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The Top 10 Moving Tips from the AMSA:

Plan Your Move Date.

The most effective way to insure a successful move is to plan ahead. Waiting until the last minute, especially during a “high moving season” such as summer, can limit your options and result in the unavailability of the services you need to secure with your mover on the move date of your choosing.

Target Four to Six Weeks Ahead.

We recommend that you begin making arrangements for your move at least four to six weeks before your moving date.

What Time of Year to Move.

Most people want to move during the summer, when the kids are out of school. This means that from May to September movers are extremely busy. If you can arrange for your move at any other time of year, you have a much better chance of securing a high quality move from the company of your choice. Also, most movers offer lower prices between the months of October and April.

What Time of Month to Move.

Most people want to move at the very beginning or the very end of the month because most rent and mortgage payments are due on the first of each month. However, if you can arrange for your move in the middle of the month, you will not only increase the likelihood of getting a top-notch crew and with the best moving company, but the exact pickup and delivery dates you require.

Find a Professional Mover.

Although we do not recommend one moving company over another, when selecting a mover, we do of course encourage consumers to choose a moving company that is a member of the AMSA. One of the main functions of the association is creating both regulation and industry standards that promote reliability among our membership. Members of the American Moving and Storage Association are required to abide by the terms of our published pricing tariffs, follow federal government consumer protection regulations and to participate in the Arbitration Program sponsored by our organization.

AMSA Certified Mover and Van Line Program.

We highly recommend selecting from among the many AMSA members that also participate in the AMSA Certified Mover and Van Line Program. Van line movers are not all created equally. The companies in this program commit to abide by a Code of Conduct that requires complete disclosure of moving information to consumers, written estimates of charges, timely service and prompt response to claims and complaints. They also have agreed to arbitrate disputes of up to $5,000 arising from loss or damage to the articles in your shipment.

Be careful when using Internet mover referrals.

Scam movers are an unfortunate but frequent industry occurrence. You have probably seen news stories about these companies and their abuse of customers throughout the U.S. These movers usually win the bid by creating estimates that are far lower than other, truly reputable companies. But after acquiring possession of your household goods, they significantly increase the price and hold your belongings hostage on their moving truck until the additional price has been paid, usually in cash.

In Home Estimates and Online Brokers.

Remember that phone and internet estimates are usually neither legally binding nor realistic. A legitimate mover will send a trained and experienced estimator to your home. By always making sure to receive an “in-home” survey of your household goods, you will be sure to get a more accurate price estimate.

Many Internet moving sites are hosted by household goods brokers whose names sound like real movers but often they are not. These brokers turn over your shipment to a mover, many of which are rogue movers as opposed to true professionals. Be sure to ask if your shipment is being brokered and insist that the identity of the licensed mover be provided prior to doing business with a Web-based broker.

Moving Estimates and Deposits.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. While honest professional movers are competitive, there prices will generally share the same range for the same services. Consider just exactly what is being offered in addition to the company’s reputation if you get an estimate that comes in way below all the others.

The principle governing industry tariff specifies that interstate household goods rates (prices) should be based on the weight of your shipment (and that weight should be determined on a scale that has been certified by an official state agency). As a result, all reputable moving companies base legitimate interstate moving estimates on the weight of your shipment. If the mover you are considering tells you that they will base your charges on the number of cubic feet in your shipment (which means there is no way for you to verify the amount you will be charged), it is more than likely a scam mover.

Keep in mind that the pricing of local, intrastate and international shipments can differ from interstate shipments. Intrastate moves are governed by state regulations as opposed to federal. Local and relatively short distance intrastate moves are usually priced by the hourly cost of labor needed to accomplish the move. International shipments are priced on a rate per hundredweight times the total size of the shipment for all services, which includes ocean transportation.

Legitimate movers generally don’t require a significant deposit before completing your move. If they take a deposit at all, it is usually considered a move of “good faith.” Scam moving companies, on the other hand, often require large deposits even for the most basic of moving services.

Understand the basics.

If you are moving from one state to another, it is important to read and understand all of the information you will receive from your mover. In addition to brochures explaining the company’s services, interstate moving companies are required by law to give you a copy of a consumer booklet titled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move, information regarding the mover’s required participation in a Dispute Settlement Program and information about movers’ liability.

