1. Check Their Certifications
Checking credentials should always be your first step in deciding which moving company is right for you. Handy tip: if they aren't registered with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (USDOT), be wary. Not all moving companies without certification are scammers, but why would you take that chance? Go to the website for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (safersys.org) to check up on all potential moving companies. The site will not only provide information on whether said companies are legit with the government, but can also answer some additional questions such as whether the moving companies are licensed to ship your stuff across state lines and what exactly they are certified to ship.
2. Make Sure Their Insurance Coverage is Comprehensive
When you ask about a moving company's insurance, the spokesman shouldn't just give you a sly wink. While some of your possessions are irreplaceable, accidents do happen and you need to make sure that if they do, you're dealing with insured professionals. Not only should the insurance be there, but also it should be comprehensive across multiple indemnities. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions about their coverage. Does their insurance only cover loss and theft, or does it cover damages as well? What is their insurance cap? What are their handling methods and policies for specialty items? While it's maybe cheaper to hire local college guys, what are they going to do if your autographed Bruce Springsteen Fender Esquire guitar cracks in half during transit?
3. Research All Moving Companies with the Better Business Bureau
This one is tricky - the BBB recently got into trouble for allowing disreputable companies to pay to make their bad ratings go away, but that doesn't mean it's an unreliable source of information. Check the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) to see the nature of the complaints (if there are any) and what those complaints stem from - is it a finicky customer who didn't like the way the movers whistled while they worked? Or is it something a little more serious - like the movers drove off with their worldly possessions a little over a year ago and haven't been heard from since? Utilizing the BBB for a reputable moving company is a bit like using Wikipedia for a book report - it's a good start, but definitely combine it with some outside knowledge of cheap moving companies.
4. Check Performance Reviews Across Multiple Internet Search Engines
Fortunately, you're not the first person to ever move. While exact records on just who that initial trendsetter was have been lost to the ages (and if they were happy with their moving company), the modern era has provided us with the ability to research other moving companies for performance reviews. Considering we're talking about your personal stuff here - and we assume you like it since you want to take it with you, spend a couple of hours tracking NYC moving companies and what people have to say about them on a few different search engines. While not everyone knows to use the BBB, if someone has a serious beef with a moving company, likely it's going to pop up online in some format. Checking out the ups and downs of various companies beforehand can save you some serious money and headaches later.
5. Ask Your Neighbors
The chances are good that your neighbors didn't build their house from the foundation up - they probably moved into it at some point (this goes doubly true if you're living in an apartment). Considering that they're friendly, wholesome-looking people (unless they're the reason you're moving in the first place) they probably have a line on a great, affordable moving company who can help you make your transition to or from New York and all points in between.
6. Do They Offer Secured Warehouse Storage?
With moving, you don't always need your home goods right away - sometimes the paint has to dry a little before you can hang your collection of baseball pennants or assorted knickknacks. That's a major problem if your movers don't have a secured, fireproof warehouse to store your stuff affordably until the day you need it. A reputable moving company should have the ability to work on your terms - not theirs. Make sure your NYC moving company has the capacity to safely monitor your possessions with 24/7 surveillance and can keep them until you need them.
7. Check Their Website
It's the 21st century, if they don't have an established website by now, steer clear of using them. Once upon a time, you could only flip to a page in the phone book, pick out whoever paid for the largest ad and hope for the best. Nowadays, not only should established moving companies have a professional website, but it should be nuanced with special features (like are they equipped to handle piano moving? And do they offer specialty care for moving senior citizens?) and handy tutorials about not just how to move correctly but how to find the proper moving company as well. A site like that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about finding the right moving company for you.