Whether you’re moving across town or to another state, if you don’t choose a competent moving company your journey to a new residence could hold unpleasant surprises.

Moving is a hassle under the best of circumstances. You may feel overwhelmed because you must adjust to a new community while starting a new job. Unexpected moving charges, broken or missing items, and inadequate moving insurance could make an already stressful situation even more difficult.

Rather than hiring the least expensive mover you can find or the first one you contact, take time to find a company that’s reliable, with plenty of experience and solid credentials.

5 things you must do before hiring a moving company

Here are five steps for choosing a company that won’t let you down:

1. Make Sure Your Mover Offers Adequate Insurance

You won’t be happy if you get to your new home and find out that important items have been damaged and your insurance won’t cover the loss.

“Make sure to always get a clear explanation about insurance from the company you decide to move with,” said Jessica Chapman, a spokeswoman for Two Men and a Truck in Akron, OH.

Movers typically provide minimal insurance but also offer higher-level “replacement” coverage for an added charge. Justin Brasington, a spokesman for Moved, a service that connects consumers with moving professionals, said the extra coverage is a good idea if you have valuable items to transport.

2. Interview Several Candidates

When you hire a mover, you’re entrusting the company with most if not all of your important possessions. If you choose the first mover you talk to you won’t know if you found the most qualified company available.

Selecting the right company takes research. A good way to start is by asking friends, family members, and co-workers to recommend movers they’ve used successfully. If you can’t get referrals, look online for moving companies that have offices close to your home. Be sure to check out multiple companies before you make a decision.

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3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

It’s important to understand out how moving companies do business. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions, such as:

  • How long has your company been operating?
  • Does your company have a ProMover accreditation from the American Moving and Storage Association.
  • Is your company properly licensed? According Consumer Reports, state licensing regulations vary but all interstate movers must be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

4. Request an On-site Estimate

Rob Caiello, a vice president at Allconnect, a service that connects home utilities for residents, recommends getting on-site estimates. Don’t choose a company that offers estimates only over the phone.

If a company representative visits your home, he or she can more accurately determine how much labor will be involved. Typically, companies charge more for difficult jobs. Things that could affect how much you pay include parking conditions, steep stairways, and low doorway clearances.

You may be able to save money if you’re willing to make sure everything is packed and ready to go for the move, said Shawn Wood, founder of Student Movers. This can include disassembling some furniture and unplugging appliances.

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5. Beware of ‘Red Flags’

Red flags” are signs of potential problems. Be wary if you’re quoted a price for your move sounds too good to be true. It may mean that your mover isn’t properly licensed, said Wood.

Another red flag is finding negative online reviews from past customers. The review website Yelp is a good way to gain a variety of opinions. Also be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been complaints about the companies you’re considering. If anything about a mover makes you feel uneasy, resolve the issue or find another company.

Emmet Pierce