Florida is the number one target for US citizens moving to the mainland from Puerto Rico, and the number making the move has increased in recent years. The island territory’s fragile, tourism-based economy combined with infrastructure damage caused by 2017’s Hurricane Maria has encouraged more residents to consider moving to Florida. Florida offers a similar climate and the welcome of tropical beaches for those who move. As a bonus, many consumer goods, like groceries and clothing, cost less on the mainland.
Like moving from Hawaii, moving from Puerto Rico to the mainland requires going by ship or air. This fact will add to the cost of the move, and the time needed to deliver your shipment. Choosing the right mover for the job will help you maintain peace of mind while preparing for your great adventure. All moving companies that operate between states (or between a US territory and a state, in this case) are engaged in interstate commerce and, as a result, are regulated by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.) The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 created FMCSA, and while its central goal is the avoidance of commercial vehicle accidents causing injuries and deaths, it also takes action to protect consumers from fraud and deception.
FMCSA requires moving companies and brokers to register with them, and it maintains data regarding operators’ safety history and consumer complaint performance. The FMCSA website is an excellent place to begin your search for a moving company. You can verify that the business you are considering is a registered mover and check out their history. While you are on the website, you can peruse the helpful resources available there, including a comprehensive guide to moving titled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Are Moving, and a handy checklist called Ready To Move. These documents were developed by FMCSA to help consumers understand the moving industry and avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators.
Interstate movers must follow the federal regulations in how they provide estimates or moving quotes. The company is required to conduct an in-person inspection of what you want to move. Don’t engage a vendor reluctant to do this and wants to provide their assessment based on your verbal or online description of the job. They must give you a written estimate and a complete inventory of everything that is included. Check this inventory carefully—you want to ensure that it is accurate so that you don’t run into any surprises later. The estimate must state whether it is binding or non-binding. The mover might charge a fee to give you a binding estimate because it is a firm commitment to the price. Binding estimates are a promise that if you don’t add anything, you won’t pay more. The mover is confident of the weight assessment and willing to accept the risk of being wrong. A non-binding estimate allows the mover to charge more if the weight is higher, so the risk remains with the consumer.
In either case, the move’s cost will also include charges for additional services you request or need. Some of these you can choose, like packing. Other services you can’t control—if you have multiple flights of stairs, you will pay for extra labor. You may not be aware of the need for these services until the end of the move if the conditions are due to circumstances at the destination. These potential charges are all detailed in the mover’s tariff, which they will provide to you.
The moving company must provide you with information about insurance choices and its process for handling claims and its arbitration program. FMCSA notes that most disputes are resolved without litigation. You have responsibilities as well. Some of the essential ones are:
Carefully consider the choice of insurance, also known as valuation. Your mover will offer you a choice between full coverage and a waiver of full coverage. You may be tempted to take the waived coverage because it is included with your move at no additional cost. The reasoning is understandable: you are trying to save money where you can. But even the best mover may slip or trip, and your possessions are probably not going to be replaceable at the level of coverage provided by the waiver, or released value, protection level. Talk to your mover about the cost of the Full Value option. It may be a better choice.
Shipping between Puerto Rico and the mainland is expensive due to the Jones Act, which protects US-based shipping interests by requiring that shipments between two American ports be carried by a US registered ship. With that in mind, you may want to limit what you take with you. Your mover will load your possessions into a container that will be transported by truck to a port and then shipped to Florida. From there, the load goes back on a truck to finish the journey to your new home.
In most cases, moving your household furniture is more cost-effective than selling it and replacing it after you move from Puerto Rico to Florida. There are exceptions, of course. You know what you have, and if you still have the old hand-me-down couch from your parents’ basement, you may want to pass it along to someone else and give yourself the indulgence of starting with a blank slate in your new home. Part of the fun of moving might be adding new purchases one by one. But you certainly have essential items you need to take with you—perhaps a house full, possibly only a few select pieces.
In addition to evaluating the furniture, think about the other things you are transporting. You may be shipping a car, which can be managed by your moving company for an additional fee. Your mover can provide packing services if you want them to, and they can safeguard your artwork by crafting custom crates designed to protect valuables during travel. If you are moving into temporary housing, the moving firm can arrange storage and delivery out of storage and unpacking if you prefer. All these extra, or accessorial, services cost more.