Kayla Coco-Stotts
March 31, 2022
Article type:
Understanding Bailey's Moving
Applies to:
All Moving

Three Key Differences Between Van Lines and Move Brokers

Most people hire full-service movers only about 3-6 times in their life. However, when people do choose to hire a moving company, they usually get movers for large-scale moves that require uprooting entire households, apartments, or storage units. And since most of these more resource-intensive moves aren’t as common, a lot of people tend to select movers without first knowing whether they’re a broker or a van line.

But what’s the big deal with selecting a move broker vs. a global van line for your big move? Well, it can impact how much money you pay overall, how easily you resolve issues or changes, and the reliability of the crew moving your household items.

Take a second to familiarize yourself with the differences between van lines and brokers so you can make the choice for your upcoming move.

To Start: Van Lines vs. Brokers

Are you planning to hire a van line or moving company for your household move? Or are you planning to broker out the move with a move broker? What’s the distinction between the two choices?

Van Lines Are Traditional Movers

Most van lines in existence today work with a vast network of independently-contracted moving companies to get people anywhere they need to go around the globe.

When you choose to move with a van line, you’ll be routed to a local agent either at your point of origin or your destination. From there, the moving company (who’s contacted through the van line) will service your move.

Brokers Bid Out Your Move to Moving Companies

Unlike van lines, move brokers function as the middleman between you and the movers. So, when you hire a move broker, they will select a moving company of their choosing to perform your move on the dates specified.

Move brokers don’t do any of the moving. They don’t have trucks or crew; they contract moving companies for you so you don't have to.

Who’s Doing the Move?

When it comes to differences between van lines and brokers, one of the most obvious is who’s doing the moving and how you interact with them.

When working with a van line, you’ll have a chance to meet who’s doing your household move beforehand. During your initial walkthrough you’ll meet either in-person or virtually with an estimator who will draw up an estimate of charges based on the items you need shipped.

If working with a move broker, you’ll most often receive an estimate without meeting with anyone from a moving company. On moving day, you’ll meet the moving company the broker contracted for your move, but you won’t have a chance to know who’s doing the move until that same day.

What Your Move Costs vs. Your Estimate

Moving costs are a large concern for many customers who are unfamiliar with what it takes to accomplish large-scale moves. Base pricing is determined by how long it takes to load/unload household goods, how far the shipment travels, and how big the shipment is.

If working with a van line, an estimator will draw up a written estimate that’s dependent on an initial walkthrough of the things you intend to move. It’s meant to be as accurate as possible so you know exactly what you’re expected to pay on move day.

With brokers it’s a bit different. Move brokers will typically estimate a price that’s lower than most moving companies. Then, they’ll contract a mover who will transport your household goods for around this price. Because the broker’s estimate isn’t necessarily contingent on the exact specifics of your move, their estimate is likely to be slightly inaccurate to what it’ll cost the moving company they hire to move your things.

If you choose to work with a move broker, expect to pay a higher sum on moving day when the moving company shows up.

How You Submit a Claim

The final big difference between van lines and brokers is in the post-move process. Valuation protection is a key component of the moving process because it covers what happens in the event something is damaged or lost in transit. Accidents are bound to happen, and the process for submitting a claim to reimburse you for missing/damaged items works differently for van lines and brokers.

Because van lines work together with their independently-contracted movers, you can submit a claim directly with the moving company who performed your move. In your moving paperwork you’ll receive contact information for your estimator and move coordinator, as well as instructions for submitting a claim.

In contrast, if you broker out your move, you’ll be responsible for contacting the moving company about their claims and reimbursement process. Brokers don’t assume responsibility for the shipment they’ve contacted out, so filing a claim or complaint is going to be a complicated affair.

How to Determine Whether You’re Working with a Van Line, Broker, or Other

Before deciding to work with either broker or mover, always be sure to do your research. Look up moving reviews and ask around to your realtor, neighbors, or family/friends to gauge the broker’s or van line’s reputation.

In addition, make sure your chosen long-distance movers are registered with the FMCSA and that they have a valid DOT number.

Using those factors combined, you’ll be able to choose the best fit for you and your move.