Any positive experiences with moving? Any at all?
May 1, 2012 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Moving across the country and I'm overwhelmed and confused by the reviews about moving companies. Help?

I am moving from IN to CA in June, and have decided to use either pods or a professional moving company. I called several companies and received quotes, and then looked up reviews for the professional moving companies online. It seems like the majority of reviews are negative for almost all of them. Does anyone have recommendations? I don't know what to think. For example, one of the quotes I received was so much lower than the rest (Neighbor's Moving and Storage, seems too good to be true). The majority of reviews online seem to all say "stay away from this company" (there is a small handful of positive reviews). I looked up other companies and most of the reviews are negative. I am very frustrated. Help?
posted by bolognius maximus to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I used ABF when I moved from Iowa to Texas about 2 years ago. The quote I got also included storage for a couple of weeks. I used this time to go back and visit my family in Wisconsin.

I think people leave negative reviews more often when they wanted their stuff picked up on day X and have it arrive at their destination on day x+2 or something like that. Since I had scheduled the delivery date for my stuff a couple of weeks after they picked it up, I encountered no problems. They showed up on the date I requested and within the time frame I requested. None of my stuff was damaged.
posted by King Bee at 8:08 AM on May 1, 2012

I've moved a couple times with different companies, all with the same result. The company hires local degenerates to swing your shit around and run your furniture down the stairs, while the only people actually associated with the company you hired drives the trucks then sits around and drink coffee.

For the big stuff, I dont really care what they do with it. If you have delicate stuff, move it yourself and let them deal with the big stuff.

While you are basically destined to have some stuff broken its still totally worth it. I've had expensive/cheap and in the end they were all the same.
posted by H. Roark at 8:10 AM on May 1, 2012

When I moved from the Midwest to the Southeast and then to the West Coast, I had an excellent experience with UHaul.
posted by lotusmish at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2012

I have moved more times than I care to think about. Local moves aren't that big a deal, it's an hourly contract. Interstate moves are goverened by the FTC, and there are lots of rules and regulations.

1. What they quote is what the price is. You can opt for the real weight, but go with the quote, it's too much of a gamble.

I've used Beakins repeatedly and I've been pretty happy with the result. Mayflower is also good. Anyone you've ever heard of is fine. I have sent for the ABF pack and I'd use them as well. What you want is someone with lots and lots of liability insurance.

Here are some tips from me for as smooth a move as possible:

1. Rentacrate-Used these for an office move, best thing since sliced bread. Sturdy receptical, stackable, on a dolly. Also sustainable, durable, and clean.

2. Newsprint, not newspaper. Will keep your breakables clean. Saves time as you won't have to re-wash everything when you get to your destination.

3. Label, label, label.

4. When you reach your destination, check all of the stuff you're really worried about BEFORE the movers leave, make a notification then and there of any damage.

5. Buy the insurance!

6. Take photos of everything prior to the move. With a newspaper date. That way, when your movers come in and track mud on your freshly cleaned carpet, ding your TV, or in other way manhandle your wares, you've got a record.

7. Your mother's wedding china, that comes in the car with you.

8. Plates stack on their ends, not flat. It's physics.

9. Don't move anything made of particle-board. They have Ikea in California, just re-buy the Billy Bookcases.

10. Plan for a day of recovery. This is a massive, stressful undertaking. A couple of days at a spa are called for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

About 15 years ago when I moved cross country, I got a bunch of advice from a co-worker whose father owner a local franchise of a national moving company. He explained to me that all the drivers are rated. The top drivers, I think 1's, end up moving really precious items like antiques for museums. You want a 2 or at worst a 3 driver. You also want to know who the driver is going to use to actually load and unload your stuff on each end. Some drivers will go to the local corner where they are hiring and grab two big guys. Some arrange with a local franchise of his company for well seasoned men. The person handling your stuff is really important. You also need to know how much of the truck is yours. Will there be other pick-ups in the truck? How many other stops. We ended up putting two cars in the truck in addition to our stuff so had the entire Van. (Company paid!)

If you use pods, which is a good idea for small moves, you will be packing it. There is an art to packing which you should read up on before doing it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:21 AM on May 1, 2012

It's been many years, but we had a very good experience getting a bunch of furniture from Indy to Atlanta with these guys.
posted by COD at 8:23 AM on May 1, 2012

We used pods when we moved from NYC to NC and had a good experience. Granted we didn't have a whole house to move just a 1 bedroom apartment. On the loading end we had some help from family but when we got to NC we found a local company who you can hire out just to help you unload stuff like that. For like 100$ we got 2 guys for 3 hours (I think it took them a total of 45 minutes) to carry all our heavy stuff up the stairs for us. TOTALLY worth it!
posted by Captain_Science at 8:26 AM on May 1, 2012

We used ABF Upack last summer for a cross-country move and couldn't have been more happy with their service (including when i made a panicked phone call to their office saying i wasn't going to be fully packed by the time they came to pick up our cubes, and the dispatcher happily scheduled us for the last pick-up of the day.) I also have a friend who has used them twice in the last 3 years and been happy both times. A couple of pieces of advice about u-packing, though:

1. good packing (very tight, lots and LOTS of straps) is essential. plan on spending a lot of time playing box tetris on the sidewalk.

