More than 35 million Americans move to new homes every year, either for personal reasons or to grab new career opportunities. Approximately 4.1 million of these relocating households move across state lines. While the idea of relocating is usually exciting, the moving company you hire for the job can be the difference between a smooth and stress-free move or an extremely stressful ordeal during which several things that can go wrong actually do so. These include important items getting left behind or misplaced during transit, required parking permits not being obtained, and improperly packed items ending up damaged. Similarly, there is always the risk of getting involved with rogue movers that hold loads hostage and demand exorbitant fees before releasing these items. According to the Federal Carrier Motor Safety Administration (FCMSA), 39 percent of the move-related consumer complaints it receives yearly involve loss or damage to property being moved, with another seven percent involving hostage load situations.
Thus, whether you are moving to a new home within the same city, relocating to a nearby town, or planning an interstate move, it is crucial to make an informed decision on your choice of mover. This guarantees you a seamless moving experience and gives you the peace of mind that your relocation will be handled professionally and expertly with little to no loss or damage to your valuables. To this end, always ask and get satisfactory answers to the following questions before signing a service contract with any movers near you:
Are You Licensed, Registered, or Certified?
Individuals or businesses wishing to transport household goods and other types of cargo across state lines for compensation must register with the Federal Carrier Motor Safety Administration (FCMSA) and obtain a USDOT number from this agency before doing so. This registration can be initiated online via the agency’s Unified Registration System platform, and registrants are generally required to provide certain documentation to complete the process. These include a valid Employer Identification Number or Social Security Number and proof of adequate insurance coverage.
In addition to this, several states, including New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Florida, also have separate licensing and registration requirements for moving companies that provide intrastate services within their jurisdictions. While the specific state-level licensing or registration requirements for intrastate movers vary by location, they usually involve paying a stipulated fee to the appropriate regulatory agency, submitting proof of compliance with mandatory insurance and bond obligations, and providing any additional documents that this agency may deem necessary.
You can determine the state agency responsible for regulating the activities of intrastate movers in your area of residence and direct queries concerning obtaining and verifying state-issued mover licenses and registration by contacting your local consumer protection agency. You can also reach out to your state movers association for additional information on these topics. Lastly, if you are planning to relocate outside your current state of residence, then you can confirm that your intended movers have been properly registered to provide this service by utilizing the online search portal that the FMSCA maintains for this purpose.
It is always a good idea to verify that your preferred movers have complied with all relevant licensing and registration requirements before finalizing agreements with them.
How Much Do Movers Cost?
Retaining the services of a moving company in the United States can cost you as little as $200 or as much as $4,500, depending on a number of factors, like:
- The distance between moving locations
- The size of the home, and volume of items to be moved
- The time of year
- Additional services like item packing and storage
- Inconveniences like multiple flights of stairs and narrow hallways
- Tips for the movers
Provided below are cost estimates for commonly requested moving services:
Cost estimates based on type of move:Local move (within same city)$200 - $2,000Intrastate$850 - $3,250Interstate$2,000 - $8,500International$6,500 - $20,000
Cost estimates based on house size:Studio apartment$150 - $2,000I bedroom$450 - $3,1002 bedroom$750 - $6,2003 bedroom$1,250 - $8,0004 bedroom$2,750 - $9,5005 bedroom$3,850 - $11,000
Cost estimates based on type of moving service:Self-pack$100 - $500Loading truck only$150 - $3,500Full-service$250 - $10,500Truck rental$50 - $5,500Packing and unpacking$50 - $850Storage unit rental$100 - $750/monthPet courier$50 - $1,500
Cost estimates based on type of item:Piano$350 - $2,500Antiques$100 - $2,150Artwork$100 - $2,150Grandfather Clock$260 - $1,350Safe$175 - $550Mattress$70 - $250Bedroom Set$100 - $275Hot Tub$180 - $820Sofa & Loveseat$200 - $550Couch$200 - $775Exercise equipment$100 - $350Riding lawn mower$150 - $500Vehicle$550 - $3,000
Cost estimates based on billing method:Per mover$50 - $100/hourPer pound$0.10 - $1/lb
The following tips can help you save money when hiring movers and ensure that you stay within budget:
- Obtain quotes from several movers and compare them to get the best offer available
- Book your movers early and be flexible with your pickup and delivery date
- Sell or give away any items that you will not need at your new location
- Consider getting friends and family to help you pack and label boxes before the movers arrive
- Organize boxes by size
- Disassemble beds and disconnect electronics and appliances
- Consider relocating outside premium moving periods, which typically fall between May and October
- Look for free moving supplies from your local grocery store, office, and available online marketplaces
- Factor in additional costs like hotel fees, dining out prices, and other expenses that you may incur during the transition from one home to the other
What Are Common Moving Expenses?
