Moving home is a big task. As well as the emotional challenge of buying and selling a home, and dealing with estate agents and conveyancing solicitors, you’ll also need to investigate removal companies.

Removal companies range in size from small removal firms to national removal chains. The services they offer services range from simply transporting the contents of your home to helping pack and prepare for the day of the home move itself to storing your possessions.

Finding a removal firm when you’re moving from a family-sized home is a given, but even owners of smaller homes or flats can benefit from using a removal firm. While it’s tempting to take a DIY approach, it’s best not to underestimate the amount of physical effort it takes to move the contents of your home to a new one.

It isn’t just the physical labour of moving boxes of belongings. Awkwardly sized and heavy furniture such as sofas can be challenging to navigate out of your existing home. More fragile and expensive items, such as ornaments or artwork, can benefit from being safely packed and transported using professional packers and experts from removal companies.

Choosing the best removal firm is tricky. Not all removal companies are the same. Good removal firms have experienced staff, comprehensive insurance and provide packing advice and solutions to make your home move hassle-free.

Removal companies are responsible for all your belongings, so we’ve put together some advice on how to choose the best removal firm for you.

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Removal companies – planning ahead

Don’t leave choosing a removal firm to the last minute. Removal companies can get booked up – especially during busier home moving periods pre-Christmas and just before the start of the school year. Leaving it to the last minute means you’ll have less choice, and removal quotes are likely to be higher. As soon as you get your moving date, contact a number of firms and start getting removal quotes.

Planning your home move

Before you start to look for quotes from removal companies, sit down with pen and paper and make a list of all your belongings that need to be moved. The more carefully you itemise everything, the easier it will be to get an accurate quote – and you’ll also get the correct size of transport you need on the day to move everything. There are a few, key questions to ask yourself when planning your move:

Same day removals – Are you planning to move from your existing property to your new home on the same day? If so, you’ll need enough transportation space to move everything you own and a sizable team of removal professionals to co-ordinate the move. If you’re planning on moving belongs to storage, such as you’re selling your home but you’re not yet moving into a new property, you can plan for smaller removals over a few days or weeks.

Packing and storage – Will you pack items, or do you want the removal firm to handle this? For valuable, fragile items it can be worth using the packing services of a removal firm, especially if you’re not confident at packing yourself. Alternatively, many firms will offer packing materials, removal boxes and items such as bubblewrap. You can buy these from stores such as Argos and Amazon.

Make a list of belongings – Working on a room-by-room basis, walk through your home noting down all the items that need to be moved. Make sure you list all large items such as sofas and chairs and estimate how many boxes you’ll need for smaller items such as books or ornaments. Don’t forget your loft and garage. It can be a good idea to have a clear out of older items that are no longer needed as this can reduce both time and removal costs.

Detail items in the garden – Don’t overlook the garden. Make a list of all the garden furniture and equipment such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers and ladders, as well as large plants in pots and garden benches. Garden items may be awkward to move – for example, it can be impossible to place items on top of plants – so a detailed inventory is essential. Some garden items can be hazardous, such as petrol containers, barbeque gas cylinders and paint cans. You’ll need to notify the removal firm about these in advance as, for insurance reasons, these can’t be transported in the same removal van as your other items. Where possible, safely dispose of old paint cans and almost-empty gas canisters before the move.

Plan ahead – Pay a visit to the property you’re moving you, noting access points and parking restrictions. You may need a parking permit from the local council, and you’ll want to avoid times when roads may be busy such as during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Costs of removal companies

While different removal companies will charge different prices, the overall price is usually calculated by the number of items you need to transport, the amount of packing required and the distance everything needs to be transported.

When choosing the best removal firm, make sure that they clearly explain each of the charges. You can usually negotiate a discount if you pack your own items and provide your own packing materials. Check to see if certain days and times are cheaper – weekends may be more expensive than a weekday.

Avoid paying cash and instead ask to pay by credit card as this offers additional insurance under Section 75 regulations. This means if something goes wrong, you may be entitled to claim back the cost of the removal firm from your credit card provider.

Getting removal quotes

Ask for removal quotes as soon as you know you’re moving and ensure that you get removal quotes from at least three different firms.

Removal companies can be booked weeks and even months in advance, so act quickly. If moving far, get quotes from removal companies local to the area you’re moving too – as these may work out cheaper than your existing location.

When getting removal quotes, ask for the price to be broken down into the various costs such as insurance, packing, mileage and storage costs so you can compare quotes more easily.

Be wary of removal firms that only provide a quote over the phone. Good removal companies will want to visit your home to get a better understanding of what and how much you’re looking to move. A home visit can also identify issues such as difficult stairways, narrow access points and parking restrictions, all of which will produce a more accurate quote. A home visit also means you’ll get the correct size of van and removal team you need – there’s nothing worse than having too small a removal van arrive on the day. Check, too, what time they can start and also if they use specialist moving equipment for items such as pianos.

Removal companies and insurance

The insurance offered by a removal firm is important. Check carefully what type of insurance is offered and what cover it provides. Make sure you find out if there are any special requirements, such as having to use specialised packing materials for high-value or fragile items. This is especially important if you’re packing items yourself – some firms won’t insure items for breakage if you’ve packed them yourself.

If something does go wrong, make sure you’ve checked with the firm about how you can make a claim, and how much items are covered for. Insurance differs, with some offering to repair items damaged in transit to others offering new for old. It’s worth a call to your home insurance company, too. Some will offer home moving cover – especially if you’re staying with the same insurer in your new home – which provides additional peace of mind.

Accreditation and recommendations when choosing a removal firm

Only use home removal companies that are members of professional home moving organisations. If a removal firm isn’t accredited with either the National Guild of Removers and Storers or is not a member of the British Association of Removers (BAR) then do not hire them. Both organisations ensure members meet national standards and follow an industry code of conduct.

Some will also be members of the Removal Industry Ombudsman Scheme – useful if something goes wrong and you need help to put things right – and the Road Haulage Association.

When getting removal quotes, check if staff are DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checked – this was previously known as a CRB check, and means staff at the removals firm have be checked for any previous criminal activity.

Check, too, that staff are full-time employees rather than temp staff or casual labour – avoid hiring a removal firm that uses temporary staff as DBS checks might not have been carried out.

Recommendations from online tradespeople sites, as well as friends and family, are worthwhile. Check websites such as Checkatrade or Which? Trusted Trader for reviews of removal companies. Many have additional checks, such as customer references and business checks, helping you choose with confidence. If in doubt, ask for customer references from the removal firm and talk to previous customers. Recommendations by friends and family can give you a good understanding of the firm.

How to deal with home moving delays

Despite everyone’s best efforts, house moves can get delayed. While it isn’t common, a delay in transferring money or getting legal documents in order can mean you can’t move until late in the day or the next day. Check with the removal firm how they handle delays, and how they store your belongings overnight, for example. You’ll need to check if there are additional costs, and when your belongings are stored if it is possible to get access to them. Ideally, ensure that you take items you personally need for a few days with you when you move, such as laptops, clothing and essential medication, so it isn’t stuck in storage.