What is really insured in piano moving?

Welcome to Pandora’s box in piano moving or any moving for that matter.  The biggest problem we have in North America is we assume that just because we hire some piano movers or any mover for that matter, that if there are any problems, it is not our problem.  The reality is, it is your piano (not the movers) and if something goes wrong, at the end of the day, it is your problem since you are the person looking at the piano everyday.  So if this article looks to long for you and you want the short version of this article: Use a reputable piano mover and make sure you pay the extra money for the insurance coverage to a value that you are most comfortable with.  You are less likely to have damage with a reputable piano mover and more likely to have any problems taken care of it if something does go wrong.  For those that want to know the more: We probably should start discussing this myth buster style.

Is your piano move fully insured?  The answer is NO, there is no such thing and if there was it died with the economic and insurance crisis.  I know a lot of piano movers and household movers that tell people they are fully insured, but just because the mover is insured, doesn’t mean you are insured for what you think you are.  The best way to think about this, is to think about your car insurance.  When something happens to your car, what do you have to do?  File a claim and pay your deductible.  Oh look, did you notice the accident just cost you something (the deductible) and it may not have even been your fault.  If you haven’t paid your insurance and you don’t pay your deductible, your claim gets denied meaning you have nothing but a damaged car.  Do you really think piano moving damage claims are any different?  If your car gets a dent, are you entitled to a new car?  I wish!  All you are entitled to is the cheapest means of repair the insurance company will pay for. Say your car gets written off, do you get a new car?  No, you get what the insurance company thinks it is currently worth.  Are you getting where I am going with this?

How do I know what value my piano is insured for? This answer is actually easier then most people think.  There are two things in Canada that set the rules of how this work in Canada and is the only thing that any insurance company is interested in when all hell breaks loose when things get damaged.  Basically the “Bill of Lading Act” and the “Truck Transportion Act” set these rules out and your ignorance of what these acts say does not mean they do not count or matter.  Basically there must be a bill of lading that travels with the goods in question (piano) which says what the carrier (piano movers) is liability for in moving your piano.  When no bill of lading is present there are defaults that fall into place which you may or may not have heard of: $2 per pound.  Basically in summary the Truck transportion Act states that when nobody is smart enough to talk or ask about insurance, the default value the piano mover or carrier is liable for is $2 per pound of weight of the item damaged.  So in Laman’s terms: If the piano weighs 500 pounds, do not expect more than $1000 coverage for it.  If the piano bench is 25 pounds, than do not expect more than $50 coverage and this is assuming there is no deductible.

So how do you get more insurance?  You have to declare a value on the bill of lading that controls the movement of the piano.  Now this next point is really important:  If you raise the declared value to more than $2 per pound, the carrier or piano mover is going to charge you more to move the piano.  Why? It is simple, the higher the risk and exposure for the piano mover, the more expensive the piano move is.  You may not like or agree with this, but it is just the way it is.

When I got a quote the Piano Mover I called told me I am fully insured!  That’s nice and the guy next door that cheats on his wife tells his wife he isn’t cheating on her as well whenever asked.  My question to you is if they didn’t ask you what the declared value on your piano should be, how are they going to make sure that the right value appears on the bill of lading.  They probably didn’t even ask the make, model and age of the piano is, so how do they know the value to put down.  They aren’t and don’t.  The bill of lading is going to read the defaults of value per pound.  And to make matters worse, if the piano mover is a household mover, their bill of ladings generally read $0.60 per pound which is even less coverage.  So the only way you are going to have a fighting chance of full coverage is if they are a reputable outfit and stand behind their workmanship as an act of good will on their part in these type of situations.  You wonder why so many people complain about movers and how they didn’t fix anything that they broke: Well this is why.

I thought I was insured, but when something got damaged, nothing got fixed.  What happened?  Basically you used an unreputable piano mover.  Your damage claim is only as good as the person or company that is standing behind it.  There are a lot of uninsured piano movers or regular movers that say they are insured but are not.  There are a lot of insured movers that have such high deductibles that they only insurance you are going to see is if it comes directly from them, because the damage claim is less than their deductible with their insurance company.  There are some movers that work out of their homes and have next to nothing to their name.  Do you think the words “I’m going to sue you”, really mean anything to them?

