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8 tips for selecting movers you can count on

The internet promises us endless options and ease when hunting for information, and may be your natural starting point when looking for a moving company. In reality, what a google search often uncovers is shocking tales about scams you’d never even considered possible in scathing reviews on sites like movingscam and ripoffreport. With this important change in your life, the last thing you need to be worrying about is the reliability of the moving company that you are entrusting with a lifetime’s worth of memories and belongings. We’ve compiled a list of the top 8 steps you should take when selecting a moving company you can count on.

1) Talk to people

Your acquaintances, friends, and family are your best resource. Treating your social web as a hive mind is a great practice when looking for any type of recommendations. People love sharing their experiences, good and bad, when asked. Tell everyone you’re moving. You never know when you’ll come across the perfect recommendation; it may even be from your hairdresser!

Posting on your personal Facebook page for recommendations is a great way to use the internet to talk to real people. Beyond that technique, try to avoid the internet as much as possible during this initial step. Scam companies advertise online under different names, and moving brokers can suck you in with the promise of convenience just to send you a sham subcontractor. While the internet is a powerful tool, nothing can replace the value of real person-to-person interaction when looking for a mover you can trust.

2) Do your research

Now that you have a few names to work with, use the internet to do an in-depth background check of the companies you’ve been recommended to make sure they are still operating at the level your friends and family experienced. It may seem like overkill, but if you’ve heard the stories of companies who hold belongings hostage for higher fees, break prized items and refuse to replace them, or simply don’t show up on the day, a little bit of groundwork before the big day is a small price to pay for the security of a seamless move.

There are a handful of reputable sites where you can check your potential moving company’s legitimacy. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start, although not a completely unbiased resource. The Department of Transportation keeps a database of licensed movers for interstate moves. You’ll need the name of the company you’re searching and their U.S. DOT number for your search, which any mover facilitating interstate moves legally must have. Laws from state to state vary surrounding licensing, so you may have to dig a little deeper for information if you are moving in state. AMSA’s website lists reputable moving companies, but isn’t an exhaustive list. And don’t underestimate the power of the consumer; be sure to look on sites like Yelp and Consumer Affairs. Just remember to cross check any reviews you read with multiple sources.

3) Meet in person

You should never hire someone to move your belongings without first meeting in person. This will help you cut down on internet scams, but it also gives you a chance to get a feel for if they are the right company for you. Stop by their office to make sure the address is legitimate in addition to having them come by your house for a formal meeting and a home estimate.

If you can check out their vans on either of these visits, make sure there is a permanent sign on the van’s side. Taking note of the van will help protect you from companies who swap names to avoid the consumer reports. If a van shows up on moving day that is unmarked or has a name different than when you first met, fire the movers immediately.

Also, have them really take a look around your home. They should be asking you questions about how much you intend to bring, if you are packing any items in the pantry or freezer, if you are accumulating more or having a garage sale before the move, and what the layout of your next home or storage facility is. If they don’t ask these questions, move on to the next company on your list.

4) Talk through their plan

A moving company worth your trust will have a plan in place for your move, and should be able to explain it to you. This includes wrapping furniture items, using moving pads, and measuring doorways to prevent damage to your home and belongings. If you are engaging the company to pack your items, they should also have a plan in place for how that will be managed as well.

5) Ask about insurance

Insurance is an important thing to understand when planning for your move. Your homeowners or renters insurance policy is unlikely to cover your belongings when they are in transit. While all moving companies are required to assume liability for your belongings if lost or damaged, the standard coverage they offer is 60 cents per pound. Many companies will also refuse responsibility for damage to your belongings if you pack them yourself. If they don’t offer full coverage or you’re planning to pack for yourself, consider arranging your own moving insurance with a company like movinginsurance.com. Also, be sure they have Workers’ Compensation to protect yourself against liability if a job-related injury occurs on your property.

6) Understand your estimate

A common scam untrustworthy movers employ is lowballing the estimate to be competitive and holding items hostage until you pay their inflated prices upon delivery. So, first ask yourself: does this price seem fair? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Find out how they calculated your estimate. Is it priced by hour? By mile driven? By weight? Is gas included? Have they accounted for all of your possessions? How about for staircases, elevators, or heavy items? If they charge by cubic feet, move on to another mover. Covering these bases will ensure an accurate estimate so you don’t get any surprise fees on moving day.

