A moving company, removalist, or van line is a company that helps people and businesses relocate their goods from one place to another. Typically they use moving vans, but for international moves or where storage is required, they may use special containerised vans or shipping containers.
National companies are typically organized with local branches or affiliated agents. That affiliation may be in the form of a franchise, wherein the local agent is a franchise of a national company, or a cooperative, wherein the local agent owns a share of the national company. There are also many small independent moving companies who operate within any given local area. In the United States all legitimate moving companies must be licensed with the Federal Highway Administration and / or their State Commerce Commission.
Embedded within the moving industry are the services of truck / trailer / moving equipment rental companies and companies selling moving supplies for people who want to pack and move themselves. Then they use a professional mover to load a moving van, drive it to the new residence and then unload it there. Rental companies usually offer some training information for DIY movers who will be using their rental trucks, trailers or equipment to relocate themselves.
Some people obtain packing supplies with which to pack their household goods themselves in order to keep their moving costs down. A good source for free boxes is local grocery stores. These folks are called PBO’s (packed by owner) by their movers. Because they are not trained to properly pack their things, damages are more prevalent with their shipments and invariably they become disputable after the move. This is a major problem within the industry.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 million people have moved annually over the last decade.
Household removals require careful wrapping and packing to avoid damage to furniture and effects, so many household policies do not cover goods in transit unless they are being packed, carried and unpacked by a professional remover. In the moving industry, when a customer packs and unpacks his own boxes it is referred to as PBO (packed by owner) and policies do not insure these goods. On PBO moves it can become a point of huge contention between the mover and the customer as to who is at fault regarding damaged items within a box. Was it packed improperly by the customer or did the mover mishandle the box?
The process of packing a van or container for a removal requires that polished surfaces are protected (usually with special blankets or cardboard). China and other fragile effects are packed in rigid boxes, originally wooden tea chests but now usually cardboard, with layers of bunched up blank newsprint commonly used to protect against scratches and chips in transit. Soft materials may be packed in bags, suitcases or boxes.
Removal vans will often have a Luton body, internal wooden wall bars to which tall or heavy furniture can be secured with webbing, and a ramp or tail lift to assist in loading. Space on trucks is at a premium, so an experienced loader will pack into voids in furniture and use awkward shaped items such as ironing boards to fill narrow gaps.
Moving furniture in and out of houses, especially older properties, presents challenges; in areas where there are many older properties, furniture movers may be adept at removing and reinstalling sash window panes. Most double bed bases can be split, folded or dismantled.
Pianos are a particular problem; removals contractors will usually have specialist piano trolleys and there is a device colloquially known as a shoe which is strapped to the side of a grand piano to allow it to be rested on edge on the trolley without damaging the polish or applying excessive force to the sides of the instrument.
Notable operators include Allied Van Lines in the United States and Pickfords in the United Kingdom.
Moving companies often offer services that are less involved and expensive than full service moving. Companies like Penske Truck Rental and others derive most of their income from truck and equipment services. Others provide drivers and delivery service, simply letting the customer perform the actual packing. Many full service moving companies require a minimum hour to guarantee their return on investment, while other prefer to use a fabled one-hour minimum charge or a deposit for the same purpose. The use of truck rental services, or simply borrowing similar hardware, is referred to as DIY moving in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The parties moving borrow or rent a truck or trailer large enough to carry the load of household goods to be relocated and, if necessary, obtaining moving equipment such as dollies, furniture pads and cargo belts to protect the furniture and make things easier to move. It also involves finding or buying materials such as boxes, paper, tape and bubble wrap with which to pack boxable and/or fragile household goods for their protection and for compact carrying and stacking on moving day. Self service moving companies such as Movex, Helpumove and Portable On Demand Storage offer another viable option: The person moving buys space on one or more trailers or shipping containers. These large containers, often up to 53′ feet in length, are driver by professionals to the new location. The renters of the trailer or truck often sell or lease accessories such as furniture blankets, tie down straps, packing material, dollies and ramps.
These moving company services are often considerably less expensive than full service moving. The key difference is that much of the liability for damage falls on the customer when they utilize these services. The carrier is generally only liable for damage resulting from traffic accidents or other damage that occurs to the trailer after they recover it. Damage from improper loading and packing falls on the customer, much like with a rental truck.
There are numerous companies out there who are not moving companies themselves, but they offer the consumer connections to numerous moving companies. The moving companies get business leads in this manner, and the consumer gets a quote for a lower price on their move because the companies compete for business. This is a fairly recent addition to the moving industry. This allows consumers to get multiple quotes from one place as well as various information and tips on moving and all of the aspects that go along with it. Some of these sites go a step further and offer weight calculators and other tools so that consumers are able to get a closer estimate of what their move will cost them.