Updated: We’ve added updated info and new links for 2019.
First of all, I want to say, “well done.” If you’re taking the time to ask this question and figure out the answer, you’re off to a great start! Nothing will ruin your move more than becoming the person in that horror story who has all their belongings stolen by their movers or is charged 300% more than the original quote. It’s important to protect yourself from rogue movers and scammers operating nationwide.
What is a “licensed mover”?
Regulations and requirements for licensure vary from state to state. You can check out your state’s requirements here. Some states require movers to register with the state as a moving company and to offer at least two options for insurance (full-valuation or released-value). Some states have additional requirements. Beyond insurance, states might set standards regarding estimates, liability, mover agreements, etc.
If you are moving across state lines, your mover should have federal licensure, meaning the government has signed off on their business. Being licensed requires the movers to follow certain guidelines regarding insurance, safety measures, financial responsibility and so on.
If your potential movers will be traveling across state lines, check to make sure they are licensed for interstate moves on this government website.
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What is an “insured mover”?
When I first got into the moving business, I struggled with understanding the difference between a mover who is insured and one who offers insurance.
If your mover is insured, it generally means they carry basic moving insurance (release value insurance) that will cover a very small portion of damage or loss to your stuff while they’re handling it (typically at a payout rate of $0.60 per pound, per item). So a dropped 10 pound, $1,000 TV would only see an insurance check of $6.00!
A small handful of movers offer an even better option – the opportunity to purchase additional, full-valuation insurance. Full-valuation covers the total cost of repair or replacement in the event that your movers ruin or lose seriously valuable items during your move (e.g., gold and fine china).
Make sure you about this critical difference.
How do you know if your mover offers insurance?
The first and most obvious way for you to check out your mover’s credentials is to simply ask them. However, if you ask a thief whether or not they are a thief, they won’t likely tell you the truth!
So with that in mind, ask them for a copy of their COI (Certificate of Insurance) and to see their state and/or federal license. If you’re booking a mover online, they will likely have credentials listed on the site you’re booking through. The FMCSA (listed earlier) is also available if you want to be absolutely positive about their current licensure status.
As far as insurance goes, ask for everything in writing – on paper or via email. You should have your coverage in writing not only to retain proof of that coverage, but also so you know exactly what you’re entitled to in the event that something is broken or lost.
Have a story to share? Please share your moving insurance stories, tips, and experiences – good or bad – in the comments below.