Moving out of state is no easy feat. Whether you’re moving for a new job, to be closer to family, to live in a warmer climate, or for a different reason, the stress of relocation can take its toll. During this time of transition, the greatest help comes from hiring a long distance moving company you can trust to handle your move. Since the interstate moving process is a bit more complicated than a simple move down the street, we’ve taken the time to compile all the information you should know before hiring movers. Yes, it’s lengthy, but we’ve tried to think of every detail you might need to know about the long-distance moving process. Prepared with facts, you’ll be better equipped to embark on your long distance moving experience.

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Long Distance Moving Options

Great Guys helps you find long distance movers who offer a comprehensive list of moving services. Choose the ones you need to create a customized relocation experience:

Packing/Unpacking Services

If the thought of having to organize everything you own into boxes makes you want to pull your hair out, then let the movers do it. Full-service moving companies offer packing and unpacking services to make your transition smoother. A few days before the scheduled move date, they’ll show up with premium boxes and supplies, then go through each room wrapping breakables and packing your items. They’ll seal each box, then stick a label on it, so they’ll know right where it goes when it reaches your new home. At your moving destination, the movers work swiftly to unload the truck, then unbox your belongings and haul off the trash, so you’re settled in almost immediately.

Furniture Moving

From couches to armoires to dining room tables, long distance movers make hauling your furniture across the country much easier. Perfect for those who don’t know a nut from a bolt, most moving companies are happy to help with basic furniture disassembly and reassembly (i.e. bedframes, bookshelves, etc.). Your moving crew will take apart items as needed, then carefully wrap each piece in padded moving blankets to prevent damage during transit. Furniture is loaded onto the moving truck and secured with ratchet straps to keep it from shifting or falling over. At your new home, movers make quick work of unloading furniture, reassembling as needed, and positioning your things just where you want them.

Small Moves

A small move could mean you’re moving the contents of a studio apartment, a handful of appliances or a specialty item like a pool table or piano. If you fear your small load isn’t worth the hassle of hiring movers, think again! Most nationwide moving companies allow customers with smaller loads to “piggyback” their load onto an existing shipment. Once they’ve loaded part of the truck with another customer’s items, they’ll swing by your place and pick up your shipment to fill up the empty space. This makes logistics more efficient for the moving company and the move cheaper for you! You could move your small load via a moving company for less than the cost of renting a U-Haul.

Piano Moves

Whether you’re moving an upright or a grand, it takes a lot of effort and skills to safely transport your instrument. Movers should be specially trained in the proper techniques for moving your piano to prevent damage to this expensive and heavy piece. A professional long-distance mover sends a team to your home to dismantle the piano, box parts and pieces, and wrap the instrument, so it’s ready to move. They’ll use caution when moving your piano from the house to the truck, using specially designed piano moving equipment and several men to steady the instrument. For transport, the piano is secured inside a clean moving truck, draped in moving blankets and secured to the wall to prevent it from moving. When you hire movers, safely transporting this instrument is one less thing for you to worry about.

Moving Supplies

Most moving companies can hook you up with heavy-duty moving supplies that professional movers use. You might even score some free boxes if you ask. Alternatively, if you want to save money (and the environment), try getting used boxes from the grocery or liquor store. Renting large plastic bins is another popular option too!

Auto & Motorcycle Transport

Most moving companies are registered as movers of household goods. This type of licensing does not encompass the transport of motorized vehicles, but some of the bigger companies (think Atlas and Mayflower) are licensed to ship cars as well. Great Guys offers you the convenience of shopping rates on long distance household movers and long distance auto shipping companies with one simple quote form. We can also help you find a company or container service for shipping your motorcycle.

Apartment & Household Moves

From microscopic apartments in the heart of Manhattan to Texas-sized homes in the suburbs of Dallas, there’s no household too small or big for Great Guys to help. So, whether you’re looking for apartment movers from L.A. to NYC or residential moving services from Chicago to Miami, we’ve got your covered. Work with a long distance residential mover to plan the details of your upcoming move. From packing your home to dismantling your pool table, our network of moving companies does it all to ensure your household makes it efficiently from one home to the next.

