e.g., between Hawaii and another state—your moving company should have a license number from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Once you have this number, you’ll be able to research the company on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website and get a quick snapshot of how they operate. We’ll show you exactly how to do it (and what to look for!) in our article on choosing a reputable moving company.

Note that licensing doesn’t guarantee that the company is an amazing operation that takes incredible care of its customers. It just shows you that the company has checked the basic boxes they’re legally required to. That said, many scammers don’t take the trouble to get a license in place, and what you see on the FMCSA website can help you eliminate companies who simply aren’t up to snuff.

Question #2: What Kind of Experience Do You Have in Hawaii Moves?

No matter where you’re moving, it’s important to ask a prospective mover whether they have experience in your specific destination. After all, moving to Hawaii is a little different.

Here’s why: If you’re moving from, say, California to Oregon, your move will probably include a couple of crew members at your old home and your new home, as well as a truck. Pretty straightforward stuff where logistics are concerned.

However, if you’re moving to Hawaii, the crew and the truck are just the start. Your belongings will likely start their journey by getting loaded into a container. Once the container is packed and ready to go, it has to be moved to a seaport, either by truck or rail (or both), then cleared through the port and loaded onto a ship. That ship will travel 2,600+ nautical miles to a port in Hawaii, where it’s unloaded from the ship. Then it needs to be picked up, moved to a warehouse, and trucked to your home. In contrast to the California-Oregon move, a Hawaii move involves a lot more moving parts: scheduling, negotiating with the ocean freight carrier, possible congestion at the port, weather delays, etc. Then there’s the task of negotiating the windy roads, small driveways, and other quirks of your chosen island.

To sum it up, when it comes to Hawaii moves, you want someone managing these pieces who’s done this before, someone who can do it with confidence—not someone who’s learning on the job.

And while you’re learning about their Hawaii experience, it probably can’t hurt to ask the company how many years they’ve been in operation. While tenure, like licensure, doesn’t guarantee an impeccable moving experience, it can help you differentiate who’s an expert and who’s still learning.

Question #3: Do You Have a Dedicated Crew at My Destination?

Obviously, if you’re making a long-distance move, such as a move to the Big Island, your crew doesn’t climb into the container and hitch a ride to the Port of Hilo with all your belongings. The same is true when you’re moving from Hawaii to the mainland, or when you’re moving between islands.

So with these moves, at your new house, you’re going to get a crew that’s different than the crew who packed you up. While this is fairly normal for long-distance moves, when you’re comparing movers, it’s important for you to understand how this will work for your move.

To give you an example, we have crews on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and both sides of the Big Island. So if you move between islands, you’ll work with Royal Hawaiian and our crews at both your old home and your new home. However, if you’re moving between the mainland and Hawaii, we partner with our DeWitt sister company, DeWitt Move Worldwide, for the mainland leg.

Here’s why this matters: Even though you may have different crews—or even different companies—executing your move, ideally the whole thing will be executed by companies who have worked together in the past. That way, there are fewer chances of mistakes, miscommunications, or dropped balls.

Additionally, it’s important for any moving company to provide you a single point of contact so you know exactly who to reach out to with a question or an issue. There’s nothing worse than getting ping-ponged back and forth between companies, neither of whom can give you solid answers. That’s why it’s preferable to work with companies who have partnered together in the past. In most cases, they’ve worked out any past kinks and they’re well prepared to deliver a seamless moving experience.

Question #4: What Kind of Training Program Do Your Crews Go Through?

When you ask this question, you’ll start to get a sense of the crew that will come out to your house and help you move. Is it a professional crew who’s been with the same company year after year and takes pride in being part of this company’s team? This becomes especially if you’re hiring a crew for door-to-door service, in which they pack up your house and unpack it at the other end. When it comes to door-to-door moves, you want a team with training and experience, ones who know how to pack your belongings so they’re well protected for their journey across the Pacific Ocean.

And speaking of protecting your belongings…

Question #5: What Options Do You Offer to Protect My Move?

By law, intrastate moving companies are required to offer two options: full-value protection and released value protection. You might think of these two as “moving insurance,” although the industry can’t call it that for licensing reasons. There’s a big difference between these two liability options, and you can read more about the difference between full-value and released value protection in this article.

Which option you choose will be one of many personal decisions you’ll make during your move. However, if the company you’re interviewing doesn’t offer you these two options, you might want to look elsewhere.

Question #6: What Kind of Quote Will You Give Me?

