What’s the Difference Between Residential Moving Companies and Moving Brokers?
If you don’t want to handle moving by yourself, there are two different kinds of companies that you can hire: moving companies and moving brokers. Both types of businesses provide services for residential moving, but they function quite differently. Here’s what you need to know about what moving companies do, what moving brokers do, and which type of company you should hire for your upcoming move.
What’s a Moving Broker?
A moving broker can be described as a “middleman” between the customer and a moving company. Rather than hiring residential movers directly, the idea is that you hire a broker instead. The broker then “sells” your move to a moving company, after comparing rates and estimates to find you the best deal.
It’s important to know which type of company you’re hiring. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates both types of companies, but they emphasize that brokers are not responsible for transporting your household goods, nor are they authorized to do so. The actual moving process must be carried out by a moving company, not the broker. Brokers do not have moving trucks or employ movers.
Moving brokers don’t usually deal exclusively with clients in their own geographical area. In fact, many of them operate through call centers located throughout the country.
The Trouble with Moving Brokers
In 2012, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation published a report identifying moving brokerage companies as a new source of problems in the moving industry. After extensive research, the Committee arrived at a few key findings:
- The moving brokers with the most FCMSA complaints had similar business practices to one another, and all relied heavily on the Internet for generating leads and sales. Many consumers interviewed for the report described a common shared experience. They searched online on the Internet for a moving services. One of the search results was a “moving broker,” who they contacted and hired. Many of these companies used names that were deceptively similar to those that an actual moving company would have, like “Budget Truck Rental” or “United Van Lines”.
- These companies’ business practices confused consumers. In many cases, consumers were not aware at first that they were actually hiring a broker, and were shocked when a different company (the moving company) arrived on the day when they wanted to move. Many of the internet brokerage companies did not clearly disclose that they were brokers, not carriers.
- Many brokers had customers to pay “deposits” that were really just service fees for brokerage. Some of these companies labeled their fees as “deposits,” further confusing consumers into thinking they were hiring a moving company.
- Brokers did not do on-site visits to produce a price estimate. Unlike moving companies, brokers were unable to conduct a visual inspection of a person’s belongings to accurately estimate the cost of the move.
Brokers’ “binding estimates” provided no real certainty. The purpose of binding estimates is to give the consumer, a final, definite price for their moving. People who booked their move through a moving broker often ended up paying much more than they expected, as no one had actually done an on-site inspection for the estimate.
- Brokers were often obscure about their prices. Many of the brokers examined in the report drew in customers by offering low estimates, than taking a large fee that was portrayed as a “deposit.”
There are legitimate moving brokerage companies, but it’s quite common for moving brokers to use deceptive tactics to draw in consumers who were under the impression that they were hiring a moving company.
Hire a Carrier, Not a Broker
In most cases, going through a moving broker is really a needless expense. If you’re concerned about finding the best price, get estimates from several residential moving companies before you decide who to hire. It’s almost always better to simply hire a local moving company directly than to go through a broker.
At Orange Movers, we provide residential moving services for homeowners and renters in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. To find out more, or to schedule an inspection and estimate, call us any time.