There are 5 very important things you must make sure to understand:

  • The rates and charges that will apply to your move
  • The mover’s liability for your belongings
  • Estimating requirements
  • How pickup and delivery will work
  • What claims protection you have

Get a good estimate

The cost of an interstate move is usually based on the weight of your belongings, the distance they are shipped and the amount of packing and other services that you need for your move. In order to receive a comprehensive moving estimate, it is important to show a potential moving company every single item you wish to include in your relocation. Don’t forget to go into the attic, basement, garage, closets and under beds. Reaching a clear understanding about the amount of packing and other services needed for your move can help you to avoid surprise costs.

Estimates in Writing

It is vital to receive a written estimate for your moving services. Even though sometimes time constraints while planning a move can make phone & internet quotes very attractive, it is always better to get a trained professional to do an in house survey. Reputable relocation moving companies will send an experienced, trained professional to your home and provide you with an estimate in writing. Ask potential movers to explain the services listed in the estimate in detail. Carefully compare each estimate to see which company best suits your needs.

Binding vs. Non-Binding Estimates

Most movers offer two types of estimates: binding and non-binding. Binding estimates are written agreements that guarantee the cost of the move based on the items to be moved and the services listed on the mover’s estimate sheet. It’s important to make sure that the binding estimate inventory contains all of the items to be moved as well as any additional services to be provided by the mover. Anything that is added later will result in a legitimate increase in charges and may ultimately delay your move.

In contrast, non-binding estimates are not guaranteed. Instead, a non-binding estimate is an approximation of the cost based on the mover’s survey of the items to be moved, with the final cost determined after the shipment is weighed on a certified scale. A non-binding estimate does not bind the mover. When you receive a non-binding estimate, there is no guarantee that the final cost will not be more than the original estimate.

Under federal regulations governing interstate shipments, if you are given a non-binding estimate, your mover cannot require you pay more than the amount of the estimate plus ten (10%) percent. You will then have at least 30 days after delivery to pay any remaining charges. The mover may, however, demand full payment for any added services at the time of delivery if you have requested the mover to provide more services than those included on the original estimate. For example, if you received a non-binding estimate of $5,000 for your move, and you did not request any additional services, the mover cannot require you pay more than $5,500 to have your shipment delivered. The mover is required to invoice you for any remaining charges.

Not-to-Exceed Estimates

Another type of estimate used by many movers is the Not-To-Exceed Estimate. These types of estimates are called various things by various movers, such as “Guaranteed Price” or “Price Protection”. This estimate is based on a binding estimate or on actual cost (at discount, if applicable), whichever is lower. This type of estimate creates a sort of ceiling or cap for the moving estimate making the binding estimate the maximum amount that you will be obligated to pay for the moving services you are purchasing. Like a binding estimate, a not-to-exceed estimate must be provided to you in writing and is a legally enforceable agreement between you and the moving company.

When you accept a not-to-exceed estimate, the move is performed at actual weight based on the discounted tariff rate levels, with this type of binding estimate representing the maximum charge that a customer will have to pay. Not-to-Exceed estimates are viewed as an extension of binding estimates, and, as such, are payable at delivery.

If you want absolute price certainty and you can define what articles you are going to move, then a binding estimate may be a desired option. However, binding estimates may be more costly since the mover must build into the price added revenue to protect them from variances in the estimate. Most movers provide non-binding estimates, because the final charges are based on the actual certified weight of all the household goods in the shipment. This protects both the customer and the mover (charge based on actual weight of articles transported).

Adequately insure your goods.

Insurance in the context of moving can make all the difference. There are several options for insuring your goods. All interstate household goods shipments move under limited liability, which is required by law. However, you may purchase additional liability coverage from your mover, which is highly recommended in most cases.

Types of Moving Insurance.

The contract that you will sign with your mover provides two options for placing a value on your shipment. The value that you select sets the limit of your mover’s maximum liability for loss or damage to your goods. These optional levels of liability are not insurance agreements that are governed by state insurance laws, but instead are authorized under the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Before you sign the contract (bill of lading) with your mover, you must decide how much your articles are worth and declare a value for your shipment.

Full (Replacement) Value Protection

Full (Replacement) Value Protection is the most insurance coverage available for the protection of your goods. When you select this option, articles that are lost, damaged or destroyed will, at the mover’s option, be either repaired, replaced with articles of like kind and quality, or a cash settlement will be made for the repairs or for replacement of the articles at their current market value, regardless of the age of the lost or damaged articles. Under this option, you have two choices for establishing your mover’s maximum liability on your shipment:

  • You can declare a value based on the weight of your shipment times an amount of not less than $4.00 per pound (some movers have higher minimum values, e.g., $5.00 per pound)

– OR –

  • You can declare a higher lump sum amount (for example, $30,000). An additional charge applies when you select this option, based on the value you place on your shipment and on the deductible level of coverage you select, but this higher level of valuation is more likely to cover the value of the articles in your shipment. Ask your mover for the details of his plan.

