A moving tariff is a legal document published by either an individual moving company or an association of moving companies that details everything from services and prices to payment terms and claims policies.
It’s not so well-known, but many independent interstate movers and national van lines use the same tariffs, though they may opt to customize them by changing prices and adding or deleting services.
For local and intrastate moves most companies make their own tariffs, or when mandated use ones published by government agencies in states where movers are regulated.
According to the American Moving & Storage Association
, tariffs must comply with a number of federal laws and regulations that dictate:
- The way in which moving documents are prepared
- How your household goods are weighed and transported
- How charges are collected
- How much liability the company assumes for loss and damage during a move
Find a Great Mover First
Before getting lost in a sea of tariffs you’ll need to find a reputable mover.
Asking friends, family, and coworkers for personal referrals is a great way to get the process started.
That said –
We’ve researched hundreds of interstate moving companies and cross-referenced everything from licensing and insurance information to customer reviews and complaints.
In short, working with the best moving companies has never been more important.
Prior to scheduling estimates, check out our moving cost calculator for free instant ‘ballpark’ quotes for:
Why are Tariffs Important?
Since tariffs lay out every service offered by a moving company and the price for each, they’re arguably the most important document you’ll get when moving.
In fact, they’re ‘must-haves’ for savvy consumers intent on protecting themselves against being scammed and overcharged – and they’re free for the asking.
Though they can be difficult to understand, familiarizing yourself with your mover’s tariff is a great way to lessen the likelihood of experiencing mid and post-move surprises.
Companies can either provide a hard copy of their tariff or a link to where it can be found online, but either way, if a mover you’re considering hems and haws about giving you a copy of theirs, cross them off your list and move on.
Did You Know?
It’s a common misconception that movers must give each customer a copy of their tariff, but that’s not necessarily true.
They’re really only required to make it available to customers who request one, which few do.
How to Use a Tariff
In many respects, tariffs are like menus.
Though you may order a Maine lobster tail after the third glass of red wine when dining out, the restaurant can’t charge you any more than the price listed on their menu.
Likewise, movers can’t charge more than their published rates.
Chances are you won’t need many (or most) of the services on their tariff, but knowing how much each cost in case you do is a huge benefit.
Since a company’s tariff lists services and associated prices, they can’t claim down the road that they’re justified in charging more.
On the other hand, it’s your responsibility to read the tariff and understand it.
And remember, just because you think a service is pricier than it should be you’ll still have to pay the full amount if it was properly published in the tariff.
In addition to reviewing services and prices, also carefully consider –
- Valuation (insurance)
- Payment Options
- Claims resolution procedures (and possibly mandatory arbitration)
- The different types of estimates (non-binding, not-to-exceed, guaranteed price)
Insider’s Tip: The Federal Motor Carrier Administration only regulates interstate commerce, so if you have a problem on a local or intrastate move you’ll need to contact state authorities and regulatory agencies for help.
What do Movers’ Tariffs Include?
Having access to movers’ prices before moving is a huge advantage for customers unsure of which services they’d like to take advantage of.
You may even find some services to be cost-prohibitive, in which case you’ll need to do them yourself or find an alternative.
The following line items (and others) are found in nearly all tariffs –
1. Packing (material and labor)
Packing charges should include a per-box price depending on carton size, as well as the labor rate to pack it.
On most interstate moving tariffs packing labor is flat rated, which means you’ll pay the same price whether it takes the packer 5 minutes or 20 minutes to pack a box.
2. Valuation (insurance)
On interstate moves carriers are required to offer customers a free “released value” option as well as full-value replacement coverage with multiple deductible options which you’ll pay extra for.
Valuation is different on local moves, so read this section carefully.
Additional charges may apply to services above and beyond those that movers normally perform.
Accessorial charges include:
- Long carries – when there’s excessive distance between the truck and residence
- Bulky items – like pianos, motorcycles, riding mowers and hot tubs
- Extra labor – for disassembling and reassembling home gyms and playground equipment
Storage is often a necessary evil that rears its head at the most inopportune time, like when the truck is en route to your new home.
Most customers assume that just needing storage for a week or 10 days is cheap, but that’s almost never the case unless you’ve made prior arrangements.
In fact, the cost for the first day of storage alone is often hundreds of dollars (or more than $1,000) because you’re charged for the labor required to get your items off the truck, into storage containers and into the warehouse.
For this reason, it’s always best to get storage quotes beforehand.
5. Extra Stops
Whether at origin or destination, extra pick-ups and deliveries at storage units, offices or relatives’ homes can be inexpensive, but if they require the truck to travel significant out-of-route miles charges may add up.
6. Fuel Surcharge
On nearly all interstate moves (and many local moves) you’ll be charged a fuel surcharge.
Interstate move fuel surcharges are non-negotiable, and they’re based on the national average cost of diesel fuel published by the US Energy Information Administration.
On local moves, they’re often flat rated but may be negotiable.
7. Custom Crating
Most movers subcontract crating for marble tabletops, sculptures, and expensive artwork to specialty service providers.
Regardless of how it’s handled, you’ll want to address custom crating during the pre-move phase because it can be very expensive.
8. Appliance Services
Likewise, most moving companies will not disconnect and reconnect washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators with water lines and ice makers.
These services should be discussed when getting estimates so it’s clear who’s responsible for doing them.
If the truck can’t get close to your home due to a weight-restricted bridge, low-hanging tree limbs or other obstructions, the mover will rent a smaller truck to facilitate delivery.
Shuttles can be time-consuming and expensive, and charges are based on the weight of your shipment.
Insider’s Tip: Reputable moving companies have a vested interest in educating their customers, so if you’re having trouble getting your tariff questions answered satisfactorily you’d be wise to move on to greener pastures
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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
1. Are tariff rates negotiable?
In many instances the answer is yes, movers can (and do) offer discounts off their tariff rates.
In fact, discounts for interstate moves are often as big as 65%, because most movers’ standard rates are so expensive that if they didn’t discount them few people could afford to move.
If you’re moving in-state, tariff rates may not be discountable if the state in which you reside regulates moving companies.
This may be the case in states like Pennsylvania and California.
2. Can movers be penalized for tariff violations?
Under certain circumstances moving companies can be fined by regulatory agencies for charging too much or too little.
Though they’re generally civil infractions, monetary penalties can be high.
Rogue movers are surprisingly common, but regulation and oversight are often spotty at best, so choosing a mover you can trust is of the utmost importance.
3. How do moving companies make tariffs?
Some moving companies use templates to make tariffs, while others enlist help from attorneys specializing in transportation issues to ensure that their tariffs meet all legal requirements.
If you’re moving from one state to another with a large national van line, each of their agents will use the same tariff, so pricing will remain consistent throughout your move.
4. What can I do if I’m being scammed?
One of the oldest and most nefarious tricks that disreputable movers pull is holding their customer’s household goods hostage until they pay exorbitant fees.
Thankfully, this is an illegal practice, and there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Though you may not get a quick resolution in a standoff with your mover, filing a report with the correct regulatory agencies is a necessary first step in getting the issue taken care of.
Remember, most scammy movers prey exclusively on uneducated consumers, so knowing Your Right and Responsibilities When You Move is imperative.