No matter how it’s handled moving a household is a grueling experience. While it is certainly possible to rent a van and to carry out a move on your own (especially when it’s to a new residence located just across town) often the only realistic option is to hire professional movers. But as with everything in life there are good movers and then again there are bad movers. What can you do to ensure that the people brought in to handle your most precious possessions are the right ones for the job? A good way to start is to ask a few questions.

Ask your friends: While as physically challenging and as emotionally wearing as a move might be, you’re not the only one to have gone through it. Ask your friends and family members about any moves they may have made. They might be able to provide some ideas to make the day easier while offering insights on the movers they used. If they had a bad experience you’ll know who not to call.

Shop around: Check online (or in the phone book if a traditionalist) and you will discover the names of multiple moving companies. Select a few and give them a call. Talk to them; ask them about pricing, their history and what services they will offer. By doing your due diligence you will have a better idea of what to expect. It’s a business transaction not a personal relationship so don’t be shy to get quotes from three or four different movers if desired. It’s common that the initial estimated cost might be lower than the final bill, but by doing a little research you might avoid some sticker shock on the big day.

Don’t downplay the job: Some of the larger and more professional moving companies will have an estimator who will come to the home to assess the job. This allows them to determine with some accuracy what the eventual price will be. If that is the case, when they arrive show them everything. If breakables need to be professionally packed, tell them. If there is a garage, or a tool shed, or an over-stuffed attic or a basement storage room that needs to be emptied, let them know. Pre-planning will prevent some unpleasant surprises from happening on moving day.

Check the paperwork: Find out in advance what insurance the company carries in the event of a major incident. Many of the better companies will be bonded and will carry the correct amount of insurance. Are the companies registered with the Better Business Bureau? If so go online and see if any complaints or issues have ever been filed against them in the past.

Read the contract: Most moving companies are reputable and professional, but it is still important to read and understand the contract before signing. There might be some clause or condition that you did not notice that might come back to haunt you later on. Keep your copy of the contract handy in the unlikely event a problem does occur.

Of course there can be any number of other factors to consider but these are some of the key elements of finding the right moving company. Don’t wait until the last minute, do your due diligence and do your homework. Once you have the facts, and the right company is in place, your move should good smoothly. The end result will be you and your possessions safely in your new home, and ultimately that’s the goal you must keep focused on.