I paid cash, but found out afterwards I forfeited all insurance!  It seems like everyone is hoping to stiff the taxman these days by paying cash, but some deals are too good to be true.  Why do the trades and movers like people like you?  Because you just gave them the ability stiff the taxman and screw yourself out of any insurance coverage you might have had in one shot and it was your idea!  They could drop your piano off the back of the truck and smash it, steal it if they wanted and not have to worry about any legal ramifications, because you are the one that wanted to commit fraud.  You say no way: I’m telling you that there are people out there that have paid movers to steal their goods.  If there is no bill of lading or paperwork, basically it didn’t happen.  Sue them, that is fine, what do you think the judge is going to think of you: you have no legal evidence that they picked up the piano (cash means no paper trail) and you are admiting to commiting fruad.  Can we say case dismissed and lets place charges against you.  Be smart: pay the tax, do the paperwork and stay insured.

Think about this for just one second: Is saving $5-10 bucks on a move or not paying the tax, worth moving the piano with no insurance.  Piano are worth too much, to move uninsured.  If they fall over, they cause to much damage to the piano and whatever it hits to be uninsured.  Use a reputable professional that you know will stand behind his work.

How much should I tip the Piano Mover?

I never thought I’d have to right an article on this, but a lot of people do ask this question.  They do not move their piano very often and do not really know what the expectation is and are worried about insulting someone.  There is no right or wrong answer here and I am not going to tell you anything you do not already know.

Firstly, Yes it is common practice in the moving industry for piano movers or delivery people of any sort to receive tips.

Secondly, you will never hear from me that you must tip the piano mover.  A gratuity is something earned for a job well done.  As an additional “Thank you” to the actual person(s) that performed the physical work you requested.  If they did a crappy job, they shouldn’t get a tip, unlike some other professions you can probably think of.

With regards to how much?  This is really only a question that you can personally answer.  The reality is the piano mover will take what ever you give him.  Ask yourself these question(s):  How much do you tip your waitress or hair dresser?  Or better yet how much do you tip the pizza delivery person?  Now compare services and value of piano entrusted to them vs. pizza or food or hair.  What do you think is right?

In my option, something is always better than nothing.

The cheap tip is rounding off the change on the move or not asking for change back.

The normal low tip is offering a drink or money to buy one.

A thoughtful tip is to supply money to buy lunch since they are on the road all day.

To put a real smile on the piano movers face is $20-100 for each piano mover.  Generally on the high end pianos or difficult piano moves with lots of stairs.

The above examples are all real tips that piano movers have received on jobs.  Hope that gives you some insight or help in deciding what you would like to do.

Piano Moving Cost

Cost to move a piano

This is one of the most common piano moving questions on the internet.  Unfortunately it cannot be answered by a simple X number of dollars as there are a number of factors that play into the cost.  To get the most accurate quote you need to have answers to the following questions.

What type of piano do you want moved?  You laugh at this but you would be amazed by how many people answer that they have a standard piano or a regular piano.  To a mover this does not tell him anything.  What he wants to know is do you have a Grand piano or an Upright piano?  Without this information, the mover will not bother to give you a quote.

What size of piano do you want moved?  Most people do not know the answer this question, but it is necessary for the mover to know what type of equipment and the number of movers he will require to move it with.  For grand pianos, the key measurement is the length.  This is the measurement from the keyboard to the futherest point on the curve (bow) of the piano.  For uprights it is all about the height.  This is the measurement from the top of the lid to the floor.  Knowing these key sizes of the piano gives the mover a really good idea of the type and weight of the piano.

What make is your piano?  This question is not as important as some of the others, but will give a true piano mover a good idea of what weight and value category your piano falls into.  You can have two pianos that look basically the same and have totally different weights and values.  For example  a Bell upright piano or Mason and Hamlin Grand Piano would weigh a couple hundred more pounds than there Yamaha counter parts.

Where are you moving your piano to and from? It always amazes me the number of people that ask for a quote a piano move without telling you where they are or where they are moving it too.  With todays fuel and labour costs, this is a really important piece of the puzzle for quoting.  You should always make sure you give the city/town/suburb or nearest main intersection and I stress the word MAIN.  No mover knows every little street in the city.

