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How to hire: removal companies and house movers

Moving house is stressful enough without having to worry about whether your possessions are in good hands with the removers. Follow our advice to find and hire reputable removal companies.

Removal companies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, just like the people they’re moving. At one end of the market, you will find man and van services that operate in a very casual way – at the other, established removal companies with their own, highly-trained staff, professional equipment and levels of service.

But how do you find the right removal company for you?

The general advice from our Which? Trusted traders is to book your removal team early, particularly at peak periods, such as just before Christmas or over the summer holidays. We've got more expert Which? Trusted traders tips to take the headache out of the moving process. Read on for more about how to hire removal companies and house movers.

Man and van or removal company?

Man and van operations or small removals firms might seem like a good deal. They certainly dominate much of the rental market, where there can be less pressure on co-ordinating your move timings with others in a housing chain. But they can be a gamble in terms of quality, with poorly maintained vehicles, inadequate equipment and unskilled staff. Only you can decide whether the sentimental and monetary worth of your belongings merits that risk.

Many well-established removal companies will offer a man and van type service for smaller moves – with employed individuals, who are properly trained and equipped. Professional removal companies will also have specialist protection for your furniture and tools of the trade, such as piano-wheels, hoists and barrows to shift furniture. Most importantly, they’ll have the experience to know how to move your belongings safely and effectively, which reduces the chance of damage.

If you are part of a chain of movers, it is essential to use a professional company to ensure that you’ll be out of the property on time. Removals Expert Ltd’s Syed Ali said: ‘When you’re moving as part of a chain - funds are transferred between 1 and 2pm. So customers have to be out of the property by midday. You need to work back from there to see what time the removal firm should be on site. Ask them to start earlier if there’s a lot to do.

For smaller moves an 8 to 9am start gives us enough time to be out, but with 4 or 5 bed properties, we’d do a partial load the day before.’

Moving the contents of large homes is best left to professional removal companies. They will usually have a team of staff working on your move rather than one or two individuals. They are also likely to offer additional services, such as supply of packing materials, packing on the day and storage of your possessions, if needed.

Look out for companies that are a member of a trade association or accredited by a scheme such as Which? Trusted Traders. If you need to find a removal company, Which? Trusted Traders has endorsed home movers in your area that have successfully passed our rigorous assessment process and signed up to our Code of Conduct to ensure they treat their customers fairly.

Contacting removal companies

When you get in touch with a removal company, the first question must be about its availability on your projected move date. If the company is already booked for that day, then there's no point going through the rest of your requirements or arranging for its representative to visit your house.

It’s also worth talking about their payment terms. Some companies take deposits, some don’t. You also want to know about their cancellation policy. The exchange and completion of properties is volatile and you need to know what would happen if things went wrong and the move didn’t happen.

Getting quotes for removals jobs

A surveyor or estimator from the removal company should come to your property to assess your moving needs. They should discuss and explain the different options they offer with you – full pack, partial pack, unpacking and different insurance options too.

This visit is free of charge – you should never be charged for a quote, so ensure you get at least three to compare your options. Be wary of any companies that provide quotes without a home visit.

Questions to ask the surveyor include:

  • What type and level of insurance is offered? What is the excess for a claim?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Can they supply references?
  • How will fragile and high value items, such as artworks or antique furniture, be handled?
  • What equipment is on their vehicles as standard?
  • How will they protect your furniture?
  • How long will the move take?
  • Where the depot is (more distance means higher fuel costs)?
  • What security arrangements are in place for items being stored?
  • Are there additional costs for evening or weekend removals?
  • Will an inventory be created and checked when your possessions are unloaded?
  • How much are packing materials and services?
  • How do they operate their booking process?
  • What happens if they can’t carry out the move on the date you require?

After the home visit, the removal company should provide you with a written quote. If you decide to go ahead, you would expect to sign a contract. Obviously you cannot confirm until you have a definitive move date – removals companies are aware of this and deal with it all the time.

Keep communicating with your removal company as the sale progresses. If the completion date shifts, contact them as soon as possible to see if it is still possible.

WEMOVE’s Adam Maton told us: ‘Removal companies operate differently with booking dates in. We do a provisional booking and don’t confirm that until the customer has exchanged. That can be challenging if exchange dates are very close to completion. We operate on a first come first served basis, we’ll let customers know if someone takes their spot. Communication around this area is essential.’

Alan Cook Removals and Storage Ltd’s Judith Gray added: ‘It can happen that we’ll have people on the books for ages and then can’t move them, because we’re so busy. It’s nobody’s fault – it’s the system. In those instances we can recommend someone else and if it’s very close to the move date we’ll we’ll hand over all details and make it as easy for the customer as possible.’

Removal company costs

A number of factors will determine the cost of your move.

  • the volume of possessions involved
  • the size of the vehicle(s)
  • the distance of the move
  • the size of the crew
  • whether you need to put anything in storage
  • whether or not you choose a packing service
  • whether you need furniture dismantling and/or reassembling

If you’re moving a long way, don’t forget that long distance driving legislation may mean breaks or an overnight stay.

Your removals firm should advise on how you might be able to lower the cost. You could source your own packing materials and do the packing yourself, for example, or enlist the family in helping to move boxes.

It is reasonable for a removals company to ask for a deposit in order to secure a slot in their diary. Make sure you have reviewed the quote, insurance arrangements and estimated completion time before you pay a deposit or instalment. The outstanding balance should be paid when the work has been completed.

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