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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Mover in San Francisco

Matters involving fraudulent and unscrupulous movers account for over 80 percent of all moving-related consumer complaints made in California. As such, when considering a move in or out of San Francisco, getting answers to certain key questions before retaining the services of any moving company can help you determine their legitimacy and suitability for the job. These questions are listed below, and will be further discussed in detail in this article:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a Moving Company in San Francisco?

The regulation of moving companies in San Francisco is primarily handled at the state level by the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS). Per the requirements of Chapter 3.1 of the California Business and Professions Code, also referred to as the Household Movers Act, these companies must obtain a permit from the BHGS before offering their services to interested city residents. Any moving company that fails to obtain this permit can face criminal and civil penalties that include fines of up to $10,000, jail time of up to one year, or a combination of fines and jail time.

BHGS-issued permits can be obtained by completing an Application for Household Movers Permit Form and subsequently submitting the completed form to:

Bureau of Household Goods and Services
4244 South Market Court
Suite D
Sacramento, CA 95834-1243

Submissions can also be made to the bureau via email. Applicants are typically expected to meet other requirements, such as writing and passing a bureau-administered examination, passing a background check, providing proof of insurance, submitting evidence of the condition of their moving vehicles, and paying all stipulated application fees. Inquiries concerning the moving company permitting process can be directed to the BHGS at (916) 999-2041.

Hiring moving companies that the BHGS has permitted gives you a measure of confidence that the company has met all necessary minimum requirements that qualify them to provide your required moving service. You can confirm the current regulatory status of your preferred moving company online via the bureau's License Search portal. It is important to note that knowingly hiring an unpermitted moving company violates the Household Movers Act. Homeowners found guilty of this violation can receive penalties of up to $1,000 in fines, jail time of up to three months, or a combination of fines and jail time.

In addition to meeting state-level occupational regulatory requirements, moving companies in San Francisco must comply with local business requirements before operating in the city. These requirements include registering their businesses with the SF Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX) no later than 15 days after they commence business operations in the city. Depending on their business structure, these companies will also be required to register with the San Francisco Office of the County Clerk or the California Secretary of State.

Additional information concerning local San Francisco business registration requirements can be gotten by contacting the SF Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
Room 140
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 554-6134
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays

Finally, moving companies that wish to provide interstate services will also be required to complete a registration process at the federal level with the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration. If you intend to move from San Francisco to a location outside the State of California, you should confirm that your intended moving company has been duly registered with this agency via its online search platform.

How Much Do You Charge Compared with Other Movers in San Francisco?

Getting and comparing written estimates from several moving companies is an excellent way to ensure you do not fall victim to scams from fraudulent movers in San Francisco. Moving costs in the city are typically calculated based on either the total duration of the move, the total distance traveled for the move, or a combination of hourly and distance-based rates. Nonetheless, the following factors will generally affect the total charges that you will be expected to pay for the move:

  • The volume/size of items to be moved
  • The time and date of the move
  • The urgency of the move
  • Accessibility to the move locations
  • Additional services and unique requests

Make sure that the moving companies you contact inspect the items that will be moved before coming up with their estimates and be wary of any mover that provides you an estimate without doing this. You should also be as consistent as possible with each mover when providing them with information for their estimates, as this helps you determine movers with estimates that significantly differ from the others.

Note that the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services provides maximum rate tariffs that moving companies in San Francisco may charge for their services, and any estimates that you are given should not exceed these rates. However, in some situations, the nature and scope of your move may result in charges that exceed the bureau's maximum tariffs. In these situations, the moving company must give you written notice of these new rates no later than three days before your move date and get your consent on them before moving forward.

Transportation and material moving workers in San Francisco earn an average annual wage of $52,680. The list below compares the hourly average wages earned by these workers in the city against those of transportation and material moving workers in other parts of the State of California as well as several other major cities in the country:

San Francisco Movers Hourly Average Wage
California Movers' Hourly Average Wage
Los Angeles Movers Hourly Average Wage
Chicago Movers' Hourly Average Wage
Houston Movers Hourly Average Wage
New York City Movers Hourly Average Wage
Boston Movers' Hourly Average Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Will You Get a Moving Permit as Required by San Francisco Regulations?

Certain neighborhoods in San Francisco are considered residential parking permit areas, and parking privileges are typically extended to residents and businesses in these areas. As such, if you wish to move to or from a residential parking permit area in the city, you may be required to obtain a Residential Parking Permit that authorizes your moving vehicle to park in these areas while loading or unloading your items.

These parking permits are issued by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and they can be obtained online or by submitting a Short Term Residential Parking Permit Form in person or via mail to:

SFMTA Customer Service Center
11 South Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94103

It should be noted that residential parking permits are typically not issued for vehicles with gross weights that exceed 6,000 pounds. Alternatively, the SFMTA also issues Temporary Tow-Away/No-Parking Signs to interested parties for their moving activities, regardless of whether or not they reside in residential parking permit areas. These signs are used to reserve necessary parking spaces for moves, and they can be obtained via the agency's SFMTA online portal. First-time applicants are typically required to register a user account before submitting requests. Requests for temporary tow-away/no-parking signs can also be made by calling 311 for applicants within the city or (415) 701-2311 for applicants outside San Francisco.

