Kayla Coco-Stotts
December 13, 2023
Article type:
Understanding Documents
Applies to:
Interstate Moving

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities When Moving Interstate

Interstate moves can be hefty and life-altering in most cases. That’s why knowing your rights and responsibilities is vital before choosing a moving company.  

If you’re ever feeling lost or unsure, remember that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) offers a handbook explaining how moving companies should conduct themselves with consumers. The FMCSA is a branch of the US Department of Transportation that regulates the moving and storage industry along with all interstate trucking.

Per federal law, your mover should give you the handbook provided by the FMCSA, called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” It might look like a lot of information at first glance, so here are some points you don’t want to miss:

1. Legitimate Movers and Brokers Are Registered With the FMCSA

If they are not, chances are you’re entering scam territory. You can determine if your broker or mover is registered with FMCSA by accessing or calling FMCSA at (202) 366-9805 for licensing and (866) 637-0635 for insurance information. An honest business will always explain whether they are a broker or a mover, so there is never a miscommunication.

2. Moving Companies Must Provide a Written Estimate

There are two types of estimates: Binding and non-binding. The type of estimate you’re given determines how the charges for your shipment will be calculated. The FMCSA requires your mover to provide written estimates on every shipment transported to your doorstep; a verbal quote is not an official estimate since it is not in writing. Only sign a complete estimate. If that estimate is not complete, deceitful movers could change the terms of your move, including the cost, without your knowledge or consent.

3. All Moving Paperwork From the Mover or Broker Must Be Reviewed

As a customer, it’s your responsibility to ensure all your documents are accurate and up to code. Aside from signing the initial estimate, it is essential to review the following papers that your mover must issue:

  • Order for service
  • Itemized inventory list
  • Bill of lading
  • Freight bill
  • Weight tickets for non-binding estimates

4. You Can Submit a Claim For Losses, Damages, and Delays  

Legitimate moving companies will always do everything possible to give you a smooth experience, but sometimes accidents happen. If something was lost or damaged during the moving process, you have the right to file a claim with your mover and receive compensation. However, customers must submit a loss or damage claim within nine months of the delivery date (or in the event of loss for the entire shipment from the expected delivery date).  

Delay claims are usually submitted when you contract your mover for guaranteed pickup/delivery service, and they show up late. Your mover should outline any penalties or reimbursements in the bill of lading when there is a pickup delay or delivery delay.  

It’s important to remember you must resolve your loss, damage, or moving charge disputes with your mover because you entered into a contractual agreement with them. Therefore, you are legally bound by the following terms and conditions:

  • The terms and conditions you negotiated before your move.
  • The terms and conditions you accepted when you signed the bill of lading.
  • The terms and conditions you accepted when you signed for shipment delivery.

5. You Have the Right to Settle a Dispute in Court

The FMCSA maintains regulations to govern the processing of loss and damage claims; however, they cannot resolve claims on your behalf. Therefore, if you cannot reach a claims settlement with your mover, you have the right to request arbitration (go to court).  

All movers must participate in an arbitration program and provide a summary of its benefits before an order for service is signed. Legal action may be initiated by filing a claim in your state. You may start the process in your state by contacting the FMCSA at (866) 637-0635.

6. All Moving Companies Must Offer Basic Liability Coverage

To avoid drawn-out disputes, purchasing liability coverage may be worth your time, which could help protect your move from the beginning. Two mandatory coverage levels exist for interstate moves: Full value protection and released value protection.  

Moving companies may also provide third-party insurance, but they are not legally obligated to do so. However, suppose you purchase separate third-party insurance from or through your mover. In that case, the mover must issue a policy or other written record of the purchase to provide you with a copy of the policy or additional documents at the time of sale.

7. Understand the Moving Lingo  

Check out these frequently used terms so you’re ready to talk business on moving day:  

Binding Estimate: This is a written agreement made in advance with your mover. It guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services shown on the estimate.

Non-Binding Estimate: This is what your mover believes the cost will be, based on the estimated weight of the shipment and the services requested. Therefore, the final price may fluctuate depending on the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided, and the tariff provisions in effect.

Order for Service: The document that authorizes the mover to provide all the services described in the moving estimate.

Bill of Lading: The receipt for your shipment and the contract for its transportation.

Broker: A company that arranges the transportation of household goods through a registered moving company.

Mover: A household goods motor carrier and its household goods agents.

Agents: A local moving company authorized to act on behalf of a larger national company. For example, Bailey’s Moving & Storage is an Allied Van Lines Agent.

Valuation: This is the monetary value you declare for a shipment; it is the maximum amount of money your mover is liable for in the event of loss or damage.  

Tariff:  This is a document, issued by the mover, containing rates, rules, regulations, classifications, or any other provisions. It must contain:

  • An accurate description of the services the mover offers to the public.  
  • Specific applicable rates (or the basis for calculating the specific applicable rates) and service terms for services offered to the public.  
  • Clear arrangements that allow you to determine the exact rate(s) and service terms applicable to your shipment.

Interested in a Moving Quote?  

There’s a lot of information that goes into moving, so we know it can be time-consuming. Check out our online quoting tool for quick, ballpark estimates on the fly. For specialty moves or long-term, climate-controlled storage, call (888) 260-5717.