Rachael Ravner
March 16, 2021
Article type:
Moving Help & Tips
Applies to:
Interstate Moving

10 Questions to Ask Your Interstate Mover

Ensuring you ask the right questions before the truck arrives on moving day makes all the world of difference for determining which mover is the right fit for your move. Below, we've selected the top ten questions you should ask your interstate mover before deciding which to go with.

1. Are You Registered With the FMCSA?

The Moving and Storage industry is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). These regulations protect you as a customer and  provides you with certain rights when it comes to your move.

You can determine if your broker or mover is registered with FMCSA by visiting, or calling FMCSA at (202) 366-9805 for licensing and (866) 637-0635 for insurance information.

2. Are You a Household Mover or Broker?

A legitimate household moving company will specify whether they are a mover or a broker.

A household goods broker arranges for the transportation of your shipment; they don't own moving trucks and they don't staff professional movers. Instead, the broker will contract your move out to a third-party company that will complete your move.

A household goods mover actually transports your shipment. A full-service mover staff professional movers and owns its moving trucks.

The common consensus is that brokers are more affordable than full-service movers but full-service movers are more reliable. As always, do your research on a company before deciding which type of mover is best for you.

3. What Are Your Payment Options and Expectations?

Payment options range from cash, certified check, or credit card (the most common). If you use a credit card, you'll likely have to get your card pre-authorized before it's charged.

It's done this way for several reasons. Credit card companies initiate a process called pre-authorization to ensure that you'll have enough money on your card when the moving company charges it. It's like placing a hold on funds without actually collecting them. A moving company will pre-authorize your card for more than the move amount a few days ahead of time in many cases. This process ensures they can collect the total amount just in case move charges go over the estimate. Most moving companies will then charge your card on the day of your move after your move's final amount is settled.

Be sure to know what payment forms your chosen moving company accepts, as not all companies will accept credit cards. Most moving companies have adopted the practice of collecting before delivering, so make sure you can present an acceptable form of payment.

If you can't provide payment, the moving company will bring your items back to their warehouse storage until you can pay in full. You will be responsible for paying both the storage fee and extra transportation charges in addition to your original move costs. Remember, you can avoid this altogether by checking with your movers ahead of time.

4. Is Your Price Based On Weight, Time, or Cubic Feet?

Moving companies price a move in various ways, but here's what you'll run into most often:

  • Long-distance moves are priced according to weight and distance traveled.
  • Local moves are priced at an hourly rate.

As you move further away, variables begin to impact the overall cost of the journey. Things like traffic, weather, and the path traveled factor into pricing long-distance moves. Every moving company calculates this differently, so if you aren't sure how they'll charge you, ask!

It's easy for moving companies to verify precisely how much your move weighs and how long it'll take. Reputable moving companies ensure you know you're charged for exactly what you used. Movers track timelines using timesheets, and a public scale measures the moving truck's heavy and empty weights.

Have you encountered a moving company that utilizes cubic feet as their metric of choice? You may want to consider an alternative. Cubic feet are almost impossible to measure accurately. There's no simple, verifiable way for you to ensure your bill's accuracy. Past cost appraisals measured in cubic feet have led to errors in customers' final statements. It's even used as a way for unreputable moving companies to garner more money from unwitting customers.

5. Are There Any Extra Charges For Specific Items or Based on My Location?

Yes, there might be. Extra charges for specific items may include certain workout equipment, extra heavy items such as large gun safes, pianos, large mirrors or pictures and grandfather clocks. Items such as these might require additional help from a highly specialized third party.  Extremely fragile, heavy or expensive items are typically the ones that will need extra care and might require extra charges. Other items that need special attention might be TVs or appliances. These sometimes need extra packing or hardware to secure properly before a move. It's impossible to list every item that might need extra charges - which is why most moving companies prefer to have you speak with a move consultant before a move to make sure that you are prepared (and so are they).

Additionally, most moving companies use a large 18-ft semi truck for their long distance moves. If you are in a more remote location or if this big of a moving truck cannot easily access your home, the movers might need to use a "shuttle" to drive all your items to the moving truck. This means using a smaller truck to pick up items and shuttle them to the larger truck. This would incur an extra charge due to labor and time.