Released Value

Released value is the most economical option available and usually carries a standard industry value of 60 cents per pound per article. This level of protection is standard with most moving companies and is provided at no additional cost. The disadvantage of this plan is that it only provides minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound per article for loss or damage.

For example, if a 10-pound stereo component valued at $1000 were lost or destroyed, under this plan, your mover would only carry a $6.00 liability.

It is obvious the kind of value gap that can be created by this type of insurance arrangement. It is clear that in many cases the Released Value can come up short and be considerably less than the actual value of your household goods. There is no additional cost for this minimal protection and you must make a specific statement on the bill of lading agreeing to it.

High Value Moving Items.

It is important to make an inventory of Items of Extraordinary Value. This includes items whose value exceeds $100 per pound and would include things such as paintings and antiques. Your mover is also permitted to limit its liability for loss or damage to articles that have an extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the Inventory of Items form. Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation of liability before you move. It is your responsibility to study these provisions carefully and to make the necessary declaration.

Ask about payment options.

When discussing your estimate with a professional mover, be sure to find out what payment options they offer for financing your move. It is customary for movers to require that charges be paid in cash, by certified check, or by money order. Most movers will not accept personal checks but some movers will accept payment by credit card. However, every company is different, making it important to inquire.

The regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provide that when the mover arrives at your new home (or in some cases if your shipment is placed into a warehouse), you must pay for your move before your shipment is unloaded from the truck. Because this is standard practice, it is important to know exactly what charges to expect and what payment types will be accepted.

Be present when your goods are packed.

Proper packing is essential to a successful move. If you are packing yourself, it is never too soon to start. While packing yourself can save money, movers will not usually accept liability for damage to items packed by owners. If you want to save money you might consider packing non-breakable items only, like clothes and bedding.

We highly recommend letting trained professionals use their skills and specially designed packing materials to insure the safety of your items. If you choose to include packing services in your move, we recommend scheduling packing with the mover a day or two before the moving van is loaded and making certain to be present when your goods are packed. Reputable companies with make a comprehensive inventory of your goods and it will be important to resolve any discrepancies prior to signing this inventory form. Make sure all copies are legible and all items are numbered. Make sure to have valuable items listed separately. Some appliances may also require servicing prior to the move. Your mover can schedule these services for you.

Your mover may ask you to select several consecutive days during which your goods can be loaded and a second series of dates during which your goods can be delivered to your new home. A spread of days gives you and your mover the flexibility needed to keep your move on schedule.

Moving day “must do’s”

The following are very important to ensure a successful moving day:

  • Be on hand when the movers arrive.
  • Discuss the delivery arrangements fully with your mover.
  • Have beds stripped and ready to be packed.
  • Save your energy- let the moving crew disassemble goods.
  • Read the Bill of Lading (the contract) before you sign it.
  • Tell your mover how to reach you at your destination.
  • Keep in contact with the mover at your destination while you are in transit.

Sometimes in order to keep your costs low, your belongings will be transported in a van along with those of other families in the same general direction. Delivery is made on any of the several consecutive days agreed upon before the move began. Make sure the mover knows how to contact you to schedule actual delivery. If you cannot be reached at the final destination, the mover may place your shipment in storage to avoid delaying other shipments. This can mean additional charges for storage and handling.

Upon delivery, check your goods for damage. Do not sign the inventory until you have inspected your furniture and the exterior of all your moving cartons.

Report loss and damage promptly.

If any of your household goods are damaged or lost, report the facts promptly and in detail on the van driver’s copy (original) of the inventory sheet before you sign it. If you notice damage after unpacking, a claim must be filed within nine months after delivery. However, it is to your advantage to report damage as soon as possible.

The mover must acknowledge receipt of your claim within 30 days and must deny or make an offer within 120 days of receipt of your claim. When making a claim or considering a settlement offer, keep in mind the amount of liability that you declared on your shipment. For example, if the value declared on your shipment was $10,000, the mover’s maximum liability for loss or damage to the articles in your shipment is $10,000. Claims for more than this amount will be declined because they are in excess of the mover’s liability as you originally declared it.

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