How We Found the Best Moving Companies

Our Picks for Best Moving Companies

Best Overall

Atlas Van LinesAtlas is our top pick for its no-fuss scheduling and excellent claims service — it was the only company to offer “delay” claims.

Of all the moving companies we looked at, Atlas felt the most inviting. It only took about 90 seconds to navigate its phone tree and get a human on the line. Right off the bat, the operator was ready to schedule an in-home estimate. The first available appointment was only three days away and they were able to offer a flexible schedule — from early morning to early evening. We shared a story about a friend whose belongings were lost during a cross-country move and our operator assured us that wouldn’t happen with Atlas. The operator has no control over that, but it was still nice to hear.

Its website isn’t the flashiest, but it gets the job done. Its claims section is thorough and leaves no stone unturned: Atlas even allows for “delay” claims in the event a shipment arrives late. It is the only company we evaluated to offer this. It might be one of the reasons Atlas customers are so happy; a hearty 69 percent of former customers had a positive experience.


Bekins Moving and StorageBekins is one of the most well-known and reputable companies on our list.

The customer service from Bekins Moving and Storage was more transactional than Atlas', but Bekins sure was quick: It walked through all the basic questions about our moving situation, then booked us an in-home estimate in only eight minutes. It was an overall painless experience, but the all-business attitude of the operator made us miss the friendlier agent we talked to at Atlas. Bekins was also slower to respond when we tried for an online quote. Past customers we surveyed were happy with their moves though: 62 percent had a positive experience, and half of those were full-on 5 stars.

The Old Standbys

United Van LinesDespite its longevity, United Van Lines earned middle-of-the-road rankings in customer service.

United Van Lines and Mayflower are two of the oldest moving companies in the US. They’ve each been around for at least 90 years. Both companies are active competitors, but since a 1995 buyout, they’ve been owned by the same parent company, UniGroup.

They don’t just share an owner; they share their process too. When we called United, we spoke with Josh, who was pretty cheerful — in the way you would be when you see somebody at a party, but don’t remember their name. He wasn’t coming on strong. Our call with United’s Josh lasted only 7 minutes 30 seconds, with a minute and a half of waiting before we were connected.

The Old Standbys

MayflowerMayflower fared the same as United Van Lines — but that’s probably because it’s owned by the same company.

Our call with Mayflower was basically the same. The same on-hold muzak kept us company for the same minute and a half that we remained on the line. This time Joanie picked up. (It wouldn’t be a surprise to us if Joanie and Josh were in the same room.) There was little small talk with Joanie — she asked us the standard procedural questions; we booked an in-home estimate; and then we went about our business in less than five minutes.

United and Mayflower had the most middle-of-the-road responses to our customer survey, and in typical United-Mayflower fashion, they had matching results: exactly 29 percent of customers for each said the experience was smack dab in-between excellent and terrible.

Other Moving Companies to (Maybe) Consider

Wheaton Van Lines - Never Picked Up the Phone

If only we could have gotten a hold of somebody from Wheaton, it might have soared to the top of our list. But accessibility matters, and Wheaton’s phones kept ringing and ringing.

Wheaton’s website conveyed total care about its customers. It acknowledged how stressful moving can be. It offered extensive resources, including how-to guides, FAQs, video-packing demonstrations, and an incredibly helpful blog that explains how to pack like a pro (although it encourages the actual pros do the work for you).

Wheaton was fast and responsive online. We put in a request for an online quote and got a confirmation response almost immediately. Within 24 hours, we received an email with a ballpark estimate for a two-bedroom apartment move across the country.

Unfortunately, our user experience survey showed that moves with Wheaton turned out to be more like the phone experience and less like the web experience — 59 percent of respondents said they had a negative go. Bummer.

Arpin Van Lines - Least Satisfied Customers

Arpin had the most customers slap it with a 1-star rating, which we’d labeled straight-up “Terrible.” In fact, the majority of its votes (35 percent) were for that score, and a paltry 43 percent had a mix of either neutral or positive experiences.

The user reviews for Arpin on are equally as bad. Arpin has responded to every comment (usually asking the customer to send an email to a customer service address), but its tone seems downtrodden even when thanking happy customers: “We're happy that you were satisfied and would be willing to use us again. We wish all the best with your new home!”

One more to considerStevens Worldwide Van Lines squeaked by in all our evaluations, but just barely. If you can’t get the quote you want from one of our top picks, it might be worth a call.

