Take a quick survey of your friends, and chances are that many of them can share horror stories about moving companies that damaged their property during a move. This isn’t surprising because lots of things can go wrong. Delicate items can be bumped and broken, boxes can be lost, and both your new and old apartments can be damaged during the moving process.
Many people assume that a moving company has insurance to cover loss and damage. The truth is a little more complicated. Because companies that offer insurance are regulated by the state, most moving companies do not actually offer insurance. However, many moving companies do offer some protection to clients in the form of mover’s valuation.
What Does Mover’s Valuation Cover?
Moving companies offer different valuation options that assess the value of your items in different ways … and for different prices. Here are a few of the options typically offered by moving companies:
- Released Valuation — The moving company should at a minimum provide this level of protection. Released Valuation coverage is usually available as part of your standard moving fees at no extra cost, though you may have to sign for it. Under this plan, your movers assume liability for your items up to a value of $0.60 per pound. So if you have 30 lbs of stereo equipment and speakers are damaged beyond repair, you would be compensated $18 for your loss. Obviously, this level of coverage provides very little protection for most items, with the exception of the exceptionally heavy living-room couch you bought at the Salvation Army store.
- Declared Value — This option also values your items on a per-pound basis. You may be able to select the “per-pound” value of your items, or the moving company may simply offer a higher per-pound rate of protection. The moving company is liable for an amount equal to the per-pound rate multiplied by the total weight of all of your belongings. For example, if the total weight of your belongings equals $5,000 and your per-pound protection is $1.50, your movers will have a $7,000 liability limit. The liability is not limited to the weight of a particular item. If your 30 lb stereo system is the only item damaged, the movers can be liable up to the $7,000 limit, even though only one of your items was damaged. The amount of the protection is limited by the depreciated value of the item. If the depreciated value of the stereo is $500, this will be the limit that you can be reimbursed by the moving company.
- Lump Sum Value — Under this option, you can declare the total value of all of your belongings. You may have to provide documentation for the more valuable items. This is a good option if the Declared Value of your items listed above doesn’t provide adequate protection for your belongings. You will have to pay more for this option, sometimes at a fixed amount per $1,000 of declared value.
- Full Value Protection — This is the highest level of protection that moving companies offer. If an item is broken or damaged, the company will pay for the cost of repairing the item or provide full cash value for the item. Of course, this is also the most expensive option and must be purchased in advance. It’s always a good idea to take dated digital photographs of all of your fragile or expensive items in case you have to make a claim.
What Does Movers Valuation Not Cover?
You’ll have to read the fine print on your policy, but here are some things that your valuation policy probably will not cover:
- Damage to items that are not packed by the moving company — If you pack your boxes yourself and damage occurs to the item while it is in the box, you may not be covered. If this limitation applies, make sure to let the moving company pack your valuable things.
- Damage to your old and new apartments — If scuff marks appear on the walls or the hardwood floors are scratched when the couch was dragged across the floor, the damages will probably not be covered.
- Items already marked as damaged
- Items damaged in the case of a fire, storm, hail, or other factor outside of the control of the moving company — The moving company probably will not cover any damage that is not caused by the negligence of the company or its employees.
Is it worth purchasing extra protection from the moving company if you already have homeowners or renters insurance? The answer depends on your policy; however, you may be surprised by what isn’t covered. Many policies offer coverage only up to 10 percent of the value of your belongings. Despite your insurance, moving-related damages may not be covered. Many policies only protect your belongings when they are physically in the house. Damage incurred in the hallway, lobby, moving truck, or new apartment will probably not be covered. Some homeowners or renters insurance policies may provide extra coverage. Check with your insurance company instead of making assumptions about what is covered.
If you own very valuable items and feel that the options offered by your movers are not adequate, you may consider purchasing additional protection. You can buy insurance for particular items, or purchase separate “Goods in Transit” or Relocation Insurance from your insurance company. Check whether you must meet a deductible before coverage starts.
Other Things to Consider
All the insurance coverage in the world won’t do you much good if you’re dealing with a corrupt moving company. Unfortunately, a lot of bad apples are out there. Before selecting a company, ask family, friends and coworkers for advice. Look at the moving scam “blacklist” to see if your company is listed.
Also, do a Google search on your moving company and see if it turns up any negative hits. People who have been scammed or otherwise treated badly by a moving company are turning to the Internet to warn others. It’s worth the time and effort to do a little research to ensure that your belongings are in the hands of a trustworthy company.