FMCSA requires long distance moving companies to perform in-home moving estimates for customers located within a 50-mile radius. This rule is in place to prevent movers from low-balling an over-the-phone estimate and then charging a much higher price on the final bill. A mover will send a representative to your home to take an inventory of your belongings and estimate the total weight of your household goods. Based on this estimate you’ll receive a written quote from the moving company. It is your legal right to have an in-home estimate performed. Moving companies may only avoid this step if you sign a waiver giving your approval to do so.
Moving companies give one of three types of quotes, so make sure you read the fine print to understand what kind of quote your contract includes.
With a binding and binding-not-to-exceed agreement, a long distance mover may not charge more than the originally agreed upon price. However, with a non-binding agreement, the moving company may adjust the final price to the actual shipment weight. To prevent moving companies from egregiously low-balling moving estimates and then surprising the customer with a higher bill, movers are only allowed to charge up to 10% more than the original written estimate. If a moving company tries to tell you differently, don’t believe them.
As you are shopping around for moving quotes, understand there’s a difference between an actual moving company and a moving broker. Many moving brokers masquerade as real moving companies. These brokers simply sell the customer on the job and then turn around and sell the booked job to a moving company. The biggest danger of using a broker is that they aren’t the company who will be servicing your move, so they may overpromise and underdeliver. Just like moving companies, brokers must be registered with FMCSA and adhere to a whole list of regulations. While a lot of brokers get a bad rap, a reputable and honest broker who follows the rules can save you time finding the right moving company.
Rogue moving companies should be avoided at all costs. These are companies that portray themselves as legitimate businesses, but who aren’t licensed or insured in compliance with Federal regulations. Often, these movers will quote you an unbelievably low price on your move, then, when they deliver it to the destination, they’ll claim you owe them more than the amount originally agreed upon and threaten to hold your belongings hostage until you pay up. These unlicensed moving companies should never be trusted because they have nothing to lose!
While holding a load hostage is illegal most of the time, there is one exception. A moving company may retain possession of your belongings if you do not pay the final balance due on delivery. Under this circumstance, the mover may place your shipment in storage at your expense until you make the arrangement for payment.
There are two different types of liability coverage offered with interstate moves. The default coverage that long distance movers are required to figure into their written estimate is called full value protection coverage. With this level of coverage, if any of your belongings are damaged during transport they will either be repaired or replaced. At a minimum, the full value protection of a shipment is $6.00/pound. So, for a 7500-lb. shipment, the full replacement value would be at least $45,000. Movers may offer a higher per pound replacement value per their published tariff. Alternatively, you may choose to waive the full value protection, which will reduce the cost of your move, but reduces your protection to just $.60/pound. This type of insurance wouldn’t do you much good if something like your 50-lb. TV that you paid $1500 for gets broken, so think hard before waiving the full value coverage.