These Critical Moving Mistakes Cost Me $7,500 -- Here's How to Avoid a Nightmare Like Mine

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  • It's important to read every moving company review you can find, avoid moving company brokers, and spring for full coverage insurance.
  • Moving companies have months to decide whether to accept or reject a claim.
  • If something is of value to you, consider transporting it yourself.

There's nothing like a truly terrible move to figure out where we went wrong.

After selling a home in one state and buying in another, my husband and I recently made our 24th move. We mistakenly assumed that this move would be like all the others. It never occurred to us that we would spend the first six weeks in our new home replacing items lost or broken by the movers. As of today, the losses total $7,500.

My hope is to help you avoid a moving nightmare like ours, and the best way I can do that is to be honest about my own mistakes.

Mistake No. 1: Not taking a deep enough dive

I was responsible for finding the company that would help us move and spent days searching for a well-respected company. Due to COVID-19, I could not find any movers willing to come to the house to give us an estimate.

However, the company I hired scheduled a Zoom call, during which I took one of their representatives through every nook and cranny of the home. She noted everything – from furniture to the number of boxes and shelves in our basement. What sold me on the company was that it promised a fixed price. Between the cost of selling our house and taking out a mortgage in the new state, I was grateful to know exactly how much the move would cost.

Everyone I spoke with by phone seemed professional and on top of their game. I checked the company's website for reviews, all of which were glowing. What I failed to do was check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website or Google reviews. If I had, I would have caught a preview of what we were about to experience.

Things were great – until we paid our full deposit. Suddenly, the salesperson (let's call him Chuck) became difficult to reach. I would call at all times of the day and leave him messages. When he did pick up the phone, he would say, "Oh! You're on my list of people to call today."

Then, the night before movers were set to come, someone from the company we'll call Les gave me a call. He asked again about what we would be moving. He then informed me that Chuck misquoted the move, and it would cost approximately $2,000 more.

In the end, we didn't pay the extra thousands, but it was a fight to get back to the original price. To do so, we donated things like an elliptical machine, universal weight system, snowblower, lawnmower, and other items Les insisted were pushing us beyond the cubic feet quoted.

If I had checked the BBB website, I would have expected Les' call. He had a habit of calling other customers to tell them there was a problem with their original quote.

Mistake No. 2: Working with a broker

The words "van lines" is part of the company's name, which led me to believe they would be the company transporting our goods. Although we made our payments out to this company, it was another moving company that showed up to pack and move us. They knew nothing of Chuck or Les, although one of the men on the crew said to me, "Never hire a broker."

Now, one thing I've learned from reading BBB and Google reviews is that this company truly dislikes being called a broker. Posting in January, another customer complained that the company was 30 days late delivering his family's belongings. Equally horrific, the day they were set to move out of their old home, the movers showed up and told them they would take up more space than expected and would need to pay more money.

The company's only response to the post was to complain about being called a broker. According to the "van line," 32 independent moving companies work under their service umbrella and act as proxy employees.

Here's one example of why we should have hired the moving company that would actually be transporting our goods: We had a storage unit. The packers decided to put the belongings from our storage unit into the back of one of their personal pickup trucks and transport them to their warehouse. En route, the pickup truck flipped, the driver broke his hand, and our belongings landed on the side of I-35.

We had just met those movers and didn't have a point of contact with their company, or a way to reach them if we needed help. If we'd worked with one company from beginning to end, we could have called for assistance right away.

Mistake No. 3: Not springing for full coverage insurance

On the day of the move, I was on my way out of state. My husband was at the house with the movers. He was doing 1,000 other things, and when the crew lead asked him to sign the paperwork, he did. Unfortunately, a small section of the paper he signed stated that we did not want to pay more for full insurance coverage. Now, we're Midwesterners who routinely buy earthquake insurance. Had we slowed down and taken the time to decide on insurance, we would have purchased extra coverage.

It was only once we began adding up how much we lost that I realized we were only covered for $0.60 per pound. I also learned that the moving company had four months to accept or reject any claims.

I'd like to give you an idea of how much $0.60 per pound helps. The moving company lost our California king mattress and box spring. Say the mattress weighed 100 pounds. That means that after four months of waiting, the most we could hope to receive for it was $60.

I hope you'll do me a favor. The next time you move, check every moving company review you can find. Make sure the company you're dealing with by phone is the moving company that will transport your goods. Finally, pay extra for full coverage insurance. You never know when you'll need it.

I can't change how things turned out for us, but it would make me feel better to know our experience saved someone else the headache of a ridiculously awful move.

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