How to spot a Broker?
The Problem with Moving Brokers
DO NOT USE A MOVING BROKER!
This advice is spread across the internet and for most people, it’s good advice. Far too often move horror stories involve a moving broker. Simply declaring, DO NOT USE A BROKER, isn’t really that helpful. Some of the largest, most reputable van lines in the country are also licensed moving brokers.
So, who can you trust?
Quick answer: avoid companies that are only licensed to broker moves.
Generally, we see a lot of issues with companies that only broker moves. Companies licensed as both carrier and broker should be evaluated just like any other regular moving company
In this post, we’ll lay out how to avoid shady moving brokers.
But first, let’s understand what a moving broker actually is.
What is a moving broker?
Moving brokers are middlemen who book your move and then hire a 3rd party moving company to perform the move. Moving brokers are not the actual moving company. A moving broker is only responsible for booking the move. Once the move is booked, the broker will find a moving company who will do the actual move. Responsibility for the move will fall solely on the moving company the broker hires.
If the broker made a mistake on the estimate it’s up to the moving company to correct the estimate and renegotiate the price if necessary. Good moving brokers will work closely with the moving company to make sure estimates and fees are consistent from broker to mover. However, many moving brokers take this lack of accountability as a free license to book moves however, they please. Brokers will often rush to book the sale and omit critical details from the estimate. In the worst cases, the broker will purposefully leave details off the estimate so they can quote a lower price. This typically leads to price increases on moving day.
How to check if a company is a broker
You can use the FMCSA’s SAFER Mover Database to quickly check if a company is a broker.
If the company is a licensed broker, they’ll be assigned a Department of Transportation Number (DOT#) and a Motor Carrier Number (MC#). You’ll need to obtain one of these numbers or try searching the company name directly.
Companies will typically provide their DOT# or MC# on the estimate paperwork. They may also be listed on their website (check the footer) or on their “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages.
Head over to the FMCSA’s SAFER Mover Database and plug in one of these numbers. You’ll want to pay attention to the Entity Type: and Operating Status: listed in the database.
A regular, plain actual moving company should look like this…
Now, a pure moving broker should look like this. This means they own no trucks and only broker moves.
Pure moving brokers typically have flashy websites and high-quality salespeople. They’re excellent at selling you the move. You want to avoid these companies! These companies are notorious for low-quality standards and shady sales tactics.
If a company has both licenses, you’ll want to ask them if your move will be brokered. If the move is going to be brokered always ask to get the actual moving companies name who will be performing the move.
Bottom line: Avoid companies that are only licensed to broker moves. Companies with a license to broker a move and a license to perform moves should be evaluated just like any regular moving company
What Is the Difference Between Moving Brokers and Moving Companies?
If someone is not doing their move themselves, there are two ways they can hire a moving company to do their move. One way is to hire a moving broker and the other is to hire an actual mover.
Here are some of the differences between them.
What is a Moving Broker?
Moving brokers are middlemen between the household who is moving and moving companies. The brokers are not the actual movers and typically do not own trucks or moving equipment or have a professional moving staff. They provide the convenience of finding a moving company and are salespeople who "sell" the move.
Typically, moving brokers give estimates for a move either over the phone or on the Internet and collect payments from the person who is moving. The brokers then bid out the job to moving companies based on the estimate. The benefit of using a moving broker is that the move sometimes could be accomplished cheaper than hiring a moving company directly. However, there are some risks involved with using a broker. There is the possibility that the job might not be accepted by a moving company, usually because of a low estimate, availability of resources, and the customer would be left without a mover on moving day. In addition, unlicensed or uninsured movers might be hired for the job or the moving company might charge extra fees once they see the totality of the job. Interestingly, the brokers do not accept any liability for the acts or omissions of the moving company hired.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is working to provide stronger consumer protections when using a broker. Therefore, moving brokers must:
Be registered with the FMCSA.
Provide the customer with the FMCSA Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move booklet and the Ready to Move brochure.
Provide a list of the moving companies they use.
Use only movers that are registered with FMCSA.
Have a written agreement with the movers they use.
Base binding or non-binding estimates on the tariff of the mover that will transport the shipment.
Reference in their advertisements their physical business location, motor carrier number, and their status as a broker that does not transport household goods but arranges for this service.
Have the mover that is transporting the shipment perform a physical survey of the household goods to be moved if they are within a 50-mile radius of the mover or its agent's location, whichever is closer. It is the client's option to waive this requirement.
Moving companies are the firms that do the actual move. They own trucks and moving equipment and have a professional moving staff. Moving companies will come to the house and give an estimate for performing the move, which will most likely be more accurate than the estimate from a moving broker. The price will normally depend on the weight or CFT and amount of the items and the distance of the move.
While making an agreement with a moving company might provide more confidence with a move, since the company can be held liable for anything that goes wrong with a move, there are additional fees to consider when using professional movers, additional services, such as preparing appliances for the move or moving a piano; and extra charges, such as expedited services and long-haul charges.
Why You Should Choose a Mover over a Broker
Brokers do not have the same level of expertise as moving companies. They don't have trucks or moving equipment. They also don't have the ability to offer discounts. This means that when you hire them, you're going to pay more than if you had hired a real moving company. Moving brokers usually work out of a call center, which means that you'll be calling them every time there's an issue. Their offices might be located hundreds of miles away from your new home.
Regardless of whether clients choose a broker or a moving company to perform a move, they should always research online the credibility and reputability of the firm by checking with the Better Business Bureau and the FMCSA.