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What’s the Difference Between Moving Brokers and Moving Companies?

When you book a move, you expect the company who answered the phone will be the same one who shows up at your door. But this isn’t always the case. Some businesses in the moving industry don’t transport goods; they just coordinate logistics. They’re called brokers, and understanding the difference between moving brokers and moving companies will help you decide how to manage your move.

Moving Brokers

Moving brokers are middlemen. You call them, give them your details (budget, dates, size of household, etc.) and they contact moving companies in your area, searching for the best deal on your behalf. By playing movers against one another, they can often secure lower rates. If you have a complicated move that requires multiple services (e.g. storage, auto transport, piano moving), they can work out the details for you, even if it involves hiring several different companies.

But while scheduling your move through a broker is convenient, there are potential downsides. Brokers aren’t always located in the same state as you and they’re not liable for any damages that occur. For this reason, they’re not always available to answer questions (many operate out of call centers) and they don’t always vet their movers carefully.

In some cases, homeowners have been forced to pay higher fees because the contracted mover revised their estimate at the last minute. A few brokers have even hired scammers, unscrupulous movers who demanded exorbitant fees to release people’s belongings back to them, essentially holding them hostage.

These cases are rare, but they show what can happen when you don’t choose your broker carefully. For your protection, never hire one who doesn’t follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines, which state that brokers must:

  • Register with FMCSA
  • Provide you with FMCSA’s “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” booklet and “Ready to Move” brochure
  • Provide a list of the movers they use
  • Use movers registered with FMCSA
  • Have a written agreement with their movers
  • Base estimates on the tariff of the movers transporting your belongings
  • List their physical location, MC number, and their broker status in their advertisements
  • Have the movers survey your household goods if you are within 50 miles of the mover or its agent

Moving Companies

Moving companies are businesses that own a fleet of trucks and employ a professional moving staff. They’re the ones who show up at your door and are responsible for loading, transporting, and unloading your belongings. If something goes wrong, they’re liable for the damage. Most will provide an in-person estimate, so there are no surprise fees the day of the move.

What’s more, most moving companies are either based locally or employ agents within a local community. Homeowners typically have one point of contact, someone who can personally answer their questions, rather than relying on a third party to relay information. They can also offer discounts based on the time of year and your moving date.

Most importantly, scheduling your move through a moving company instead of a moving broker ensures a consistent experience throughout the entire process. Though it takes more time to research them, booking a moving company ensures you’re working with the same crew from start to finish and gives you more control over the process, as well as a direct relationship with the people handling your belongings.

Vetting Moving Companies

One advantage of moving brokers is they save you the trouble of vetting moving companies. Deciding to hire movers directly means you have to take on that responsibility yourself. In order to find a reliable mover:

  • Ask for a Referral. Friends and family members are often a great source for information about moving companies. If you’re working with a real estate agent, ask if there are any they’d recommend.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau. When companies register with the BBB, they're publicly required to fulfill all their contracts and promises and can be kicked out if they don't.
  • Get Multiple Estimates. Contacting multiple moving companies not only lets you get the best deal, it also helps you avoid scammers. Quoting absurdly low prices is a common tactic, used to lure unsuspecting victims.
  • Read Customer Reviews. Review sites have made it easy for people to provide feedback on companies they do business with. Look them up on Yelp, Foursquare, or Google Business to see what their customers have to say about them.
  • Verify Their Credentials. The Department of Transportation (DOT) assigns license numbers to all interstate movers. Every reputable moving company is required to list its DOT number in its advertising and provide it upon request. Licensed movers must also have a carrier number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Also ask whether they’re a part of any professional associations, such as the American Moving and Storage Association. Most trade associations have websites that let you look up their members.

In addition, never trust a company that demands a large deposit upfront. Most moving companies don’t require payment until they’ve finished the job. If a deposit is required, it shouldn’t be more than 20 percent of the moving costs.

A Moving Company You Can Trust

With over 500 local agents and thousands of five star reviews, North American is one of the largest and most trusted moving companies in the United States. We are full service movers, with the resources to transport almost any household item, including automobiles. Whether you need help with packing, storage, or the installation of furniture and appliances, we are here for you. Contact us today for a free quote!