In 1980, the moving industry was deregulated. Before that, there were a handful of household names that dominated the moving industry. After deregulation, consumers had a lot more choices, but they also faced a lot of fly-by-night companies with no federal oversight.
Soon after deregulation came another specialty – moving brokers. While, in theory, moving brokers can be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff – the good guys from the scammers, the reality is that many, if not most brokers have made it more difficult for customers to find good moving companies.
If you go online and fill out a form that offers three moving quotes, you are contacting a broker. They might tell you that they have pre-screened each moving company that they work with, and they might have, but the amount of screening can vary tremendously. Some might check for valid licensing. Very few go beyond that.
Most brokers work with hundreds of smaller moving companies across the country. They collect customer “leads” and distribute them to around three or so of their customers. The moving companies pay them for this service. You will then be contacted from the three moving companies and there is where you’ll be able to differentiate between good brokers and bad.
With a good broker, you’ll always know the names of the moving companies they are sending you. Even if you are moving out of state, your mover should be local and you should ask them if they are performing the move. Many times, a broker will send you a local mover to do an estimate, but send you an out of state company to perform the move.
Hiring a broker doesn’t eliminate the burden of doing your homework. You want to thoroughly research each and every moving company. Far too often, fly-by-night companies get all their business through brokers. Brokers are typically not responsible for anything that happens during or after the move. Check the mover’s licensing yourself. Check their reputation on Yelp and check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask each mover if they will be handling or at least taking responsibility for the move and get that in a written contract. Many legitimate movers subcontract some services, but they always take full responsibility. Here are more tips on choosing a mover.
In general, going through a moving broker is a risky approach. Most do not provide onsite estimates. Most give just general information to each moving company and the companies bid based on very limited data. For example, they might only know that you have two bedrooms and two baths, but they don’t know that you have stairs leading to your home or that you have a lot of belongings.
A binding or guaranteed price is very rare through a broker and even if they do provide it, there are so many caveats that it will almost always be broken. The ONLY way to get a truly guaranteed price with a mover is to have the mover do a complete, onsite inventory.
In the end, a moving broker might seem like a convenient way to choose a mover, but it really doesn’t save you any work. It’s just as easy to log on to Yelp.com and pick highly rated movers and do your homework from there.