7 Red Flags to Watch for When Choosing a Moving Company

There are plenty of good, honest moving companies out there who will give you a fair price for your move, treat your possessions with care and help you make a smooth transition to your new home in Hawaii.

However, there are also a handful of dishonest moving companies who can make your experience a nightmare.

From demanding more money on Moving Day to sending out unprofessional movers who are rude to you and your family and treat your possessions with total indifference, we’ve heard just about every horror story there is.

We take pride not just in our family of companies but also in our industry as a whole. We move thousands of families every year, and we’re proud to do what we do. And we believe that a bad moving experience reflects poorly on everyone in the moving industry.

So to save you from a disastrous move with a fly-by-night operation, we’ve compiled a list of 7 red flags to look out for.

Each of these can cost you big in terms of time, money and stress. However, if you watch for these red flags, you can avoid some major headaches.

Here’s what to look out for:

#1: They Price by Cubic Feet, Not Pounds

All legitimate moving companies use weight to calculate the cost for your move. Why? Weight is the great equalizer.

For example, let’s say your moving company has offered you a quote at $1.63 per pound. Maybe you’re considering whether to ship your office chair or buy a new one in Hawaii. If you weigh that chair at 11.25 pounds, you can easily estimate your cost to move that chair:

Your Quoted Price x Weight = Your Cost to Ship

$1.63 x 11.25 = $18.34

Given that a new chair would cost about $100, you may decide that it makes sense to move that chair to Hawaii with you.

Now, let’s say your moving company charges by the cubic foot. How they price your move will ultimately depend on how well they pack your moving container. Until the team starts packing, they won’t know how everything fits together. As a result, you really don’t have any idea how much it will cost you to ship your chair. Additionally, there’s really no incentive for the company to pack your load efficiently, since they’re charging based on volume.

That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

That’s why legitimate moving companies will price your shipment based on weight.

Additionally, the Federal Motor Control Safety Administration (FMSCA) mandates that your final charges be based upon the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided, and the tariff provisions in effect. (See your rights and responsibilities as a consumer here on the FMSCA website.)

Protect Yourself: If your moving company refuses to discuss weight or give you a quote per pound, you may want to reconsider working with them.

#2: They Won’t Send Someone to Your Home or Perform a Video Survey

After moving hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, we’ve discovered a few things, such as:

Every 3-bedroom house move is NOT created the same.

Many people need a 40′ container for the contents of their 3BR, but we’ve seen some people with minimalist lifestyles who only need a 20′ container.

What that boils down to is this: The only way to get an accurate quote for your move is to have someone come out and physically assess your items.

Anything else is an estimate, one that’s likely to change.

You don’t want to be faced with unexpected extra charges on Moving Day. But without an in-person or video survey, the moving company rep you talked to on the phone may not realize, for example:

  • How much kitchen equipment you have – two KitchenAids, an Instant Pot, a Crock Pot, a Vitamix, an electric griddle, an air fryer—and that’s just the start.
  • How many shelves of oversized art books you want to take with you.
  • How many giant Tupperware containers of holiday decorations you own.

Protect Yourself: A reputable moving company should offer to send someone out to your home, or have the technology to perform a video survey, at no charge to complete a written estimate. If they seem reluctant, you may want to consider looking for someone else. And remember, a written estimate is required by federal law.

#3: You Get Multiple Calls After Filling Out One Contact Form

In our 90+ years in business, we’ve seen it all—good and bad. Right now, there’s a scheme out there we want to make you aware of because it can cost you big.

Many times, when doing research, you may fill out a couple of contact forms to begin gathering estimates.

We encourage this. In fact, we suggest you get estimates from three independent companies before making a decision.

However, we’ve seen a few companies run a scheme to fake these estimates.

So for example:

You may fill out one contact form, but you’ll receive three separate calls from three seemingly separate companies who claim to have different names.

These representatives will encourage you to get three estimates.

However, what they won’t tell you is this: They’re going to ask two other employees to call you, pretend to be from a different company and offer you two more quotes.

In other words, these may look like independent quotes on the surface, but
all three are coming from one parent company.

These quotes are designed to dupe you into accepting the price they want you to pay. And since you only have quotes from a single company, you won’t have any real way to determine if the quotes are reasonable or exorbitant.