Appliance Transport

Taking that gorgeous front-loading washer/dryer set or that fancy digital display fridge with you to your next place? We don’t blame you! Appliances are some of the most expensive items you can purchase for your home, so taking them with you when you move is an excellent idea. Appliance movers make fast work of disconnecting and prepping your appliances for the move, taking care to wrap them with moving blankets, so they don’t get dings or scratches. You can stand back and watch while they load the appliances onto the truck using appliance dollies to protect your floors. With professionals doing the heavy-lifting moving appliances long distance has never been easier!

Art Shipping

Art is vulnerable to many threats while in transit – temperature fluctuations, moisture and mishandling could cause warping, deterioration, mold, or discoloring. Because of its susceptibility, it’s important to hire movers that specialize in art handling. Pro art movers know how to package or crate your paintings and sculptures using acid-free materials, so they are protected during every step of the move. Most art handlers transport your pieces in a climate-controlled vehicle to prevent damage from mildew and mold. At the end of the long distance move, the moving crew works to install each piece for years of future enjoyment.

Storage

Sometimes the stars just don’t line up for you to move straight from one place to another. If you find yourself between homes, most moving companies have warehouses or self storage facilities where they can safely stash your stuff. Movers pick up your load, deliver it to storage, then, when you’re ready, they drive it to your new home! This service from long distance moving & storage companies makes the entire moving process simpler.

Ready to start your move?

Top Reasons to Hire Professional Movers

Even though moving is one of the most dreaded of human experiences, there are many who still attempt to do it themselves. You probably have a story or two about terrible DIY moving experiences from the past – like the time in college that your buds tried to toss a couch out the window instead of walking it down the stairs or the time you tied a mattress to the roof of your Jetta and it flew off just as you got to your exit (yep, happened to us). Yes, sometimes saving a few bucks might sound appealing. But would you DIY your open-heart surgery or your root canal? Didn’t think so. A long distance move isn’t the time to be cheap either. Here are just a few of the reasons to hire a professional to get the job done:

1. Makes Life Easier

There’s lots to a long-distance move besides just physically moving all your belongings. During this chaotic time, the last thing you need to be worried about is how to get that giant refrigerator onto a moving truck without injuring yourself. You are busy enough finding a new neighborhood in an unfamiliar city and checking out the job market in your new hometown. Bottom line – letting a moving company handle logistics like this just makes your life easier.

2. Don’t Have to Drive a Big Moving Truck

Driving a moving truck is harder than it looks – especially when you’re going hundreds or thousands of miles. Whether your normal ride is a Mini Cooper or a Hummer, nothing will adequately prepare you for the challenges of driving a moving truck (blind spots, lane changes, traffic, sharp turns, reversing, etc.). Hiring professionals means you get to leave the driving to someone else.

3. Your Friends Will Still Like You

It’s a rare bird who enjoys helping a friend move. Sure, decent friends will agree to help in exchange for pizza and a few brews, but deep down they’d rather be doing anything else besides playing moving truck Tetris. Hiring a moving company eliminates any possible moving day resentment among friends.

4. Your Stuff Has Better Odds of Surviving

Licensed movers have the knowledge and the equipment to get the job done correctly. They’ll know the proper way to pack and handle that hand-me-down heirloom furniture or those delicate wine glasses so that everything survives the trip.

5. They Assume the Liability

Finally, one of the biggest perks of hiring professionals is that they assume the liability if something goes awry. Long distance movers are required to offer customers a full-valuation insurance policy. If you purchase this coverage, if anything is broken or damaged during the move, you’ll receive 100% of the money to repair or replace it. When you move yourself, the expense of anything you break or destroy comes out of your own pocket.

Cheapest Long Distance Moving Options

Wondering what your cheapest options are for moving across the country? It’s smart to weigh your options. Here are the five most common ways that people move long distance.

1. Rental Trucks

This DIY option gives you more flexibility to move on your own schedule. Book a one-way truck rental, load up your stuff, and drive it a long distance all by your lonesome. You can turn the truck in when you’re finished. While a U-Haul is sometimes a cheaper option than a moving company, keep in mind that rental prices go up as the demand increases, which means it could get very expensive during the summer months when everyone and their brother is moving.

