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How to Move Interstate

Avoiding “Potholes” along the Way

Moving across town or to a different city in-state is complicated enough, but when your move crosses state lines, it's a whole new ball game. Here are a few things to consider.

Regulation and Protection

Household moves within state fall under state laws but interstate moves are regulated by The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency protects consumers from fraud by ensuring that moving companies meet licensing and registration requirements, comply with rules on estimates and the release of goods, and educate consumers on their rights and responsibilities.

“Only use FMCSA-registered movers or brokers,” says Julie Davis, director of marketing for Total Household, an online homeowner and home contractor community. “Check the FMCSA website, Protect Your Move, to make sure there isn’t a record of complaints against the company. And be suspicious if a mover doesn’t show U.S. DOT numbers or a broker doesn’t show Motor Carrier (MC) numbers in their ads.”

Also check insurance. “Be certain you understand how much liability coverage you're agreeing to,” says Davis. “Basic coverage is 60 cents per pound — that means you'd get only $6 for your 10-pound microwave. That won't cover replacing it.” 

Part of your interstate move may be subcontracted to another company. This means the company that loads your goods may not be the same company that unloads them at your destination.

“During my daughter's recent move from Ohio to New York, the last leg was subcontracted to a local New York mover,” says Davis. “Even large moving companies may subcontract part of a move to a locally-based company. Do your due diligence and ask what company will complete the final part of your move.”

Ship Smart

“Most local moves are charged on an hourly basis,” says Nancy Zafrani, general manager at Oz Moving, a full-service company with offices on the East and West coasts, “whereas interstate moves are charged either by the weight of the shipment or the cubic volume of goods being transported.” Adding a few extra boxes won’t impact the cost of a local move, but it can translate into big added costs when crossing state lines.

If you have a piece of furniture you plan to replace, or one that’s bulky but inexpensive, it may be wise to toss or donate it. “If you’re moving a 38-inch x 38-inch bookcase from New York to California," says Zafrani, "and the mover is charging $5.50 per cubic foot, it will cost $82.50. Is it worth it?”

Believe it or not, many people make the mistake of moving food interstate. This only invites insects and vermin. “Your goods are likely going to be in storage for a certain amount of time,” says Zafrani. “No foods whatsoever should be part of that shipment, including canned food,  unopened packaged goods, pet food, and spices. If you or a pet can ingest it, so can a bug or beast.”

Likewise liquids, including oils, vinegars, shampoo, cleaning supplies and paint should not be a part of an interstate shipment. By the time you discover any leakage, it will have likely seeped through the boxes. “It’s amazing the enormous amount of damage a small bottle of olive oil can do,” says Zafrani.

Transferring services and registrations

Transferring, registering and setting up many other critical services prior to your move helps tremendously.  Quite often things like vehicle registration, change of address with the US Postal Service, voter registration, utilities and cable can be taken care before your move.

“Every state has different rules about how long you can wait to update your driver’s license and vehicle registration,” says Chris Lloyd of Everything Austin Apartments, an apartment locator service. “Some states also require a new state inspection and title changes.” If one-stop-shopping is what you desire, head to the Change of Address section on Cable Mover. There you can  disconnect and set up new cable services, change your mailing address and  link to the DMV for registration requirements and forms.  Similarly, you can  update your voter registration. Timing is key. “Some states have deadlines that are well before elections,” says Lloyd, “so don’t forget to register just because you aren’t moving during election season.” Visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for help.