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How to Choose a Reputable Moving Company

A photo of four movers from a moving company carry a huge wooden frame into a white moving truck on the street that says "At Your Service" on the side. The backdrop is a brick wall with graffiti in New York City.

We’ve all heard moving horror stories. Priceless treasures get broken by careless movers. Someone sends off all their worldly possessions with movers, never to see them again. Or movers drive off with belongings then demand more money than what was agreed upon in order to deliver it.

Unfortunately, these horror stories are no fiction: there are a lot of companies out there who are willing to exploit people who are in a vulnerable and stressful time of their life. It’s easier to scam customers when offering a service that people only use a couple times in their life — most average Americans are too unfamiliar with how movers operate to spot signs of scams.

As a residential building with 40 floors full of apartments, we’ve witnessed and heard about plenty of moving experiences, good and bad, so we’ve developed some tips to help you hire the right moving company and make moving less stressful.

Check the Registration of the Moving Company

This is one of the most important steps: check the registration of the moving company.

In-State Moves

In New York State, movers are required to register with the Commissioner of Transportation. They should be able to provide you with a number called NYDOT, and you can contact the Commissioner at (518) 457-6512 or nymoving@dot.ny.gov to check the status of any mover you may work with.

Reputable movers in New York should also provide you with a “Summary of Information”, which will outline your rights as a consumer.

Never use a local mover that has not registered with the state.

Interstate Moves

Interstate movers are required to register with the federal government and receive a DOT number. Better yet, these registrations are listed in a public database.

This database keeps a record of complaints about the mover as well as other measurements of performance. The database also tells you whether you’d be working directly with the carriers, or if the company is actually a freight forwarder or broker.

Do not use any inter state movers that have not registered with this database. Any moving company should be able to provide you with a DOT number.

Find the database at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Get References from Trustworthy Sources

By “trustworthy” we mean not the internet. It’s very easy to obscure or manipulate information online. While it can be one source of information, ask trusted friends about their experiences with movers.

Be sure to keep in mind the timeline of any reviews you see or anecdotes you hear. The quality of moving services can fluctuate over time depending on the people who are involved with the company.

At 19 Dutch, you can ask our concierge for recommendations. Concierges have witnessed many movers. They are also often very knowledgeable about hospitality services and have networks of people they can confidently recommend after years in the industry.

Move-in help with things like booking movers, coordinating unpacking, and more is just one of the services we offer to our residents to ensure they have a frictionless living experience.

Signs of a Reliable Moving Company

Besides having a DOT number, there are other industry standards that should be considered green flags for a moving company — and you should be wary of those who don’t have them.

  • Reputable moving companies should provide written estimates based off of an in-home inspection (and you should get estimates from multiple companies)
  • The deposit should only be about 20% of the written estimate
  • The company should help create a moving inventory that lists all of your items
  • They should have a contract with all agreements in writing
  • The contract should specify if their estimate is binding or how much overage (such as 10%) they may be allowed to charge

What is the Difference Between a Moving Broker and a Carrier?

A carrier is the company that actually moves your stuff. They are who will arrive on moving day, pack your boxes into the van, and take it to the new location.

The broker is, essentially, the middleman. They makes a living connecting carriers with customers and getting a cut of the deal.

When you talk to a broker, they can give you an estimate which is a bid for the amount they think they can get for you. Then they go and post the job and price on a digital job board. When a carrier sees the job and decides they want it, they will contact the broker. Then, the broker will connect the carrier with you, the customer, to write up a contract.

The broker can help you find carriers to work with and conduct the hard work of brokering a deal. They also help the carriers by dealing with the customer service portion of getting business.

Avoiding Moving Broker Scams

Theoretically, working with a broker could be more convenient and they can help negotiate a lower price. However, there are many brokers out there who are incompetent, irresponsible, or predatory.

They may obscure the fact that they are, in fact, a broker and not a carrier, because many people would prefer to work directly with carriers.

They may tell you and the carrier different prices in order to strike a deal, and the carrier could show up on moving day asking for more money than you thought you would be paying. They may promise a low price and then fail to find a carrier to agree to it, leaving you in the position of booking someone for a high price at the last minute.

Predatory brokers may fail to fully coordinate the move and your stuff could end up left in a storage facility in the middle of nowhere with no-one scheduled to take it to the final location.

If you decide to work with a broker, here are some tips for avoiding scams:

  • Ask upfront if the person you are talking to is a broker or a carrier
  • If the broker avoids answering your questions, is generally vague, or doesn’t give you specific information about how they work, don’t work with them
  • Don’t work with pushy or impatient brokers who are trying to get you to commit to working with them over taking the time to talk to you about your needs
  • Be suspicious if they make promises about timelines or price before doing an in-home quote or finding a carrier for your job
  • Make sure they follow the green flags of a reputable mover to work with outlined above

How to Save Money on Movers

Moving is expensive. It can cost a couple thousand dollars just for a local move in New York City. Out of state moves can get into the 10K range or more, depending on the distance and the level of service you receive.

Since hiring a moving company is one of the biggest expenses of moving, it can be tempting to try and find movers that will quote you a deal. But movers are one of the things you don’t want to cheap out on — trust us.

Going rates for movers can be fairly steady across the industry (dependent, of course, on location, season, and distance). If you talk to a mover who is promising a particularly low rate compared to other companies, you should be suspicious.

Book Ahead of Time

One of the ways you can get a slightly lower rate is by booking as far ahead of time as possible — as soon as you know your move date. Think of it this way: you would charge more for your services if someone wanted them at the last minute, wouldn’t you? Movers are the same way. Their job is easier if they can plan ahead.

Move in the Off-Season

Another tip is that moving in the summer is more expensive — if you can, scheduling your move outside of summer months will save you some money.

Get Help Booking Your Movers

Getting quotes from movers and making a deal is a time-consuming and stressful process. 19 Dutch makes it easier for our residents through our Alfred app, which will help get quotes from moving companies, vet the reputability of the moving companies, and book on your behalf. Alfred will also get your utilities and WiFi set up, arrange deliveries, and stock your fridge full of groceries before you even set foot inside your new apartment.

If you’re not moving in with us, there are other similar personal concierge and virtual assistant services available to you that will help make your move as smooth as possible.