2. Containers

This type of move is a hybrid between a DIY move and hiring professionals. Depending on the size of your move, one or a few containers are dropped off on your driveway. You fill them up, then give the company a ring to come back and get them. The containers are loaded onto an 18-wheeler and driven to your destination. This option is nice, because it affords more flexibility to get your stuff packed up and loaded on your schedule. It’s also convenient if you need storage between homes, because most container moving companies have their own storage facilities. You’ll still need to recruit volunteers or hire local movers to help load the pod, so make sure to factor that into your total moving costs.

3. Trailers

Some brave souls opt to barrel down the interstate towing a trailer full of their worldly possessions. This is an affordable moving option if you are moving a small residence, like a studio or 1-bedroom apartment. However, this isn’t practical if you have a larger home. Additionally, some drivers find towing a trailer a bit unnerving, so make sure you’re up for the challenge before renting one.

4. Sell Your Stuff

If you’re moving a really long distance, it may not be worth the hassle of moving your things. It may be easier and cheaper to sell or donate most of your large possessions, like your bedroom set and living room furniture, and repurchase these items when you get to your new home. If you go this route, pack up your car with clothing and whatever else fits and take a road trip to your next destination. Your move will only cost what it takes to fill up your gas tank and service your vehicle.

5. Hire Movers

Though it’s not always the cheapest option, hiring a long distance moving company is certainly the most convenient option. If a full-service mover isn’t in your budget, consider doing the packing yourself to cut down on the cost. Additionally, ask companies for a “piggyback” or consolidated moving quote; combining your shipment with others significantly cuts down on the expense! Or just hire movers at each of the trip to load/unload your U-Haul or storage container, minimizing your work while remaining budget friendly.

Average Cost of Long Distance Movers

The average cost of long distance movers is $4300 (based on an average shipping weight of 7400 pounds traveling 1225 miles). The final price depends on a lot of factors like the distance, weight, and any additional services you tack on. If you’re thinking, “Shut the front door! That’s expensive.” Yes, this might sound like a steep price, but consider the incremental cost of hiring movers over renting a truck or container and doing all the work yourself. You might find that not having the stress or (back) pain of DIYing it is totally worth shelling out a bit more. Plus, we’ve thought of some great money saving tips to cut down on the cost:

  • Compare Multiple Movers: You should get quotes and in-home estimates from at least three movers. This allows you to compare and save. Great Guys Moving provides you with quotes from multiple long distance movers in one place, making it easier to get rates and find the mover that works for your budget.
  • Recycle Packing Materials: In addition to scooping up used boxes, get creative with those packing skills. Wrap delicate items in t-shirts or used newspapers, then fill the tops of your boxes with towels and washcloths to keep items from shifting.
  • Declutter: The cost of a long-distance move depends on the weight or volume of your shipment. When the estimator comes to your home, he or she will take an inventory of your items, calculate the approximate volume of the shipment, then multiply that by a standard metric to get to an estimated weight. The final shipping weight is determined when the truck weighs in before and after picking up your shipment at a certified scale. If you’re thinking of paring down your pile of belongings, do this before you have the estimator come out. Depending on the type of quote you’re given, the estimated shipping weight can have a huge impact on your final bill.
  • Pack Things Yourself: While we’d all love the royal treatment, if you’re trying to cut costs, then packing the boxes yourself is the way to go.
  • Move During the Off-Season: About 48% of all moves occur in the 4-month span from May to August, which means movers are slammed and often charge a summer premium. To cut the cost, try to time your move during the slower months.
  • Negotiate a Moving Allowance: If you’re transferring to another office or starting a new job, you might be able to talk your employer into giving you a moving allowance.
  • Take a Deduction: If the boss-man says no to a moving allowance, you might be able to take a deduction on your tax return for your moving-related expenses. Consult a licensed bean counter for the fine print.

