Are My Movers Licensed and Insured? (And Does it Matter?)

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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!

“…ask them for a copy of their COI (Certificate of Insurance) and to see their state and/or federal license.”

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.


Victoria is enjoying her summer time off from grad classes by soaking up rays, spending time with family and working with HireAHelper from her small town in Nebraska (aka “the good life”).

Do Movers Always Add on Extra Fees After a Job?

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A customer tweeted a review of their helper yesterday that reminded me, again, of one of the main reasons we’re trying so hard to let everyone know about HireAHelper.

Screenshot of HireAHelper Customer Review

It’s too often that customers note, and appreciate the fact that they aren’t charged additional fees at the end of jobs booked on HireAHelper.com. This should be the industry standard! I understand it takes more effort than usual to go up 5 flights of stairs or to safely carry a baby grand piano out of a house. Those parts of moving that require extra skill or energy should be compensated with appropriate additional fees. But let the customer know up front what all the fees and costs are. It only takes a few seconds to say “Here’s our price, plus we charge $100 to move upright pianos, and $10 per flight of stairs above 3 flights.”

I don’t walk into In-N-Out, order a double-double, extra cheese, animal style, sit down and enjoy it, to then get up and be met at the door by an employee asking me for a $3 seat-fee. I know exactly what I’m paying and why, and so I return to In-N-Out regularly (plus the burgers are great). More and more people each year are scared away from using the moving industry to help them relocate because of terrible past experiences, most involving bogus extra charges that surprised them at the end of a job.

My plea with those of you in our glorious moving industry is simple:

Be clear and upfront with your pricing and fees.

Charge what you need to in order to make a good living – you work hard and deserve that. Just be as forthright as you can with what they can expect to pay, and we’ll all see the moving industry established in the mind of the consumer as the professional service it really is.

And if you’re a customer wondering if you’ll always have to worry about fees being added on to your bill at the end of your move, our answer is a resounding, “No!” Quotes on HireAHelper are as clear as we can possibly make them – a flat cost for the first set of hours, and one hourly fee for any time used beyond that. The extra hourly fee doesn’t change as the job gets closer, and there are no hidden travel fees or gas costs to be worried about. Thanks for letting me vent a little. Have a great rest of your Tuesday.

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How to Avoid Moving Scams

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As I was reading through moving-related news today, I noticed most the articles were about moving scams. What frustrates me the most is that we’re now going on decades of this behavior without a clear end in sight. You’d think at some point the criminals would be caught and locked up leaving the rest of us a little less stressed about our next move. Moving is stressful enough even if it all goes perfectly. So I put together a quick note with some tips on how to avoid moving scams.

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Avoid Theft During Your Move

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I had a recent conversation with my friend Jim who used to work for a moving company in Illinois.  While he did only local moves for this company, he has also moved several family members across the country.  The stories he’s obtained from moving short and long distances are pretty humorous, but those can be told at another time and place.

However, one particular story has stuck with me, during which his sister’s TV was stolen from her car while moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  This story has served as a catalyst for me to pass along some wisdom and tips that will help you minimize the chances of theft during your move.

1.  Lock your doors and roll up your windows.  This should possibly go without saying, but there are times when it’s easy to forget.  For instance, it may only take a couple minutes for you to hop out of your car or truck and refuel; however, it also takes even less time for someone to grab your purse or other items as you swipe your card, hit the credit option, choose the type of fuel you want, etc.  It may also be tempting to leave your windows cracked if the weather is hot, however this leaves your car or truck open to theft.

2.  Keep valuables out of site.  Keep things covered and hidden as much as possible.  One thing I had never considered was the value of prescription drugs.  Apparently these are a hot commodity for thieves, so keep those out of site along with mp3 players, laptops, cell phones and the like.

3.  Stop as little as possible. While travelling across the country, stopping to sleep, refuel and eat is unavoidable, but keep in mind that the more you stop, the higher your chances are of having items stolen.

4.  Use common sense and trust your instincts. Choose well-lit areas if you have to park your car somewhere – whether to rest or eat.  If the area is poorly-lit, there are not many people around, or you’re feeling uneasy about the surroundings, pick a different location.

5.  Service your car or truck before packing and heading out. Though life is commonly hectic before a big move, it pays to take care of your car beforehand as it will be taking on the extra weight of being loaded down.  The last thing you want is to break down alongside the road with all your belongings.  Most towing companies will not tow or change a tire on a vehicle that is loaded for a move.  So you would either need to get another vehicle out there to switch all the belongings, leave your car there while you go and get a vehicle, or unload all your belongings right there.  All three choices are my definition of a nightmare and could easily lead to theft!

6.  ID Theft. This is another thing that hadn’t crossed my mind prior to several conversations with those who have seen the worst.  I had always considered Identity Theft to be more of a danger with credit cards and online spending.  However, apparently ID thieves also watch people preparing to move because people are going through files and tossing old mail, statements, and even junk mail offers.  Thieves waiting for the lucky break of finding partial credit card numbers or bank account numbers.  As you pack and clean, be mindful of what you’re tossing out.  Make sure anything important is completely shredded.

While there is nothing you can do to prevent all mishaps during a move, there are definitely steps you can take to minimize the possibility.  By following the tips listed above, you will be on your way to creating a safe and happy moving experience.

Photo courtesy of http://pendletonpanther.files.wordpress.com/
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