There are no two ways around it; moving is tough. Even for the most organized packer or for the person most excited about the change, moving from one place to another is a difficult process logistically.
You have to figure out how you’re going to fit everything you care about into boxes. There’s the factor of getting rid of things you no longer need to make room for the important things. Then, there’s the actual grueling task of packing your belongings securely away into boxes. After that, figuring out how to move it all is yet another daunting task you have to take on.
For those with trucks or larger vehicles, the actual moving part of your move isn’t as difficult as it might be for someone with a smaller or even no vehicle. Even if you have a larger vehicle that can accommodate more of your belongings, you still have to take on the responsibility of actually physically lifting and carrying your things without dropping, crushing, or otherwise damaging them, and you have to do this for multiple trips back and forth between the old home and the new one until it’s complete.
Your next thought may be to rent your own moving truck in order to move things from one place to another in a single trip, but loading, arranging, driving, and then unloading that truck can be an all-day process. By the time you’re done unloading boxes and furniture, you’re likely exhausted, but you still have to drive the moving truck to its designated drop-off point before you’re charged with an extra day of use. After that, you still have to find a way to get home since you just handed the keys to your method of transportation back to the rental place.
What if something is too heavy for you to lift on your own, or you have a condition that prevents you from carrying anything at all? Sure, you could bribe friends with pizza to come to help you move, but that’s not always an option.
Rather than trying to take on the sheer physical hardship of moving by yourself, you decide that it’s worth the money to pay a professional to help you move. A professional moving company with its own fleet of trucks or vans and strapping, burly movers to take on the task of moving that piece of furniture that you would swear weighs a million pounds.
By hiring someone else to do a vast majority of the physical work, you can be left to focus on the important things about your move, like figuring out which box you packed your toothbrush in.
However, this can be a task unto itself. There are so many services that exist to help customers move. There are brokers, and carriers, and firms, and moving companies, and moving services and shippers and just about a dozen other different types of companies that all say they’re going to help you move.
In the end, all those options boil down into two categories; moving brokers and moving companies, and even breaking it down that far doesn’t really help distinguish a difference between the two.
A moving broker is a sort of travel agent for your move. You work through the broker, and the broker reaches out to moving companies to get them to take on your move. They basically act as middlemen between you and the movers to sell your move to a moving company.
A broker is a company that arranges the move and nothing more. They do not have moving vehicles or equipment, and they do none of the actual heavy lifting themselves. They take no responsibility for your belongings and aren’t authorized to move anything.
They take your moving information, provide you with an estimated quote of the price, and then try to find a moving company that agrees to be paid that much for the move.
It’s easy for moving brokers to scam you by providing deflated estimates for your move, collecting a hefty deposit, and then when the actual movers arrive, and it will be more, the price will typically double itself and you have no choice but to agree to it since you must move out. The broker already has your money (the hefty deposit he took when he booked your move), and at that point getting your deposit back is most likely impossible. There are some legitimate moving brokers, though.
The best way to be as close to certain as possible about the legitimacy of a moving broker is if they meet the following criteria:
- They need to be registered with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).
- They must provide their customers with FMCSA’s ‘Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move’ booklet and the ‘Ready to Move’ brochure.
- They must provide you with a list of the moving companies they use.
- They must use only movers that are registered with FMCSA.
- They need to have a written agreement with the movers they use.
- They need to reference in their advertisements their physical business location, MC number, and their status as a broker that does not transport household goods but, rather, arranges for this service.
- They are required to have the mover that is transporting your shipment to perform a physical survey of the items you intend to move. This requirement is your choice to waive.
Be aware, though, if you waive the option to have someone from the moving company come and inspect your home and the things you intend for them to move, you could be hit with a nasty surprise when the movers arrive to move you, and they have to charge you an extra fee if the magnitude of the job is more than they were prepared for.
On the other side of the coin, there are moving companies. These are the companies that actually show up at your home to do the real moving. They are the ones that provide the trucks, dollies, carts, furniture covers, and other moving supplies that are required to make your move happen.
