Written By: Dave Hauenstein, Vice President, Compliance Services & Government Affairs, AMSA
Moving companies provide a variety of services for a range of fees. It is a good idea to talk with different movers to compare their services. Ask your friends and neighbors about their experiences with the movers that they have used. After you have collected a few names of movers, check and see if they are members of any national or state moving associations (such as the American Moving and Storage Association). You should also check with any consumer organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), in your local area.
Yellow Pages Ads – Anyone can advertise in the Yellow Pages, it does not mean that they are licensed or insured – so, don’t believe everything that you read. If a mover includes his license (DOT or ICC) number in his ad, check it out first. For interstate movers, you can find out this information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at their www.protectyourmove.gov Web site.
The Internet – Just like yellow pages advertising, when a mover or a broker has a Web site, it does not mean that the mover or broker is licensed or insured; it only means that they had enough money to pay for the site – so, don’t believe everything that you read. If a mover includes its license (DOT or ICC) number in its ad, check it out first. For interstate movers, you can find out this information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at their www.protectyourmove.gov Web site. Some movers even display the logo of the BBB or other associations even though they are not members of those organizations – so check first. You can verify AMSA membership by contacting their Membership Department at 703-683-7410.
Moving Brokers – Most brokers (especially those that operate on the Internet) do not own trucks or warehouses like traditional movers. Instead, they operate by collecting a deposit or a fee from you and then arranging for your move to be handled by one of their affiliated movers.
Depending on the caliber of the broker, some of their affiliated movers may not be licensed. By law, brokers are required to provide their customers with their DOT Permit Number, a copy of the FMCSA’s Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move brochure, a list of movers that they are affiliated with and a clear statement advising that they are a broker of moving services and not a moving company. Think carefully about doing business with a broker who does not provide this information to you and who does not provide you with the identity of the mover that will be used to move your goods.
The deposit or fee that the broker collects will be based on their guess of how much you are going to move based on a telephone or Internet survey that you provide. (If the mover will not come to your home to survey your furnishings before preparing your estimate, be prepared for an unpleasant surprise when the final charge turns out to be much higher than the original estimate provided over the phone or the Internet.) Usually you will not have the same consumer protection when you use a broker as with a traditional moving company. Also, after the broker collects its deposit or fee, you may find it difficult to get them interested in helping you in the event of a claim or dispute with the mover that they have arranged for you.
Referral Companies and Lead Agencies – When you use an Internet-based referral company or lead agency, you will generally not be asked to pay a fee or deposit because their fee is generated from the mover who is provided with your lead or referral information. When the referral company recommends movers, check to make sure that the movers are licensed by the FMCSA, that they have a satisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and that they are members of a recognized national association, such as the American Moving and Storage Association or a State moving association.