Is there any stairs or obstacles that the piano has to get around?  When you hear people complaining about surprise charges, 9 out of 10 times it is because of this.  Most people have no clue how many steps they have at their home or how to explain them.  If you do not believe me ask some of your family members and friends how many stairs they have outside your front door.  More than 50% are wrong or have no idea every time.  Now you have to appreciate that pianos are heavy and ackward to handle and to the guy that is moving it, every step matters.  The more steps to go up the greater the risk of something going wrong or an accident happening.  The next thing is how to describe the stairs:  Are they inside, outside or both?  Are they straight with lots of room to turn at the top and/or the bottom?  Are they spiral or do they curve at all?  Is there a tight turn involved at the top, middle or bottom of the stairs?  All these things matter to the piano mover in conjunction with the type and size of the piano you have.  I cannot stress this next point enough: Do not sugar coat the stair situation to the piano mover!  The people that do are the same people that get surprised charges or piano movers walking away saying I need more manpower to do this safely or they do not feel up to your job, find someone else (Yes this happens).  When moving day or house closings are involved advise the piano mover for the worst and hope for the best, it significantly will cut down your stress when you are moving.

Taking the piano around the house? When asking about stairs, lots of people will say do not worry about the stairs out front, you can move the piano out the back.  For some reason most people think that taking a piano out the back and around a house is easy and sometimes it is, but you have to ask the following questions:  Is it a paved walkway from the back to the front?  Does the piano have to go over grass?  Is there a grade or hill involved getting it from the back to the front?  Going over grass with a piano can be an absolute disaster, especially if it is not level.  Think about this: do you ever you anyone skateboard over grass?  In the winter time do you shovel the snow to the back of your house?  Most piano movers will charge the same money for going over grass as up or down a flight of stairs.  It is generally the same work and risk involved, but let the piano mover choose which is the safest way.  He is hulling a heavy piano and believe me, he doesn’t want to work any harder than he has too, so he’ll pick the easier method.

Waiting time and Dead Trips:  When getting a flat rate quote for piano moving, it is based on the piano mover getting in, doing his business and getting out.  The quote is not based on him waiting around for you or coming back another time because you have not got your keys yet.  Whatever you do make sure you are waiting for him and not the other way around, otherwise you will get the surprised charge of waiting time.  If you are not sure when you are going to get your keys, book it for pickup one day and deliver the next.  Most piano movers will not charge extra for this (or a nominal charge) as long as it is planned properly in advance.  If they go and cannot deliver and have to rebook for another day is what they call a dead trip and incurs a redelivery charge which could be as high as paying for a second move plus storage charges.

Time commitments:  There was a day when you wouldn’t get charged for this, because the piano mover could obsorb the cost into the piano move.  With the cost of inflation over the last number of years (labour, fuel and truck service) and an ecomony where every penny is squeezed out of companies; those days are virtually gone.  The new norm is:  The mover is giving the best rate he can (you don’t even have to ask for it), but you have to be available all day so that he can route his truck the most efficient way possible to help him reduce his fuel and labour expenses.  He’ll give you a better idea of timing on the actual delivery day, but you have to be available ALL DAY.  If you want a smaller time window, then be prepared to pay for it, because the piano mover is going to have to back track or do some sort of poor routing to meet your time commitment, which means more fuel to burn and longer work days.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to the piano movers, even if they are not letting on to it.

So what does it cost to move a piano?  If you have not noticed yet, there are a lot of factors that go into determining the cost of piano moving and those cost are different in one part of the country to another part of the country.  A good piano mover will streamline this process to it’s most basic elements, but everything above plays into the cost of moving a piano.  I’ve seen some moves in some part of the country go for $100 and others for a couple thousand depending on the distance being travelled.  Right now, on average it will fall in the $200-500 range plus tax, but it all comes back to the variables of your specific move.

Pricing around piano movers: When it comes to piano movers or any mover for that matter, they are NOT all equal.  When you shop around do not think for a minute that you are comparing the same quality of service.  Generally you will find that the pricing is fairly close between them.  With that information in mind, stick with the most reputable.  It may cost a few extra dollars up front to go with the more reputable mover, but think of it like insurance.  The odds of a claim are that much less and if there is a claim; you are more likely going to get service.  There are a lot of the cheap movers say they are insured, but do not stand behind there workmanship when things go wrong.  I cannot stress this enough: Use a reputable piano mover!


Why do you need a professional piano mover?

One of the first things any new piano owner asks is do I really need a professional piano mover to move my piano?  The fact that it is a seperate profession in the moving industry dictates that the answer must be yes, but does not really answer the question.  With todays tougher economy many people are asking this even more to try and save a few extra dollars by going with the cheapest option or without and hoping the regular mover can pull it off.  To properly answer this question, you must ask another question: Would you trust your car to a person without a license and/or has barely ever driven a car before?  If you answered yes to this, than you have answered your own question: the risk is worth the chance.  I will never say that a household mover cannot move a piano or that you and some buddies that you could bribe with a case of beer couldn’t do it, because many people have successfully pulled this off.  But you will also have heard about many of those who did not.  Who’s household moving company said that they could, then when the actual movers showed up said we don’t have the equipment and know how to do this.  The household movers who lost control of the piano and dropped it on the floor and rammed it into a wall.  Who’s friends have injuried themselves doing this and unable to work for the next number of weeks.  And the most common comment: “We did it, but I would never risk doing that again.”

