Planning a Move Across Town

The rules for local moves are different from those for interstate moves, so make sure you understand them before planning a move across town.

Planning a move across town can be nearly as challenging as moving across country, and you're hiring movers without the protections of federal agencies that regulate interstate moves. Plus, different rules apply, rules that can vary state by state. Here are some things you should know when you're making a local move.

The major difference between a local move and an interstate move is that local movers generally charge by the hour and number of people needed to move your goods 100 miles or less.

This is not cut and dry. Depending on where you live, the moving company and how far you're moving, you might still be charged by weight and mileage. You might not have a choice about how you are charged, depending on local laws. (Only 30 of the 50 states regulate intrastate moves, according to the American Moving and Storage Association.) Some companies also offer a flat-rate fee for a local move.

If you are paying by the hour for a local move, consider what you can do to help the movers do their job more quickly. Being ready when the movers arrive is a good place to start. Have the appliances unplugged, the ceiling fans disconnected and removed (if you are taking them), the boxes packed and ready to go.

Stacking packed boxes a few feet high can make it quick and easy for the movers to load them onto dollies and onto the truck. Labeling each box with the room it belongs in also can keep things rolling, especially if you clearly identify those rooms at your new home. You also could have the movers unload all or most of the boxes in one room, then unpack or move them the rest of the way yourself.

With any local move, it's your choice whether to pack yourself or have the movers pack all or some of your belongings. Some people have the movers pack breakables and large, fragile items like mirrors, glass table tops and framed artwork with glass. Just make sure you understand how you'll be charged for any packing the movers do for your local move. With a local move, carriers are often subject to less liability for damages than with interstate moves.

For both local and interstate moves, experts and the American Moving and Storage Association strongly advise you to steer away from companies that won't do an in-home estimate. Phone estimates are not binding.

Also, experts advise checking out moving companies with your local Better Business Bureau. Remember that if you're using a national company, you'll need to check out the local agent that will actually be handling the move.

Another resource is the www.protectyourmove.gov Web site maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. You can find state-specific lists of moving associations and regulatory agencies at the site. You also can check the American Moving and Storage Association Web site to see whether the mover is a member. The association says it removes the names of members with a repeated pattern of consumer abuse.

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