If you’ve heard the recent reports about the families who are desperately searching for their belongings after getting taken in by a dishonest moving company, you know that moving scams do, unfortunately, happen.
We know how much trust it takes to hand over all of your personal possessions to a new company. We’ve taken that obligation extremely seriously ever since we opened our doors in Hawaii in 1982.
We also know that moves to, from or between the Hawaiian islands require a higher level of trust. With local Hawaii moves, you’re reunited with your possessions the same day, often in just a few hours. However, moves to and from the Mainland—or between islands—mean trusting the entire contents of your home to your moving company for longer, maybe even a few weeks.
If you want to back that trust with confidence, we have a suggestion for you: Research your moving company thoroughly. You’ve got plenty of resources online that can help you uncover an unscrupulous mover or confirm your belief in a trustworthy one. In this article, we’ll show you exactly where to go and what to look out for.
With this research in hand, you can entrust the contents of your home to a moving company you believe in—one that you know will be there on the other end to help make your new house a home.
Step #1: Get Three, Independent Quotes
Your search starts by gathering quotes for your move. We recommend talking to at least three separate companies. Why? This will give you a good lay of the land for what your job should cost.
If one carrier comes in extremely low, be wary. Websites dedicated to stopping moving scams are full of stories about movers who offered bargain basement prices, then charged unsuspecting families thousands more to get their items back.
You should also know that it’s your right to request an in-home survey—or one done by online video. It’s also the best way to get an accurate quote.
Here’s why: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) requires that the final cost of your move be based upon the actual weight of your shipment, as well as the services provided and the tariff provisions in effect. (You can review all of your rights as a consumer on the FMSCA website.)
So how will your moving company truly understand how much (or how little) stuff you have—and how much it weighs—unless they send someone to look at it? That’s why it’s so important to have a surveyor come out and lay eyes on the things you want to move.
Once you have your three quotes, it’s time to do a little due diligence.
Step #2: Start with Their DOT Number
When it comes to moving, you have two government agencies looking out for your welfare: the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), who we mentioned earlier.
The Department of Transportation requires all moving companies who operate between multiple states to obtain a DOT number. Licensed moving companies are required to display this number on their websites and in any ads they place.
This offers you the opportunity to use the FMCSA’s website to get some vital information on the companies you’re considering. Just enter the DOT license number in the box on the FMCSA website to get started.
Here’s what to look for:
#1: Does the company’s name and contact information match the information you’ve been given so far? And is their operating status “authorized” or “active”? If they’re listed as “out of service,” “inactive” or “unauthorized,” there may be a problem.
#2: Then look to the right for a field called “Out of Service Date.” It should read “none.”
#3: You can also check the number of trucks and drivers your company has reported and compare it to the way they’ve advertised themselves. For example, if your company says they move thousands of people to Hawaii every year, but they only have two drivers and one truck, you’d be right to be a little suspicious.
#4: Finally, you want to make sure that your carrier is:
- Primarily involved in moving goods for compensation (“Auth for Hire”).
- Authorized for interstate travel of household goods.
You can see an example of what this would look like on the screenshot below.
If everything looks good there, you can move on to a few other resources to verify your moving company’s reputation with regard to past moves.
Step #3: Check Their BBB Rating
The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit established in 1912 with the mission of advancing marketplace trust between buyers and sellers.
As part of their services, the Better Business Bureau ranks businesses on 16 factors, which result in a grade of A+ to F. Their data comes from the businesses themselves, from consumer complaints submitted to the BBB and from publicly-available data sources.
To give you a sense of what the BBB is looking for, these are the five categories in which companies can earn points:
- Complaint volume
- Unanswered complaints
- Unresolved complaints
- Complaint resolution delayed
- Time in business
Your moving company’s BBB rating, along with the other factors we’ll discuss, can give you a sense of how they operate. If you want a little more of the background behind their rating, you’ll also be able to read complaints filed with the BBB. Additionally, you can see if the company has reported a resolution to the BBB. This data can offer you a glimpse into how the company might respond if there’s a problem during your move. If one of the companies you’re researching has a low rating and a number of unanswered complaints, you might want to look elsewhere.
In addition to the rating from the Better Business Bureau, there’s also one more online source you’ll want to examine.
Step #4: Scout Their Social Media Properties
Social media has become a magnet for consumer complaints—and with good reason. Public comments force a company to address issues to maintain their reputation.
A single bad review shouldn’t necessarily deter you from choosing a company. Instead, here’s what to look for to spot a company you might want to steer clear of:
- Are the company’s pages littered with countless complaints?
- Is there a pattern among the complaints? In other words, do you hear customers sharing the same challenges over and over again?
- How has the company responded? Are the replies negative or aggressive? Or have they chosen not to reply at all?
Although some platforms allow a company to delete negative comments, by doing a little digging, you’ll likely uncover any persistent issues that might create problems for your move.
If the company doesn’t have any social properties, you still have options. Google their name along with the word “complaints” and see what comes up. If a company has created significant problems for its customers, you’ll find an electronic paper trail.
Step #5: Look for Professional Certifications
Established companies who are committed to professionalism often join industry associations. In the moving industry, you might want to consider working with a company who’s aligned with one of these associations including:
- The American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA), which offers a ProMover certification that subjects movers to a background check.
- The International Association of Movers (IAM)
- State moving and transportation associations, including local Chambers of Commerce
If your moving company has taken the time to get certified or join these organizations, you’ll know they’re likely a legitimate company who’s willing to invest in the future of their business.
Step #6: Do a Little Detective Work
If your online research doesn’t reveal anything suspicious, you might want to channel Magnum PI and take your research offline. If you’ve hired a local company, hop in your car and drive by the facility. Does it look like it’s in good condition? If there are any trucks or equipment visible, do they look like they’re well maintained?
If the office is open, you might even want to pop your head in and say hi. You’ll get a great sense for how your moving company does business.
Note: This is a great reason to stay local! When you hire a company who doesn’t have offices near your home, it’s tough to physically verify the business’s details. However, if you choose a company who’s got a presence nearby, it could be very easy for you to check up on them.
Recognizing the Right Mover for You
Our six-step checklist might seem like a lot of work. However, when it comes to moving all of your personal possessions, you don’t want to trust just anyone. As we’ve seen recently, unscrupulous movers do exist, and we hate to see anyone fall victim.
Plus, by taking the time to thoroughly research your moving company, you’ll develop a strong sense of confidence. You’ll know that the company you’ve chosen will treat your possessions with the utmost care. When they close the truck on Moving Day and take charge of your items, you’ll feel certain they’re in good hands.
Need some help moving to, from or around the Hawaiian islands? We’d be happy to talk to you. We’ve moved thousands of families in the last 35+ years, and we’d love to move yours. Just reach out to us for a quote, and we’ll schedule a complimentary in-home survey.