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Moving to another state is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Three million Americans move between states on average every year, and many use a moving company to help them through the process. It makes sense and will likely simplify the move project for less than you think.

How do I find an interstate mover near me?

Finding a great interstate moving company takes some research, but there are some helpful resources to guide you. Any company that engages in long distance moves must register with the Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over interstate commerce. DOT has a special department set up to oversee movers and other large motor carriers. It’s called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, and its purpose is to protect consumers from unsafe or unscrupulous moving companies. The FMCSA website tracks registered companies (each one has a unique motor carrier number) and keeps records of their safety history and consumer complaints.

FMCSA also developed rules that movers must follow when providing services to customers. Understanding these standards will help you evaluate and select the right vendor for your move project. FMCSA recommends that you avoid doing business with companies that are not registered. It suggests that you review their publication titled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move to find out more about movers and move brokers. Brokers do not transfer your household goods. They operate like insurance or mortgage brokers–they connect consumers in need of moving services with companies that offer those services. FMCSA registers brokers as well as movers.

What are the rules that interstate moving companies must follow?

One of the essential rules for interstate shipments is that the mover must provide a written estimate. The mover is prohibited from giving you a verbal quote only; it is obligated to supply a written estimate with several required components.

  1. If you are moving from a place that is less than 50 miles from the mover (or its agent or broker), then the company must complete a physical survey of the household goods, unless you waive the requirement, in writing. A visual inspection is crucial for the development of an accurate, so experts and FMCSA don’t recommend that you consent to skip the survey. A mover that is reluctant to abide by this requirement may not be honest or professional.
  2. The estimate must clearly state whether it is binding or non-binding based on weight or cubic feet, and what other accessorial or ancillary charges are included. The assessment will have an attachment known as the mover’s tariff, which lists all fees the mover may charge for other services that may come up. A binding estimate means that the price quoted is firm and will not increase even if the shipment’s weight is higher than forecast (unless you add items to the delivery.) A non-binding estimate means that the mover would increase the price if it estimated lower than the actual weight (or reduce the cost if it overestimated.) Other charges listed in the estimate may include packing services, if you ask for this, crating of artwork, specialty item preparation for things like pool tables or hot tubs, stairs, long carries, elevator use, and other miscellaneous labor charges.
  3. The estimate must include an explanation of valuation, which is like insurance. Moving companies do not sell insurance, but they must assume liability for your possessions, within limits. You will have the choice of Full (Replacement) Value Protection or Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection. The Full Value Protection will have a charge associated with it, which will be detailed in the estimate. You and the mover will agree on a value for your shipment, based on the weight or a higher amount you determine. Either way, you must declare any items of value that you are sending on the truck, and double-check that they are on the inventory. The Waiver of Full Value Protection is offered to you at no charge above the cost of the moving service, but it provides minimal coverage. The coverage for repair or replacement of any lost or damaged item is limited to sixty cents per pound. That will not go very far in replacing even your most mundane possessions, much less anything of value.

Never sign a blank or incomplete estimate, or one which does not specify that it is binding or nonbinding. If you have stumbled into an unscrupulous service provider, you would be giving them the chance to change your price without your knowledge. If you have a binding estimate, the mover cannot require you to pay more than the quote’s amount unless the delivery is hampered by conditions known as impracticable operations. These unforeseen conditions would typically be something about the destination that was not known in advance. For example, if the new home has an overhang that prevents the truck from parking near the entry, you may be charged for a long carry. Or if the destination residence is an apartment building and the elevator can’t be reserved, the mover may impose waiting fees. These fees can be added to the invoice on delivery day if the amount is less than 15 percent of all charges. If the new charges are more than that, the mover can bill you for the balance after 30 days, but can’t hold up the delivery.

Similarly, suppose you have a non-binding estimate. In that case, the mover can only request payment of 110% of the amount of the assessment at the time of delivery (plus an amount for impracticable operations) and can bill any additional charges after 30 days. For example, if you have a nonbinding estimate of $5,000, the weight was substantially higher than the mover predicted, and the final bill based on weight is $7,000. The mover also charges $1,000 for services it says were necessary at the destination (total of $8,000): you are only required to pay $6,250 to receive the delivery. The vendor can bill you the balance after 30 days. This rule is designed to prevent shady operators from providing you with a low estimate and then holding your possessions hostage until you pay an inflated bill.

How many estimates do I need?

It’s a good idea to get at least three estimates for an interstate move. Getting an estimate allows you to meet the company representative, which helps you decide if this is a company that you can trust with your household goods. It also lets you evaluate whether the estimates make sense. If one of the three is much higher or lower than the others, ask questions. Perhaps the surveyor overlooked something, and it is just a mistake, but possibly it is a sign of an intention to mislead you. Look for red flags when you are interacting with the company—are you able to talk to the same person when you call or do they have constant turnover? Is the company representative willing to spend the time necessary to explain the jargon on the documents to you, or are they always in a hurry? Choose a vendor that makes you feel comfortable. There are plenty of moving companies to choose from; you don’t need to settle for one that is less than excellent.

 

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