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Avoid Moving Scams

Moving home? Beware the scams!

Moving home and packing up all your household items for the movers can be a nightmare in itself – and that’s before you have to try to sort out one of the most common, and no less frustrating, moving scams.

Here’s how it usually works. Your first call to the moving company, of course, is all sweetness and light – and the hourly rate per worker a shade lower than the market rate of around $20 sounds attractive.

So their agent comes around to give you an estimate. Let’s say, the estimator reckons on eight hours work for three moving men. You do a quick calculation of 8 x 3 x $20 for a market rate of, say, $480 and check that sum with the estimator. Satisfied by his “yeah, that sounds about right”, you accept the estimate but anticipate that the final price could be 10% or even 20% more ($600 maximum – you think!).

Moving day dawns, the three moving men and a truck driver arrive. The form – which will be the binding contract between you and the moving company – is produced and completed, thought the detailed terms and conditions are all in the fine print. You check the price of $20/hour per man for the estimated eight hours and notice the extra charge of moving each box. But it seems a small price to pay and you’re eager to get started with the move. So, you sign.

The packing and loading all goes ahead without a hitch, so now you’re really looking forward to moving into your new home – and perhaps even adding a handsome tip to the moving men for all their hard work.

The nightmare begins when you arrive outside your new home. You need to pay the bill before unloading begins – so you unfold the $600 you’d already estimated, together with a further $100 for a generous tip. The only problem with that is that the cost of the move has now risen to close on $2,500!

You get them to check the amount and an itemized account is read from the contract that you signed (but barely had chance to read). This might include some or all of the following charges: the driver of the truck is not only also a mover, but as a commercial license-holder is a professional, too – he qualifies for double the pay, or $20 x 8 x 2 some $320; then there’s a truck usage fee, based on both an hourly rate and mileage fee, a further $400; on top of that, there’s an overtime charge, for let’s say 1½ hours, for all four of the men and the truck at double-time, an extra $540; other miscellaneous charges might include those for stairways (charged per stair) and countless others. It all mounts up!

The worst of it all is that you’ve no room for argument or negotiation. The contract’s signed and all of your possessions are still on the truck – where they’ll remain if you default on the payment.

Indeed, at this late stage there’s very little you can do to end the nightmare other than pay what’s demanded and attempt to pursue the matter after the event. Far better, of course, would have been to:


  • do your homework more thoroughly in advance, by checking the reputation and reliability of the company beforehand and perhaps seeking personal recommendations from satisfied customers;
  • seek a “guaranteed quote” from the moving company in advance. This can be a non-binding estimate, but one that prevents the company from charging more than 10% more than the original estimate; or a binding estimate, which should be a guaranteed price not only for the move, but also for any additional services and extras; and
  • read any contract and all of its fine print very carefully before you sign and never, ever sign a blank contract!
  • Check our list of red flags and what to do if you found yourself in such a terrible position.

Have a good and safe moving day.