So you’re planning to move within the state of Washington and want to hire a moving company. Here are the Top 5 things you should know before making your final choice:
- Residential Moving is Regulated in Washington State. What does that mean? It means there are rules that moving companies should follow and tell you about. It also means that moving companies are required to file with and be approved by the State of Washington and submit proof of insurance on an annual basis. It means that moving companies need to charge within the “legal band allowed” for their services. It means that the moving company has a license number that has been assigned to them by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (Movher’s is HG-63829). If you contact a company and they can’t tell you their license number, then that should be a red flag. Residential moving is regulated whenever a customer’s goods are loaded onto a moving company’s truck. If you call a moving company and just want them to load a truck or vehicle you have, or even a portable storage unit (i.e., PODS), then that type of moving is NOT regulated so a moving company can charge you whatever they want and they are not required to give you a written estimate. Which leads me to #2.
- Get a Moving Estimate in Writing. Also known as a “written estimate.” This should preferably be done in your home that you are moving out of; if you live far away from the moving company, you can have the estimate done via FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, etc. But it’s always best to have it done in person, in your home. And they are ALWAYS free. Estimates do not require you to utilize that moving company’s services, either, but if you decide to move forward with that company, then the estimate serves as the basis for your upcoming move and you need to make sure you inform your estimator of any substantial changes in the scope of the job before your actual move. A moving company can give you two types of estimates: non-binding and binding. A binding estimate means a flat price. You know exactly what you’re going to pay and it will not change. A non-binding estimate means it can change; it can be lower or it can be higher. But in the State of Washington, moving companies cannot charge any higher than an additional 25 percent above their original estimate unless the scope of the job has significantly changed from the time of the estimate. So let’s say an estimator came to your house and you told them that you would move all of the boxes, lamps and artwork. The day of your move arrives, the movers walk in and what do you know? All the boxes, lamps and artwork are all there and you want the movers to move them. That’s a change in the scope of the job and the mover will have you sign another estimate, typically called a “Supplemental Estimate,” which will allow them to charge you for the additional work that was not part of your original estimate. So do everyone a favor and keep your estimator informed of any changes in your job.
- Understand “Loss and Damage Protection” Options Before It’s Too Late. “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Someone should write a song with those lyrics. The same holds true for your “stuff.” Things tend not to be that big of a deal until they’re broken. That’s why you really need to take a few minutes to understand the options you have in protecting your household goods while they’re being handled by your moving company. It’s also good to know what wouldn’t be covered regardless of what level of Protection you selected: furniture made of pressboard or particle board, for instance, is not covered because of its inferior composition (think IKEA). You also shouldn’t have your moving company take items of extraordinary value (that means items worth in excess of $100 per pound), jewelry, coin/stamp collections, your pets (yes, that’s true), houseplants and items requiring temperature control (want the mover to take your freezer full of that 1/2 beef…not a good idea). None of those items are covered, no matter what. Don’t want the movers to box up your $1,000 flat-screen TV even though you chose the Basic Level of Valuation Protection? Then you’re saying you’d be happy to receive 60 cents per pound of what that TV weighs as compensation when and if it’s damaged. So a 50-lb. TV will get you a $30 check from the moving company. When moving in Washington State, you get to choose between three options: the Basic Level (it’s free), Replacement with a $300 Deductible (it costs more), and Replacement with No Deductible (it costs more). Here is how moving companies determine the value of your shipment (again, thank you to Washington UTC for determining this): on average, every pound of household goods is worth $5, and when an estimator comes to your home to provide you with a written estimate, they are also taking an inventory of your goods, which enables them to come up with an estimated weight. Then, they can multiply this estimated weight by $5 to come up with a “shipment value” of your goods. So let’s say that your estimated weight was 5,000 pounds. That means the value of all of your goods is worth $25,000 to the moving company. Think it’s worth less than that? Doesn’t matter – the moving company will go with the highest value. Think it’s worth more? Tell your estimator so he/she can adjust the total shipment value. The Basic Level of Valuation Protection costs nothing extra to you, but provides the least amount of coverage at 60 cents per pound, so if the truck crashed and burned and you had 5,000 pounds of goods on it, you would receive a check in the amount of $3,000 for all of your goods, regardless of the brand names that made up that shipment. If you chose the Replacement Value with the $300 Deductible, that’s going to cost you more in addition to your moving costs. In this example of a 5,000-lb. shipment, this level of protection would cost you around $500. In this scenario, if something is damaged or destroyed, you would pay the first $300 towards the repairs/replacement, and the moving company would pay the rest. The final option, the one with no deductible, costs a bit more, so you’d be paying around $640 on top of your moving costs, but the moving company is 100% responsible for repairing/replacing any damage that occurs to your goods while in the hands of your moving company.
- Make Sure Your Moving Company Insures Its Vehicles – and Its Employees. Your move is going great. All of your goods are loaded onto the moving company’s truck and they’re on their way to your new home. Unfortunately, they’re involved in an accident. Do you know if they carry cargo insurance in additional to regular liability insurance? What about the people who are actually moving you? Are they insured through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries? What happens if they are injured on your property? Could you potentially be held liable for any injuries? Make sure that the moving company you hire carries motor liability and cargo insurance, and is current on the taxes it owes to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
- Be Prepared. People dislike moving for a reason: it’s hard work. Don’t start one of the most stressful events in your life 24 hours before the movers show up. Break it into small, manageable pieces: start boxing items you know you won’t need several weeks ahead of time.
After all, if it’s summertime, you aren’t going to need those wool pants, heavy coats, mittens and scarves, are you? If you have children, give them their own boxes and have them start packing their own rooms. Come up with a labeling system that’s going to make sense to you when the movers are moving your boxes into your new home. Don’t want to pack? Then get an estimate for packing in addition to moving! What about artwork and other items on your walls – how will you transport those? If you have the capability to move these pieces yourself, then by all means do so. If the movers need to move the artwork, be prepared to pay for art/mirror boxes. Same for lamps. Same for flat-screen TVs. Even though most of us think about how difficult it will be to move the dressers, the sectional, the china cabinet and so on, those are actually some of the easiest pieces to move for people who do it all the time. What ends up taking a disproportionate amount of time – and your money – is when there are a lot of “miscellaneous” items like table and floor lamps, oversized vases, knick knacks, artwork, computers and other electronics that are not properly packed for safe transport. When movers arrive thinking you are “ready to move” and then find out that, well, you’re really not, it makes the job, and the day, longer than it really needs to be. So do everyone a favor and be realistic in what you can get done yourself and what you will need help from by your moving company.