What You Need to Know About Finding A Mover

Now that you’re ready to find a mover, I am sorry to inform you that this is a more complex process than you might imagine. “What?!” you might ask. I agree, it shouldn’t be so complicated, but unfortunately finding a mover is more than just finding a company that has good rates and won’t break your stuff. Here is a step by step process for making sure you choose the best mover for you.

What Type of License Does My Mover Need?
Did you know that a mover needs a license to operate (in most cases)? Without one, it is illegal for a mover to perform moves. Would you go to a doctor who has no license to practice? Why not? Same goes for movers – an unlicensed mover can put you at great risk of not only receiving bad service, but being ripped off as well. So the first thing to do when researching a mover is to check their licensing. And when it comes to licensing, there are 2 main types – 1 for Local movers and 1 for a Long Distance movers.

To break it down by each type:

  1. Local Licensing: Movers that transport goods within one state need to carry a license issued by the state they operate in. And the requirements per state vary widely. For example, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, and Maine are among the handful of states that do not require any Local mover licensing, whereas states such as Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, and New York do. And not all licenses are equal. Some states make it easy to obtain a license, while others may require the mover to take certification courses.
  2. Long Distance Licensing: Movers that transport goods across state lines need to carry a license issued by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). The FMCSA is a federal government agency that regulates interstate transport. All Long Distance movers in all states need to have a license from the FMCSA in order to legally perform Long Distance moves. So it goes without saying – when you search for a mover, make sure they have the correct license. If you are making a Local move in a state that doesn’t require a license, unfortunately you will have a harder time discerning the legitimacy of your potential mover.

How Does Moving Insurance Work?
You ever wonder who is responsible if your stuff breaks or gets lost while in the hands of your movers? You would think that your mover would have to reimburse you for any monetary lose. But you’d be thinking wrong. A mover is only legally obligated to pay you 60 cents per pound of what was broken/lost. So let’s say you have a $10,000 diamond bracelet that weighs not even one pound, your mover would owe you less than 60 cents if that bracelet was lost. Makes you nervous, right? It should. This basic coverage is known as Released Value and it is utterly terrible. Now, if you aren’t moving anything overly valuable, or you really trust your movers to not break or lose anything, then Released Value coverage might not be a bad option as it is given to you for free by your mover. But if you feel that you need a little more protection, there are more comprehensive options for you to choose from:

  1. Full Value: From the name of this insurance I am sure you can guess what it covers. That’s right, it covers your entire shipment. You’ll pay more money for this coverage but you will also get the most in return. This plan is offered by your movers and it makes them liable to repair, replace, or reimburse you for a lost or damaged item. In some cases your movers may limit what they are liable to pay you for (such as overly expensive items) so make sure you understand all the details of the Full Value coverage you receive. There is also usually a deductible you will have to pay before the coverage is applied.
  2. 3rd Party: This form of insurance can be obtained from a 3rd party provider (so not your mover). The coverage can range from low to high (less coverage to more coverage) as does what you pay for it. It all depends on your needs. In the event of any loss or damage, it is the 3rd party company that would reimburse you. Also, there is a chance your homeowner’s insurance already gives you this coverage, so make sure you check with them first.

What is the Best Way to Find a Mover?
You’re now prepared to start your mover search. With your knowledge of Licensing and Insurance, you are ready to make an informed decision when choosing a moving company. But how do you find a mover? There are multiple different ways to find a mover, each one having its own benefits and disadvantages:

  1. Recommendations: A reliable and common method is getting a recommendation from a family member of friend. What better way to find a reliable mover than asking someone you trust? While this is a great way to find a reliable mover, it does limit your options to the movers who were used by your references. This means that there are dozens of other movers out there that might be reliable, might be trustworthy, might be cheaper etc… You just won’t know if you only stick with your recommendations. But overall, you should be able to find a solid option through this method.
  2. DIY: Do it yourself, and by that I mean doing your own research. Find the mover, ask all the questions, do all the research…do everything. While all the options out there are open to you, this could involve doing a lot of work. I wouldn’t normally recommend this option unless you’ve researched movers before. You’ll be far safer getting a recommendation from someone you know, or exploring the next option on this list.
  3. Moving Quote Sites: There are many websites out there that claim that they can get you “free moving quotes”. These sites can be helpful as they can match you up with multiple movers in your area (some will match you up with only a few movers and some may go up to 8+ movers). Many will pre-verify that the movers they work with are properly licensed and insured, but many will not. So if you do use sites like these you need to make sure to double verify the credentials of any mover you consider working with. On the positive side, these sites will do the work for you by matching you to qualified movers. On the negative side, you may be bombarded with numerous calls and emails from different moving companies. But at the end of the day, if you go with this option, always make sure for yourself that the movers you consider have the proper licensing.

And of course, no matter which method you use, there are plenty of sites that compile user generated ratings for most of the companies out there. Yelp and Angie’s List are 2 of the most popular sites that provide this service, and you can use them to help with your decision making process.

Finally, once you find a mover you will undoubtedly ask them for a price quote. This is not as simple as them giving you their standard rates. A mover’s price will depend on many variables:

  1. Is it a Local or Long Distance move? Local moves are usually charged by the hour and Long Distance moves are usually charged by weight and distance.
  2. Do you need a full service mover that includes packing and packing materials? That’s an additional charge on top of the moving costs.
  3. Do you live on the 5th floor of an apartment building with no elevator? Anything that can make the movers work harder may cause your price to go up.
  4. What type of estimate are you getting?
    • Non-Binding: This kind of estimate is based on the actual weight of the items you are moving (don’t worry, you don’t actually have to weigh everything. Your movers will help you figure it out). By law, a mover who gives you a non-binding estimate cannot charge you more than 10% over the initial estimate. And often, the actual price ends up being less than the estimate which will help you save money.
    • Binding: Similar to a non-binding estimate, binding estimates are based on your weight. But unlike non-binding estimates, what you owe cannot change from the estimate, regardless whether more work or less work is done. Your price can only change if additional services are added after the estimate is given (such as supplying packing materials). You can’t be charged that extra 10% as seen with non-binding estimates, but you also cannot get any refunds if the cost would end up being less.
    • Not-to-Exceed: With this option you are given a maximum amount you would pay. You cannot owe more than this, but the final amount could be less than the maximum.

A few final thoughts on moving estimates. These estimates are more relevant to long distance moves that use weight and distance to estimate your cost. If we are talking about a Local move, you typically won’t get an estimate like the ones mentioned above since your cost is based on time. It is also important to keep in mind that not every Long Distance mover offers every type of estimate mentioned above. Most of the time you might not be able to choose what type of estimate you’ll get. But at least knowing about your different options will better help you in your moving company selection process.

Good luck searching for a mover!

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