6. Is the Price Guaranteed?

There are 2 types of moving quotes, binding and non-binding. Make sure you know which type of quote your contract is for and what it means for you.

Binding Estimate - A binding estimate guarantees that you will not be required to pay anything additional than what you are quoted for. With his type of quote, the final cost is determined up front but there are some exceptions you should be aware of. If you decide to add to your inventory, request any additional services, or if there are any unforeseen circumstances  at the destination (ex. elevators, stairs, required parking permits, etc.), your mover can bill your for these extra expenses.

Non-Binding Estimate - A non-binding estimate is not a guarantee of final price but should be generally accurate. With this quote option, you will pay for the actual time it takes or actual weight of shipment. Although the cost might change from the original estimate given, a mover is not allowed to charge more than 110% of the original quote at the time or delivery.

7. What is Your Cancellation Policy?

This is a very important question to ask your mover. Are you selling your house? Are you buying a house? There are many events that affect if you even need to move and when.  Always be prepared for the worst case scenario. Make sure you are aware of any cancellation deadlines or if there is any room to change the move date if need be.

8. What Protection Do You Provide in Terms of Valuation?

This is an important question, and while all movers try and limit damage - it still happens. It's a lot of items moving all at once. Sometimes things break. All interstate moving companies are required by the FMCSA to assume at least some liability for the value of the household goods they transport. However, how much liability is typically determined by the customer because it's based on the value of what you're moving (called shipping in the industry).

If you think about that for a moment, it could be almost impossible for a moving company to accurately value every possible item in your home before you move. There are so many factors! For that exact reason, you are the one who has to decide what the value of your items are. Because you're determining the value of your shipment - the term for liability is called "valuation". There are two different levels of valuation that you can put on your shipment:

  1. Full (Replacement) Value Protection - This means that you're electing to have your items protected, and you determine the value of your shipment. The minimum level for determining the Full Value Protection of your shipment is $6.00 per pound times the weight of your shipment, but your mover may have a higher minimum value. You may also want to declare a higher value for your shipment (at an additional cost) if you think it's not high enough. This is a great option to keep your items protect but under this option, you still have to specifically list items of extraordinary value for loss or damage. Talk to your moving company if you have anything that you think is of High Value to make sure it's protected correctly.
  2. Waiver of Full (Replacement) Value Protection - This means you are waving any liability from the moving company in case things break. For this reason, it's commonly called "Released Value".  That being said, it doesn't mean you have no protection at all, but is minimal. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. For example, if a 10 pound stereo component valued at $1,000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x $.60). If you need to save money on your move - you can use this option to reduce your cost, but it comes at a risk in something breaks.

If you want to read more about this directly from the FMCSA's website, click here!

It is your responsibility to read over each option before choosing  a valuation level and make the necessary declarations for your items, because nobody knows your items better than you.

9. What Items Can You Not Move For Me?

Learning on moving day that some of your items cannot be transported is stressful. Make sure you speak with your moving company prior to moving day and arrange for the safe transport of these specific items.

There are certain items that most moving companies will not move due to the safety of the item itself or the safety of the driver and truck. Below are the most common "non-movable" items.

  • Aerosol Cans
  • Ammunition
  • Cleaning Products
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Gasoline
  • House Paints
  • Open Alcohol Containers
  • Open/Perishable Food
  • Pets
  • Plants
  • Propane Tanks
  • Welding Gas

The general rule of thumb is anything explosive, perishable, flammable or corrosive is probably not going to be taken by your mover. Always do your research and consult with your mover to ensure there are no additional items that they will not transport for you.

So what do you do with these items? You have a lot of different options! You can sell them locally, throw them away, use them before the move, or transport them on your own. Whatever works best for you!

10. What Is Your Claims Process if an Item is Lost or Damaged During Transit?

It is important to know what the moving company will do for you if any of your items gets damaged or lost in transit. The claims process will vary between companies, but typically you will need to declare the items in question within a certain timeframe. Once you identify that these items need to be addressed by the moving company, they'll take a look at the valuation you selected and begin the claims process for you to get you taken care of. It's best not to try to fix anything that is broken before submitting the claim and always take pictures of the items and boxes they arrived in. Again, this comes down to trust - many customers have tried to scam moving companies into paying for items that weren't really broken during a move, so documentation helps make sure that everyone is aware of what happened and when!