Moving out of California used to be unusual, but that isn’t the case anymore. While the Golden State still attracts many, more residents are leaving today than in the past. One of the destinations for those looking for a new home is Oregon, just to the north, which is now the 5th most popular place for ex-Californians to migrate. Some think that Oregon shares many of California’s benefits—beauty, independence, opportunity—while avoiding the disadvantages of congestion, high taxes, and the overall cost of living. Now that you have decided to transplant yourself, how can you make a move as smoothly as possible? Start with the moving company.
Even though California and Oregon are neighbors, this is an interstate move, which is good news for you, the consumer. Interstate moves fall into interstate commerce, so the Department of Transportation regulates the companies that perform them. You can verify that a mover you are considering is registered with the FMCSA (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a subunit of the DOT) by checking their website, where you can also access safety records and complaint histories. These steps are an excellent start to choosing a mover. You may want to check with the Better Business Bureau and look at local review sites, although reviews may be suspect (sometimes they are fabricated or paid for.)
FMCSA requires moving companies to provide consumers with a valuable resource; a brochure called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Are Moving. This booklet outlines helpful rules that interstate moving operators and brokers must abide by in their interactions with shippers. It is packed with information, and reading it at the beginning of the process will make your search more comfortable as you will have the confidence to negotiate with the competitors for your move.
As soon as you start searching for a moving company for hire near you, you may be inundated with offers and calls from both actual movers and moving brokers. It will be confusing if you are not familiar with the difference between the two and how each works. Moving companies, also called operators, perform the loading and transportation of household goods (though many also conduct commercial moves) from one place to another. These companies will generally offer other services, including packing, crating, furniture assembly, and storage, related to the move. Usually, they will move both locally and long-distance, although some moving companies specialize in one or the other. These moving companies may be small independent companies, or agents of national or international companies, or franchisee operators.
A moving broker, on the other hand, does not perform any actual transportation. The broker talks to consumers, finds out the specifics of their moves, provides an estimate, obtains a consumer’s commitment, and then finds a mover to accomplish the move itself. Like movers, most brokers are honest and reliable. The FMCSA mandates that they maintain agreements with all movers they work with, and brokers also must register with the DOT and provide their DOT number in their advertising.
But in any industry, some operators are shady and out to make a quick buck or take advantage of unwary consumers. Protect yourself by checking on the DOT registration and using common sense. If you are considering a broker or mover, call the contact number they provide. How is the phone answered? If you always get a recording, be suspicious. If the greeting does not include a company name, but rather a vaguely worded “moving company” salutation, it could indicate that the organization is not above board. Any company that is reluctant to provide all the information required by FMCSA or that suggests you sign blank or incomplete documents cannot be trusted, and you probably do not want to hire them.
Remember, most cross country movers are going to do a good job, and you are eliminating the disreputable ones using the tips above, so you are in an excellent position to choose among options. Get several estimates to compare; the time you spend will be worth it. A mover is required to complete an in-person, visual inspection of what you intend to ship. This physical survey is how they can determine how much the items weigh, and what the shipment will cost. The most significant portion of your moving cost is the weight. So if you have one mover estimating the weight of your household goods (furniture, boxes, and anything else you are shipping) at 7,000 pounds and two are telling you that the load is 10,000 pounds, there is likely something wrong with that first forecast. Compare the inventory lists that each mover provided to you with the estimates, and start asking questions. If nothing is missing from the first, low estimate, ask the mover why their view is lower than the other two. Ask if they are willing to offer a binding estimate, which protects you if their weight evaluation is incorrect.
Ask each mover to provide an estimate at the other weight—to compare what the final price would be if the weight is different. If you move based on a non-binding estimate, which may be preferred by the mover, then the ultimate cost is based on the shipment’s weight, not the estimate. It would be best if you had all the facts regarding what you may end up paying.
FMCSA requires a mover to provide you with their tariff, and an order for service. These documents contain vital information about other fees you may encounter during the completion of your move. The order for service and the bill of lading, which are similar, also hold contact information for the truck drivers during the actual journey. These documents contain the pick-up and delivery dates, or delivery window if applicable, and what payment method is acceptable and the maximum amount that can be required to be paid for delivery to take place.
The bill of lading also specifies the valuation selection you have made. The mover must offer you two choices for coverage of your shipment. Full Value Replacement is the option that the mover will initially include in your estimate and is comprehensive coverage for your shipment, but it can be expensive. Even with this coverage, the mover is not always liable for everything lost or damaged in a move. It is your responsibility to declare the value of any individual item valued at more than $100 per pound. The mover may also not be responsible for damage to things that they did not pack unless the box is also damaged.
The second type of coverage, included at no additional charge, is referred to as Waiver of Full Replacement Value and sets a standard of $0.60 per pound for your shipment value. This amount cannot be pooled to replace items within the shipment, however, each piece is valued by its weight, which means that your 20-pound flat-screen television is only valued at $12.00 if it is damaged or lost. No matter which moving company you select, be careful to choose the right valuation option for your possessions.