Protect Yourself: Make sure you gather three independent quotes. Keep track of what companies you request quotes from. If the names don’t match up or you get “spontaneous” calls from unknown companies, be wary. You can always research your movers on the FMSCA website to gather more information.

#4: They Ask for a Deposit Up Front or Only Take Cash

Some moving companies require a deposit to confirm your moving date. Asking for a deposit isn’t necessarily a red flag. Any moving company will need to reserve resources to ensure they’re ready for your Moving Day.

However, if the deposit is large enough to make you queasy, you may want to reconsider.

Protect Yourself: If you’ve done as we suggested and gotten three independent quotes, compare how each company approaches this topic. Make sure you feel comfortable with your selection before handing over any money to a mover.

#5: They Don’t Walk You Through Your Options for Liability Protection

Even when your movers take the utmost care with your possessions, accidents happen. Containers shift. Things move, and, sometimes, things get broken. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.

Every legitimate moving company is required by the FMSCA to offer you two types of liability protection:

  1. Full Replacement Value Protection
    In the event that something happens to your possessions during transit, this protection covers your items for the cost of full replacement or repair. You’ll have the option to add this coverage on top of your moving quote.
  2. Released Value Protection
    This type of minimal protection is included in every move. With this type of coverage, your moving company assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article.

For example, if your mover damaged a set of two expensive floor speakers, valued at $2,500 and weighing 70 pounds, you would receive the following:

70 x $0.60 = $42.00

That doesn’t feel like a lot of compensation for the loss of your $2,500 speakers, does it? However, if you had chosen Full Replacement Value Protection, you would be compensated to either replace those speakers or repair them to their original state. So no matter what moving company you choose, make sure to weigh your coverage options carefully before making a decision.

Protect Yourself: Both coverage options should be made available to you and explained. If your moving company doesn’t offer or explain these coverages to you, be wary of entrusting your possessions to them.

#6: They Ask You to Sign Blank or Incomplete Documents

When you move to Hawaii, you’ve got a lot of to-dos to cross off. With so much going on, you may be tempted to sign documents from your movers without reviewing them carefully.

This is a huge mistake. Make sure you review and understand everything you’re asked to sign. Serious problems—including under-valuation and under-insurance of your shipment—could result if you’re signing willy-nilly.

One of the most important things you should check for is whether your movers are asking you to sign documents with blanks or incomplete information. This gives them the ability to fill in anything they want later, apparently with your consent.

There’s one exception to this rule: In the case of a non-binding estimate, the actual weight of your shipment may not be filled in until the company weighs it.

Protect Yourself: Read every document you’re asked to sign. Make sure you understand it all and ask as many questions as you need to. If there are blanks in the document, point them out and ask when that information will be shared with you. Never sign something you don’t agree with.

7. They Offer You a “Guaranteed” Price

As you know, there are many variables when you’re moving, especially when crossing the Pacific Ocean to or from Hawaii. Some movers may offer you guaranteed pricing for your move – a flat price for specific services. This isn’t commonplace in the moving business, but you may encounter this scenario.

It sounds like a good deal at first. However, you may discover that the price you were “guaranteed” isn’t as certain as you thought. If you have stairs in your home, some movers will unexpectedly tack on extra charges on Moving Day. If you live in an apartment and the movers can’t part their truck close to the entrance, they may charge you more on top of that “guaranteed” price. If you want to add on an extra box or an extra end table, your price may change again.

Protect Yourself: When choosing a mover, be wary if they offer a flat rate. Reputable movers will guarantee a fixed price per pound. Guaranteed price per pound rates put you in the driver’s seat. You have the flexibility to add and remove items as you see fit, giving you full control over the cost of your move.

You Have a Choice When It Comes to Your Move

There are plenty of established companies with honest, up-front business practices who take pride in their work. Any one of them would be happy to help you with a surprise-free move to Hawaii.

By keeping your eyes out for these seven red flags, you’ll be able to eliminate the dishonest movers who can ruin your experience. You’ll also avoid the stress, headaches and extra costs that come along with them.

Additionally, you’ll more easily spot the hard working companies who will take good care of you, your family and your valued possessions.