The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Long-Distance Movers

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated April 26, 2022
People packing cardboard boxes
Photo: Maskot / Getty Images

Moving a long distance is no joke, but you’ll be all smiles if you hire the right interstate moving company

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Moving to another state or across the country is an adventurous chapter of life, but poor planning can take a toll. If you’re well prepared and know how to find a licensed and insured interstate moving company to pack, drive, and deliver your home’s belongings—you’ll thank yourself later. Take control of your long-distance move destiny and use this hiring guide to find and hire an interstate moving company. 

How to Find an Interstate Moving Company

Before researching a moving company, you should know that some moving companies only serve customers moving long distances—state to state or cross country. They’re called interstate movers. On the other hand, intrastate movers manage local and in-state moves. 

When you hire a moving company to transport your household items long distances, reliability and reputation should be at the top of your priority list. Start with recommendations from family, friends, and real estate professionals you’ve worked within the past. You can also read online reviews and testimonials on your candidate’s company page, and review websites like Angi to find reputable professionals.

Before Hiring an Interstate Mover

You’re searching for a quality moving company you can trust, but you’re also looking for a company that fits your budget. Keep in mind that interstate moving companies base a large part of your quote on your shipment’s total weight. Talk with at least three moving companies to compare quotes and services before deciding which you’ll choose. 

Pre-Plan Your Move

Before the moving companies can give you an accurate price quote, they’ll need detailed information about what you're moving. So, before hiring an interstate mover, take a mental inventory or write a shortlist of what you’d like them to move so that you can answer their intake questions on your first call. Later in the process, they’ll verify your shipment size by scheduling an in-person inventory or asking you to take a video of your belongings.  If you’re working with a relocation company to move for work, be sure to provide them with an inventory list of your belongings so they can find a suitable moving company.

Purge Unwanted Items

The cost to hire movers depends on many factors, including the number of rooms, oversized items like a piano, and whether you need a full-service move that includes packing, delivery, and unpacking. To keep your costs down, it’s important to lighten your load and donate, recycle, and throw away things you don’t need. 

Tell the Movers About Location Challenges

Don’t forget to tell the movers about any physical challenges they might have on moving day. For example, they’ll want to know about the number of stairs, narrow hallways and doorways, and parking issues like small streets or overhead power lines near the truck’s parking spot. If you’re upfront about these trouble spots, you won’t be surprised later when the quote reflects inconvenience charges. 

Ask For an In-Person Estimate

After purging unwanted items and creating a moving plan, ask your top moving company candidates to schedule an in-person estimate. It’s the best way to get an accurate price. If the onsite surveyors take inventory, they’ll have the best information to plan your packing and loading strategy. You’ll also avoid fee changes on move-out day. 

Check Your Moving Company’s Qualifications

You can find more background information on interstate moving companies by searching the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website. This website has insurance and registration records in addition to the company’s complaint history. If you still have questions about their business practices, it’s time to call and clarify the details. 

Questions to Ask Your Moving Company

Ask your moving companies as many questions as needed to feel confident about hiring them to move your home’s belongings. They're in business to take care of clients and their most important things, so they shouldn’t have problems sharing information. Use these questions to guide your discussions.

  • Does the company subcontract any work to other moving services? 

  • How do they protect fragile items from damage during transit?

  • What training do the workers that pack and move your things have?

  • Do they offer full-value protection or an alternative level of liability insurance to cover damage? 

  • What’s the reimbursement policy?

  • Do they calculate fees by the hour or charge a flat rate? 

  • Does the company have experience moving valuable collectibles?

Tips for Hiring an Interstate Moving Company

Interstate moving companies operate differently than local ones, so be sure to ask questions about company policies, long-distance estimates, and bill of lading details. 

Interview Your Moving Pro

 A woman interviewing a moving company pro
Photo: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Over the course of reviewing candidates, you’ll probably have several conversations with your chosen moving companies about factors like total weight and pricing, but once you’ve chosen your top pick, you should schedule a final interview to go over the small details. Also, ask about things you might not have thought about earlier, like:

  • Employee background checks 

  • How many packers come each day

  • Stops at interstate weigh stations

  • How the driver handles weather and traffic delays

  • What to expect on pick up and delivery days

Secure an Estimate With Your Moving Company

Most moving companies use one of three different estimates: non-binding estimate, non-binding to exceed estimate, or binding estimate. Before you sign an official contract, ensure it includes the correct fees, rate, overage charges, and inventory sheet. You’ll need this official information on the document if you need to file a claim later. 

1. Non-binding estimate: The estimate will likely fluctuate after the moving company calculates the actual weight. If the estimate is initially low, you’ll pay more later. You pay the original estimate and potentially 10% more if there’s excess weight on delivery. 

2. Non-binding to exceed estimate: Moving companies often use this estimate for long-distance moves. You won’t pay for overages beyond your quote. If your shipment is less than the quote, you’ll pay only the fee for the actual weight. 

3. Binding estimate: This type of estimate is like a flat fee. The moving company bases charges on the estimated weight. You don’t pay for overages, but you also won’t save money if the shipment weighs less. 

Keep Records of Your Long-Distance Move

The bill of lading is the essential move document. It helps you post-move if there are missing items, if the weight estimate changes, or if you have damage. Before you sign, ensure the details are correct. The move can’t start until you sign off on the details. 

Your bill of lading should include: 

  • The moving company’s contact information (and subcontractors if used), including the address, phone number, license information, and the U.S. Department of Transportation identifying number 

  • Your contact information and both addresses for pickup and delivery

  • The moving trucks and van’s identification numbers

  • The moving company’s services and rates, including specialty items like packing materials 

  • A payment schedule with terms and conditions: payment methods, minimum charges, additional fees, and deadlines

  • Moving insurance information 

  • Details of your binding, non-binding, or non-binding estimate exceed the estimate

  • What to do if your movers are late 

Look for Red Flags and Prepare to Troubleshoot

Keep an eye out for common moving industry red flags. You could save yourself time and money. 

  • If you’re researching a company and notice several name changes during its history, consider that a red flag. The company could be trying to outrun complaints from previous company names. Ask for more information about its licensing and insurance. 

  • Most moving companies ask for payment at delivery because variables, like the total weight, could change before drop-off. Hesitate and ask more questions if your company wants a large sum upfront. Use a credit card to avoid fraud. 

After Your Moving Company Delivers

After your move, it’s time to pay it forward and leave reviews for the next set of long-distance movers. They’ll appreciate your honest feedback about the moving company’s service. 

If your experience with the moving company was positive, offer to write a testimonial or leave your name and number to use as a reference later. If you did run into trouble during the moving process, your bill of lading should have the dispute settlement information for help with the claim process.

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