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Movers & Moving Companies

Preparing and planning a move

The first thing to decide is how much of the moving work you’ll do yourself and how much will be handled by professional movers.

If your employer is paying for the move you can take it easy and watch the professional movers do nearly all of the work. If you’re financing the move yourself, you might opt to do your own packing to save money. 

But before you decide how much to do yourself, call some moving companies to get estimates for what they charge for different levels of service.

Weed down your stuff: Most people are packrats to one degree or another and if you've lived in the same place for several years you probably have closets and junk drawers filled with stuff you really don't need. Start making stacks of what to throw out or donate to charities. Organizations like Goodwill and AmVets will accept a variety of clothing and household goods.

Collect supplies: If you’re doing your own packing, you'll need lots of boxes. The best boxes are the ones that reams of copier paper come in because they’re sturdy, have lids and are easily stackable. If you work in an office, find out who handles supplies for the copy machine and have them save boxes for you.

You can also buy boxes from supply stores or some large discount stores, but this can really add up.

Identify high-priority items: During a move there are two kinds of high priority items:

Your most prized possessions, like family photos, birth certificates, passports, etc. Plan on packing these yourself and transporting them in your car so they are never out of your control. Ordinary household items can be replaced if lost or damaged.  If it's priceless to you, then you should carry it.

Things you need every day, such as a handful of dishes, toiletries, Fido's dog dish, your car keys, etc. These may not be highly valuable, but you don't want to lose track of exactly where they are. 

Pack these yourself and keep the box handy so you can get in and out of it whenever necessary. Keep out your cleaning supplies so you can finish up in the old house and take the cleaning materials with you to the new house.

Change your utilities and services: Contact service providers for utilities such as water, gas, electric, telephone, cable and internet services to inform them of the impending  move. You can let these companies know when you plan to be out of your home and into your new home so that your services can be switched over.

This will prevent you from paying for services you do not receive or having to provide a security deposit for your new residential service needs through the companies at your new location.

Postal Change of Address: A change of address kit is available through your local post office branch office or online. These forms prevent the possibility of others gaining access to your mail without your knowledge. 

The mail will be forwarded to your new address beginning on the date you specify on your change of address form.  


Hiring a moving company

You may choose to do all of the packing, but do you really want to do the moving as well? If so, you'll need to rent a truck, a couple of two-wheeler handcarts and some pads to protect your furniture. 

Then you'll need to recruite friends to help and probably feed them. You may want to compare that to the cost of hiring movers.

As in all professions, in the moving industry there are rogue operators who give you a low price to get the job, then demand a much larger amount before they will unload the truck. Don’t hire a moving company without checking them out.

Check out the company with the American Moving & Storage Association, which has a certification program called “ProMover.” You should be wary of any moving company that does not have ProMover certification.

Ask for the company’s U.S. Department of Transportation registration number. You can then search a federally registered mover’s complaint history at

Questions to ask:

Even when you are using a legitimate, honest moving company you may have a bad experience if you don’t know what services the company is providing at what cost. Here are some basic questions to ask:

1. What are the insurance terms for the move? You will typically purchase an insurance option for items damaged or lost in transport. Does the insurance cover the full value of the item?

2. Is the quote price an estimate or a “not-to-exceed” ceiling?

3. Are there any hidden fees?  Moving companies often work from a "tariff," which lists items for which you could be charged, such as if there are stairs involved.

4. How long has the company been in business.

5. Is the moving crew employed by the company, temporary hires or casual laborers?

A copy of the mover’s bill of lading, liability insurance and valuation coverage policy. All movers must assume liability for the value of the goods they transport. “Released value” is a no-cost option that provides minimal protection, requiring movers to cover any damages at 60 cents per pound, per article. “Full value” is the most comprehensive option, but cost varies.

A timetable for performing the move, including packing and arrival date.

Does the company perform the move or work as a household goods broker? A broker can’t represent himself as a mover, doesn’t own trucks and generally has no authority to provide an estimate on behalf of a specific mover.


Local vs. long distance moves

Rules and regulations governing the moving industry depend on whether it’s a move within the state (intrastate) or one that requires crossing state lines (interstate).

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees interstate movers and legally requires them to:

Obtain licensing by FMCSA and display their U.S. DOT number in any advertising.

 Provide arbitration if consumer complaints can’t be resolved amicably.

Give homeowners a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” brochure.

Allow homeowners to review their tariff — a list of rates and charges — for a particular shipment.

Furnish an accurate summary of their complaint handling procedures, including a phone number.

It’s important to note that FMCSA has no authority to resolve complaints against an interstate mover. However, the federal agency may investigate a specific mover if the agency receives multiple documented complaints.

The investigation may result in the mover’s license revocation and/or fines. To file a complaint against an interstate mover, call FMCSA at 888-368-7238.

Best practices mandate intrastate movers also follow federal standards, and most are subject to state laws. The American Moving & Storage Association recommends consumers check with their state’s moving association, public utility agencies such as a state’s department of transportation or commerce, Angi and the Better Business Bureau before hiring.


Moving contracts and costs

The average intrastate move is based on weight and a crew of four. Prices may fluctuate, depending on where you live.

A binding estimate is a written agreement made in advance with your mover that clearly describes all services provided. It guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services written in the estimate.

A nonbinding estimate is what the mover believes the cost will be based upon the estimated weight of the shipment and additional services required.

However, the final charges are based on the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided and the tariff provisions in effect.

Some movers offer a “guaranteed-not-to-exceed” estimate, which allows the consumer to pay the binding estimate or the actual cost, whichever is lower.