Making a move to a new home is both physically and emotionally stressful. The decision on whether to make the move on your own or take the services of a reliable mover can sometimes leave you confused. Should you go out and hire a licensed moving company to get the job done for you?
A majority of home owners opt to use a reputable and licensed moving company instead of picking the cheapest mover. The question to ask is what type of guaranteed does the firm offer if your belonging are damaged or lost? Is the coverage that is offered sufficient or do you have to supplement moving insurance?
Even though many people tend to hire random moving companies, you really have to be cautious when choosing to get your precious goods moved. The moving industry needs a very high level of responsibility. Also, your mover and its team should be efficient, professional and most importantly legal. The US has regulatory bodies that give out licenses only after verifying a particular mover. These licenses act as proof, and ensure that the company abides by the guidelines while transporting your belongings.
In many cases, the licenses are meant for a limited time period and have to be renewed on the expiration of the period. In order for a mover to get their license reissued, a regulatory authority carries out a detailed check. This keeps the quality of their services on track.
Benefits of hiring licensed moving companies
- Licensed movers are liable
Based on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, movers should be liable for the value of your goods that are being transported. This indicates that they cannot in any way damage your goods and state that they are not responsible for it. In reality, there are two levels of liability-“released value” and “full value”. They are referred to as valuation coverage; however, they are not insurance.
If a mover offers full value protection, it indicates that they will cover the entire value of the shipment. But this will come at an extra cost and the mover has full right to make cash settlement, replace or repair your damaged goods.
The other option you can go for is released value, which comes with no extra cost. However, the coverage provided by the mover in the event of damage can go down significantly. In this case, the company pays 60 cents/pound/item. For instance, if your damaged coffee table weighs 50 pounds and is worth $1000, the mover will be paying just $30.
- They offer insurance
Some licensed moving companies will sell you insurance policies that are offered through a company affiliate. These plans function like standard insurance policies, where you will be required to pay some amount upfront for the coverage and also some amount for a deductible if you wish to make a claim later.
The insurance policies offered by the movers are usually regulated by the state. You should always look at the fine print and see what the policy has to offer. Note that not every state permits movers to sell insurance.
If you happen to purchase a spurious policy, you can easily take the company to court, but the chances of recouping the value of your goods are dim. On the other hand, if you purchase a legitimate policy from a licensed mover, you’ll possibly get coverage for your belongings without much fuss and hassles.
- They will be absolutely responsible for the transit
Licensed movers will ensure that your belongings reach your destination in the shortest possible time with utmost safety. Since they insure your goods, you’ll be compensated if any damage is done to them.
- They have warehouses
Most licensed moving companies have their own warehouses in major cities. In case you are not able to find the right accommodation at the new location, they will store your belongings in their warehouse for a reasonable amount. The fees charged may be on an hourly, daily, weekly or even monthly basis.
Types of licenses a moving company needs to have
So what kind of licenses does a moving company need to have? The license that your chosen mover needs to have depends on the type of move you intend to make. There are basically four kinds of moving licenses in the industry. These are as follows:
Whether a mover needs a local license by law clearly depends on the local government body of the city or state, such as a municipal authority. Different municipal locations based in the US have regulations and laws for local moving companies. Most of these entail firms to submit proof of a license from the Public Utility Commission or the Department of Transportation.
Given below is a short overview of the three different types of moving licenses so that you know exactly the questions to be asked to your mover before the moving day.
Keeping a check on interstate freight carriers and movers lies under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a subsidiary of the US Department of Transportation. They have an extremely useful website totally dedicated to providing relevant and necessary information to consumers. The section titled “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” can be of tremendous help, especially if you are moving for the very first time. Using the search tool on the website, you can search for licensed moving firms by their motor carrier number, DOT license or simply their name. The search results reveal a short bio of the company, insurance and safety information, complaint history, an assessment of their safety guidelines and the size of their fleet. All of these will help you to make the right choice based on your requirements.
Close to 20 states in the US have regulations with respect to personal and household property motor carrier services. They are regulated by the Public Utility Commission-for instance, in California. In places like Idaho and Connecticut, they fall under the Secretary of State and the Department of Transportation respectively. Authorities in some states give out their own licenses while others need proof of the DOT license and then give a letter of certificate or approval.
The Federal Maritime Commission regulates moving companies who operate outside North America. Ocean Transportation Intermediaries are entailed by US laws to be bonded and licensed. The website of FMC has a revised list of licensed movers for offshore moves. Besides checking the license of an international mover, you need to consider other aspects, such s their experience, location in departure and host countries, complaint history and fleet size.
Lastly be cautious of firms that advertise their services as being “low cost” on website ads and billboards. Instead, hire companies that provide you the best value and even those that have their licenses intact.
The dangers of hiring unlicensed movers
The FMCSA has been warning consumers about movers that are unlicensed in some parts of the US. When a mover is not licensed, it indicates that it’s operating illegally and does not have insurance. This can leave you with no place to turn for in case of any damaged or lost goods.
Better Business Bureau recently researched some local movers that had a minimum of one unresolved or unanswered complaint as of April 23, 2014. They then tried to verify licensing with national and state databases.
Many moving firms showed revoked or non-existent licenses in the Truck Stop, which is a searchable database of licensed movers. Some of the most notable areas where movers did not hold a valid license were as follows:
- Corpus Christi
- San Antonio
If a company transports your belongings, it must get a TxDMV number and be registered with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. As mentioned above, movers that cross state lines are regulated by the FMCSA.
Under the Texas Transportation laws, moving companies in Texas that operate without a license can face severe penalties that depend on the number of violations committed. The first offense includes a set jail term along with a find of $500; the second consists of 180 days in jail and a fine of $2000 while the third offense can lead to a year in jail with a fine of $4000.
Take the following steps before hiring a mover
- Carry out a search on Truck Stop
You can search for a mover on Truck Stop by their location, zip code, registration number or name. A company gets a registration number on obtaining its license. Ask your chosen company for their registration number and validate in the database.
All movers that operate in the US should be licensed with the US DOT. There are varying requirements for a mover to become licensed based on their area of operation. Generally, all licensed movers are assigned a unique movers license number, commonly referred to as US DOT number. You should check the validity of this number since they have to be renewed every year. If a mover fails to abide by the laws or meet with frequent accidents, their licenses get revoked.
- Check with the US Department of Transportation
If you plan to make an inter-state move, verify with US DOT to take a look at the safety record and complaint history of the company.
- Validate with Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Check the review of the company on BBB for its complaint history, rating and other pertinent information.
- Take a look at the paperwork
Besides being licenses, the guidelines laid down by the FMCSA state that movers should provide consumers with the following information:
- A proposal that contains a guaranteed price which should not go beyond the estimated value.
- Contracts written on paper prior to the move and post move. These include the services they assure to offer, price, insurance coverage, having a list of charges based on each item and even the technique to calculate the costs.
- A standard liability of approximately 60 cents /pound/item and an alternative to buy insurance above and over this minimum.
- A handout that details consumer rights based on the type of move.
Even if your selected mover holds a valid license, you should try and carry out some additional research. Possessing a legitimate license is just a single step of acknowledging a firm to entrust your precious stuff with. The main factor to consider here is reading the reviews of the licensed mover. Take note of what other customers have shared about their experience with the firm. Some review sites, such as My Moving Reviews have customer reviews along with license information of movers. The site also allows you to write your own experience with a particular mover.
Irrespective of whether you are considering a local move or an international one, hiring a licensed moving company is absolutely essential for the move to be successful.