Long Distance Moving Quotes

After the estimator scribbles up his notes, you’ll be given a moving quote to review. It’s important to know what kind of quote you’re given; there are three basic types:

  • Binding: A binding quote means that the final contract price is based on the estimated weight of the shipment, regardless of the final shipping weight. So, you pay the quoted price even if the shipping weight is less than the estimated weight.
  • Binding Not-to-Exceed: A binding not-to-exceed quote means that you pay the quoted price unless the actual shipping weight turns out to be less than the estimated weight. In this case, the price would be adjusted down, making this the most favorable option for the customer.
  • Non-Binding: With a non-binding quote, the final cost of the move will be determined by the actual weight of the shipment. However, the non-binding quote should give you a ballpark idea of the cost. Legally, a mover may not charge more than 110% of the original non-binding estimate provided.

Be sure to show the estimator everything you plan on shipping. If you think you can cheat the system of a binding quote by sneaking extra items in after the estimator leaves, you’ll probably be caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Adding additional boxes to your inventory after the quote has been provided could make your contract void.

Steps to Moving Long Distance

By now you’re probably wondering how the whole long distance moving process works. We’ve laid it out in a few easy-to-follow steps:

1. Start by Filling Out the Simple Form on this Page

We just need a few basic details about your move – approximate moving dates, moving to and from zip codes, and the size of your home. It’s also helpful if you provide us with real contact information so we can get in touch with you.

2. Get Quotes from Multiple Movers

You should always shop moving companies, especially for a long distance move. Once you fill out the form, you’ll receive moving estimates from up to four movers.

3. Schedule In-Home Estimates

Long movers are required to provide prospective customers with a free in-home estimate if you live within a certain radius of their office. Yes, finally something related to your move that doesn’t cost extra! Having an estimator survey your belongings is important for determining the final moving quote.

4. Sign the Contract

Once you find a moving company that works for you, be sure to review the contract before signing. Pay special attention to terms like the insurance coverage and the bill of lading section (more on these later).

5. Pack It Up, Pack It In

As House of Pain would say, now’s the time to start packing. Start by ditching all that stuff you haven’t touched since the last move – like those boxes of VHS tapes, poor fashion choices from the 90s, and those bags of hotel toiletries you’ve been hanging onto. Once you’ve decluttered, get to work packing, wrapping, and taping up your life into manageable boxes with color-coded labels. Don’t forget to set aside a few moving week essentials.

6. Moving Day

When moving day arrives, your movers will set to work getting the truck loaded with all your precious cargo. You can usually expect them to do the final prep work – like disassembling bedframes and crating any fragile pieces. After that, step back and relax while they muscle your things onto the truck.

7. The Wait

It can take as many as 3-4 weeks for the moving company to deliver your belongings. “Why so long?” you say. The time depends on a lot of factors, including the distance of your move and whether you selected a consolidated or dedicated shipment. While you’re waiting, why not take a vacay?

Moving Jargon You Might Need to Know

Still a bit foggy on things? Here are some of the need-to-know moving definitions:

 

  • Intrastate Movers: An intrastate move is one that stays within state borders. Even if you’re moving from Orange, TX to El, Paso, 859 miles away, this is still considered an in-state move. Intrastate moves are regulated by a state authority, usually the Department of Transportation.
  • Interstate Movers: An interstate move, also known as a cross country moversor a long distance move, is one that crosses state borders. Long distance moves are regulated by the Fed through the US DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, if your move crosses state lines within the same commercial zone, or metropolitan area, it is not considered an interstate move. For example, moving 10 miles from DC to Alexandria, VA is still within the DC metro area and would not be subject to FMCA regulations.
  • Consolidated Interstate Move: Remember when we said it could take as long as 3-4 weeks to receive your shipment? A longer wait is more common with a consolidated interstate move. With a consolidated move, your belongings are placed on a truck that stops to pick up additional loads along the moving route. This type of move is cheaper for the consumer, more efficient for the moving company, and better for the environment. A win-win-win.
  • Dedicated Interstate Move: Dedicated interstate moverspick up your belongings and delivers them directly to your new home without stopping for additional loads along the way.
  • Moving Estimates: A written document that shows the estimated cost for your moving bill.
  • Order for Service: A document that details the services to be performed and the dates of your move.
  • Bill of Lading: This is the official contract between you and the moving company. Make sure you take time the read the details before you sign. The movers should give you a copy of the bill of lading before they take off with your stuff.
  • Inventory List: This accompanies the bill of lading and is a comprehensive list of everything the moving company puts on their truck. Make sure to check this against your own records.
  • Shipping Weight: For an interstate move, the weight of the shipment is the most important factor to determine how much your move will cost.
  • Certified Scale: Before and after picking up your load, movers will weigh-in at a certified scale. The weight of the truck is recorded on certified weight tickets. These are compared to determine the actual weight of your shipment. Kind of like when the doctor compares your records and tells you how much weight you’ve put on since your last appointment. Thanks doc.
  • Moving Broker: When shopping for rates be aware that there are 3rdparties that appear to be moving companies but are actually moving brokers. A moving broker serves as a go-between for the customer and moving company. Like movers, moving brokers must also register with the FMCSA and comply with federal regulations.