Several expenses need to be considered when planning a move. These include:
- Base moving fee: this is the base fee that the moving company charges for its services, and it typically covers the cost of the movers that perform the work and the moving truck used to transport the items
- Moving supplies: this includes the cost of moving boxes, packing tapes, bubble wrap, box cutters, furniture pads, and other items needed to properly package your items and keep them safe during the move
- Packing and unpacking services: depending on the moving service that you request, the cost of packing and unpacking your items may be included in your total bill, or you may have to pay a separate fee for this
- Storage fees: factors like the readiness of your new location or the size of items being moved may require you to consider short or long-term storage options when planning your move
- Fragile item moving: some moving companies charge additional fees to transport fragile items
- Moving insurance: this provides additional protection for your belongings in case they get damaged or lost during the move. Note that many professional moving companies offer valuation coverage for items that they move, and this does not usually cover the full cost of the item in question
- Cleaning services: your new location may need to be cleaned before you move in. Likewise, you may be required to clean your old home after moving out. Cleaning services can cost you anywhere from $150 - $500, depending on the size of the house or the number of rooms that have to be cleaned
- Tips: while this is not compulsory, it is common to tip movers that perform a good job. Tips usually range from $5 - $35 per mover or 10 – 20 percent of the total cost of the move
It is advisable to discuss these expenses with your preferred movers before reaching any agreements with them. Find out if they offer any of the additional services mentioned above and how this will affect your total bill. Also, insist on getting a written estimate that mentions the scope and cost of your required services before any work starts. Finally, note that certain states, like California, Texas, and North Carolina, place a cap on the maximum rates that moving companies within their respective jurisdictions can charge for some of these services.
Who Will Do the Work?
It is always a good idea to do your due diligence on your prospective moving companies when planning a move. To this end, confirm that the moving company has complied with all applicable licensing and registration requirements for your area of residence. Also, find out if the moving company does background checks on its employees and confirm that the actual movers that will be sent to your home have been properly vetted. Lastly, looking out for moving companies that belong to your state's movers association is a good idea. Taking these steps goes a long way in assuring you that your move will be handled by trustworthy professionals that provide their services competently and efficiently.
What Qualifications Should Movers Have?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than 12 million transportation and materials movers are currently employed across the country. Individuals who wish to become movers do not typically require formal education, and many of them often need only a few days to one-month on-the-job training, which a more experienced mover usually oversees. However, these movers generally need to have qualities like physical stamina and strength as well as good hand-to-eye coordination, listening, and customer service skills to excel at their jobs.
Note that movers who also intend to operate moving trucks may be required to obtain a commercial driver’s license before doing so.
Will You Provide References?
It is common to get referrals to good moving companies near you from sources like trusted friends and relatives, online search engines, and even by contacting movers associations that are operational within your current state of residence. However, after getting these referrals, you should always ask any of the moving companies you reach out to for references from past clients who can vouch for them. This is an effective way to gauge the quality of their services, and a professional and reliable moving company will generally not hesitate to offer you this information. Be sure to check all references that the moving company provides. Likewise, be suspicious of any moving company that is hesitant or unable to offer you up to three verifiable references and strike them off your list of potential hires.
You can also take additional steps to gauge your preferred moving company’s professionalism and service delivery by looking them up online via platforms like the Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp. Lastly, you should consider contacting your local customer protection agency or attorney general’s office to determine if any complaints or reports have been made regarding the movers that you intend to hire.
Quick Facts about Movers
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Movers
When Is the Best Time to Move?
It is usually a good idea to avoid moving at the end of the month, during year-end holidays, or during summer if you can. This is because movers are generally in high demand during these periods, which can make it difficult to book a moving date and increase the overall cost of your move.
