Advice and experience with interstate moving companies
June 3, 2004 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Interstate moving companies: a den of thieves? I'm planning a move, and the web is giving me some confusing information about moving companies. I'd appreciate any experiences or expert advice...

I'm planning a move from Seattle to LA at the end of summer. My wife has been casually looking around the web for a moving company, and she thought she had found a couple promising ones, using this site. Both offered prices significantly lower than the well-known national companies. Today, however, she found this site, which blacklists both companies and advises entirely against finding a mover on the web. Apparently, it's all a huge scam. Is there any truth to this? Can you find a mover on the web, or will I have to rely on word of mouth from you kind people?
posted by mr_roboto to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I moved from Detroit to Seattle, I used a local (Detroit) mover who was an agent for Atlas Van Lines. My stuff was unloaded by a local (Seattle) mover who was an agent for Atlas Van Lines. The Web had nothing to do with it, aside from the fact that I used the online Yellow Pages to look for movers.

Just call a few movers that are agents for major freight companies, have them come out and give you estimates. It's what I did and it worked out fine. I picked the one I picked because they were willing to offer me previously-used moving boxes for free and let me do some of the packing. The other movers wanted to sell me new boxes.

The reason some movers get away with over-inflating the size of the load and other scammage is that they know most cross-country moves are not paid for by the people who are moving, but by their employers. Don't tell them what your moving allocation is; if you do, your moving expenses may tend to inflate to consume all of it.
posted by kindall at 9:35 PM on June 3, 2004

mr_roboto -

Yes, there are a *lot* of moving companies that you want to avoid. Moving is a case where "if the price is too good to be true, it's not true" ...

Generally what happens is that they give you that low estimate via the web, and then when they come out one of two things happens: They refuse to load, because the say there's more stuff than you said there was. or B) They load up, and when you get up to your new place, they show up and demand $X before they'll unload because of "additional fees" ... if you protest, your stuff gets locked up until you pony up. You really, really want to use a major van line and one that's got good ratings. And *read* *all* of the fine print, especially on the back of the bill of lading, before you sign it (you may even go so far as to get a lawyer to look it over or talk to a transportation consultant, I can refer you to a seattle-based one if you wish); and don't let them load stuff until you have a signed contract. Keep in mind their liability and the fact that the Uniform Commerical Code applies to anything that isn't explicitly stated on the back of the bill of lading.
posted by SpecialK at 9:55 PM on June 3, 2004

We just moved from Seattle to Boston - and though it was a bit more work, we decided to move ourselves. One Penske truck rental (with a tow-trailer for the car) was all it took. Penske was great. Yeah, it's not as easy as getting a mover, but I had some peace of mind in being 'in control' of our belongings for the entire trip (I-90, end-to-end). It may not be a viable option for you, but I'm just saying that it wasn't too bad (we have two small children, but they flew ahead with Mom).
posted by kokogiak at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2004

My interstate moving story….

The (now ex) wife and I were moving from Carrollton, GA, to Annandale, VA, in the suburban Washington, DC, area. Her new employer was paying part of the tab, but not all, so money was an object, but not a huge one.

We went with one of the big companies, Atlas, I think, but I’m not sure. They came out on a Saturday and loaded everything up in short order. So far, so good. The movers couldn’t tell us when our stuff would arrive at the new place, though, since they had to put someone else’s stuff on the truck, too. 3-5 days was the best they could tell us. However, they gave us an 800 number to call to get a firm date/time.

But, of course, it was Saturday, so no one was at the number. Same thing on Sunday. We went ahead and drove to the new place, since we didn’t know when to expect our stuff. We had our suitcases, and a one-year-old. And that was it.

Monday, we called, called, called, only to be told the stuff was on the way. Tuesday, same thing. I started bitching about not having pots and pans or baby stuff or a bed. Technically, of course, we were still in the 3-5 day window, so the company didn’t owe us anything. But the not knowing was getting old.

Wednesday, and still no stuff, no word on when we’d get it. I got all activist. I demanded money for living expenses, food, pots and pans, all that. The first-tier customer support person offered $50, I think. I asked for a manager. She kept repeating “Our standard offer is $50.” I kept arguing that we needed more, that we needed a baby gate and bed and such. She said, in a very directive tone, “You haven’t asked for that.” So I said “You’re telling me that all I need to do is ask?” She said, “Ask away!”

So we got a bunch of stuff. New mattress, new sheets, new baby gate. They gave us 50% of cost there. $100 for pans, silverware, other cookware. We got probably $300 or so from them. The truck finally showed up Saturday. We wrote an angry letter later, and got another, oh, $400 back, I think, all off of $1500, if I remember correctly.

Sooooo… prepared to wait. Be prepared to bitch and moan. You CAN get satisfaction, but you have to push hard for it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:27 AM on June 4, 2004

There are lots of you-pack, we-drive companies out there. They can work out cheaper than U-Haul and similar once you figure in buying lots of gas.

I've used different ones twice with no problems. Usually you pay by the linear foot for an up-front clearly-stated fee, so there's not much room to screw around. If you don't want you and your pals to lug stuff, you can always call a local mover -- one of those ones that consists of bored and hung-over college students -- at each end to send a crew. Odds are that will still work out cheaper than using a full-service big-name mover.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 AM on June 4, 2004

There are lots of you-pack, we-drive companies out there.

I did this with United and was very pleased by the whole experience. They loaded the truck in Baltimore and drove it California; the driver was like a ship captain who had his own loading/unloading crews in both places. Your stuff will share space with some other people's stuff in the huge truck. That's why they give you estimates by the linear foot--so they know how much of the cargo room your stuff will occupy, because believe me, they fill pack it incredibly tight (which actually is much more stable than the way you or I would load a truck, even when trying to be careful).

Have them come out, inspect your stuff, and give you a written estimate. If they guess wrong, you don't have to pay extra (this is a name for this kind of estimate; escapes me now). Packing it up yourself saves you a lot of $. Having them load and unload and make the drive across country is not only convenient, it also lets you drive your car, where you can personally escort all the family jewels. When we figured the cost of gas for a huge U-Haul and the rental fees, United was actually cheaper than if we had done it ourselves.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2004

Call the Better Business Bureau. I got some good local movers recently by checking through them.
posted by callmejay at 11:09 AM on June 4, 2004

Even with the big national movers, you can't know what you get (service-wise) 'till the job is done. Crews at one end may not be as good as the other. When things break, they may try to pass the buck in hopes you will grow bored with pursuing the issue.

HOWEVER, in my experience, interstate moves are required to be under BINDING estimate (what you see is what you pay). Local moves are NOT governed this way in all places, and can really rip you off!

Beware too, I've had moving crews resort to intimidation, trying to get my signiture when the job was done, when I had issues, particularly with the reconstruction of dismantled furniture. Write your reservations down and sign. Don't try to argue with the jerks that simply want to go home.

Packing crews are usually much nicer than unpacking crews. Sometimes this is true EVEN when its the same people!!!
posted by Goofyy at 3:04 AM on June 10, 2004

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