Watch Out for Movers' 'Hidden Charges'

People often complain about ‘hidden charges’ on their move.

While I sympathize with them, I’m also reasonably sure that somewhere in their estimating process, the moving companies either told them about extra charges for their move, or spelled out these charges in their contract.

I’m also reasonably sure that these charges weren’t highlighted in glittering gold or shouted from the mountain-top.

For example, I got a pitch from a moving company the other day via voicemail. The company went through an extensive list of things they include in their base rate. Then at the end of the call, she said: “The only things we charge for are non-reusable packing material like tape, shrink wrap, moving boxes and bubble wrap.”

In other words: most everything for packing.

Most people either don’t catch this, or they assume these charges won’t amount to much.

Then comes moving day, and they spend a couple hundred bucks on packing materials.

So when you’re planning your move, read your estimate thoroughly. Here’s a list of particular items to look for:

Packing materials: It’s often just moving boxes, tape and shrink wrap, but if you haven’t done a good job packing, this can quickly add hundreds of dollars to your moving costs. The contract should have what isn’t covered, and how much the items cost (See this article for more on moving-day packing charges.)

Moving blankets: Most companies don’t charge for this item, because they’re reusable. However, some have taken to charging RENTAL fees for them. Look for this charge.

Shuttles: If you’re in a big city, the moving company probably can’t bring a moving van into your neighborhood, and will need to shuttle stuff in a smaller truck.

Charges for stairs: You need to do two things before you move: Make sure the moving company knows about stairs at your new and old homes. And check the contract to see if they charge for stairs, and how much they charge.

Long carries: If the movers have to walk a long distance from your house to the moving van, they’ll charge for it. Just like stairs, make sure the moving companies know the layout of your new and old homes, and look for these charges in your contract. (Also, if you’re making a local move, you’re paying by the hour anyway, so you shouldn’t be paying this charge.)

Gas surcharges: Companies can levy a gas surcharge when prices are high.

Travel time: What constitutes travel time for the mover?

Credit card charges: Some moving companies levy a fee for paying by credit card. However, major credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard do NOT permit merchants to do this. Check your credit card’s policy on it. If they forbid their merchants from doing it and you got charged anyways, dispute it to get the fee reversed (a fee can be significant on something as pricey as a move).

This last one isn’t a charge, but it’s a huge annoyance: Your delivery window.

Make sure you know when you will get your things. And be wary of anyone who gives you a specific day.

For long distance moving, it’s impossible to be precise for when you’ll get your items: there are the hazards of the road, and the movers might be making stops on the way to pick up other items to fill their truck (this is a common part of moving and nothing to fear).

However, it’s very important to check your contract.

The moving company must give you a window of when you’ll get your things. And if you don’t get your things within that window, it should spell out any compensation that is due to you for hotel rooms, etc.

Check closely: I heard from a reader who said they found the delivery window buried in a section about furniture disassembly.

I don’t know if it’s true, but it should hammer home the point:


Oh, and do it BEFORE moving day.

Related Stories:

Five Easy Ways to Save $1000 on Your Moving

8 Major Mistakes When Picking a Moving Company

Don’t Commit These Moving Day Sins

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