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The moving industry is big business. Over 30 million people move annually in the United States, and ten percent of those moves are interstate. Not everyone who relocates uses a professional moving company, but the industry generates 86 billion dollars in revenue, which is significant. While the moving industry employs over 120,000 people, most of them work for small businesses. Less than 1 in 9 moving companies is big enough to have 100 employees. But many of the companies, both large and small, are affiliated with national chains.

How do I find a national mover near me?

Many local moving companies are agents for a national van line. Working as an agent allows the moving company to do local business independently but have access to the broader organization’s resources for support. You can find a van line agent deliberately by searching for a local agent of the national company or inadvertently discovering that the local company you have selected for your move is an agent of a large chain.

What’s the difference between a local mover and a national agent?

Companies that specialize in local moves may not need to join with national or regional chains and may prefer not. A company that doesn’t have an interest in performing interstate moves may not want to adhere to the registration requirements for FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) or other practices of the parent corporation. Retaining control over their operations may be preferable to affiliating with a recognized brand.

However, if the mover is interested in long-haul moves, joining forces with a major player may be the way to go. By becoming an agent, the company has access to corporate resources. Aside from taking the agency route, companies can affiliate with more prominent names by becoming a franchisee for one of the moving companies that offer those opportunities.  A national vendor bestows name recognition and marketing support on a growing company, providing it with the ability to obtain corporate, government, or military clients. Another advantage for the local firm is access to backhaul shipments from the national chain. That means that if the mover has a customer from home base to another state, the national organization may provide it with a shipment to fill the truck up on the way back, which is much more economical.

Is it better for me to use a national or local mover?

As a customer, you might not notice the difference, but you may want to pay attention. Suppose you are planning a local relocation, generally under 100 miles. In that case, you may not care if your moving company is registered with the Department of Transportation or following the interstate moving regulations. You do want to ensure that your mover is honest and safe, so check them out regardless of how far the move is. If your move is not across state lines, the companies will not have to follow the FMCSA rules, but your state almost certainly has an agency that oversees how movers do business. In some states, it is the department of motor vehicles, while in others, it is a department of consumer protection or even the public utilities commission. Find out what is applicable in your home state, and check to see that the mover you are considering complies.

If you are getting ready for an interstate move, go to the FMCSA site and ensure that the company is in the database. FMCSA maintains records on movers’ safety history and complaints filed by consumers. You will also find an excellent resource publication titled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. Read this no matter how short or long the move distance is. It has valuable information that will help you understand your moving company’s terms and help you avoid potential moving scams.

Do I need a broker to find a national mover?

You don’t need a broker to identify the right mover, either a local company or a national affiliate, but brokers can be helpful. Brokers also register with the Department of Transportation if they arrange for interstate moves and can only work with companies that register and follow the FMCSA rules. Brokers must maintain written agreements with movers they represent and must provide a list of those movers. They must also clearly identify themselves as brokers in advertising, disclose their physical location, and acknowledge that they do not transport household goods.

Can a broker give me an estimate for a moving company?

A broker can provide an estimate for a mover if the broker has an agreement with that moving company. Remember, for an interstate move, both the broker and the mover must be registered with FMCSA and provide their Motor Carrier or DOT number to you. The broker can give an estimate based on the mover’s published tariff, but the mover must still conduct a physical survey of your household goods. If the mover is not within 50 miles of the residence, or if you choose to waive this requirement, an exception is available.

Is the in-person survey necessary?

The physical survey is an integral part of the estimating process, and you probably don’t want to waive it. The moving company can’t accurately assess your shipment’s weight without viewing what you are planning to transport. A verbal or online description is rarely sufficient to provide the detail needed to compose a comprehensive inventory of a full household move. The inventory lists everything in the shipment, and you will need to review it carefully. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, if you have a binding estimate, and the weight of the shipment is higher than the mover predicted, you need to show that you didn’t add anything after the inventory was created. A binding estimate means that if the mover forecasts that your shipment weighs 8,000 pounds, and he offers to move it for $5,000, but the actual weight is 10,000 pounds, the mover will still only charge $5,000. But if the mover claims that the weight is higher because you added a whole bedroom set, and that set is not on the inventory, then the initial weight was not reflective of the final shipment, and the binding estimate can’t be upheld.

If you receive a non-binding estimate, then the move’s final price will depend on the weight of the shipment when it is loaded into the truck, so the price quote is not guaranteed. If you compare estimates, you may want to think twice about accepting the lowest bid if the estimates are non-binding, since the vendor is not making a commitment to the forecast. Look carefully at the competing documents to see where the differences are.

The estimate includes a copy of the inventory, the estimated weight, and any services that you have approved the company to provide for you. Those services might include packing if you decide not to do the packing yourself. Movers will usually offer packing for an hourly charge and other options like crating artwork on a per-piece basis. The fees for ancillary services are spelled out in the mover’s tariff. Additional charges you will find there include extra costs for carrying your goods up and down stairs, use of elevators, “long carries” if your property won’t allow for easy truck access, and anything else that requires extra labor. Make sure you discuss these with the moving company ahead of time, and never sign anything you don’t fully understand.

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