Moving is a stressful process. Rather than trying to move your property on your own, many people decide to work with a moving company. Depending on which services you choose, this can mean simply that someone does the heavy lifting for you, or that they pack up your entire home or business and then move everything back in at your destination.

There are many different moving services that you could use. Some customers choose full service movers while others prefer move helpers to cut down on their moving expenses. How do you decide which one is right for you?

What Insurance Does the Company Have?

Insurance companies should carry liability insurance, which will protect you if they break some of your items. Find out what will be covered and what might not be, and how badly damaged something might need to be to make a claim.

Working with moving companies that don’t have proper insurance coverage is putting all of your belongings at risk.

Are Companies Properly Licensed?

Every moving company in the U.S. should have a license. The moving company you work with should be able to provide you with that license number. You can use that number to check the company’s complaint history on the U.S. Transportation Agency website.

Are They Experienced In Your Area?

This is particularly important with international moves; are movers experienced with both your current location and your destination? Are they familiar with anything that needs to be done in terms of customs or declarations? Can they guide you through that process at all?

If the moving company has never moved to your destination before, you may want to reconsider using them as a company.

Are They Experienced With Moves Of Your Type?

Different types of moves require different types of movers. Business moves, for example, have a different set of needs than residential. Companies may have more specialized equipment that movers may not be able to transport.

For residential customers, understanding the type of home one is moving from or to is important. If you’re moving to a rural route, will the movers be able to get their heavy trucks to your new home? If you’re moving to a town house in the city with multiple floors, are they prepared to not only navigate stairs, but tight corners and narrow spaces? Are they prepared to deal with elevators in a high-rise building?

Many of these moves require companies to have special equipment to handle these situations, and you will want to be sure the company is prepared.

Can They Provide References?

Checking references can be a good way to get a snapshot picture of whether or not a company has a good history, but don’t rely on them fully. It’s easy for a business to cherry-pick the right references to show off their moves which went well, while ignoring the customers who weren’t satisfied. The company’s reaction when you ask for references is almost more valuable than the references themselves. Do they provide you with a list of potential references before you ask, or do they need to dig around to find that once you mention it?

So also make sure to look at online review and quality websites, like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau. Make sure you read why companies were given the star ratings that they received on sites like Yelp. People will give very high or very low ratings for reasons that can be very strange, and it’s good to understand what’s happening. Also look at the business’s response to their ratings. Companies which get a poor rating and reach out to the customer for resolution may be more reliable than companies which ignore them.

Can You Offer A Firm Quote?

Bad moving companies are notorious for offering a quote and then realizing through the process of the move that the cost is going to be much higher. A reliable moving company should be able to tell you that the move will not cost more than a particular amount, or tell you that they will not vary a particular amount above your quoted price. Make sure to get this in writing! This lets you know that the company in question is going to be responsible for pricing.

Do You Subcontract Your Moves?

It’s always a good idea to ask if your moving company will subcontract some portion of their move. Their saying yes isn’t inherently a bad thing! Perhaps your moving company doesn’t have the right equipment to move vehicles or needs to transfer contents across country borders. Using subcontractors can improve the safety and the efficiency of your move. But if your company does subcontract, you should be able to get just as much information about the subcontractor as you can about the original company. If your moving company works with a business that does subcontract but can’t share information, or seems shady about the fact that they subcontract, be very wary.

Moving your business or home from one location to another doesn’t have to be the most stressful part of your year. Being proactive in learning about the moving company and getting all the details upfront can help you make sure that your move goes smoothly, and that you get the results you need.