The moving industry has two kinds of quotes: 1) binding estimates and 2) non-binding estimates. It’s important that you understand which one each company provides. Otherwise, you might find yourself with some unexpected charges on Moving Day.

Here’s the difference:

  • In a binding moving estimate, you’ll receive an inventory sheet of the items you’ve indicated you want to move. As long as nothing changes, your final price should match the estimate.
  • In a non-binding moving estimate, your company will put together an expert estimate of your moving cost, usually through an in-home or virtual moving survey. Your ultimate cost will be based on the weight of your items and the services they provide.

As you can see, with the non-binding estimate, there’s a little more wiggle room. However, if you’ve gone through an in-home survey with a professional operation (and we highly recommend you do!), your estimate will more likely to be on target. If instead, you’ve used an online moving calculator, you’re likely to see more deviation.

When you receive one of your three, independent quotes, make sure you clarify whether it’s binding or non-binding so you can compare apples to apples.

Question #7: What Does This Quote Include? (Or: Are There Additional Charges I Need to Know About?)

The other piece that’s important for you to understand is what is included in your quote—and what’s not. In other words, are there other factors that could change the cost?

Some things are obvious. For example, it’s easy to understand that adding an entire room of furniture will mean that your move will cost more.

But here’s a less obvious factor you might not have thought of that can change your moving quote. Some people don’t have a final destination address when they pack up their old house. In these scenarios, the moving company may have to make a guess about the logistics of the destination. However, let’s say you end up moving to a house down a long, narrow driveway that can’t accommodate a large truck—and your house includes multiple sets of stairs. Your moving company may have to charge you extra for those logistical challenges that will add time to your move.

Your best bet? Ask as many questions as you need to fully understand the quote you’re given. That way, you’ll feel confident in using this quote for the purposes of selecting a mover and budgeting for your move.

Question #8: Can You Help Me With Packing and Storage (or Any Other Specialty Services You’ll Need)?

Maybe this one is an obvious one—but maybe not, if you’re new to working with moving companies. Some companies offer a full range of services, including things like:

Some companies don’t offer all of these services. Others may a few of these, but not others. If you know you’re going to need some help with packing—or a place to store your items until your new home is ready—make sure you ask about these services upfront. Don’t assume that just because one company offers storage, they all will. These extras can also be an effective way to start to narrow down your options.

Question #9: What’s Your Cancellation Policy?

Things happen. Plans change. Contracts fall through. We’ve seen it all, and when you’re dealing with everything that comes with a change in plans, you don’t want to have to worry about what might happen with your moving company.

Instead, when you get your quote, ask about cancellation policies. Then you’ll know upfront who’s flexible and who has more strict rules about cancellations.

Question #10: How Long Will My Move Take?

This is really two questions in one:

  1. How long will my Moving Day or (Days!) experience last?
  2. When will I receive my items at my new house?

The first is one you’ll probably be able to answer during the quoting process. At that point, your surveyor will evaluate all of the factors that go into your move, taking into account the services you’re looking for. Using all that information, he or she should be able to share a pretty good idea of whether you’re looking at a single day for your move or whether you’ll need some more time.

The second question can become a little trickier when you’re moving between the mainland and Hawaii. Ocean freight schedules can be a little fluid. For example, if a boat has to navigate around a weather system, it can add a few days to the transit time. So, generally, your mover will give you a window in which you can expect to receive your possessions. More specifically, once your container has arrived at its destination and your moving company is actually in possession of your goods, they will call you and schedule a date and time to complete your move.

Question #11: What Do I Do If There’s a Problem, Like Things Are Missing or Broken?

Although we hate to stray toward the negative, let’s be realistic. Things sometimes do get misplaced or broken during a move. Depending on what kind of liability options you’ve chosen (see question #5 above for a refresher), the moving company will generally have some kind of process to make it right. Find out what it is, and use the answer to help you make some final decisions about your move.

The Answers You Need to Choose Confidently

Although there’s plenty of intel to be had in the answers to these questions, sometimes it’s less about the actual information you receive and more about how the moving company you’re working with responds to these questions. During the quoting and Q&A process, you’ll get a great sense for how each company interacts with its customers. Keep your eyes and ears out as you ask these eleven question, and you’ll discover plenty that will give you the clarity you need to make your final decision.

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If you have some questions for us, we’re all ears. We offer all of our potential customers a free quote, and our expert surveyors would be happy to answer all the questions you have about moving to, from, and around Hawaii. Just click here to get started.

Tell us about your move!