Long Distance Moving Companies
Moving out of state or across the country 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 last detail about the long distance moving process. Armed with facts, you’ll be better equipped to embark on your cross country moving experience.
Why Hire Professionals?
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. 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 across the country. 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.
Basic Steps of the Interstate Moving Process
By now you’re probably wondering how the whole interstate moving process works. We’ve laid it out in a few easy-to-follow steps:
- Fill Out the Form Above: 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.
- 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.
- Schedule In-Home Estimates: Interstate movers are required to provide prospective customers with a free in-home estimate. 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Moving Day: When moving day arrives, you 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.
- 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?
Long Distance Moving Services Available
Your contract will have specifics on what services are included with your move, but here are a few of the common services movers of household goods may provide:
- Packing/Unpacking Service: 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. Packing and unpacking are usually an add-on service.
- Furniture Disassembly/Reassembly: Most moving companies are happy to help with basic furniture disassembly and reassembly (i.e. bedframes, bookshelves, etc.). Perfect for those who don’t know a nut from a bolt.
- 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.
- Piano Moves: Whether you’re moving an upright or a grand, movers should be specially trained in the proper techniques for moving your piano.
- Moving Supplies: Most moving companies can hook you up with moving supplies; you might be able to score some free boxes if you ask. 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.
Alternatives to Hiring Cross Country Movers
There are a couple of alternatives to hiring movers.
- 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 across the country all by your lonesome. You can turn the truck in when you’re finished.
- 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.
Long Distance Moving Company Prices & Average Cost
Now we address everyone’s favorite moving-related question: “How much does a long distance move cost?”. According to data released by the American Moving & Storage Association, the average cost of an interstate move is $4300 (based on an average shipping weight of 7400 pounds traveling 1225 miles). As you might have guessed, the final price depends on a lot of factors. Of course, the cost of your move will depend on the distance, weight, and any additional services you tack on. “Shut the front door! That’s expensive”. Yes, it might sound pricey, 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: As suggested up top, you should get quotes and in-home estimates from at least three movers. This allows you to compare and save.
- 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 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 will be 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.
Types of 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.
Still a bit foggy on things? Here are some of the need-to-know moving definitions:
Intrastate Move: 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 Move: An interstate move, also known as a cross country move or 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: A dedicated interstate move is one that picks 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 3rd parties 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 Moving Company Scams
Lurking out there are illegitimate, unlicensed companies the industry refers to as “rogue” movers. These land pirates do things like take your goods hostage, demand cash, and otherwise make your moving day a nightmare. To avoid swashbuckling rogues and otherwise dishonest movers, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Get the quote in writing: 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. Also, make sure that the written estimate is complete before signing.
- Compare costs: As we’ve mentioned numerous times, don’t just hire the first mover you come across. Vet multiple moving companies and get at least 3 in-home estimates. If you find one of the movers gives an estimate that’s far lower than the other two, run, don’t walk, in the other direction! Lowballing moving quotes is one of the sneaky ways pirate movers get you to hand over your things.
- Check licensing: All interstate moving companies must register with the FMCSA. This branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation gives every company an annual once over, checking things like insurance policies and safety ratings. Request the US DOT number of any prospective moving company and look them up in the FMCSA to make sure they are legit. Also, double check the number provided (and listed on the bill of lading) against the number displayed on the side of the moving truck. If the numbers don’t match, don’t let the movers take your things.
- Verify Forms of Payment: 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.
- For additional tips, check out our comprehensive article on moving scams.
Additional Steps to Protect Yourself & Your Household Goods
Even if your moving company is legit and licensed, there are some additional ways you can protect yourself during the moving process:
- Understand Moving Insurance: Long distance moving carriers are required to present customers with full replacement value insurance. This coverage 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 sweet 70-lb. 60” flat screen you scooped up at Black Friday sales gets shattered, your mover would only be liable for $42. No bueno, amigo.
- Pack Properly: A mover is not liable for items getting damaged or broken if you did an inadequate job of packing.
- Notify Movers of Expensive Items: Any items with a value of more than $100 per pound must be listed in writing and provided to the movers.
- File a Timely Claim: If something does get broken, you must file a claim within 9 months of the date of delivery.