Are you moving from Chicago to California? That’s an exciting relocation. Who wouldn’t want to trade the Windy City, with winter snowfall measured in feet, and brutally cold temperatures, for sunny California, where even rain is a reason to leave work early? But before you can hit the beach (of a real ocean, which is a little different than those amazing Great Lakes beaches you are used to), you have to get through the move. With some planning, it won’t be that rough, and soon you will be enjoying your new Cali lifestyle.

How do I find a good mover from Chicago to California?

First, it will be easier if you understand the mover jargon. This is not the same as California slang, but you already know how to speak Californian from watching Bravo, right? Movers have their own lingo, and it helps to know what the essential terms are. Here are some of the critical definitions:

Accessorial Charges: Extra charges from a moving company for packing, unpacking, crating, or appliance disconnection. These fees are added to the baseline cost, also called linehaul charges.

Cube Sheet: (also called Inventory or Table of Measurement). A list of goods and the amount of space they will take up in a truck. This list is the basis for the weight estimate. The cube sheet or inventory should be compiled based on a physical survey of the household items designated to move.

Estimate, Binding: A binding estimate is an agreement for a price that will not change. It is based on the physical survey of household items, converted into the anticipated weight, plus accessorial service costs.  Moving companies are permitted to charge a fee for the preparation of a binding estimate. The company must deliver your shipment if you pay 100% of the amount of a binding estimate plus the cost of impracticable operations in an amount not greater than 15% of the total bill.

Estimate, Non-binding: A non-binding estimate of the moving cost based on the estimated weight of household items and any requested accessorial services. The final bill is determined by the correct weight and any added services. A visual inspection of the household goods is the basis for the estimate. The mover must deliver the shipment if the customer pays a maximum of 110% of the non-binding estimate and any charges for impracticable operations (subject to the 15% limit of the total invoice.)

Flight Charge: An additional charge for a mover to carry items up or down flights of stairs.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is an agency within the Department of Transportation which regulates moving companies.

Full-Value Protection Insurance: Insurance that covers an item’s price or the cost to repair an item if it’s damaged or lost by a moving company. Not included in the price of the move, but available for an additional fee.

Hazard Insurance: Insurance that protects against damage to household goods from fire, floods, wind, and other natural events. It is not included in moving company full value or default insurance coverage.

High-Value Articles: Household items that have a value of more than $100 per pound. These must be noted expressly for valid insurance coverage.

Household goods: Contents of a residence, items to be moved.

Impracticable Operations: Conditions that prohibit a moving company from completing loading or delivery with their usual equipment or that require additional labor. These terms are delineated in a moving company’s tariff. Additional charges may be added to the final invoice for moving.

Long Carry Charge: An extra fee applied when a mover carries goods a long distance from a residence to the moving truck or vice versa. The applicable length and the charge are identified on the tariff.

Peak Season Rates: Quotes for moves requested during high demand times for moving companies, usually during the summer.

Quote: The price of services offered to a moving customer.

Released Value Insurance: A basic moving insurance policy required by federal law (for interstate moves) and provided at no cost to the consumer. This policy covers your belongings for 60 cents per pound per item, no matter what the article is truly worth.

Survey: Visual inspection of items you are moving. The basis of the inventory and estimate. It is required by FMCSA to be conducted in person in most circumstances.

Should I have the movers pack for me?

Once you have chosen your long distance moving company, you can decide what accessorial services you want or need. Before you start, it is a good idea to reduce what you plan to take along with you. If the movers are doing the packing, they will pack everything, so you will need to do the sorting first, and dispose of what you decide to leave behind. Moving is an excellent opportunity to clean those closets and donate gently used items to a good cause or recycle things that may no longer be useful. The moving professionals are just that—professional, so they have the expertise to pack your cherished possessions appropriately, and they can do it more quickly than you can, but of course, it will cost you. The less you have to pack, the less time it will take. One factor in favor of engaging the movers to do the packing is liability. If you pack an item and it gets damaged inside the box, the moving company most likely will not have to replace or repair it (unless the box was also damaged.) If they packed it, they are responsible.

Only take what you need. Snow shovels are out for almost any California destination, and heavy items like books and tools deserve extra scrutiny before being included. Moving is also a good time to think about how much you like your furniture, and whether it will complement your new home. Moving high-quality furnishings usually makes financial sense, but not if you get to your new beach house or ultra-modern high rise and decide that you don’t like the style that worked for you in the Midwest. It is better to determine before you go.

What else should I leave behind?

Aside from an effort to ensure that you don’t move things you don’t need or want, there are some things moving companies just won’t (or can’t) take. Here are some items that are always prohibited: they won’t take your pets in the moving truck, which seems obvious, but people try it all the time. Perishable food can’t go, so use it up, give it away, or take it with you in the car. Moving companies can’t take house plants over 150 miles, to avoid introducing pests into new areas. You can try to take them in the car, but you may be stopped at some state borders if you do.

The out of state moving company won’t take anything hazardous, including flammable, explosive, and corrosive items. This list includes things you might not think of, like paint, paint thinner, aerosol cans, fire extinguishers, charcoal, lighter fluid, some batteries, acid, and the more obvious ammunition, firearms, and fireworks. Don’t try to hide something dangerous and sneak it into a shipment. If anything goes wrong, the presence of a prohibited item will void the carrier’s liability for any damage you incur.

Written by Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving.

If you have any questions about moving, our services, or anything else you think he may be able to help with, you can contact Chris by emailing him at

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