You have to understand that pianos are heavy, where the light pianos weigh in at about 400 pounds and the big ones over a 1000 pounds.  You have to understand that pianos are top heavy and that most of the weight is focused in less than 25% of the actual piano and are really easy to tip over if you do not know what you are doing.  And most of all, you have to understand that when something goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and furious.  When something goes wrong you have a split second to react and if you are not in the right spot hold the piano the right way, there is no way for you to stop what is happening next.  You have to realize that when something goes wrong, people get hurt and anything in its path is a target to be damaged.  You might have an old upright piano that is not worth very much and you think is worth the risk of inexperienced movers, but is the hardwood floor the piano is travelling over, the painting on the wall, the table in your hallway, worth more to you than the piano?  Is the risk and cost of damage worth saving a few extra dollars?  The average damage claim from a piano move gone wrong is almost always more then the cost of the move itself.

Let me share some common true stories with you:

Piano Moving Story #1: I was at one ladies apartment and she had a nice high gloss black Yamaha apartment size piano.  The piano looked perfect with one major exception: Every corner on the piano was chipped.  I pointed them out to her, she acknowledge they were there and we proceeded to move the piano without her giving an explaination as to how they occured.  We took the piano out of the apartment and down the hallway to the elevator with the lady watching us like a hawk.  The elevator door opens, I look at the size of the elevator and the size of the piano and instantly know it is not going to fit in an upright position.  I use a piano moving technique to put the piano on its side which makes the piano dimension smaller and role the piano into the elevator with plenty of room to spare.  I look back at the lady and she is in stunned shock with her mouth hanging wide open like it is about to hit the floor.  Can you guess how all the chips I pointed out got onto the piano?  For those that cannot, the previous person that moved the piano forced it into the elevator in a way that didn’t fit.

Piano Moving Story #2:  We receive a panic call from a person who hired another cheaper mover that said they could move pianos.  She asked if there is anyway we can get over there asap.  The mover she hired said they could do it, started to do it and then abadoned the move and drove away.  We showed up on site and see a basic full size upright piano move going up a straight flight of stairs.  We then get the story: The first movers, moved the piano to the bottom of the stairs and flipped the piano on its side to go up the stairs.  They didn’t put moving blankets down to protect the piano or the floor.  They took the wheels off the bottom of the piano, so they could slide it up the stairs with catching on the stairs.  The movers at the top of the piano then disappeared back to the truck.  The mover at the bottom of the piano wondered what happened to his co-workers.  He goes to the front door and yells something to them (they are in the cab of the truck).  They yell something back and next thing you know the last mover is running to the truck, jumps in and the truck is driving away with the wheels to the piano in one of the movers pocket.  The lady is speechless and looks at her piano wondering what do I do now.  We then complete her job and she asks us where can she get replacement wheels for her piano?

Piano Moving Story #3:  We receive a call from a lady who was referred to us by another company that advertises themselves as piano movers.  They showed up with 4 movers and said they couldn’t do it and to call us.  I have to give them credit that they knew their limitations and knew that they were in over their heads without attempting the move and damaging her piano and walls.  It was a small apartment size piano going up a flight with a tight turn at the top.  Thankfully it wasn’t moving day and the lady did not have a house closing to worry about and was able to properly schedule it with her.  We then show up, do the job with two of our movers, damage free and shake our heads thinking this is a standard piano moving job, what professional piano moving company could not do this.

There are thousands of piano moving stories like this out there and if you think all movers or even piano movers are equal, you are greatly mistaken.  Just because you can physically drive a car without insurance, does not mean you should or are legal to do so.  Do you hand your keys over to your kid(s) without making sure they are properly trained to do so?  And if they are legal to drive, do you still hand over your keys to your sports car or a set of keys to a beatup car you are not afraid to get damaged?  Piano moving is no different: it is all about risk and exposure.

If you want my advise?  Hire the professional, the risk isn’t worth the few dollars you might save trying to be cheap.  Even professional piano movers are not perfect, but they are sure worth it.