2. its super easy to find a couple of guys on craigslist to help you carry heavy stuff into and out of your house. In my opinion, this is well worth it and much cheaper than actual movers. they will not be good at #1 though, most likely.

3. if you do #2, keep in mind that if they drop/break/soil your stuff, that's pretty much your problem. If you can't handle the potential for loss, hire professionals with insurance (for a lot more money.)
posted by juliapangolin at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2012

I used ABF containers from Pittsburgh to Portland. Way cheaper than pods and everything went perfectly on their end. The only problems I had stemmed from packing mistakes on my part. See the above post, plus padding, padding, padding.
posted by pernoctalian at 8:33 AM on May 1, 2012

It can be very hard to find a moving company. The last time I had to move across the country (Pa to La.), I rented a van and had friends and neighbors help load it. I was willing to drive it myself but I am a southern girl and my dad wouldn't hear of it. He asked one of my cousins (who loves to fly) to do it for me. Dad paid for my cousin's plane ticket and a night at a local hotel. My cousin was happy for the adventure. Do you know of anyone who would look at driving across the country as a holiday?
posted by myselfasme at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2012

We used pods last year because I didn't want to deal with the scammy mover nonsense. We had it dropped in our driveway for a couple of weeks while my husband packed it, then it was picked up a couple of days before he left, and then it arrived just under a week after he got here. We hired someone off Yelp to come unload it, which they did in an hour. It cost us about $2500 for one big pods, including the two weeks in the driveway and shipping, TX to CA.

Around the same time, a coworker moved here from New England, they were quoted $1500 by the moving company...and then told they owed another $1000 in overages before the movers would unlock the truck.

I will probably go pods for any move more than a couple hundred miles from now on.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

plan on spending a lot of time playing box tetris on the sidewalk.

Or you can do what I did. Get the exact dimensions of the interior of the shipping container. Then, tape off a section of your apartment/house and start packing everything in there, but have what will be in the back be in the front or side as you're looking at it. Then, when the thing arrives, all you have to do is recreate the jenga tower you've made in your apartment. By preparing like this ahead of time, it took me and some friends about a grand total of 2 hours to pack up the cube.
posted by King Bee at 8:36 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

We, too, used ABF when we moved across the country. Everything went smoothly, and we were very happy with their service. If you haven't already, check out – that's where we found out about ABF.
posted by lovermont at 8:37 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

We used a combination of ABF (containers, not a trailer) and local movers on each end, so we didn't have to load or unload. UHaul has (had?) a page w/ reviews of local moving crews that are pretty frank and direct.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:45 AM on May 1, 2012

You didn't say how much stuff you need to move. A small apartment presents a different logistical hurdle than a three-bedroom house with lots of crap in the basement and garage. ABF may be the way to go if you don't have too much stuff and you have a lot of time to pack the container properly. The more stuff you have, the more I'd recommend hiring a company with a national reputation. Get three bids. They should all be in the same ballpark. If not, be suspicious.

I happened to use Mayflower for a move years ago and got fantastic service, so I have stuck with them on subsequent moves. They haven't always been as great as they were the first time, but they have never done a poor job. Remember that these are franchises. It may say Mayflower or United Van Lines or Allied in big letters on the side of the trailer, but in small letters it will say something like Local Guy Moving & Storage. And except for the driver, you'll have entirely different crews doing the loading and unloading. So there is always an element of chance. At least a franchise of a national company isn't likely to go out of business while your stuff is in transit. That happened once to a co-worker who picked some discount place he'd never heard of.

Each move is a reminder that most possessions are designed to be brought home and sit in one spot forever. Few things are designed to be boxed up, stacked inside a truck and bounced across a thousand miles of roads. Some of your stuff will get dinged, scuffed and/or broken. Make your peace with that at the start, and you won't feel so bad when it happens. And, yeah, take the heirlooms with you in the car -- where they also will stand a chance of getting dinged, scuffed and/or broken.
posted by Longtime Listener at 8:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have used Graebel twice for interstate moves and was incredibly pleased both times. I met with some of the other big-name interstate moving companies and they just seemed shady and unreliable in contrast to Graebel. For example, the Graebel rep came out to my house, inspected everything I was going to move, lifted and measured the bigger/heavier items, and listed it all out on a spreadsheet that gave me a pretty accurate estimate of the weight and end price. The other companies just eyeballed and were WAY off.

If I hadn't gone with Graebel, I probably would have done the ABF pods. I have a lot of friends who used them and were pleased. I just wasn't particularly interested in loading stuff myself or figuring out a place to park a pod for a week+.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:44 AM on May 1, 2012

ABF. The crates they drop off are rigid steel. Pods are sheet metal over an interior frame. You want your stuff in a solid container. We used them on a cross-country move and had no issues - they picked them up, we took a week to travel, they dropped them off the day we arrived at our new place. Easy.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2012

they were quoted $1500 by the moving company...and then told they owed another $1000 in overages before the movers would unlock the truck.

