Long Distance Moves - Plan Ahead!

Are you moving across the state? Are you moving out of state? UBuildIt offers expert advice on how to plan ahead for a smooth transition.

While the excitement of a new home and a new community can often ease some of the stress associated with relocating, the long list of to do items that suddenly surface during the process can quickly become overwhelming. The best advice for your move? Be aware of the process ahead of time and follow the steps shown below. Plan your move at least 6 weeks in advance and be sure you understand the rates, the pick-up and delivery process, how to contact your mover during the move, and what level of protection you have including the mover's liability for your belongings.

1. Choose A Mover

There is a plethora of movers out there and a variety of avenues in which to secure them. The range of fees can also be quite dramatic, so it's a good idea to speak with various moving companies in efforts to compare their services. A great resource will be any friends, family, or neighbors who have recently completed a move with their sanity and breakables still intact. You can start your search with the Yellow Pages or the Internet, but remember that anyone can advertise in either place. Just because they are listed doesn't mean they are licensed or insured. A good place to verify the quality of a company is to call the AMSA (American Moving and Storage Association) at 1-703-683-7410 or for interstate moving companies you can verify their licensing by visiting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at www.protectyourmove.gov. Another option is to secure the services of a Moving Broker. A Moving Broker collects a fee or deposit from you based on your response to interview questions in regards to how much you are going to move. They will then outsource the job to one of their affiliated movers. Brokers do not own trucks or warehouses like traditional movers and may have some affiliated movers that are not licensed. If you choose to use a broker, be sure that they provide you with:

  • Their DOT permit number
  • A copy of the FMCSA's "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" brochure
  • A list of movers they are affiliated with
  • A clear statement advising that they are a broker of moving services and not a moving company

You may also use a lead agency or an internet based referral company. You should not be asked to pay a fee by a referral company as they are compensated by the mover they refer you to. If you go this route, you'll still want to verify that the mover they've referred you to is licensed by the FMCSA and has a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau or they are members of a recognized national association.

2. Get An Estimate

Once you've developed your list of movers, let them know where you're going and when you want to go. Then, ask them questions. What types of services do they offer? How do their estimates work and do they have an estimate example you could review? Only consider those companies who are willing to give you a written estimate. The answers to the above questions should help you narrow the selection down to one or two movers who are able to satisfy your needs and work within your budget.

3. Determine A Value

Although there are two different levels of liability, all moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods that they transport. The two different levels are "Full (Replacement) Value Protection" and "Alternative Level of Liability." You'll want to be sure you are aware of the protection offered by each option along with their associated costs. The American Moving and Storage Association describe the two different liability levels as follows: Full (Replacement) Value Protection - If any article is lost, destroyed or damaged while in your mover's custody, your mover will, at its option, either 1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; or 2) replace the article with an article of like kind and quality, or pay you for the cost of such a replacement. An additional charge applies for this service. Alternative Level of Liability - This is the most economical protection available; however, this no-cost option provides only minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. Loss or damage claims are settled based on the pound weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents.

For example, if a 10-pound stereo component, valued at $1,000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x 60 cents).

Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement. There is no extra charge for this minimal protection, but you must sign a specific statement on the bill of lading agreeing to it. If you do not select this alternative level of liability, your shipment will be transported at the full (replacement) value level of liability and you will be assessed the applicable valuation charge. *These two levels of liability are not insurance agreements that are governed by state insurance laws, but instead are contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the US Department of Transportation.

4. Storage

Many times, a long distance move requires you to place your items in storage for a limited time. There are various types of storage and you'll want to be sure you are aware of how this storage may affect your mover's liability for your belongings. SIT Storage (storage-in-transit) - One of the more popular types of storage. If you find that you are unable to take delivery of your possessions for some reason, maybe the prior owners have not vacated or the closing was delayed, your belongings will be stored for up to 90 days in the mover's warehouse. The mover, will of course, charge you a fee for this but you'll remain covered under the interstate bill of lading and your mover will continue to be responsible for any loss or damage. Self Storage - When you choose to place your belongings into Mini-Storage. When choosing this option, be sure to rent a unit that is large enough for all of your property and that you are present when that property is being unloaded. If you notice any damage to your property, you'll want to file a claim with your mover right away. It's also very important to understand that the liability of the mover ends when your items are delivered to the storage facility. Permanent Storage - Also known as long-term storage, permanent storage is where your shipment is stored in a warehouse facility. As in self storage, permanent storage is not part of your interstate move; therefore any claims that arise should be referred to the warehouse manager not the movers.

5. Payment

Believe it or not, some movers do not accept major credit cards, only cash or certified checks. Find out your payment options before you move. Most moving companies will require full payment before they unload your property. If payment is not received as requested, the mover has the right to place your property in storage, on your dime, until payment in full is received.

6. Know Your Rights

Reputable movers will be very careful to ensure that your property is fully protected while in their custody, however, sometimes accidents happen. If you make a claim and the moving company does not respond appropriately or in a timely fashion, you have the ability to use arbitration in efforts to find a solution. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that all interstate movers participate in an arbitration program.

"Under the regulations, ALL interstate movers, including movers who are not members of AMSA, must agree to offer shippers neutral arbitration as a means of settling disputes that may arise concerning loss or damage and certain types of disputed charges. Your mover must provide you with information on the availability of its arbitration program, including how their program works and how much it costs, before you move takes place. If you don't receive this information - ask for a copy from your mover." - AMSA.

A long distance move will be stressful, but you can minimize that stress by knowing what you can expect from your mover.

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