Most of us want to support local businesses, but how do we achieve that when moving long distance? It’s surprisingly easy to accomplish your long-distance or interstate move using a local moving and storage company. Even though you may be familiar with some of the biggest companies in the moving industry, it is dominated by small companies. Almost half of the 7000 moving companies in the US have less than five employees, and very few have over 100.
Many small operations maintain affiliations with large national organizations, generally as agents of a national van line. The local moving company keeps its status as an independent business but conducts interstate moves under the auspices of the national van line. An agent is not the same as a franchise—so do not expect the same level of uniformity in a van line agent that you see in a fast-food operation, for example, but they will get some guidance from the parent company. The agency will most likely co-brand their equipment to reflect the affiliation.
Another, less common, option for local companies is to operate as franchisees of national chains. As with the agency operations, the franchisees have the advantage of name recognition and corporate support, while maintaining their small business independence.
Since most people (over 80 %) of people who move don’t leave for another state, the local company is likely to perform the entire move from start to finish. That may also be accurate for a long-distance, interstate shipment. The details may depend on your flexibility, your budget, and your timing.
Is my shipment going to be combined with another family’s load?
Your long-distance shipment could be combined with others if you are looking for options to save money on your move. Not without your agreement, of course. Your local moving company can load your household goods into their truck and drive it directly to your destination. That is likely the quickest way to get the relocation completed. But, since a large trailer probably has capacity for more than just your shipment, that is not the most efficient process. It may make sense to combine loads, either in the truck or in separate containers, and make more than one delivery.
Can I trust a small moving company?
Whether you choose an agent, a franchise, or a true independent, the most important thing is to ensure that you have selected a reputable moving company. If your move is to another state, the mover must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and follow its regulations. You should check the FMCSA website for safety history and any complaints filed against the mover. While over 80% of moves are completed with no complaints filed, the American Moving and Storage Association (another excellent credential to check for is membership in this industry organization) notes that 99.99% of complaints are resolved without proceeding to arbitration. This statistic confirms that most companies are honest, and with some effort, you can avoid the small number of rogue operators trying to “make a fast buck.”
How does the small mover arrange for storage?
If your local moving company is an agent of a major van line, it will have access to that national moving company’s resources. Those resources include storage, often referred to as SIT (storage-in-transit), which isn’t a standard component of moves but can be crucial. Let’s look at some scenarios in which storage can become an issue.
One example of a move situation that ends with an unexpected need for storage is when your new home is not available. The moving truck arrives at the destination, but the former occupants are still there. Perhaps they experienced some unfortunate glitch in their move plans or even a misunderstanding. Or possibly, your new home is new construction and isn’t completed as scheduled. That isn’t a big surprise, but if the delays continue longer than you allowed, you may end up between homes with a truck full of household goods waiting to be delivered. Is your local moving company going to be able to resolve this situation? Yes, of course, if the mover has an affiliation with a national company, and even if they don’t.
The local mover affiliated with a national carrier line has access to the destination’s storage warehouse and can easily arrange for your shipment to be diverted there, even at the last minute. If the local mover is independent, it will leverage contacts and relationships within the industry to secure a temporary location for the storage of your possessions. Remember, the important thing is that you did your homework and found a reliable, reputable mover.
Finding a reputable moving company is essential, regardless of whether you choose a local independent, a franchisee, or an agent of a national van line. In each case, you are dealing with the local representative, or possibly a broker. Be sure that you have confidence in the person who is your main point of contact. Call the contact number and pay attention to who answers the phone. The person should reference the company name rather than offering a vague greeting such as “moving company offices.”
Check with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to verify that the company is registered, has a DOT number, and a favorable safety and complaint record. While movers not engaged in interstate transfers do not have to register with the FMCSA, most do if they are legitimate operators. They are also likely to be members of the AMSA, American Moving and Storage Association, which has a conference specifically for small, independent operators.
If the moving company is reluctant to complete an in-person survey of your household goods as part of the estimate, be very wary. A visual inspection is an important (and required) part of crafting an accurate appraisal of the shipment’s weight. A legitimate company will not ask you to waive the walkthrough and will not ask you to sign documents that are blank, incomplete, or that you do not fully understand. When you obtain an estimate, ensure that you also receive an order for service, including the company’s tariff—a complete list of all charges you may encounter. These charges include services you may request, such as packing. It also includes services the company can charge you for without your consent, such as additional labor required by conditions at the destination. Don’t be misled by verbal assurances that the mover may offer about the limits of what you might pay—get it in writing.
Most moving companies have great integrity and want to provide you with a high level of service. Whether you choose a local business or a national company representative, make sure you find one of those, and your move can proceed without unnecessary stress.