Kayla Coco-Stotts
September 8, 2021
Article type:
Understanding Documents
Applies to:
All Moving

An In-Depth Guide to the Documents of Your Move

Since moving is one of the most stressful things you can do, all the documentation you must sign can feel overwhelming and confusing. However, these documents are vital to making sure both you and your moving company are on the same page regarding pricing, shipment timelines, and general moving guidelines.

But it’s easy to forget the nitty-gritty of each component of your documentation when there’s much to review. Below, we’ve broken down the documents of your move for easy access to the complex paperwork you’ve got to sign.

The Written Moving Estimate

The first important document you’ll be reviewing for your upcoming move is the written estimate. This will be drawn up after your initial meeting with an estimator, where you and the estimator conduct either an in-person or virtual walkthrough of your home. During this walkthrough, you and your estimator cover everything you want the moving company to transport.  

Written estimates determine your final cost rates, list any applicable taxes or deposits, and include any additional add-on services you’ve selected (like storage fees and packing). Expect to review one of two types of written estimates:

  • Binding estimate: As the most common of the two, binding estimates offer fixed prices that are based on your itemized inventory and estimated shipment weight. At the end of the move, you’ll pay exactly what was originally quoted as long as your itemized inventory matches what the movers end up loading on moving day.
  • Non-binding estimate: This type of estimate deals with a range of charges and isn’t as concrete as a binding estimate. It’s subject to change depending on the actual weight of the move.

It’s important to read your written estimate in its entirety before signing it. Make sure to not sign an estimate that is blank or incomplete.  

Your Selected Valuation Coverage

Just as important as your written estimate is your valuation coverage for household goods. In the moving industry, valuation coverage determines the amount you can claim for reimbursement in the event your household goods sustain damage in transit. Your selected valuation coverage will often be included in your written estimate and is determined by you, not by your estimator.

Take the time to really read through your valuation documentation so you understand just how it works for your move. You’ll be responsible for selecting one of three options:

  • Full (Replacement) Value Protection: This is the most comprehensive option for protecting your belongings and it will increase the cost of your move.  
  • Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection: By selecting this valuation option, the mover assumes liability for the released value of 60 cents per pound per article.  
  • Third-party insurance: You can also purchase third-party cargo liability insurance.  

A Copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities

Given to you as an approximately 30-page booklet, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” is exactly what it sounds like; it’s your key to understanding the rules and regulations you and your mover must follow.

Federal law establishes what you and your mover must do during your move, and the booklet you receive is your gateway to understanding all those rules and regulations. It covers everything from estimates to helpful definitions and deserves at least one really good read so you can grasp why moving companies do things the way they do.  

It may offer peace of mind, as you’ll have a better understanding of the processes moving companies undertake to ensure your household goods are delivered with care.

Order for Service and Bill of Lading

Your selected mover will prepare an order for service and a bill of lading for your shipment. The order for service provides written confirmation of the services you’ve requested, and the bill of lading is the billing contract for those services.  

The order for service and bill of lading must contain the following 14 items, and they must be identical:

  1. Your mover’s name, address, and assigned USDOT number.
  2. Your name, address, and contact information.
  3. The name, address, and contact information of the nearest agent to the destination of your shipment.
  4. A phone number that you may use to contact your movers.
  5. Either the agreed-upon pickup and delivery date or the guaranteed time periods for pickup and delivery.
  6. The names and addresses of any other motor carriers who will participate in the delivery of your shipment.
  7. The form of payment your mover will accept at delivery.
  8. The moving company’s terms and conditions for payment of the total charges.
  9. The maximum payment your mover will demand at the time of delivery (which is based upon the written estimate).
  10. A complete description of any requested add-on services or shipment volume changes.
  11. The identification number your mover assigns to your shipment.
  12. Your mover’s reasonably accurate estimate of charges if you’ve been assigned a non-binding estimate.
  13. The exact amount of charges your mover will collect if you’ve been assigned a binding estimate.
  14. An indication of whether you’ve requested notification of the charges before your shipment is delivered.

You can request copies of your order for service and bill of lading once they’ve been prepared. Both you and your mover sign the order for service, so make sure everything you read on that document is clear and accurate to what you’ve discussed previously. After signing these documents, you have no more than three days to cancel your order. After those three days are up, you may be charged a fine for canceling your move.  

Itemized Inventory

When your mover loads your shipment, they will prepare an itemized inventory of all your household items. Here, they will list damages/wear to any items they’re loading to record the preexisting conditions of your things before they’re shipped to your destination. Additionally, estimators use your itemized inventory as a factor when calculating your written estimate. As long as everything shipped matches what was listed in the itemized inventory, you'll end up paying what you were originally estimated.

Both you and your mover will sign this inventory once it's been completed. Make sure to review the inventory carefully and note any disagreements you may have. This form is important because both you and your mover will refer back to it in the event you notice something is damaged in transit or missing from your shipment.  

Some Reading Required

Once the process of drawing up your move is underway, you’ll quickly notice that every single component of your move is outlined in the above documentation. After reading your moving documents, you’ll know what you’ll be expected to pay, the average timeline for your shipment delivery, and who you should contact if you have any additional questions.

This documentation is important for protecting you and your mover. Make sure to request copies of these forms for your records and refer back to this guide to clear up any mystery surrounding the documents of your move.