Though Arpin did not respond to our online request for an estimate, there was no wait time when we called. The phone rang twice, Mary picked up, and we launched into it. Mary bantered with us about a band she enjoyed from the Austin area (where we said we were headed) before she assessed the size of the move, whether or not we needed the movers to pack for us (Oh yes we do!), and we scheduled the estimate six days away — a weekday afternoon, even though Mary offered some Saturday morning times too. It was a perfectly pleasant experience, but with so many people giving Arpin such low marks, we’re steering clear.

Did You Know?

In-person quotes will leave you with the fewest surprises.

All our top companies offer to give moving quotes over email and the phone, but scheduling a person to come out to your home and doing a walk-through is the only way to get a truly accurate estimate of how much you’re going to spend. Michael Danzig, marketing manager at 123movers, agrees: “An in-home estimate is the best way for a mover to give you the most accurate price quote. Also, never use a mover who does not give you a contract with a stated price.” In fact, the FMCSA requires all its interstate moving companies to do an in-person quote if your home is within 50 miles of the mover’s place of business unless you sign a waiver.

Basic quotes take into account two main things: how far you’re going and how much all your stuff weighs. The latter is where the numbers can get loosey-goosey. Remember Joe and Rich from Long Distance Van Lines who wanted to know how many vacuums we had? That question isn’t all that uncommon (even the little stuff can add up), and an agent walking with you through your possessions will be able to spot the difference between particle-board IKEA shelves and the solid-wood bedroom set passed down from your grandma.

If you’re looking for a moving company for more than just moving — say packing and unpacking — that in-person quote is all the more important. How else will they be able to tell how long it might take to break down your bed?

Not all quotes are created equal.

Non-binding estimates are more like ballpark figures, not a bid or a contract. These are most common when you aren’t quite sure of everything you’ll be moving, and they’re what you’ll get in a phone or online quote. What you pay depends on the actual weight of your belongings, as well as your mover’s tariffs (aka the rates it charges for certain services). Even though movers that give non-binding estimates are required to give a reasonably accurate dollar amount, always assume you’ll be paying more — and always ask for your mover’s tariffs up front.

Binding estimates (also called not-to-exceed estimates) require customers to pay the originally estimated amount regardless of their actual weight. If your mover underestimates that weight, you won’t have to pay for their mistake. (Granted, that binding estimate is only for what you and your mover agree upon. If the garage sale you planned didn’t go as well as you’d hoped and you have a lot left over, that will increase your costs.)

What happens if it overestimated the weight? It depends on the company. Some will still make you pay for the agreed-upon estimate; others will lower the costs. Your moving company should be up front about its policy and give it to you in writing.

If you have to file a claim, expect your payout to take weeks.

At the beginning of a move, movers will take a full inventory of your belongings, marking their condition. You should be there for that process so you are in complete agreement with everything they note.

Upon delivery, you or they will go through the inventory to make sure nothing was damaged in transit. If something was, it’s up to you to file the claim (most moving companies give you up to nine months to do this, but the sooner the better). You can file claims online for some companies; others have dedicated phone lines. Regardless of how you submit your claim, the moving company will have to send a claims adjuster — either its own or one from a third party — to inspect the damaged property. It usually takes at least a week to have an adjuster sent out (or even to receive confirmation of the filed claim) and then additional time to process your payout.

The Bottom Line

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Moving is a pain, and even if you hire the best moving company, it’s no guarantee that it will be any less so. But a great service will be friendly and efficient online, on the phone, and in person — and if it has a good track record of getting from point A to point B without a mishap, all the better.

Take Action

Best Overall

Atlas Van LinesMoving is rarely fun, but our top pick makes the process as painless as possible.

Get started early. It’s best to start getting quotes at least five weeks before you plan on moving so you can find a company you like and it can fit you (and your in-person quote) on the calendar.

Get everything in writing. The contract you sign is called a Bill of Lading and it should detail out every little part of your move, from estimates to services provided, as line items. This can (and should!) include everything from how much you’ll be charged for the move itself to whether or not the moving company will provide its own bubble wrap.

No matter what, have enough to cover 110 percent on delivery. Even with a binding estimate, costs can accrue. All those costs, and how and when they apply, should of course be detailed in your Bill of Lading. But, for example, if you forgot to tell someone about your hardbound encyclopedia collection and the costs increase, most movers will expect the original estimate plus 10 percent of the extra upon delivery — and the rest within 30 days.

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