How Far in Advance Should I Schedule My Move?
It is always a good idea to schedule your move no later than two to four weeks before your anticipated move date.
What Is the Difference Between a Binding Estimate and a Non-binding Estimate?
Generally, binding estimates guarantee that you will not be required to pay more than the quoted price for your requested services. However, you may be billed additional fees for unforeseen circumstances. These added costs do not typically exceed 15 percent of the initial estimate. On the other hand, non-binding estimates generally provide an assumed and reasonably accurate price for your move that you may end up paying more than. However, your actual bill cannot exceed 110 percent of the provided estimate.
Is My Mover Required to Provide Any Paperwork?
Movers are usually required to provide the following paperwork during the negotiation process or before they execute any requested services:
- A written estimate for the cost of the requested services
- A copy of the US Department of Transportation’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet
- Contact information for inquiries and complaints
- Information on a neutral dispute settlement/arbitration program
Other paperwork that should be provided includes:
- A copy of the bill of lading, which should be issued before items are loaded onto the truck, and a second completed copy of this document, which should be issued after the items have been unloaded
- A signed and dated order of service, which should be issued after the move has been completed
What Is the Difference Between an Order of Service and a Bill of Lading?
An order of service is a document that authorizes a mover to ship your goods, and it typically includes details like the estimated cost of the move, other requested services, and pickup and delivery dates. Note that an order of service is not a contract.
On the other hand, a bill of lading is a contract between you and the mover, and you should ensure that you get one before the mover loads your items on their vehicle. Be sure to properly read this document before signing it and keep it safe until your items have been delivered, outstanding charges have been paid, and any outstanding claims have been settled.
What Kind of Insurance Coverage Do Movers Provide?
Professional movers typically offer three types of insurance coverage options:
- Limited liability: this provides basic protection, is usually offered at no cost, and does not cover the total value of the items being moved
- Added valuation: this provides coverage based on the current valuation of the items being moved, minus depreciation
- Full value: this covers the actual cost of replacing or repairing any items lost or damaged during the move, without any deductions for depreciation
It is always a good idea to check if your homeowner's insurance plan covers the items being moved and compare this with the options your mover offers before buying any moving insurance.
What Is the Safest Way to Pack My Valuables?
This depends on the items that are being packed. For example, it is advisable to get custom crating services for large, fragile, and expensive items. One benefit of hiring professional movers that offer packing services is that they typically evaluate the items to be packed and shipped and recommend suitable packaging materials to ensure they do not get damaged in transit.
What Happens If My Items Are Damaged or Lost During the Move?
If your items are lost or damaged during your move, you will have to file a claim with the mover to get compensation. Note that different jurisdictions typically have stipulated timeframes during which these claims must be filed. Also, if you are unsatisfied with the claim resolution process offered by the mover, you may take further action against them by filing a complaint with a relevant regulatory agency or taking them to court.
Will the Mover Be Responsible for Lost or Broken Items If I Do My Own Packing?
Yes, movers are usually responsible for lost or broken items that you pack. In fact, many professional movers usually repack boxes that they either feel have been incorrectly packed or may damage the rest of the shipment and charge a fee to this effect.
How Do I Contact My Movers During the Move?
Professional movers typically provide their clients with a phone number and email address that can be used to reach them before, during, and after a move. It is always a good idea to contact the mover before the move day to ensure that the provided contact details are correct.
Can I Ride along with My Movers?
Many professional movers do not allow clients to ride along with them in the same vehicle for liability reasons.
Will the Movers Clean My Home on Moving Day?
Professional movers clean up any clutter or debris they create during the move. However, this is not a general house cleaning, and you should always confirm if your preferred mover also offers house cleaning services as an additional package.
Are There Items That Cannot Be Moved?
Professional movers do not typically move hazardous or combustible items. Nevertheless, verify the types of items that your preferred movers are equipped with or legally authorized to ship before signing any agreements with them.
Is Tipping Mandatory?
It is not mandatory to tip your movers. Nevertheless, it is common to do this when the movers deliver their services professionally and efficiently. An accepted standard for tipping movers is 5 – 20 percent of the total cost of the move or $10 - $30 per mover. However, you can also consider discussing an appropriate tip for your movers with your moving company during the negotiation process.