How To Ensure You’re Hiring An Honest Mover

Image by Flickr
Image by Flickr

Our heads would have to be buried in the sand if we don’t acknowledge that the moving industry has a bad reputation. Some bad companies really have spoiled the entire bunch with tactics such as holding goods hostage and refusing to make good when they make mistakes. Fortunately for those of us to take laws and customer service very seriously, the federal government is cracking down on the bad guys.

Toward the end of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the Department of Transportation, shut down five movers. All five were located in the southeast (Florida, South Carolina and Maryland) and all five were licensed.

They were:

  • Allegiant Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1712687, based in Davie, Fla.;
  • Northern Van Lines, Inc., USDOT No. 1147457, based in Cooper City, Fla.;
  • Northeastern Vanlines, Inc., USDOT No. 1212003, based in Pembroke Pines, Fla.;
  • United West Moving and Storage, Inc., USDOT No. 1827150, based in Anderson, S.C.; and
  • Direct Movers, Inc., USDOT No. 1666092, based in Pikesville, Md.

FMCSA’s Moving Fraud Task Force began investigating Allegiant Van Lines, Inc. in response to consumer complaints that the company illegally held customers’ possessions hostage. The company failed to respond to federal orders charging it with improperly holding hostage goods. The company has been suspended from operating for at least one year. In addition, it has been issued fines of over $88,000 for safety and commercial violations.

During the course of the investigation into Allegiant, FMCSA discovered the company’s owner also operated Northern Van Lines, Inc. and Northeastern Vanlines, Inc. of Florida, and United West Moving and Storage, Inc. of South Carolina. Combined, more than 100 complaints have been filed against the three related companies in the National Consumer Complaint Database. They now face fines of over $31,000 total and have also been suspended from operating for at least one year.

Maryland-based Direct Movers, Inc. was also shut down, and their DOT No. inactivated, for failing to comply with an FMCSA demand for records involving a shipment being held hostage.


It’s not a coincidence that so many of these companies are based out of Florida. In the last three decades, it has been somewhat of a hub for disreputable moving companies, although all states have their share of bad apples.

Can Florida companies affect us here in California?

In a word, yes. When you request moving estimates through one of the sites online that promises you three or more quotes, there’s a good chance that at least two of them will be from another state. Sometimes, they’ll have someone to look at your home, but it’s often a person with no real relationship to the company and virtually nothing to lose from giving you a dishonest estimate.

How can you tell the difference?

When you are planning a move, even if you are moving out of state, your first point of contact is always a local mover. Always ask for a “binding” or “not to exceed” onsite estimate. Sure, it takes a bit of your time (about an hour) to get an onsite estimate, but it’s worth it. It is impossible for a phone estimate to be fully guaranteed. Ask for licensing information and even if you are moving out of state, ask for the mover’s state licensing information and check with your state licensing division. Check them out on Yelp and with the BBB.

Hopefully, the federal government will continue to crack down on bad movers. Believe me when I say that Ninja Movers will be cheering when these movers are taken out of the equation, but until then, be careful. Know your rights and don’t take anyone’s word for anything.