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If you are one of the three million Americans moving between states this year, you may be wondering how to find the right moving company to help you. Moving from your Florida home to Chicago—the Windy City—makes your move right in line with the average interstate relocation of around 1,200 miles. You can expect the cost to total somewhere around an average of $4,100. But that means some people pay more, and some people pay less. What’s important is not only what you pay but finding the right mover, so your relocation is excellent—no headaches.

How do I find the best moving company from Florida to Chicago?

Maybe you have moved before, and perhaps this is your first time. Whether you are a rookie or an old pro, it can be a little daunting to figure out what all those moving industry slang words mean. Here’s a helpful cheat sheet to give you the inside scoop on what the industry experts are talking about:

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

Agent: A moving company affiliated with a van line.

AMSA: American Moving and Storage Association, an industry professional organization.

Bill of Lading: A sheet of information that outlines the details of the move. It is a legally binding contract. A bill of lading is similar to an order for service but presented on the loading day.  It also includes the terms and conditions for payment of the total charges, including notice of any minimum charges, evidence of any insurance coverage purchased on your behalf, including the amount paid by the mover, and copies of your estimate, your inventory, your order for service, and your liability coverage selection.

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.)

Inventory. A list of goods to be moved. 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.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is an agency within the Department of Transportation that 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 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.

PBO: Packed By Owner. Designates when a customer packs goods, which can affect liability.

Peak Season Rates: Quotes for moves that are 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.

Storage-In-Transit (SIT): Temporary storage of your shipment before delivery for a variety of reasons. It can result in additional charges.

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

Tariff: List of all fees and rules a moving company observes. All accessorial services should be listed as well as restrictions on what the company will transport and what it includes in impracticable operations charges.

Valuation: A valuation is the declared value of a customer’s belongings. Before the Bill of Lading is signed, a customer will declare the worth of all the items included in their move. This amount limits the liability of the moving company.

How do I use this to find a good moving company?

Use your new knowledge to help research reputable moving companies. One of the essential qualifications for a mover is that it registers with the FMCSA and has a DOT Motor Carrier number. The FMCSA maintains a database with information about moving companies’ safety records and customer complaints. You can explore that data on their website. You can also find helpful resources, including their publication about interstate moves, called Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Are Moving. Your mover will also supply you with a copy of the pamphlet when you meet to discuss the move project.

A reputable mover isn’t going to fool you, but it is up to you to educate yourself on your rights and understand your role. Don’t expect the vendor to know which insurance valuation is best for you—read the descriptions of your options and consider what suits your circumstances. Never agree to sign anything that is blank or that you don’t understand. Ask questions, and as you spend time with the companies you are considering to handle your move from Florida to Chicago, remember that while the price is important, it isn’t the only factor to consider. You are hiring a company to load up your most priceless possessions—your household goods and sentimental memories—and transport them to your new home. It’s a critical job, so choose the right partner to carry it out.

 

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