If you go through a moving company, part of the process is to come to your home and look at how much you have to move, how much it’s going to weigh, and the distance all of it needs to be moved. The estimates given at this time are more likely going to be more accurate than what you would get from a broker since the mover knows exactly how much of what is going to be moved where and there won’t be any surprises for them or for you when they show up on the moving day.
Just like you have to make sure a moving broker plays by set rules and regulations, it’s also important to make sure that the moving company you hire is reputable and credible. You can do this by looking them up on the Better Business Bureau or the FMCSA.
How to Make Your Choice
Now that you know the difference between the two different types of companies that can be of assistance during a move, the choice in front of you now is which services is the right one for you.
Are you the type of person who would prefer to focus on packing up your house, organizing the boxes, and taking care of cleaning up instead of trying to find a moving company on your own? Or are you the sort of person who can handle the added responsibility of finding a reputable moving company on your own while at the same time packing your life and belongings into shipping boxes?
The real answer may surprise you when it comes right down to it. You might think you can’t handle the pressure of trying to hire a moving company on your own under the added stress of trying to pack everything before your moving day and want to consult a moving broker. You may think you’re ready to deal with the hiring of a moving company on your own, but when the time comes, you’re overwhelmed with everything else you have to deal with.
It’s best to start figuring out which service is right for you by getting more informed about the positives and the negatives of using each service.
Moving Brokers: The Good
Moving brokers can take the guesswork out of choosing a moving company. Most moving brokers have a designated list of moving companies that they work with regularly and that they can call upon when the broker agrees to take on your move.
Because of the nature of the business, it is easy for a moving broker to scam you out of your hard-earned money. However, in recent days, legitimate moving brokers must comply with the rules and regulations that were mentioned earlier that were set down for the protection of the consumer.
If a moving broker meets those criteria, it is likely that you might have a good experience using them for your move, but it is a rare thing to find today with so many brokers out there.
Moving Brokers: The Bad
Moving brokers do not and cannot offer you an in-home estimate. The United States Department of Transportation states that if a company claims that they are local in your city, by law they must offer a free in-home estimate for customers within a 50-mile radius of their location.
Unfortunately, research suggests that despite the convenience and potential for a lower moving price, there are a lot of immediate and potential drawbacks to using a moving broker rather than dealing with a moving company directly.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, a broker may be unable to sell your move to a moving company. If this happens, you could be left high and dry without a moving company on the day of your move.
The reasons for a broker being unable to sell your move could be a lack of availability to book a moving company on time, a lack of resources from the company to accommodate the size of your move or an issue with a low estimate.
In the case of a low estimate, this just means that if your moving broker quotes you that low price you’ve been hoping for in order to hire someone, a moving company may be unable or unwilling to work for such a small fee and they reject the offer from the moving broker. This is in no way your fault, but you’re still left without anyone to help you move on moving day, but instead are left with more stress added on top of an already stressful situation.
The whole point of booking your move through a moving broker was for the convenience of not having to worry about the logistics of your move and the potential lower price. If the broker was unable to sell your move, going through them in the first place seems like a huge waste of time and money.
What’s the point of paying for a service designed to take some of the stress out of your life when there’s even the slightest possibility that you’ll be left in the lurch on the day you need help the most?
Another potential downside to consider is that you have no say in who performs your move when you book through a moving broker.
Moving brokers are not required to use movers that have certifications, licenses, or insurance. If they choose a mover for you that has none of these protections, if something goes wrong or something gets broken during the move, you’re on your own to deal with it.
The broker is not required to take any responsibility for the movers they assigned to you.
A moving company’s lack of insurance means that if one of the movers sustains an injury while transporting your shipment, you could possibly be liable if that individual decides to sue.
If one of these potential problems, like broken items or an injured mover, rears its ugly head on the day of your move, a call to your moving broker may not do you much good in the way of getting help.