This is (or at least used to be) a pretty common scam. has a pretty good explanation of how it works and what to watch out for to avoid it.
posted by yuwtze at 9:50 AM on May 1, 2012

UHaul has (had?) a page w/ reviews of local moving crews that are pretty frank and direct.

I can't think of a business I'd recommend more enthusiastically. I've used the site to hire movers in 3 cities covering 5 moves. I've always had my own truck though, so all I did was hire labor to pack/unpack. On the pack-side of the move the guys I've hired have been excellent at doing the box/furniture tetris thing and also keeping everything safe.
posted by mullacc at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want full service movers, I suggest you only work with one of the major national brands that has a good reputation they care to maintain. Bekins and Mayflower are the two I trust. Summertime is the worst time to move because there's a lot of extra demand and temporary labor. The problem is that the national company does very little; they mostly just hire local guys on either end to do the actual loading and unloading, the important part. Bekins seemed to have long term relationships with local companies. It worked out OK for me.

There's a lot of complicated national regulation of moving contracts. In general the consumer is pretty well protected if you get a standard contract. The way the price is quoted matters; I forget the details, but you can pay by job, by weight, or some third way. One of those options gives you the most protection; a reputable company should tell you.

If you know a good local moving company, call them and ask what national company they work with / recommend.
posted by Nelson at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your budget supports it, you should use a mover certified by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) as a ProMover.

n January 2008, to help consumers avoid unscrupulous or illegitimate movers (many proliferating on the Internet), AMSA created the ProMover certification program for its members that have federal interstate operating authority. Such members must pass an annual criminal background check, be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and agree to abide by ethical standards such as honesty in advertising and in business transactions with customers.[1] Each ProMover also signs a contract to commit to adhere to applicable Surface Transportation Board and FMSCA regulations. AMSA also examines company ownership and registration with state corporation commissions,[2] and the mover must maintain at least a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau.[3] Those that pass are authorized to display the ProMover logo on their websites and in marketing materials; those that fail are expelled from the program (and from AMSA) if they cannot correct discrepancies during a probationary period.
posted by lstanley at 10:14 AM on May 1, 2012

Did an ABF move from California to Oregon, had 2 of our upacks in storage for about a month. Totally easy, dates are flexible, we went with the cheapest dates for drop off and pick up.

We loaded and unloaded but we could have had a crew from ABF do it, just had the luxury of time so we did it.
posted by iamabot at 10:18 AM on May 1, 2012

We used ABF UPack to move across the country last year and it was great--no problems at all, and they were extremely competitive on their rates. We also heard about them through
posted by iminurmefi at 10:27 AM on May 1, 2012

Nthg Graebel. Have used them twice; once long-distance and once local.

Biggest advantage is that they are the same company nationwide. (Not a franchisee where you risk getting "Larry, my brother Darryl, and my other brother Darryl.") All their personnel get the same training, operate by the same (very high) standards, etc., etc.

The local move involved contents of a 3-bedroom home over a distance of about 50 miles. Weather was very hot and humid. I would have been yelling in frustration. Yet, every interaction with them was "Yes, sir." "No, sir." and "Where would you like me to put this, sir?"

Not the cheapest. FAR from the cheapest. But, worth every penny.
posted by John Borrowman at 1:43 PM on May 1, 2012

I used Moovers Inc last summer and was extremely impressed and pleased. I contacted three or four companies, had three in-person evaluations and good-faith quotes and went with the one I happened to feel most comfortable with (he had great reviews online as well) which happened to be the middle-priced quote. Whatever you do, buy the insurance!

And nthing for research.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:39 PM on May 1, 2012

I also had a good experience with ABF Upack. If you don't have a ton of stuff, this us a good way to go. I particularly liked having the box sitting there for a couple days, so there was plenty of time to load and unload. I found this much more relaxing than having just a few-hour window of panic when the movers were around.
posted by medusa at 10:07 PM on May 1, 2012

This is a copy & paste from another post that referenced this one. I was moving a fully-packed one bedroom apartment and was extremely prepared with helpers on both ends, but...

My experience with ABF was unpleasant. The driver arrived late for pick-up. My stuff arrived several days late. They couldn't give me straight answers on ETAs for delivery the whole time - very difficult to get help arranged and settle in, to say the least. The night my stuff was delivered, there was a complaint in a completely different area of town about a completely different truck with a completely different account name which somehow dispatched a driver to my drop-off - I got home just in time from an errand to stop him from driving off with it!

When I called with feedback, the CSR was extremely combative and it seemed like she was more afraid I would ask for compensation than interested in improving the process or even just apologising. I was finally put in touch with a manager of some sort, and he was no better.

Overall, I feel I overpaid for extremely poor service and way too much worry.
posted by batmonkey at 6:56 AM on May 2, 2012

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