Temporary tow-away/no-parking sign applicants are advised to submit their applications at least five working days before the desired move date. Certain posting restrictions must be complied with once the requested signs have been issued. These include:

  • Posting the signs at least 72 hours before the no-parking enforcement start time for unmetered areas and at least 24 hours before the no-parking enforcement start time for metered spaces
  • Limiting all no-parking times to 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. daily
  • Obeying all existing traffic and parking regulations in the area
  • Getting written permission from the owners of white ones before blocking off these areas

Finally, any vehicle with overall dimensions that exceed 8.5 feet in width, 65 feet in length, 14 feet in height, or weighs more than 34,000 pounds on any one axle must obtain an Extra Legal Truck Permit before plying San Francisco roads. Parties that wish to obtain this permit will be required to provide the following documents:

These documents should be submitted to the agency via email. Parties that fail to obtain an extralegal truck permit or comply with relevant permit conditions after obtaining these permits can face fines of up to $1,000.

Inquiries concerning SFMTA-issued permits and temporary tow-away/no-parking signs can be directed to the agency online. Additional information concerning these permits and signs can also be obtained by contacting the San Francisco Customer Service Center at 311 and (415) 701-2311 for callers within or outside the city, respectively.

What Kind of Moving Services Do You Offer?

When looking to retain the services of a moving company in San Francisco, it is important to confirm the types of services they offer and ensure that these services match your specific needs. Moving services offered by professional moving companies in the city can be grouped into two main categories, namely:

  • Local moving services: this generally includes moves within San Francisco as well as moves to locations in the Bay Area
  • Long-distance moving services: this generally involves moves to locations outside the San Francisco Bay Area. These include interstate and international relocations.

In addition, many moving companies in the city offer extra services, such as packing and unpacking services, short and long-term storage services, and special item delivery services. Therefore, before finalizing arrangements with any movers in the city, make sure that they not only offer the specific types of moving services that you require but that they are also properly equipped to deliver these services satisfactorily. You can do this by inspecting their facilities and requesting references from past clients.

Note that you should always get written estimates of your required services before moving forward with any moving company to avoid payment disagreements and misunderstandings. Listed below are estimates for some common moving services offered in San Francisco:

Local/long-distance residential moving (per hour, cost of moving truck inclusive)
$131 - $150
Piano moving (within San Francisco)
$368 - $411
Mobile home moving (for single-wide trailer at a distance of no more than 50 miles)
$3,142 - $3,894
Moving out of studio apartment (item packing and unpacking included)
$270 - $400
Moving out of a one-bedroom apartment (item packing and unpacking included)
$300 - $500
Moving out of a two-bedroom apartment (item packing and unpacking included)
$450 - $680
Moving out of a three or four-bedroom apartment (item packing and unpacking included)
$650 - $1,500
Storage services (for up to 30 days)
$100 - $500

Do You Provide Packing and Storage Services?

Moving can be a stressful ordeal, and many homeowners in San Francisco reduce the stress of their moving activities by hiring professionals to help them pack up their belongings before the move and unpack them at their new locations. When looking to outsource the packing or unpacking of your items, it is a good idea to find out if your preferred moving company also offers packing services. Retaining the same company to handle the packing and moving of your items eases the hiring process and reduces the margin for error during your move by limiting the number of participants involved.

Packing options offered by professional moving companies in San Francisco include:

  • Full-service packing and unpacking
  • Partial packing and unpacking
  • Special item packing and unpacking

Many of these companies also offer storage options to interested parties in the city that may require short or long-term storage services. This is usually common in situations where the homeowner is moving to a smaller residence or where the new residence is not yet ready at the time of the move.

Whether you need packing services, storage services, or both, you should always confirm that the moving company you wish to hire offers these services and also find out how the packing and storage of your items will be handled. It is also advisable to visit and inspect the storage facility where your items will be kept and get a clear idea of when and how you will be able to access this facility.

What is an Appropriate Tip for Your Movers in San Francisco?

A lot of work goes into coordinating moves from one location to another, and tipping the movers involved in these activities is usually done to acknowledge and appreciate this work. However, it should be noted that tipping is entirely voluntary, and many reputable moving companies in San Francisco have a strict policy against their movers asking for tips. Nonetheless, homeowners in the city that tip movers typically offer anywhere between $15 and $40 per mover, depending on the complexity of the work done. Alternatively, some homeowners utilize an hourly fee approach to tipping, where each mover is tipped $5 - $10 per hour of work done, while others tip 15% - 20% of their total moving costs.