A lot of moving brokers operate out of call centers and are likely miles away from you. This could potentially mean that they are not familiar with the area you or moving from or moving to, so they may not even know for sure which moving company is going to the best to operate in either area.
Keep in mind, too, that just because moving brokers have the potential to get you a better price than you might get by going directly to a moving company, this isn’t always guaranteed to be the case.
More often than they would like to admit, the estimate a moving broker gives you might be more than what the moving company charges.
In these cases, the broker still keeps the full amount you paid them even if the moving company does end up charging less than the estimate you were quoted. That extra money is skimmed off the top, and the moving broker reaps the benefit while you pay more than is necessary for the job you have.
Many moving brokers are just in business to make, quick, easy money at the expense of customers like you. Oftentimes, they don’t care about you or your move at all which many of them have no choice but to change their names every six months due to their bad reputation on the internet.
In some cases, it has been reported that moving brokers have made up a reason for you to owe them more money, and they essentially hold your belongings ‘hostage’ until you pay the new fee.
If you’re still considering using a moving broker for the convenience after learning all of this, it is important to make sure you use a broker with a good reputation and is registered with FMCSA.
Be sure to also ask for your estimate from a moving broker in writing. Most decent moving brokers should be able to provide you with one. If the broker you are working with can’t or flat out refuses to provide an estimate in writing, this should raise some red flags, and you might want to consider using someone else.
Moving Companies: The Bad
It is true that there are so many moving companies out there that trying to pick the right one for your move can feel like a herculean effort. Thanks to the internet and websites specifically designed for reviewing companies and their services, you can get some help in choosing a moving company based on the reviews of people who have used them before.
Not all moving companies transport your goods from state to state so they have no choice but to subcontract the job out to someone else. The downside of the potential to be overwhelmed can be solved with a small amount of research on government websites.
It does have to be said that moving companies can charge a few more fees than a moving broker, so going through them directly can be a little more expensive on its face. However, all those fees are in place to protect you as a consumer.
Most moving companies charge for the use of safety materials, like coverings for you expensive furniture, lifting and carrying tools for your heavy breakables or appliances, and insurance for their movers so that if someone does get hurt, the company is liable; not you.
There is also no guarantee that the price a broker gives you is going to be any less expensive than hiring a moving company directly.
Moving Companies: The Good
Apart from the expenses and the legwork required to make sure you hire a good company, there are so many benefits to working directly with a moving company rather than a moving broker.
Since most moving companies require an in-person visit to evaluate the magnitude of the move, there won’t be any surprise price changes the day of like there might be if you went through a moving broker. By law, a moving company must provide a Binding-Not-to-Exceed price once a moving company has completed an in-home estimate and both parties agree on the inventory list, packing services, and terms and conditions.
Many moving companies offer a price-matching policy, so if you find one company willing to help you move for less than a company you like a little more; it’s possible that they might match it. All of that research that once seemed like a drawback might actually help you book the moving company you want to work with most at a price that works out better for you in the end.
When you work directly with a moving company, they handle everything for you in-house. From the first phone call for an estimate to the final wave goodbye as the movers leave you and your belongings at your new home, you are working with the same company and, very likely, the same people.
When dealing with a single company, there is less of a chance for miscommunication, so you can rest easy with the confidence that everyone shows up at the right place at the right time, so you don’t have that aspect of the move to worry about.
Moving companies provide everything that you could possibly need to move. They might have tools or materials you wouldn’t have thought to request for yourself, and there’s no denying that since they do it for a living, professional movers are going to be better at moving heavy objects a little better than the average person could manage.
There’s no way around the fact that hiring movers are going to be easier trying to manage a move all on your own or trying to convince friends and family to show up on time. The biggest question at this point is going to be which method is the best one for you and your move.
Hiring a moving company may only seem to be a little more expensive than going through a moving broker, but just as you pay a broker for convenience during your move, you pay a moving company for peace of mind.
In the end, it comes down to paying for convenience with very little security or paying a little extra money and knowing that all of the things you deemed worthy to pack up and take with you are in good hands that won’t let you down.