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Prepare & Choose a Mover

Planning Tips:

It’s never too early to begin planning your move. Start out by decluttering your home! Create a Trash, Donate and Keep pile for your entire home; you won’t believe how many of your belongings you don’t need. Donate used clothing and other household goods, which will provide a tax deduction. For other items, have a yard sale.

When should I move?

September through April is off-season and prices may be better and you may find that movers can be more flexible in their pickup and delivery.

If you need to move during the busy season of summer, schedule it mid-month and/or mid-week, which may result in a lower price and fresh crews. Weekends and the end of the month are busiest for movers.

What type of Company should I choose as my mover?

There are many movers you can choose to help you move.  Among those include ATA’s Moving & Storage Conference Members who have all pledged to abide by and uphold a Code of Ethics. They are reputable, legitimate companies who operate under honest business practices and the law.

AMSA ProMoversMany of these members have participated in a program with the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) called ProMover.  With the AMSA now dissolved, ATA is developing a similar program.  The AMSA ProMover program was a certification program for those who provide interstate moving services and local moving services.  ProMovers, under AMSA, were subject to annual background checks and were authorized to display the ProMover logo.  Until the ATA ProMover program is active, please look for the AMSA ProMover logo on the moving company website or equipment.  Click here for a list of AMSA ProMovers.

You can check an interstate mover’s complaint history at the federal government’s consumer information website for household goods moves.

International Moves:  If you’re moving internationally, AMSA had a Registered International Movers (RIM) program.  RIM movers are companies that had been certified by AMSA through training, testing and verification that they meet the standards for equipment and facilities to handle quality international household goods relocations safely and efficiently.


Movers vs. Brokers:  The difference between a Household Good Mover and a Broker

A moving broker is a company that arranges for the transportation of your cargo, utilizing for-hire carriers to provide the actual truck transportation. Moving brokers are sales teams that book your move and sell it to an actual moving company.

A moving broker is not a mover. A broker does not assume responsibility for, and is not authorized to transport, your household goods. Brokers do not have moving trucks or professional movers. Brokers for interstate moves are required to use only movers that are registered with FMCSA.

Sometimes the broker is not able to sell the job to a moving company for various reasons – low estimates, no availability, limited resources, etc. – and in this case you can get stuck without a mover on the day of your move. Many moving brokers operate from call centers located anywhere in the country.

Download the FMCSA movers vs. brokers fact sheet to learn the difference.



Why Estimates Are Important?

Once you have a list of several potential movers, the next step is to contact them to get estimates. It is very important to get in-home, written, signed estimates from the companies you are considering. That way there is no disagreement later about the terms of your agreement. Get estimates from at least three different companies so you can compare services and prices. Estimates should be at no cost to you.

If a mover you are considering refuses to give you an in-home estimate and claims he can provide an accurate estimate over the phone or online without ever seeing your possessions – choose another mover. Moving consultants are trained to identify any issues with stairs, low hanging tree branches, or other obstacles, and can provide a more accurate estimate of your total weight through a visual inspection.

Be wary of low-ball estimates. If a company you’re considering tells you that it can do the job for a surprisingly low price, ask questions. It could mean he will “suddenly remember” some extra charges once your belongings have been loaded on the truck, the doors have been padlocked and your leverage over the situation has been greatly reduced.

Get initial estimates from using our free AMSA ProMover Referral Service.

Types of Estimates

Many movers offer three types of estimates, binding, non-binding, and not-to-exceed. It’s important to know what the differences are. Click here to understand them. (link to page 8).

Making Your Decision

After you have compared your estimates, you should be ready to make a decision about which mover to hire. Contact that company and chose pickup and delivery dates.

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.

You’ll then receive a document officially known as an order for service, which will include the agreed-on price for the move from the estimate. After you sign and return it, you’re good to go unless anything changes before your moving day.

Your mover must also give you a copy of the Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move booklet (a paper copy or a link to the information) as well as a summary of the arbitration program the mover participates in to comply with federal law.  ATA Moving & Storage Members are part of the ATA Arbitration program.

Types of Estimates for Your Move

Many movers offer three types of estimates, binding, non-binding, and not-to-exceed. It’s important to know what the differences are.

binding estimate means that you are obligated to pay just the stated price, even if the shipment weighs more than or less than the estimate. But if you add items later to be moved, or request additional services, the mover may revise the original estimate before your shipment is loaded.

Many movers also offer a not-to-exceed estimate. This type of estimate is called various things by various movers, such as “guaranteed price “ or “price protection, “ but the result is the same – an estimate based on a binding estimate or on actual cost, whichever is lower. Like a binding estimate, a not-to-exceed estimate must be provided to you in writing and is binding on the carrier.

Not-to-exceed estimates differ, though, in that the binding estimate amount becomes the maximum amount that you will be obligated to pay for the services on the estimate. This maximum amount alternates with the tariff charges applicable based on the actual weight of the shipment, with the customer paying the lesser of the two amounts. When you accept a not-to-exceed estimate, the move is performed at actual weight based on the tariff rate levels, with the binding estimate representing the maximum charge that you will have to pay.

A third type of estimate, a non-binding estimate, has increasingly become less common. It’s 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. Since a non-binding estimate is based on the actual rather than the estimated weight, the price will often be lower than a binding estimate.

When you receive a non-binding estimate, however, there is no assurance the final cost will not be more than the estimate. The mover, however, cannot require you to pay more than the amount of the estimate, plus 10 percent (or 110 percent of the estimate amount), at the time of delivery. You must pay any remaining charges for any additional services that you requested or that were required to accomplish your move that are over this 110 percent amount, 30 days after your shipment is delivered, if the services or quantities were not included in your estimate. When your shipment is transported under a non-binding estimate, your final charges must be based on the weight (and not the volume) of your shipment.

The mover may also collect for any services you requested that were not included in the final estimate, such as an extra pickup or delivery.

Finally, the mover may also collect for any “shuttle service “ that may be required at delivery (when a smaller vehicle shuttles your goods from the moving van) if it’s not possible to get the van close to your new home – but only if the shuttle charges don’t exceed 15 percent of the total charges due at delivery.

This type of estimate has become increasingly less-common.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to check over the estimates you received for accuracy, in case the estimator may have missed anything. Any items not on the initial estimate which you want included in your shipment that turn up on moving day may increase the cost, so to be sure you and the mover are 100 percent on the same page (literally) about every item you have.

Movers are also required by federal law to give you a brochure with your written estimate for an interstate move titled Ready to Move?