If you are uncertain about the right amount to tip your movers, you can ask your moving company what they consider to be an appropriate tip for their movers. It is a good idea to do this when discussing the specifics of your move with them. Regardless of the tipping method that you decide to utilize, it would be best if you considered the following attributes when determining an appropriate amount for the movers:

  • Their punctuality and behavior on the job
  • The complexity and difficulty of the job
  • How well your items were handled

If your moving crew is careless in handling your items, rude, or unprofessional when performing their duties, then you are not obligated to tip them once the move is completed. It is also advisable to report matters like these to the moving company, especially if the movers cause extensive damage to any of your items.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Movers in San Francisco?

Homeowners' and renters' insurance policies do not provide coverage for household items being moved from one location to another, exposing you to out-of-pocket expenses in the event of accidents or property damage during your move. By ensuring your intended moving company is adequately insured, you can significantly reduce your liability if any of these detrimental events occur.

Per the regulatory requirements of the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS), moving companies that operate in San Francisco must meet the following minimum insurance obligations:

  • They must maintain cargo insurance of at least $20,000 per shipment
  • They must maintain liability insurance of at least $250,000 for any bodily injury or death to one person or $500,000 for bodily injury or death to more than one person and separate liability insurance of at least $100,000 for property damage or destruction. Alternatively, the mover may maintain a combined single limit liability insurance of at least $600,000 for bodily injury, death, and property damage or destruction.

In addition, moving companies in the city must also carry state-mandated workers' compensation insurance for their employees. Similarly, any moving company that wishes to obtain a locally-issued Extralegal Truck Permit must carry additional comprehensive or business automobile liability insurance of at least $500,000 per occurrence as combined single-limit coverage for bodily injury and property damage.

You can confirm your mover's insurance status by requesting copies of their insurance certificates and contacting the appropriate insurance providers to authenticate these certificates and determine the extent of their coverage. Inquiries concerning insurance requirements for San Francisco moving companies can be made by contacting the BHGS at (916) 999-2041 or via email.

Can You Provide References or Recommendations in San Francisco?

Many reliable moving companies in San Francisco readily provide potential customers with references or letters of recommendation from past clients, and this is an excellent way to weed out fraudulent movers in the city. You should always consider it a red flag if the mover that you intend to hire cannot provide you with up to three verifiable references or seems hesitant to do so.

It should be noted that some moving companies publish reviews and testimonials from clients on their official websites and may point you to these when you request references. While this is not an indication of shady behavior, it is advisable to still ask for contact details of at least one or two past clients that you can personally contact to get first-hand reviews on the moving company.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Moving Company in San Francisco

Nearly 35 million Americans move every year. Unfortunately, many of these individuals fall victim to fraudulent or dishonest movers who utilize various schemes to obtain money from unsuspecting homeowners deceptively. The most common signs of these fraudulent or dishonest movers in San Francisco include:

  • The mover provides estimates without assessing the items to be moved
  • The mover asks you to sign blank or incomplete documents
  • The mover cannot provide you with references
  • The mover shows up with an unmarked moving van or truck
  • The mover requests full upfront payment for the job

The following tips can help you avoid fraudulent or dishonest movers in the city:

  • Always do your research before contacting any moving company. It is a good idea to get referrals to movers in the city from reputable sources like trusted relatives and friends as well as organizations like the Better Business Bureau and the California Moving and Storage Association.
  • Verify that the mover possesses a state-issued Household Movers Permit by utilizing the online License Search portal provided and maintained by the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services for this purpose. You should also confirm that the mover has fulfilled all local business registration requirements by contacting the SF Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector at (415) 554-6134 or by utilizing the Uhire online license search platform.
  • Get and compare written estimates for your move from different movers in the city before making your final hiring decision. Be wary of any mover that offers you an estimate before taking a look at the items that require moving.
  • Never pay the total cost of the move upfront, and be wary of movers who request large advance payments.
  • Take a complete inventory of your items before and after the move to ensure that all items are delivered. You should consider taking photographs or videos of these items to document their condition before the move.
  • Confirm the mover's insurance status and find out their basic liability and transit protection options. Make sure that the mover properly explains these options to you before you finalize any agreements with them.
  • Insist on getting a written contract for the move before any of your items are placed onto the moving van. Review this contract carefully before signing it, and make sure that it includes a "Not to Exceed" price, which is the maximum amount you will have to pay for the move if you do not request any additional services. If you request an additional service, ensure the mover details this in a "Change Order for Moving Services" form.
  • Keep copies of all documents that you sign.

You can file complaints concerning fraudulent or dishonest movers or any other type of moving-related matters in San Francisco by submitting a consumer complaint form to the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services at:

Bureau of Household Goods and Services
4244 South Market Court
Suite D
Sacramento, CA 95834

Complaints can also be filed with the bureau by submitting a completed consumer complaint form via email or by calling (916) 999-2041.

The California Attorney General's Office also receives moving-related complaints from residents of San Francisco via an online consumer complaint form. Likewise, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration receives complaints concerning interstate moves through its online complaint portal or phone number 1-888-368-7238.