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When it comes to planning a move, choosing the right professionals to help you with the transition is crucial. In your search for reliable movers, you’ll likely encounter two types of service providers: moving brokers and moving carriers. Understanding the key differences between these two entities is essential to having a smooth relocation without fear of surprise costs, confusion, or mistakes. This article details the difference between moving carriers and moving brokers and helps you spot the difference between the two.

Moving Carrier: Your Typical Moving Company

A moving carrier is what you would typically envision as a “moving company,” which operates with its own fleet of trucks, a team of movers, and dedicated move coordinators. They are responsible for handling every aspect of your move. This can include packing, loading, transportation, and unloading, as well as any other additional services that you request. These services will be handled directly by someone on their team. With a moving carrier, you will communicate directly and only with the company that will handle your belongings.

Moving Broker: The Middleman in the Mix

While moving carriers handle moving your belongings, a moving broker acts only as an intermediary between you and the moving carrier without providing you with a truck or crew. Their primary role is to gather your moving information and then connect you with one or more moving companies that can fulfill your requirements. Since moving brokers don’t charge you for moving your items, they instead make your money by either charging you a fee for serving as the intermediary, selling your information to multiple moving companies, or both.

Why Should You Avoid Moving Brokers?

Issues related to moving brokers have become a nationwide concern, affecting individuals moving across the country. Because of this, the U.S. Senate has even conducted an extensive investigation into consumer protection problems associated with moving brokers on the Internet. Some recurring issues highlighted in the investigation include:

  • Price Hikes: Moving brokers often provide low initial estimates to attract customers, only to raise the price significantly once the move is handed over to a real moving company. According to the Senate report, 25% of customer complaints were related to unexpected price increases upon the arrival of the moving carrier.
  • Hostage Situations: Customers have reported instances where moving brokers hold their belongings “hostage” after a price hike is disclosed, forcing them to either pay the inflated price, often amounting to thousands of dollars more, or risk having their items withheld.
  • Customer Confusion: Despite regulations requiring moving brokers to disclose that they are not the actual movers, this disclosure often goes overlooked. This can lead to confusion and frustration when a different company arrives on moving day.
  • “Deposit” Fees: Moving brokers may require customers to pay a “deposit,” which essentially functions as a brokerage fee. These fees can range from over $100 to over $1000 and do not contribute to the actual cost of your move.

Moving brokers tend to prioritize their financial gains over customer satisfaction and may employ tactics that compromise the integrity of your move. For a stress-free move that costs a fair price, avoid moving brokers.

How to Spot the Difference Between Brokers and Movers

To protect yourself from the potential pitfalls of moving brokers disguising themselves as carriers, it’s essential to know how to differentiate them as a company to avoid. Here are the top five things to look for when making this distinction:

  1. Search Their License Number: Legitimate moving carriers will have their license number prominently displayed on their website. Verify this information and check for a USDOT or MC number, which should confirm their status as a moving carrier. For in-state moves, make sure they have a Colorado state license number. Brokers, on the other hand, should register as moving brokers with the FMCSA, though many do not comply with this requirement. If you use the USDOT lookup from FMCSA, you will be able to see how many trucks and crew they have, showing whether they are legitimate.
  2. Look for an Address: A reputable moving company will provide a physical address on its website. You can verify just how real the address is by using Apple Maps, Google Maps, or any other online map service to ensure it leads to an actual moving company’s location, and not a residential location.
  3. Avoid Big Deposits: Be cautious of any moving company that asks for a substantial deposit in advance of your move. Typically, a legitimate moving carrier will not require any deposits, and if they do, it’s typically a small “good faith” deposit, which would be just a couple of hundred dollars at most.
  4. Read Online Reviews: Reading online reviews is an excellent way to gauge a company’s reputation. Look for genuine, thoughtful reviews rather than generic one- or two-word comments. Beware of overly positive reviews that appear suspicious, as some companies may pay for fake reviews. Some signs of this are that they are generic or all come in on the same day.
  5. Go with an Interstate Agent of a Van Line: Choosing a moving company affiliated with a nationally trusted van line, such as Wheaton World Wide Moving, can provide an extra layer of security. While not all movers are part of a van line, this affiliation can offer peace of mind. Most moving brokers will not risk lying about being part of one of these national van lines.

Final Thoughts

Moving is an infrequent, life-altering event for most individuals, making it difficult to know what to look for in a trustworthy moving carrier. With the prevalence of moving brokers, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and informed during your search for movers. Remember that good movers are not cheap, and cheap movers may not provide the quality of service you need. Choosing a moving company because they are cheap can lead to unexpected costs as the moving broker hands you off to the real moving carrier. By following these guidelines and doing your due diligence, you can ensure a smoother, more reliable relocation experience.