Moving Guide to NYC

This guide will show you how to pick a moving company that is on the up and up, and give you tips on how to find the moving company that offers the best service for the best price.

We have also put together a moving company checklist that will help you keep track of everything as you select a moving company.

Book in Advance – Especially in Summer

Do not run the risk that all the moving companies in your area will be booked when you need them. You should book your move at least a month in advance- especially in the summer months when moving activity is at its peak.

Understand how moving Costs are being calculated

Two ways to calculate costs – by weight or by hour – Moving companies will calculate the cost of your move in one of two ways. Cost by weight or cost per hour. Understanding how your moves costs are being calculated is important to understanding whether or not you are getting a fair deal, of if a company might be trying to sneak in unmentioned costs at the last minute.

A binding quote or a non-binding quote – Did the moving company provide you with a binding quote or a non-binding quote? A binding quote limits the maximum amount that you can be charge to the amount of the quote, whereas you may be a fee in excess of a non-binding quote. Typically, a moving company will only give you a binding quote if it is able to thoroughly inspect the freight in person - do not trust binding quotes from companies that do not first send a quote estimator to meet with you and assess the situation.

Non-binding quotes & cost estimation methods – an important difference – If you are given a non-binding quote, then pay special attention to the method that was used to estimate your quote. Moving companies are legally allowed to charge you more than the estimate by a certain percentage for jobs that turn out to be more work than expected. The maximum additional amount that they can charge you is determined by which cost method they are using. Jobs that use the cost per weight method are limited to a maximum expense of 10% over the non-binding quote, jobs that use the cost per hour method are limited to a maximum expense of 25% over the non-binding quote.

Typically, moving companies will charge extra if they must move items up or down stairs, or over a long distance. Make sure you understand how these extra items are calculated and which ones are being applied, or might possibly apply in your situation.

Who is responsible for packing items – Most movers assume that you will pack your own items, unless specified otherwise. Make sure you understand whether or not this service is included in the price of your quote.

Insurance and liability for damaged or lost items

By law, moving companies are required to assume a minimum amount of liability for damaged or lost items. The terms of this liability are limited, for instance, a moving company is not liable for any items that you pack yourself, nor is it liable for any item not on the inventory list (Make sure all of your items are on the inventory list!).

Make sure that you understand what the estimated value of your items is and how much the moving company may be liable for and make sure that both of these figures are listed in the bill of lading and that you agree with them.

Additional insurance can typically be purchased through the moving company or through a third party insurer. If you are worried about damage to your items, consider purchasing additional insurance and be sure to factor this additional expense into the overall cost of your move.

Get Several Quotes

Getting multiple quotes for your move helps you to assess whether or not you are being charged a fair price, and it can also save you from dealing with an unscrupulous moving company. You should be skeptical of moving companies that provide quotes that are too low (more on this later), or are overly vague about what services they include.

Be sure to ask about any additional fees that might apply such as fees for moving up or down stairs, or moving across long distances.

Make sure to ask each moving company to provide you with a contract for you to review, as there may be important differences in liability or services offered that should be factored in to your decision. Reviewing the contract is also a good way to be certain of what services are, or are not provided in the price of your move, so make sure that everything you have discussed is stated in the contract in writing.

Avoid fly-by Night Operators

Take extra caution when dealing with a company that does not have a long-track record of operation. You should inquire with the company how long they have been in business and also check that they have an upstanding record with the better business bureau.

Beware of Low-Ball Quotes

Some moving companies have been known to quote customers very low bids, only to tack on additional fees at the last minute when there is little choice but to pay them. You should be very suspicious of a quote that is significantly below others that you have received. In order to avoid being taken for a ride, you should ask about any potential extra fees that could possibly be applied. Make sure that you have a clear understanding, in writing and well in advance of your moving day, of what services the company is quoting you for.

Common extra fees include:

  • Fees per flight of stairs
  • Fees if items must be carried a long distance
  • Fees if items must be shuttled to a from the moving vehicle

Check for Licenses & Insurance

You must make sure that the moving company you use is properly insured for any injury that one of its workers incurs during your move. If your mover is not insured, you can be left on the hook for huge medical and disability costs in the event that someone is injured while on your property. You can check if your mover has liability and worker’s comp insurance at New York’s DOT website (or through the DOT of your current state of residence)

You also must be sure to make sure that the mover is licensed. Working with a licensed mover protects you from certain legal liabilities. Licensing information must be included in the contract. Check for the carriers 1) US Department of Transportation number 2) a Motor Carrier number (which allows the carrier to cross state lines) 3) Any licenses specific to your state.

Make sure the Company has a good reputation with the BBB

You will want to make sure that the moving company you select does not have too many complaints against it by checking with the better business bureau. You may contact the better business bureau at (212) 533-6200 in the NYC area or (800) 828-5000 elsewhere in the state of New York. For movers coming from elsewhere, you will need to track down the appropriate branch of the BBB for your location.

Review the Bill of Lading

The bill of a lading is a legal document between you and the moving company. It specifies the type, quantity and destination of the good being transported as well as information about costs and liability and other important details of the move. A mover is legally required to present you with a bill of lading before any work can begin.

Keep in mind that if any dispute arises between you and the movers, the bill of lading is the only proof of your agreement with the moving company- so pay extra attention while reviewing it.

What to look for on the bill of lading:

  • Estimated cost of move or binding quote- Make sure the bill of lading specifies the estimated cost of the move. The maximum fee that you can be charged is limited by the initial estimate. In the case of a binding quote, the cost of the move cannot exceed the quoted amount. In the case of a non-binding estimate the cost may be increased by a maximum of 25% more, for hourly rate moves, or 10% for weight based moves.
  • Precious items – Any item that is particularly valuable must be individually declared in the inventory list, otherwise the carrier won’t be liable for damaged or lost items
  • Additional fees – Movers commonly charge additional fees if they must carry items a long distance, or up and down stairs, make sure how these additional fees are calculated, and which are being applied, is specified clearly in the contract.
  • Carrier Liability – Carriers are required to offer you either full value or released value protection. Released value Protection is offered at no additional charge, but the carrier’s liability is limited to $0.60 per pound per item. Fair Value Protection – under this form of protection the carrier is required to repair, replace or make a cash settlement for the cost of repair.
  • Make sure that the bill of lading clearly states the value of the shipment and the maximum amount of carrier liability and that you agree with these figures

Inventory list – Should list all the items that the mover is responsible