I know, you were thinking you would just Google “moving company.” Sure, you will find a zillion moving companies, but are you ready to handover your prized possessions into any stranger’s hands? So, how do you choose the mover you can trust? Here are some handy tips on what to look for when hiring a mover.

First, when choosing a moving company, reputation is crucial. A great reputation saves you time and money. And, a great reputation equals great rates. No one ever says: “oh yes, I LOVE this company they just made me over pay for their crappy service.” So, if you take away only one tip: it’s choose your mover based on reputation.

How do you know who to trust with all your worldly possessions? Asking key questions not only uncovers a wealth of knowledge about the company and helps prepare you for moving day, but a little extra research can save you from a huge hassle in the long run. Here are some surefire questions to ask before hiring a mover:

• How long has the moving company been in business? Experience counts and a track record shows their ability to deliver each and every time. They have moved countless kids clay hand-prints and know they are simply irreplaceable: no amount of insurance is going to ever give you those back.

• Are they licensed? If you are looking for a moving company to move you from state to state the moving company should have a US DOT number, which is a unique license number issued by the United States Department of Transportation. Make sure your mover’s DOT number is valid by searching it in this database. If you’re looking for a moving company to move you within your own state they need a state license. In California, it’s a Cal T license.

• Is the company insured? Verify that the company is insured on the same website you use to check their license number. Never use a moving company without a license number or insurance. Think underage, unlicensed teenage driver at the wheel of a semi-truck. Not a good idea, right? Neither is an unlicensed or uninsured bunch of folks who call themselves a moving company or group of dudes who really only do moving as a side job. Also, check to see if your personal items are covered during a move under your homeowners or renters policy. If not, you may want to consider supplemental moving insurance. Movinginsurance.com or moveinsure.com are good resources.

• Have they won any awards or accolades for service? Can they show you any letters of recommendation? If they haven’t won any awards for service, chances are they aren’t going to win any awards from you. Remember a great reputation absolutely saves you money. NO ONE gives a glowing review to a company that over promised, under delivered and over charged.

• Be sure to check out the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Social media sites such as Yelp, Citysearch and TrustLink will also give you a look into other people’s experiences with the company. Make yelpers your new BFFs.

• Low rates don’t necessarily mean a low final bill. Study rates! What do their rates really include? Are fuel charges incorporated? Also, just like the airlines, rates can vary based on season and days of the week. Will they give you a better rate if you move on a Sunday as opposed to a Monday? Repeat your new mantra: great reputation equals great rates. And repeat again: no one wins awards or great reviews when they overcharge!

• If you are moving out of state, ask the company to explain in detail its consolidation policy and delivery windows. Consolidation is when your belongings are combined with other people’s and shipped together. It’s a great way to save money, but be aware that it will add time to the delivery schedule because multiple stops for the other folks’ deliveries are made as your belongings travel across the country. Is the moving company forth coming about the fact that long distance moves almost always involve a delivery window not an exact delivery date? It’s better to know all this upfront so you can pack a suitcase that stays with you.

• Will the moving crew wrap and protect your furniture to prevent damages? How many movers will be on the job? How long will the job take? Are there enough hours in the day? Will you be charged if there is overtime? By law a moving company can only give you rates on the phone not estimates on the phone. Does the moving company provide free on site estimates?

• Are they active in the community? If they care about the community, chances are they will care about you and your move. And, they aren’t just into one night stands but really want a committed relationship with your community and you, your friends and your family.

• What sort of specialty experience do they have? Are they familiar with high rises and elevators? Additional men and equipment can mean surprising extra costs.

• Ask the movers to measure your doorways, stairways, elevators etc. …  and take pictures of them before the move so you can’t be blamed for any damage.

• Lastly, let the moving estimator ask YOU questions. If he/she hasn’t asked a single question, yet is ready to give an estimate, turn and run.