Almost 10% of Americans move their home each year. That’s over 31 million people, which sounds like a lot, but is actually the lowest number since 1948, when the Census Bureau started tracking moves. It’s less than half of the number during the 1960s. Still, over 3 million Americans made an interstate move last year. The most popular states to relocate to are these (according to the American Moving and Storage Association):
And the states they are abandoning? The same source points to this list:
If you are joining the great American migration, moving your home and family can be intimidating. You may be moving out of state to a new area, or back to a familiar, comfortable environment. Either way, there is a lot to do to get to that finish line and settle in.
Finding a moving company for an out-of-state move is different than picking a company for a local move. Chances are you have moved locally, perhaps even more than once. But for a local move, you have more options and more control. You can watch, you can be there, and the process is shorter. If something gets left behind, its pretty easy to go back for it. You could most likely make several trips before the “big event,” dropping off small items and staging for the final move day. With an out-of-state relocation, you will rely more on your moving company’s skill and professionalism, so the decision becomes more important.
Any move which crosses over a state line (interstate) is subject to regulations made and enforced by the Department of Transportation as interstate commerce. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), within the DOT, supervises the industry and publishes guidance for movers, brokers, and consumers. All moving companies must register with the FMCSA and display their DOT number in advertising. Registered movers and brokers must provide the consumer with a copy of the FMCSA brochure, which outlines the rights of consumers when engaging a moving vendor. A critical requirement for interstate moves is a written estimate for every customer. If the customer is within 50 miles of the mover’s business, the assessment must be based on a physical survey of the items included in the move, unless the customer waives that requirement. Pro tip: don’t forgo the visual inspection—it’s essential.
The FMCSA recommends that consumers avoid movers or brokers not registered with the FMCSA, refusing to perform the physical survey of the household, or require cash payments. FMCSA maintains a database that identifies registered companies and also tracks information regarding safety history and customer complaints.
There are three kinds of estimates from which to choose. A binding estimate or a binding not-to-exceed estimate both assure the consumer that the moving prices will not go up. In the case of the not-to-exceed estimate, it could go down. In either case, the price could increase if items not on the inventory are presented for shipment, or additional services are requested or necessary. If you have a binding estimate (which the company can charge a fee to provide), you must ensure that the inventory is accurate. Anything not on the list yet included in the move will increase the price beyond the estimated amount. Also, if there are conditions at the destination which require additional labor, the price will go up. Examples of such conditions include a steep driveway, unexpected stairs, or a requirement to shuttle the shipment from a distance due to parking restrictions. Unplanned storage will result in additional labor charges as well as storage costs. If your estimate is the binding not-to-exceed, and the delivery’s weight is less than the forecast, and no services are added, your final price will be reduced. Ask for this type of estimate if you are downsizing but haven’t fully completed your process at the walk-through.
A non-binding estimate is still based on weight and must also include an inventory of all items included. The difference is that the mover providing the assessment offers an assessment based on experience, but you are acknowledging that the final price will depend on the actual weight. This situation is where less-than-honest operators can seek advantage. If you are attracted by the lowest estimate, without fully understanding the potential for an increase in the final cost, you may end up with a higher price. Suppose that vendor A estimates the weight at 7500 pounds and gives you a non-binding estimate of $4500 (average cost for an interstate move). Vendor B estimates the weight at 5000 pounds and provides a non-binding estimate of $3000. That sounds like the way to go, but it may not be. Ask both vendors for an estimate based on the competition’s weight value so that you can compare apples to apples. That way, you will know what Vendor B will charge if the weight comes in at a higher amount, and it will be a fair comparison.
Ask each moving company to include a quote for packing and unpacking in your estimate. You may decide you want to add this service, and its best to have the cost in writing. Also, check with each vendor whether they require you to use their packing services for any expensive or specialty items. You don’t want to find out later that damage isn’t covered because you packed something on your own.
Yes! The written estimate must also include notification of the two choices regarding insurance: the default option of the full replacement value of the items in the shipment (which the customer pays for) or the lesser amount of a valuation of $0.60 per pound. The mover provides the $0.60 per pound at no charge to you, but it is literally a payment of 60 cents per pound for whatever is broken or lost. This option would mean that your brand-new flat screen, which weighs 20 pounds, will be reimbursed at a value of $12.00 even if it is worth $1000. Consider this carefully, since moving often results in losses. If you have something that is worth moving, it is worth insuring. The price of the full value coverage insurance should be part of your evaluation of the moving bids.
Keep in mind that even with the full replacement coverage, movers can limit their liability for items of extraordinary value, unless they have been expressly noted in the shipping documents. Possessions valued at more than $100 per pound (jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs, and similar items) should be highlighted in advance so they will be covered. Consider using a third-party provider for insurance if you have expensive or specialty items in your shipment. Ask your mover or insurance provider if they need to be specially packed to protect the coverage.