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Choosing the best long-distance moving service company

Moving to a new home is routinely included on life’s list of major stressors. It’s no wonder many people consider hiring a professional moving service to help them complete this daunting transition. The task of a clean-out and a complete reset miles away from your current location can indeed be physically and mentally overwhelming.

A quality professional moving team has the experience to get the job done right. It has the manpower to handle your heavy and valuable possessions with care. But not all moving companies are the same, so before you sign a contract with a specific mover, it pays to do some comparison shopping.

At BestReviews, we want our readers to have the best experience possible when moving, especially when moving across the country. This service guide will walk you through the process of selecting and hiring a reliable moving service so you can focus on enjoying your new home and all it has to offer.

Researching moving services

Moving company vs. moving broker

Does the moving company you’re considering hire temporary help or independent drivers? This practice is not unusual, and it could actually save you some money. However, a legitimate moving company should also have employees of its own, especially in supervisory and truck-dispatching positions. Someone from the company itself needs to oversee the entire moving process and work as a liaison between you and the moving team.


One reason we cannot recommend a completely online moving service is a practice known as moving brokerage. A moving broker does not actually own a brick-and-mortar store or a fleet of moving vans. Instead, the broker negotiates a price with the client and farms out the actual work to a subcontractor.


While this arrangement could translate to major savings for clients, it often becomes a nightmare. Why? The moving crews are often inexperienced. The moving van could be misrouted. And often, the broker is difficult or impossible to contact. The last thing you want when hiring a company to move your possessions is the inability to talk to a manager about what’s going on.


In short, moving brokerages are legal operations that may not be the bargain they seem to be.


Self-pack vs. full service

Most moving service providers quote at least two prices to potential clients: the one you’d pay if you boxed everything yourself and the one they’d charge if they were to do the boxing for you. Full-service packing fees tend to be quite costly. As a result, many clients decide that self-packing is the way to go.


One reason self-packing is much more affordable is that you can usually find inexpensive boxes and other packing supplies on your own. Professional moving services charge premium prices for their branded boxes, and the client also pays for the labor and materials required to prepare them for transport.


Furthermore, if you pack your own boxes, you assume almost all of the liability for any damages. But if a moving company packs your boxes, they assume the liability themselves … and they spare no expense making sure the boxes are packed correctly.

Obtaining estimates

The first step in hiring a professional mover is to collect estimates from a minimum of three to five companies. This means arranging for a trained estimator to come to your home and physically examine all of the possessions you intend to put on the truck. If your refrigerator, living room furniture, or other heavy items will stay with the original house, make sure the estimator does not add them to the weight calculation.


Remember that an estimate is not a contract, and moving companies have the right to make upward adjustments on an actual invoice. The destination may have unexpected challenges, or the total weight could be higher than estimated. That said, a better moving company will generally honor the terms of the original estimate even if the final weight is higher than expected.


Most moving service companies have listings with consumer watchdog groups such as the Better Business Bureau. However, some scammers avoid detection by changing their Doing Business As (DBA) company name frequently.

Common mistakes to avoid

Neglecting to read the contract thoroughly

There are a lot of moving parts in a standard moving service contract, and the terms can vary widely from company to company. Some clients make the mistake of assuming all contracts use standard or “boilerplate” language, but they don’t. Never assume a moving company will cover losses or damages under any possible circumstance. There could be unexpected exceptions. Read the entire contract before signing it and ask questions if you do not understand any portion of it. Once the contract is signed, the terms become legally binding.


The timer starts on a moving project when the first decision to relocate is made. Non-essential items should be packed and marked as soon as possible. Moving sales, charitable donations, or giveaways should start as soon as possible. Arrangements to terminate or transfer services need to be made in advance. When it comes to hiring a moving service, time is money, and you don’t want to waste either one frantically packing at the last minute.

Packing unnecessary items

Most moving services, especially interstate companies, charge clients by the pound. Even after a purge, there may be some items that are more heavy than they are useful. In your new location, there may be replacements for these items — or perhaps similar items could be purchased later. Often, it makes more economic sense to sell or donate a redundant appliance or piece of furniture ahead of moving day.


When making a long interstate move, it may be easier to replace items like furniture and appliances in the destination city.


Falling prey to a scam

Some unscrupulous moving companies may ask potential clients to pay a substantial cash deposit upfront. This is not a legitimate business practice, and you should never do it. There are also scammers who will intentionally hold all of your property “hostage” in the delivery truck until you pay additional “service fees.”


Legitimate moving companies calculate their invoice by weight and distance, not by the size of the contents. Beware of moving companies that charge by cubic feet instead of weight.

Neglecting to mark or identify your boxes

Professional movers have the experience to load boxes according to their contents to avoid crushing fragile items. However, they will not go through every unmarked box during the loading process. Marking items with their intended destination (kitchen, bedroom, living room) will give the movers an idea as to how the boxes should be handled. This is especially important with fragile items and important paperwork.


Did You Know?
Most moving companies send an expert to calculate the cost of a move and provide an estimate. It pays to get at least three to five estimates before deciding on a moving service.


  • Pack your most valuable or irreplaceable possessions in your personal vehicle, if possible. This includes items like paperwork, photographs, currency, and jewelry. The moving company may only be responsible for the replacement value of lost or damaged items, not the sentimental value.
  • Give the driver and other moving company representatives your complete contact information. This includes the correct destination address.
  • Take the time to pack fragile items correctly. Use foam packing peanuts, bubble wrap, newspaper, or styrofoam beads liberally. A ride in a moving truck can be a very bumpy ride.
  • Make sure the path between the truck and the house is clear and safe. Some companies charge additional fees for unusual detours or door removals.
  • Do a complete walk-through before leaving for the last time, especially for an interstate move. Retrieving a forgotten box is difficult, especially from hundreds of miles away.
  • Know your physical limits. Professional movers know how to carry heavy items without injury, so allow them to handle the big items while you start unpacking and storing things.
Organizations such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) self-regulate moving service providers who are in good standing.


Q. If I pack all of my dinnerware myself and find a broken plate at my new house, who is responsible for replacing it?

A. As a general rule, whoever packed the item is considered liable for that item. If you packed your fragile plates, glasses, and cups yourself, you would be the responsible party. If the professional moving service packed those items, they would be liable for the replacement cost of the damaged plate, which is often determined by weight, not intrinsic value. Again, however, we urge consumers to read the complete contract because not all moving companies set forth the same guidelines.

Q. I need to move from Ohio to Pennsylvania for my job. Why can’t I hire a local moving company and pay for the out-of-state trip?

A. There are two classifications of household moves. If you are moving across town or to a different city in your state, it is considered an intrastate move. You can hire a local moving service that is properly licensed by a state agency. However, if you are moving from one state to another, even if the distance is only 50 miles, it is classified as an interstate move. In the U.S., only moving services with federal approval through USDOT can legally perform such a move. You can hire an interstate moving service with a local presence, but they need to be USDOT approved.

Q. I’m moving all the way from New York to California. Am I responsible for the personal needs of the moving service drivers (housing, food, and so on) during such a long trip?

A. Generally speaking, you are only responsible for your own personal expenses during the trip. The moving service will provide for the essential needs of the drivers and assistants while they are on the road. Relief drivers may also be employed along the way. Some of these expenses may be considered billable on the final invoice, but you are not required to make arrangements for moving service employees during the move itself.


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