How to Avoid Long Distance Moving Scams

Moving scams come in a variety of forms. These scams usually occur when rogue movers engage in activities like low-balling estimates, holding goods hostage, or demanding cash-only payments. At Great Guys, we know that moving is a stressful season of life that can be further complicated if you hire the wrong moving company to assist with your transition. You’ve likely heard the horror stories of rogue movers who turn out to not be what they purport. This section covers all the tips you need to avoid moving scams when hiring long distance moving companies.

1. Don’t Hire Unlicensed or Uninsured Long-Distance Moving Companies

Whether you are moving locally or out of state, make sure the mover you hire is both licensed and insured. Some businesses may present themselves as professional moving companies, but then show up on moving day in a rented or unmarked truck. Before you hire a mover, check out their credentials online through the appropriate regulatory agency to make sure they are current on registration and carry the mandated insurance policies. When the truck arrives on moving day, make sure it is clearly marked with the US Department of Transportation number assigned to the moving company that you hired.

Who Governs Long Distance Movers?

Long distance moving companies are governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can easily look up a moving company in the federal database to check its safety record and registration status. It’s also a good idea to see if the moving company is part of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) and any local or statewide moving associations. Professional associations like AMSA set standards for their members that often exceed regulatory requirements.

There is certainly risk involved when hiring an unlicensed or uninsured mover:

Risk of Using an Unlicensed Mover

An unlicensed moving company has nothing to lose. Since they aren’t licensed, there isn’t a governmental authority ensuring they comply with standards meant to protect consumers. A company like this might engage in shady business practices like hostage loading (see below), intentionally low-balling estimates, or hiring illegal labor. If a business doesn’t care enough about its reputation to obtain the proper licensing, they don’t deserve your business.

Risk of Using an Uninsured Mover

Using an uninsured mover may leave your things completely exposed to the risks of theft or breakage, meaning you would have to pay to replace the items yourself. By law, moving companies are required to maintain a minimum level of insurance coverage. While coverage levels vary by jurisdiction, this requirement is meant to provide some compensation in case something happens to your goods during transport.

Long distance moving carriers (governed by FMCSA) are required to present customers with full replacement value insurance. Though this coverage is optional, it entitles you to the full replacement of any items that are damaged or broken during the move. To reduce the cost of your move, you may sign a waiver to turn down this level of coverage. Waiving full value protection leaves you with released value protection. This minimal coverage compensates for damaged or broken items at $.60 on the pound. Yes, the decimal is in the correct place. So, for example, if that your 70-lb. 60” flat screen gets shattered, your mover would only be liable for $42.

2. Be Wary of Moving Brokers

A moving broker serves as an intermediary between the moving company and the consumer. The broker’s objective is to sell the moving services and then pass the sold job off to a 3rd party moving company. Typically, brokers do not own any moving trucks or do any of the actual moving. Often, brokers have relationships with multiple moving companies and share in the profits from booked jobs.

