If you’re planning an upcoming move of your family and your household, you’ve most likely felt the stress and uncertainty that comes with that major endeavor. Packing up your whole life – often in a home you’ve lived in for a long time – can bring all types of questions, concerns and insecurity, and, choosing the right Florida moving company is a common question.

Making a plan for choosing the right moving company here in SW Florida that will meet your specific needs can help you rest easier.

Be Careful Who You Hire

Unfortunately, there are many disreputable “companies” out there who make big promises but seldom deliver – literally and figuratively. You may know someone who has shared a horror story about how disastrous their move was.

Many people find items missing or damaged when their household is delivered, and it is not uncommon for a company to hold your items hostage until they receive considerably more money than they quoted originally. At that point, you’re really at their mercy if you want to get your items back. You can always take legal or other action against them if you feel you’ve been wronged, but the first step is to do everything you can to regain possession of your household items.

You may also encounter scheduling problems when the moving company says they’ll be at your new location on a certain date and don’t show up. This can result in severe hardship and hassles if you have to locate some sort of temporary lodging until you get your things delivered.

There are several things you should do to try to find a reputable, honest moving company and avoid serious problems down the road before you even start packing.

Target A Company That Will Meet Your Exact Moving Needs

Your first step is to determine exactly what type of moving company you’ll need to get your belongings from point A to point B. This can depend on whether your move is local or to another state, and also the type and amount of items you need to move. You may have some unique items to move, like a large piano, pool table or other oversized item.

This may call for a specialized company that has the equipment, experience and personnel to handle those types of items. Of course, you’ll also need to determine if you will be doing all of the pre-move packing or if the moving company will be quoting on that, too.

Do your homework. There are many fly-by-night operators out there who will happily give you a quote, take your deposit money and then you’ll never see them again. If you know someone who has recently moved, ask them who they used and if they were pleased with their performance. You should also check out resources available through organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and others.

You can also read their reviews and check their rating on Google. Google’s algorithms are pretty good at discovering fake or paid reviews, but don’t use reviews alone to make your decision.

There are some things you’ll want to discover about any company you’re considering:

The Company’s Physical Location

Many times, when you call what you think may be a local moving company because their phone number is in your same area code, you’ll actually be connected to a large, nationwide moving company who pays for localized phone numbers to receive leads from all across the country. Then, they’ll contact a company from your area and sub out the work to them, keeping a percentage for themselves. Always look at a company’s website and verify their actual physical address and phone number.

Check Their Business Record

Find out how long they have been in business, and if that time has always been while using the same company name. You can also research them on your state’s commercial business licensing and regulatory website to learn who owns the company, the address they used to register with the state and much more. If you see a moving company that is registered using a residential address, you may want to cross them off your list.

Check their Licenses and Insurance

All moving companies are required to carry the appropriate business license to operate. If your move is across state lines, be sure to determine if the company is legally licensed to operate in your state of origin and the one you’re relocating to. Interstate moving companies are also required to have national Department of Transportation licensing and insurance information available.

A top-rated company should have all of that on their website. When it comes to insurance coverage, moving companies often agree to be liable for any damages based on their weight. In other words, a company may agree to cover losses at the rate of 60-cents per pound. If something that weighs 20 pounds is damaged – even though its replacement value may be several hundreds of dollars – the company will only pay you $12.00 for the loss. You really need to fully understand the full extent of the company’s insurance coverage.

Always Get an In-Person Estimate

Don’t settle for a company that says they can accurately estimate your moving quote without seeing your belongings. If it is a local, reputable firm who has been serving your area for a long time, or a large national company that has a local office where you live, they should have no problem sending a representative to your home to provide a quote. It’s a good idea to get written quotes from at least 3 different companies to compare exactly what each one says they will do. This is also a good time to request to see their business license and insurance details.

Cheaper is Not Always Better

While everyone tries to save money any way they can, moving your family and all of your possessions is a major effort, and a company that gives you a bid that is considerably lower than others you’ve received can be a red flag. You have to wonder how they can do what is supposedly the same job as the competition for so much less.

As the saying goes – and this is very true in the moving business – you get what you pay for. The company you end up choosing will almost always ask for a deposit, but there are certain standards by which most movers operate. A deposit of more than 25% should alarm you.

When you do agree to pay a deposit for your move, be sure to use a credit card so that if any disputes or problems come up, you’ll be able to contest the charge with your credit card company. If your mover asks for a deposit in cash, even if they’ll give you a receipt, run fast and run far.

Are They Running a Professional Business?

We’ve all had service people show up at our house and immediately wondered how on earth they’ve been able to stay in business. With moving companies, you should check their vehicles to see if they are actually professionally marked with the firm’s name, license, and other details. Sometimes, a moving company will rent vans or trucks as they are growing their business, so this is not always a deal-breaker. If your move is a smaller job and the distance is relatively short, using a company like this may work out to be a good choice.

Get it in Writing

Every single detail of your move should be accurately documented in writing on the moving company’s contract. If the representative says something like, “oh, don’t worry about that, it’s a standard practice in our business,” you may want to reconsider hiring them. You should nail down exact terms of things like when is the final payment due.

Most companies will not even unload your items until they have received all of their money. This is also a good time to get a written copy of their actual insurance coverage policy to avoid any last-minute conflicts if they say one or more of your items was not covered for loss or damage.

If you have expensive or rare items to move, you may want to consider asking if you can purchase additional insurance to cover those items. Be sure to ask if the quote is firm and binding, or if the company has the option to increase their fees based on some fine print in the contract.

Packing and pulling up roots can be an exciting event that signals a new chapter in your family’s life. You can do everything in your power to ensure that happens by taking your time in selecting a moving firm, doing all the necessary research and investigation and making certain you have a complete and thorough understanding of what the company promises they will do.