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Choosing the right moving company can be a confusing and frustrating process for homeowners and renters. The stakes are high; picking the right mover can drastically reduce the stress associated with moving. To help make your move as smooth as possible, here are eight important things you should always look for when choosing a moving company.

1. Necessary Licenses

Make sure that the business is legitimate and authorized to act as a moving company in the state they are based out of. Also, ensure that all drivers are licensed, especially on trips where the moving truck will be traveling alone to the new home. An unlicensed driver runs the risk of getting caught and, in a worst-case scenario, could be forced to abandon the truck on the side of a highway while the company tracks down a new driver.

2. Insurance

Is the company insured? Will somebody pay to replace household goods if the moving truck is damaged or burglarized? With the ease of access to online classified sites, many people who happen to own trucks are running unlicensed moving businesses on weekends. These unregulated individuals increase the risk of insurance hassles if anything happens to the payload while in transport.

3. Experience

Every company has to start somewhere, but no client wants their personal belongings to be the guinea pig. Always go with a reputable moving company that has been in the industry for at least five years. Don’t be afraid to verify those years of experience, either. Ask for a list of references, conduct a bit of internet research, and generally do what you can to verify that the company is trustworthy.

4. Moving Specialties

Every industry is full of specialties, and the moving industry is no exception. Some companies focus solely on local, in-town moves; others specialize in international relocation. Some movers offer “do it yourself” moves, allowing clients to pack their own household goods and/or drive to the destination on their own. It is important to understand what kind of mover each company you’re considering is, because hiring a mover for a job that’s outside of their specialty can be more expensive than hiring one who specializes in the type of move you need.

5. Availability

Clients should make sure that their moving company provides a firm date and time for when they will be available to move their household goods. This is especially important when a client requires possession of their goods by a specific date and time, as is often the case for small business owners and those who work out of a home office. Availability and clear communication can help avoid any schedule conflicts between the moving company and the client.

6. Budget

Is it possible to find a good mover at a reasonable price? Yes. Once you know you’re moving, start to shop around for a moving company that fits into your price range. Just keep in mind this timeless advice: you usually get what you pay for.

7. In-Person Estimate

Online estimates and telephone estimates are never guaranteed. Instead, seek out a moving company that is willing to provide a free, in-person estimate. Also, don’t be afraid to get estimates from more than one company. Multiple estimates will give you a better indication of reasonable pricing. This process can also help you discern which movers are honest and which ones are price gougers.

8. Written Contract

Legitimate moving companies will offer a written contract to the client outlining the responsibilities of both parties. Clients should read the contract fully and ensure that they understand it. This will prevent any surprises should anything unexpected happen during the move.

Most people hate moving, even if the move is for the better. The daunting process of packing everything up, loading it onto a big truck, and unloading it at the new house or apartment just tends to cloud a person’s outlook on their move. While there is no way to avoid these parts of moving, there are ways to reduce the amount of stress involved. Choosing the right moving company for your move is one of the best ways to ensure a less stressful experience.