Potential Dangers of Working with Moving Brokers

While working with a moving broker isn’t inherently a bad idea, rogue brokers are notorious for perpetrating moving scams. While these manifest in numerous ways, here are some of the potential risks of using a broker:

  • Brokers typically work with several moving companies, so you don’t always know who your actual mover is until they show up on moving day. This means you are relying on the broker to properly vet movers to make sure they are licensed and insured.
  • Brokers don’t own or operate moving trucks, so they don’t have the expertise of a moving company. As salespeople who often don’t have experience in the logistics of moving, they may not be able to answer all the questions you might have about the details of your move.
  • Brokers may provide customers with lowball over-the-phone quotes sight unseen. You could be surprised later when the moving company comes back with a much higher rate.
  • Brokers may overpromise and underdeliver. Generally, brokers sell the consumer on the job and then turn around and sell the booked job to one of their movers. They may promise you a certain pick-up or delivery date, only to discover there isn’t a moving company able to provide services on those days.

Potential Benefits of Working with a Moving Broker

While working with a moving broker does have risks, some consider working with a broker to be more convenient. Brokers already have an established network of moving companies, so rather than calling around to multiple companies to check availability and pricing, you can rely on the broker to do all the research for you. If you decide to work with a moving broker for an interstate move, make sure they comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration guidelines under 49 C.F.R. §371:

  • Must be registered as a broker with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Must disclose their status as a moving broker in advertisements and on their website
  • Must base estimates on the published tariffs of the moving company
  • Must disclose a list of the moving companies that they work with. Note these moving companies must be registered with the FMCSA and must have a written agreement in place with the broker.
  • Must provide you with appropriate documentation from FMCSA
  • Must arrange for an in-home survey if your home is within a 50-mile radius of the moving carrier

If a broker doesn’t abide by the above regulations, don’t use them!

3. Ask for an In-Home Moving Estimate

Most brokers and moving companies offer free over-the-phone estimates to give you an idea of what their services will cost. Long distance moves are based on the weight of the shipment. When you call to get a quote, the sales agent will ask you questions about the size of the home and any unusual or large objects included in your shipment. Salespeople use the number of rooms in a house to approximate the cubic volume of a shipment, which in turn is used to estimate the weight of the shipment.

The biggest risk with estimates is getting a low-ball over-the-phone quote and then a nasty surprise on moving day when the shipment weighs in at far more than the estimated weight. When it comes to getting an estimate on an interstate move, make sure you understand your rights.

Moving Quotes & Your Rights

  1. Right to a Physical Survey: When it comes to an out-of-state move, you should always request the mover or broker send out an in-home estimator. This estimator will walkthrough your home and take a detailed inventory of your items to provide you with a more accurate moving quote. By law, under 49 C.F.R. §375.401(a)(1), if your residence is within 50 miles of the mover’s place of business, they must perform an in-person survey of your goods before furnishing you with an estimate.
  2. Right to Get It in Writing: Under the same code section, FMCSA also mandates that movers furnish customers with a written estimate based on the physical survey performed. Why? Because an oral quote won’t hold up quite as well in court as a written quote. It might be the most boring information you’ve ever read (great nighttime reading) but take the time to thoroughly read your quote and bill of lading to make sure there’s nothing awry. Make sure the estimate is complete and signed by both parties. Keep a copy of the estimate in case of a later dispute.
  3. Right to Waive the Physical Survey: If you prefer to accept an estimate without a physical survey, 49 C.F.R. §375.401(a)(2) gives you the option of signing a physical survey waiver agreement.

4. Understand the Estimate Provided

Interstate moving companies may provide binding or non-binding estimates. Here’s what these types of estimates entail:

Binding Estimate

With a binding estimate, the moving company agrees to move your shipment for a set fee, without regard to the actual weight of the shipment. Under 49 C.F.R. §375.403, to provide a binding estimate, the mover must perform a physical survey, provide the estimate in writing, attach the estimate to the bill of lading, clearly state the nature of the estimate on its face, and clearly describe the shipment and all services provided. With a binding estimate, a mover may only increase the original estimate with an amendment. If this happens prior to loading the truck, the mover must provide a revised written estimate to include the additional goods or services to be provided. If the need for additional goods or services is discovered after the bill of lading is issued, the mover must give you one hour to decide whether you want the additional services performed. If you agree, the mover must execute a written amendment and attach to the bill of lading. Be aware that movers can legally charge a fee for providing a binding estimate.

Binding Not-to-Exceed Estimate

This type of estimate is the best-case scenario for you, the customer. Under this type of arrangement, the mover may not charge more than the original estimate but may charge less if the shipment weighs in at less than the original estimate.

