Moving from California to Texas offers many advantages—lower housing prices and overall cost of living, no state income tax, and less congestion in many areas. No wonder the path from the Golden State to the Lone Star State has been popular lately. If you are preparing to move from California, you may see some old friends when you arrive. Over 85,000 Californians moved to Texas in 2018, with the majority heading for large metropolitan areas like Houston, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Major corporations are partly responsible: McKesson Corp, Jamba Juice, and Core-Mark all moved their headquarters to Texas from California in recent years. Even companies like Charles Schwab, which are retaining operations in California, are choosing Texas for growth.
Whether your move is motivated by personal, financial, or other reasons, you face the same challenge: find a great moving company to support you.
Finding the right moving company from California isn’t difficult. There are plenty of good, honest operators ready to help you get from your current home to your new one. What makes it seem hard is knowing what to ask, what to look for, and how to choose.
The cost of a professional move of this distance is approximately $3700 to $4100. Move costs depend on several factors in addition to the length of the trip. The primary determinant is the weight of the shipment, and that is the one thing you as the shipper can have a lot of control over. The other elements you can control are accessorial services you request, like packing, disassembly and assembly of furniture and appliances, and storage. All of these add to the overall cost in addition to the line-haul charges (the transportation cost.
First, look for a moving company that makes you feel comfortable. Don’t consider a company that doesn’t have time to answer your questions. The mover should be willing to explain all the confusing terms and go over the various types of estimates, valuations, and other options to provide you with the confidence that you understand what you are signing.
Any company engaged in interstate moves must register with the Department of Transportation, specifically the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA regulates carriers and brokers and establishes rules for the conduct of operators. It also maintains a database so that consumers can validate the registration of the carrier, and search for complaints and safety violations. All FMCSA registered moving companies will provide you with a written estimate, based on a visual inspection of the items you want to ship. The appraisal will include a comprehensive inventory (some companies call it a cube sheet or a table of measurements), which is a list of every item that is going to be shipped.
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Estimates can be binding, non-binding, or binding not to exceed. A binding estimate is an exact price that you and the mover agree on for the shipment of your household goods from point A to point B, plus any additional services (sometimes called accessorial or ancillary services) that you request. While this estimate will include the movers’ approximation of the shipment weight, it isn’t critical since the price will not go up if the weight forecast is incorrect. This approach takes the risk out of the process. The only extra charges are for additional services that you request or any unavoidable fees for services required at the destination to complete delivery. These are called impracticable operations, and cover conditions that the mover may not be aware of in advance.
Suppose you are moving to a high rise in Dallas, and the building does not allow the moving truck to park close by for enough time to unload. The mover will have to empty the contents into a smaller vehicle and shuttle back and forth to the residence. That same high rise will require delivery using an elevator, which increases the time. Another possibility is a rural property, but with a long, winding driveway, rising steeply to the view home of your dreams. That driveway may cause other obstacles to standard delivery. The mover is permitted to add the cost of these services on to the bill. However, the additional charges for impracticable operations due on the day of delivery are not to exceed 15% of the entire moving invoice. If the fees are higher, the delivery will be made contingent upon payment of the estimated amount plus 15% of the total charges. The company can invoice the customer for additional amounts later (after 30 days.)
If you have a non-binding estimate, you must trust the weight forecast the mover produces. If you obtain several estimates and one is lower than the others, dig deeper. Is the inventory comprehensive? Ask the mover to account for the difference in weight. Also, ask the low bidder why it provides a much lower weight estimate than the other two or ask to convert it to a binding estimate. Ask each company to offer matching bids at several weight amounts, to compare the different prices for different weights. With a non-binding estimate, the weight determines your final obligation. An unscrupulous company may tell you that the cost can’t go up more than 10%. That is misleading. The amount due on delivery day is limited to 110% of the non-binding estimate, plus charges for impracticable operations, as previously discussed. However, if the final weight was low by more than 10%, the company will bill the shipper for additional charges later and pursue you for payment.
Finally, a binding estimate not-to-exceed means that the estimate can’t go up, but it can go down. If the weight is higher than the estimated amount, the line-haul charges do not increase, but if the shipment weighs less than the mover predicted, the charges are reduced. As with the others, moving services increase the final tally. All potential fees are listed on the moving company’s tariff, which it will present to you along with the estimate.
Pay attention to the representative from the moving company and call the contact at the number provided. If the phone is only answered by a recording or with a vague “moving company” greeting that doesn’t specify the company name, be wary. You may be mixed up with a rogue operator who will ask for a large deposit and disappear or load up your goods and disappear. While requesting a deposit is an acceptable procedure, it should be a part of the full payment, not an additional charge. It’s essential to check for the DOT registration and ask for references. Check with the Better Business Bureau, and the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services.
Trust your instincts. Do you feel comfortable sending your possessions on a road trip with these people? If not, keep looking.