Cross-post from LessWrong

2 weeks ago, I realized that I will move from Seattle to Mountain View in 50 days. I was excited but I didn’t realize I need to talk with >15 moving companies to find the satisfying ones. After ~9 hours of hunting, I finally found a satisfying one. I chose North American Moving Service for my 850 miles, 2000lbs, 300 cubic feet (CF) moving for the price of 3200$. Here is what I learned (starting from the most important one to the least):

  1. Choose Carrier (Mover) instead of Broker: Brokers can cost more in the end even when it sounds cheaper in the beginning. They can promise you a good and appealing price in the beginning, but after you paid the deposit, things can change. I found many stories online about the brokers charge additional fee a few days before the moving so that you have no other choices but pay them the extra money. Some stories also tell that when the movers come, they gonna charge you extra money because they will say they don’t agree with the broker’s price… Choose a carrier will be cheaper and mentally safer.
    1. How to find whether the other side is a broker or mover? Ask their USDOT number and use the following website to search about it. The entity type should say “Carrier” instead of “Broker”. Usually, for a mover, they should have their USDOT number on their website.
  2. Don’t trust Google search results: “long-distance moving is badly regulated”, the agent from one of the largest moving company told me. When I search for “best moving company” in Google Search, most of them are brokers. They simply pay a lot of advertisement fee to get into the top spots so people will click for it. It is reasonable because they can easily earn >1k$ for each service they “provided”. Also, the Google reviews can be fake as well. Don’t rely on Google as the only source of truth.
    1. Who to trust?
      1. movingscam: People who get cheated before created this website. Specifically, superlist lists good moving services across different states.
      2. largest moving company: The larger the company, the less likely they are willing to lose credibility.
      3. fmcsa: Check how many times the moving company get sued.
      4. insurance checking: check the insurance is legit or not.
  3. Pay attention to the following bad signs:
    1. They don’t estimate how much weight and how much cubic feet (CF) about your moving: one broker I talked with, iMoving, even didn’t ask for my moving weight details. In contrast, the movers will conduct a virtual tour or in-person tour with you to do a estimate before they give a quote.
    2. The agents are impatient, rude or call you too frequently: again, iMoving, the agent Evan is rude and make me feel uncomfortable throughout the call. Many brokers are simply too bothering and call/email you everyday. In contrast, most of the movers I talked are patient, professional, friendly and think from your standpoint of view.
    3. Too good to be true: very low price or very fast shipping. Agents can promise you anything to let you deposit the money, then the rule can change.
    4. Pay first, service later: Usually you can pay for the price after after the moving company load your stuff. Don’t pay too early.
    5. Call from Florida: Many brokers registered there.
  4. Negotiate: Ask for >5 offers and use them to compete with each other. I successfully negotiate the price from 5k to 3.2k in end. You can simply email the other side about the competing offer and they will lower the price by giving you larger discount or remove some unnecessary service, which you won’t know in the beginning.
    1. how do you know the price is reasonable? It all depends on miles, weight and CF. FYI, the moving I have done is around 850 miles, 2000 lbs and 310 CF. Since the lowest price I received from a broker is 2.5k, which definitely is too appealing to be true, I am 80% confident that the price I received is reasonable and it would take me too much efforts to get lower than 3k. Also, paying a reasonable amount of money makes me feel safer, otherwise, I might be worried about the service I am gonna get.
  5. Prepare an email template and refine it over time: list your address, moving date (more flexibility, lower price) and moving details (weight & CF estimated from other company) and ask about their out-of-pocket price. Instead of talking with the agents one by one, this can make the search more efficient. Though, it is expected to have at least one call with the agent to do an estimation. Keep the email updated as you get more and more information.

If I need to find the moving company again, I will do the following:

  1. Talk with 1 large mover to get an estimate.
  2. Prepare an email template with the detail from step 1 and check with other 5 movers.
  3. Negotiate.

It probably will take ~3 hours in the end to find a good offer, instead of my ~9 hours journey here :)