I recently moved from Chicago, IL to Cranford, NJ. The move was anything but smooth and quite a diferent experience than my move from Seattle, WA two years ago. Thought I'd jot down some things that I wish I had thought about or done before the move. My hope is that someone will find these useful and will avoide the common pitfalls that I fell into.
We didn't start reaching out to moving companies until just about a month before our move. To our dismay, most of them were already booked solid and hence we weren't left with too many choices. In the end, we had to settle for a company only on the basis of available pickup and delivery dates - big mistake. Book the dates at least 2-3 months prior to the move. The exact pickup and delivery dates are flexible and can be changed later.
Perhaps it was because we really didn't have a choice (because of above), but we failed to do our due diligence on the moving company. Here's the thing - it's not enough to look up only the company you talk to. Most of the smaller companies (basically, almost everyone besides Graebel, Allied and United) sub-contract out the move to regional movers. There was three companies involved in our move and we only did due diligence on one of them. Ask who their partners are and read the reviews on Moving Scam.
You get what you pay for
I've moved with Graebel twice. They are on the more expensive side, but they are worth every penny. I have not seen that level of professionalism and care from anyone else. Little things like putting down a carpet so that they don't dirty the floors, putting on plastic covering over their shoes for the same reason, treating you with respect and giving straight and honest answers are some of the intangible things you get if you go with the professionals. Don't discount them since they contribute a lot to your peace of mind. I wish I had moved with them a third time.
Read the contract
Seriously, this might seem obvious but there are a lot of fine prints. Do you know how much are you insured for? What is the deductible? Do you have a FVRP limit? Is the cost of a shuttle (you need this if you're moving to a city with narrow roads or no place to park an 18-wheeler) included in the contact? Is it a 'not-to-exceed' estimate?
Be prepared for last minute changes
Things happen. For us, the delivery was postponed the day before it was due. It was a huge headache because I had to move all my meetings to another day at such short notice. But I suppose it's part of the package. Very few movers will deliver on the weekends. So be prepared to take a day off and allow for some flexibility around the time you expect your stuff to be delivered.
Take pictures of all the damages
This goes without saying - document everything, preferably while the movers are delivering your stuff. For items that are in the boxes, try and assess damage within a couple of weeks of delivery. Make sure you know who is responsible for claims and ask for the claim form in advance.
Hope these were useful. I'd be happy to share my most recent moving experience with you if you'd like -- just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.