Moving from NYC to LA can be a daunting prospect. You just landed your dream job, and now you face the details of how to get there, find a place, and get ready. Or, your start-up in Manhattan has taken off, and the founder chose you to build the new branch location in LA. Either way, you have a lot on your to-do list, and moving is just one of many chores to check off.
New York to Los Angeles is a long way, and a popular route, so you will have many options for a moving company. Because it is an interstate move, any company offering its services is subject to the rules of the US Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations provide some legal protections and require movers and brokers to perform certain functions. First among those is to give each customer a copy of the rules, in a booklet titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” which lays out the governance around moves, including estimates, deliveries, weights, billing, and related items. It also has helpful hints and resources for consumers.
The mover (or their broker) must also provide the consumer with an estimate (more on estimates below), an order for service, bill of lading, and an inventory list. You should never sign any blank documents, and make sure you understand everything you sign. It’s unfortunate, but there are some unscrupulous vendors out there. Since there are plenty of great ones, make sure you find one of the good guys. One thing to make sure of with an interstate mover is to verify their registration with the DOT. You can check for a mover or a broker by scanning the FMCSA database. In addition to confirming that the mover has the necessary license for interstate commerce, the database has extensive, up-to-date information on its safety record and consumer complaints.
As is the case in many industries, sometimes it is easier for consumers to have a knowledgeable third party do the footwork for them. A broker does not own or operate trucks or conduct moves. Instead, the broker “sells” the move to the customer, providing an estimate and range of services, and then contracts the move out to a moving company. Regulations governing interstate moves require that the broker disclose their status to customers and register with the FMSCA. Also, a broker must:
According to the US Department of Transportation, based on reports from consumers, moves from New York to Los Angeles performed by professional movers could cost between $2500 and $7300. That’s a pretty wide range, and factors impacting the price include:
Your move charges will vary based on the weight of the goods you are having transported from NYC, and how much work will be needed to load and unload. If your origin or destination home has stairs or a long, steep driveway, those factors will add to the cost. Similarly, if in either location, the large moving truck is unable to park for an extended period in front of the residence, requiring a shuttle to be conducted using a smaller vehicle, that will add to the charge (time and labor).
What does matter is finding a trustworthy moving company. If you have accidentally become entangled with a rogue operator, they will find a way to defraud you. But it would help if you understood how the weighing works, and how the estimates function. It’s always an advantage to speak the language.
Binding estimate. With a binding estimate (which the carrier can charge you for), the mover or agent will do a physical walk-through and make a list of everything to move. This inventory, sometimes called a cube sheet or table of measurement, comprises the basis of the weight quote. The movers understand the standard weight of various furniture items and boxes of books, boxes of dishware, etc. Once you and the mover agree to a binding estimate, as long as you don’t make additions to the load, the price does not change. The cube list must be accurate, as this is the basis of agreement. If the inventory lists 300 items, the weight is irrelevant if the 300 pieces are delivered. The price does not increase unless there are changes such as a shuttle (in Manhattan, this is not uncommon, since large trucks may not be able to station outside of an apartment building) or steep stairs and long carries at the destination. A sub-category is a binding estimate not to exceed, which means that the price can go down if the weight is less than the forecast, but will not exceed the estimated cost, even if the weight is higher.
Non-binding estimate. With this type of estimate, the weight does matter. The mover will weigh the truck before loading and again after the goods are loaded. You have the right to be present for the weighing, but unless you have reason to be suspicious, you will typically just review the DOT weight certificates that the carrier will provide with your bill. Your final cost depends on the weight of the goods transported (the difference between the weight of the truck empty and loaded). A non-binding estimate relies on the ability of the estimator to determine what your goods will weigh accurately, and on the company’s honesty. If a mover is unethical, this is a way to provide you with a lower estimate, with no risk or disadvantage to them since you will ultimately pay the full price of the service.
As a result of stories (undoubtedly some true, perhaps some not) about nefarious moving companies holding hostage the household goods of innocent customers over billing disputes, regulations are explicit about terms of releasing customer shipments. Specifically, the customer is obligated to pay 100% of a binding estimate, or up to 110% of a non-binding estimate, plus any charges for impracticable operations (obstacles to delivery such as inability to park the truck or similar issues) that do not exceed 15% of the total costs. Any other charges over these amounts cannot be demanded at the time of delivery, or used to delay delivery, but can only be billed for payment in 30 days.
Most likely, yes. If you are moving something across the country, it is probably worth more than 60 cents per pound, which is what the movers will pay you for damaged or lost items if you do not purchase the full coverage insurance. This option would mean that your brand-new flat screen, which weighs 20 pounds, will be reimbursed at a value of $12.00 even if it is worth $1000. Consider this carefully, since moving often results in losses. Even with the full replacement coverage, movers can limit their liability for items of extraordinary value, unless expressly noted in the shipping documents. Things that hold a value of more than $100 per pound (jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs, and similar items) should be highlighted in advance so they will be covered.