Guest Contributor
March 31, 2023
Article type:
Understanding Documents
Applies to:
All Moving

How to Protect Your Move When Hiring a Full-Service Mover

Hiring the right mover for the job doesn’t have to be confusing if you know how to spot a good one. Read on to see how you can save yourself a lot of pain and agony by understanding the basics of moving.  

Understand Moving Valuation vs. Third-Party Insurance

Moving around the corner or across the globe should never come with unpleasant surprises, but if it does, you should always have peace of mind. Call it cynical but planning for the worst can help deter you from having an awful moving experience. That’s why most movers will recommend investing in some type of asset-protection plan to avoid a long list of expenses down the road.  

Technically, moving companies are not allowed to sell insurance, but they are allowed to offer insurance through third-party providers. Movers are also required under federal law to provide valuation options. In comparison, valuation coverage is more limited than insurance and typically refers to how much a company will reimburse a customer for individual items.  

A common misconception among customers is that their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies will cover damaged goods during a move, but they will not. Customers must invest in valuation to protect their move; other forms of insurance don’t apply. Therefore, customers have a few options to choose from when covering their household goods.

Choose Between 3 Types of Coverage

Full Value Protection: Your mover is liable for the total replacement value of your lost or damaged items. For example, if something is lost or broken, one of three things would happen: The object would be repaired, replaced with a similar item, or a cash settlement would be reached.

Released Value Protection: This coverage is free, but customers only receive 60 cents per pound for an item if something is lost or damaged. For example, a customer would be reimbursed $18 if their 30-pound computer valued at $3,000 were irreparably harmed.

Separate Liability Coverage: This insurance can be purchased separately from a moving company. It typically provides higher protection for your belongings, covering them at their total replacement value. Therefore, if an item is lost or damaged during a move, the third-party insurance company would be liable for the full cost of replacement. Regardless of whether someone buys separate liability coverage, the moving company would still be responsible for honoring released value protection (60 cents per pound for an item if something is lost or damaged).

How Do I Choose the Right Coverage?

Ultimately, it depends on the circumstances. There’s no cookie-cutter template for making recommendations on how to protect your move, but some key variables to consider are:

  • The value of objects being moved
  • Weather conditions
  • Natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, haboobs, etc…  
  • Time frame
  • Distance
  • Budget  

What is Not Covered by Valuation and Insurance Policies?

Make sure to read the fine print in your coverage policy. Often the coverage details will explicitly outline how you can find yourself disqualified from a reimbursement, repair, or cash settlement. And in some cases, you could also be liable for the damages of other properties in extreme accidents. Some elements that may cause disqualification and liability are:

  • Packing prohibited, dangerous, perishable, or hazardous materials without letting anyone know
  • Packing your items improperly, which could make it difficult to submit a damage claim
  • Failing to declare that your items hold significant value

Get to Know Your Estimator

Meeting with an estimator is an integral part of the moving experience, and they should be able to provide more insight into specific things like valuation. This person visits your home to assess the amount and type of belongings that will be moved. After the assessment, they issue a quote for the cost of moving services. The quote typically includes the cost of labor, materials, and additional services such as packing and unpacking.  

The moving estimator may also be responsible for coordinating the logistics of a move and ensuring that everything meets legal requirements. The person for the job should be honest, direct, and transparent. It doesn’t matter where, when, why, or how you move; legitimate moving companies should always offer complete transparency to help you protect your goods.  

Therefore, it’s probably a red flag if you find yourself in a situation where your estimator is making you feel guilty about covering your items during a major life transition. In the unfortunate event that your movers mishandled your belongings, you should always be able to file a claim with the moving organization that handled the move from the very beginning.

Filing a Complaint with Your Mover’s Claims Department

All reputable moving companies should have an in-house claims department, especially if they don’t feel like being investigated by the federal government. If your household goods were damaged or lost, these would be the steps to submit a claim with your mover:

  1. Request a written claims form
  2. Complete the written form within nine months of delivery
  3. Send the claims information to the mover by certified mail
  4. If you are not satisfied with the settlement offer made by the mover, you may have the option to submit a “loss and damage” claim with the mover’s dispute settlement program.  
  5. If you are not satisfied with the mover’s dispute settlement program, it may be time to submit a complaint to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).  

What is the FMCSA and How do I File a Claim?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) that is responsible for regulating the safety and oversight of commercial motor vehicles. It enforces compliance with federal regulations through tools such as compliance reviews, investigations, and audits to ensure that motor carriers are operating with integrity.  

If a service provider botched your move and didn’t remedy your complaints, you may be eligible to file a claim with the FMCSA. Simply head over to and fill out a detailed questionnaire about how your provider mishandled your move. From there, your claim may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover.

Avoid Painful Experiences by Searching for Registered Movers

Claims and settlements can help remedy a bad move. However, it’s best to choose a mover registered with the FMCSA to avoid getting to that point in the first place. Like all experiences, a little research can go a long way, which is why the FMCSA has a database tool on its website to verify legitimate moving companies.

By federal law, all interstate movers are legally required to register with the government and have a U.S. DOT number. Information that can be reviewed with the tool includes:

  • The location of the moving company's headquarters
  • Contact information
  • Registration status
  • Type of moving business (e.g., carrier, broker, freight forwarder, etc.)
  • Complaint information
  • Safety information

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