Non-Binding Estimate

Under a non-binding estimate, the mover may adjust the final price of the move based upon the actual weight of the shipment. Under 49 C.F.R. §375.405, the non-binding estimate must be reasonably accurate, based on a physical survey of the goods and the estimated weight or volume of the goods and the services required disclose that the final charges may exceed the estimate. Additionally, the mover may not charge a fee for providing a non-binding estimate and may not charge more than 110 percent of the non-binding estimate upon delivery. If, after the original estimate is provided, you require the shipment of additional goods or require additional moving services, the mover does not have to honor the original agreement but may negotiate a revised written non-binding estimate to include these additional services. If the truck is loaded before a revised non-binding estimate is executed, the moving company may not collect more than 110 percent of the original estimate. If the need for additional services is discovered after the bill of lading is issued, the moving company must give you one hour to decide if you want the additional services. If you agree, the mover must execute a written amendment and attach to the bill of lading.

5. Understand Your Delivery Rights

Not only is it important to understand the type of estimate you’re receiving, it’s important to understand both your rights and the mover’s rights under that agreement.

Your Rights Under Binding and Non-Binding Estimates

  • Collect-On-Delivery Agreement: Under 49 C.F.R. §375.407(a), if the customer pays 100 percent of the binding estimate or up to 110 percent of the original non-binding estimate, plus any additional agreed-upon charges requested after the bill of lading was issued, the moving company must release the shipment at delivery. The mover may also collect charges for impracticable operations not to exceed 15 percent of all other charges. Ask the mover for a list of impracticable operations from their published tariff.
  • Partial Delivery: Under 49 C.F.R. §375.407(c), if the mover only delivers part of the original agreed-upon shipment, they may require payment for that percentage of the binding or non-binding estimate. For example, if the original estimate covered 10,000-pound shipment, but the mover only delivers 7500, the mover may only demand payment for 75 percent of not more than 100 percent of the binding estimate or 110 percent of the non-binding estimate. Once prorated payment is received the mover must relinquish the goods.
  • Form of Payment: The mover must honor the form of payment previously agreed upon and included in the estimate. This means if the estimate states check or credit card as acceptable forms of payment, the mover may not demand cash upon delivery. On that note, make sure the moving company you contract with accepts more than just cash. If a mover is unwilling to take checks or credit cards, this is a good sign that something shady is afoot.

If payment is made in compliance with the above requirements and the mover refuses to complete delivery of the shipment, the mover is subject to cargo delay claims under 49 C.F.R. §370 for failure of reasonable dispatch.

Hostage Load

Less than reputable moving companies will scam customers by failing to provide the required written estimate, providing incomplete estimates, or promising egregiously low-ball estimates. Once they’ve taken possession of a customer’s goods, these scam artists might claim you owe them more than the originally agreed upon amount and threaten to keep your goods hostage until you hand over cash. It’s imperative that you have a signed written estimate detailing the goods to be transported and services to be provided to have full recourse in this type of situation.

Under 49 CFR §375.901, a mover or broker who fails to comply with consumer protection regulations may results in penalties under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 149, Civil and Criminal Penalties. Under 49 U.S.C. § 14915, the civil and criminal penalties for holding a household good shipment hostage may include:

  • Fines: $10,000 for each violation; each day may be considered a separate violation.
  • Suspension: Suspension of a mover or broker’s FMCSA registration for 1-3 years
  • Imprisonment: Up to two years of imprisonment

The Moving Company’s Rights

Hostage loading must be distinguished from situations where the mover may legally hold your goods. If you fail to pay-on-delivery for your shipment, the moving company may put your belongings in storage at your expense until payment is received.

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Before you hire a long distance moving company, make sure you do your research. Protect yourself by using the FMCSA database to ensure the mover is licensed and insured, understand the risks and benefits of using a moving broker, request a physical survey of your goods, and make sure to get a complete estimate in writing. If you have issues with a non-compliant broker or mover, immediately contact the FMCSA. While FMCSA cannot settle claims, reporting violations to this agency may trigger legal action against the mover.

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