If the estimate is non-binding, extra fees cannot legally exceed 10% of the original estimate. If you think you’ve been overcharged on delivery day, file a complaint with the moving company, your local Attorney General, the AMSA, and if it is a move across state lines, with the FMCSA.

7) Be wary of deposits

Do not pay a large cash deposit! Only a scam moving company will ask for this, and there is no way to guarantee delivery of items or price upon delivery if you pay a large up-front cash deposit. Most moving companies will not ask for payment until delivery, while some will ask for a small percentage as a deposit. If the deposit seems large, get an estimate from another company to be safe.

8) Check your paperwork

Don’t sign any blank contracts! The company heading should be printed on your paperwork and have the same name as the van and their listing. It should also include their contact information.

Be sure to get an inventory from the movers before they leave. You should also use this inventory sheet to upon delivery to make sure everything arrived at your new home safe and sound.

*Bonus budget tip

Move off-peak! Of course, you can’t always control the timing of a big move. However, you can get a discount if you move during slower seasons. Avoiding the first and last of the month and moving over winter, are a couple of tips for getting the best price from your movers!

If you put in a little legwork before the move, you can have full confidence in your choice in mover and be able to focus on what really matters. Acquainting yourself with your new space should be an exciting and memorable experience, and a seamless move is an important piece of that puzzle.

Tuition waivers, scholarships, and grants make lifelong learning possible for mature University students.

The high cost of secondary education is a rather hot topic, and it’s certainly influenced most of our lives in one way or another. Perhaps you are still helping your children or grandchildren pay off their education. While so much energy is focused on funding education for younger generations, you may not have considered your own potential to return to school. Once you hit 65, you may have the option to go back to school for a reduced rate or even for free. The trend of seniors attending lifelong learning programs is on the rise, and it may be something worthwhile to consider.

While some seniors elect to go back to school in hopes of an encore career transition, many enjoy simply studying topics of interest. Mature students find this to be an excellent way to fill free time and expand their community ties. If the excitement hasn’t kicked in for you already, Science Daily quotes a study by Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas regarding challenging the aging mind. She says, "Although there is much more to be learned, we are cautiously optimistic that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained, mentally challenging experiences." Check out the many options available that give you the chance to put your brain to the test!

The Bernard Osher Foundation

A great place to start your search for senior college programs is with the Osher Foundation, which sponsors programs at over 120 schools across the nation. Iowa State University is one of the many locations of this program, which offers seniors classes ranging from 4–6 weeks at the rate of $45–$60 for a class.

While there isn’t a specific format to how an Osher Foundation program works, there are a few key consistencies amongst the programs they sponsor. Their programs are for adults 50 and older who are seeking non-credit educational programs. They have the support of the leadership at the colleges and universities involved, claim a diverse range of courses, and routinely gauge the satisfaction of course participants. You can find more information, including a complete list of schools that participate with
the Osher foundation on their website.

Tuition waivers

Many universities have tuition waivers available to senior students. In Missouri, all residents over the age of 65 attending a state-supported institution are exempt from paying tuition when auditing classes. A similar deal is offered for students over the age of 60 at the University of Kansas and Oklahoma State University. The blog A Senior Citizen Guide for College has a list you can use to jump-start your search for a university near you that offers reduced or waived tuition for seniors. This list isn’t exhaustive, so have a chat with your preferred college if it’s not on the list to see what your options may be.

FAFSA, 529, and Tax breaks

If you are interested in studying a course for credit where tuition waivers aren’t available, you still have plenty of opportunities at your fingertips. The options you came across when your children or grandchildren applied for school may apply to you as well!

Research online to find eligible scholarships for you. Be sure to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). If you show that you need financial assistance and are attending college at least part-time, your age doesn’t exempt you from receiving state or federal aid.

Do you have money left in a 529 College Savings Account from one of your family members? You can change yourself to the beneficiary and use the remaining money to pay your college expenses.

Last of all, remember to claim your education tax break; you’ll deserve that break after all your hard work in class!