Bad Moving Companies

Research the companies you're considering, and ask the right questions

Unfortunately there are dishonest and devious people that you will likely encounter in life. Business is no different. Here is where you can learn how to spot some of those bad apples and protect yourself from them.

Rates: Hourly rates and prorated hourly rates are very different, and as a customer it is financially important to understand those differences. Many moving companies use plain hourly rates in order to “milk” a job – which is intentionally taking slightly longer during the move so that they can do a 7 hour job, but take 7 hours and 5 minutes then charge 8 hours for it. We prorate our hourly rates on the quarter hour – meaning if your move takes 7 hours and 5 minutes, then you pay for 7 hours even; conversely, if your move takes 7 hours and 10 minutes then you pay for 7 hours and 15 minutes, NOT a ridiculous full extra hour.

Nickle-and-Dime: Although we don't, there is nothing wrong with a moving company that decides to charge for the minimal materials used in the standard transportation of items. The problem arises when those companies keep the charges hidden from you until the bill comes up. Ask your mover during the estimate if the stretch wrap, tape, or any other materials used for the move will cost you any money (note: packing materials are in their own category and are always charged for). Again, although we certainly don't, some companies will even add on usage fees for equipment like dollies or reusable wardrobe boxes.

Name Changes: Companies that have changed names multiple times have likely done so for legal reasons. Whether to sidestep legal actions taken against them, or to escape the bad name that they've made for themselves, moving companies that have changed names for reasons other than transfer of ownership are very likely to be bad companies. Even though we are now partnered with a west-coast moving company and have adopted the name Sterling Van Lines because of it, we still carry and trade as our original company name from 1977: Smoother Movers.

False Estimates: Easily the most common tactic for bad moving companies, false estimates or quotes promise low prices that the company never intends to apply to your move. This underhanded practice involves giving you the lowest base rates and implying that it’s all you’ll have to pay, then raising those rates or adding on fabricated fees after they’re holding your belongings hostage.

Phone-Only Estimates: Any moving company that tells you they can accurately estimate or quote your move over the phone without seeing it in person is simply lying through their teeth. Every home and thus every move is unique. There is no universal size or weight for furniture. Not every dwelling or business structure is built the same way, and certain items may need to be disassembled or even hoisted in order to get them out of or in to the building. If they are pushing phone estimates over on-site estimates, then they have no desire to give you an accurate estimate – only to make promises that they are not obligated to keep.

Request an In-Home, Written Estimate: One good way to save yourself from false estimates is to get it in writing. Having a professional come to your home for a written estimate serves multiple purposes. Not only will it allow the mover to accurately gauge the time and materials needed for the job along with a true estimated cost, but having a written estimate gives you a preliminary contract as a form of protection against dishonest business practices.

First and foremost, every legitimate established company should be rated by the Better Business Bureau. Even if the company does not choose to pay for accreditation, they will still receive a rating between A+ and F. Be sure to check every company that you’re considering through the Better Business Bureau.