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What Is a Moving Van Line, and Is It Right for Your Move?

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Author Image Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 04/16/2024

Planning a long-distance move is stressful enough without having to decipher industry terminology such as van lines, carriers, brokers, agents, and more. It’s important to understand these terms so you know who is handling the actual work of your move. In this article, we’ll explain what van lines are and how they differ from moving carriers and brokers. Then, we’ll list their services and show you how to determine the best moving company for your needs.


What is a Moving Van Line?

A moving van line is simply a large long-distance moving company. These companies have usually been in business for a long time as top interstate moving companies, and sometimes even assist with international ones. Van lines employ a network of local professional movers across the country and own and operate thousands of moving trucks.

These local movers are called van line agents, and they operate like franchises of the larger van line. The van lines are national brands, and the agents are the employees who complete the moving process.

Often, hauling agents will have their own name as a moving company, but for interstate moves, they’ll operate under the name of the national van line. They often use van-line-branded moving trucks, uniforms, and paperwork as well. Some of the best-known national van lines include:

Moving Van Lines vs. Moving Brokers

A van line is also a type of moving carrier. It’s a company that completes moving services in-house. However, a van line isn’t the only type of moving carrier. In addition to van lines, there are many independent moving carriers throughout the country that mostly provide local and intrastate moves. Moving carriers may offer partial-service moves that only include the truck’s loading and unloading, or full-service moves that include packing, unpacking, furniture assembly, and even house cleaning. Van lines are generally full-service carriers.

Carriers and van lines are distinct from moving brokers. Brokers don’t complete their own moves. Instead, they act like travel agents, charging a fee for coordinating services from independent moving carriers. Some moving carriers and van lines are licensed as brokers, allowing them to contract out portions of a move to other companies. Additionally, not all companies that call themselves “van lines” are actually licensed carriers. You can check the status of a moving company—whether it’s registered as a carrier or a broker—by looking it up in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) database.


Benefits of Van Lines

A van line is often the best choice if you’re looking for a full-service moving company for an interstate or international move. Below are some of the perks of using a van line for your long-distance move.

In-House Services

International Moves

National
Reach

Standardized Quality

The main advantage of a van line—and any large moving carrier—over a broker is that the van line controls all aspects of the move. The booking agent, hauling agents, move coordinators, and other moving staff all work for the same company. Most van lines even have their own short-term storage facilities. Scheduling is easier, prices are fixed much earlier in the process, and fewer surprises exist. Also, a large customer service network can help if something goes wrong.

International moves require more logistical planning than even very long interstate moves. National van lines can shepherd you through this process to minimize the stress of the move. Similarly, many national van lines partner directly with the military to help with relocation anywhere in the country or world. They’re familiar with all the special requirements involved.

Van lines have agents all over the country. So, no matter how far you’re moving or how remote your destination is, you’ll only have to deal with a single company. This nationwide infrastructure greatly simplifies the whole process. There’s no need to attempt to coordinate with separate businesses in your old and new locations.

Van line agents must pass a vetting process and agree to certain quality standards and guidelines. Not all van line agents are equally excellent, but they all have a nationwide employer to answer to, and that employer is invested in maintaining the brand’s good name. The appeal of hiring a van line is similar to going to a chain restaurant on vacation—you know what to expect.


Drawbacks of Van Lines

Van lines are often the most convenient and secure way to make a long-distance move, but they have some drawbacks.

  • Van lines don’t handle in-state moves, but you can often book an individual van line agent for a shorter move.
  • Van lines are a bit more expensive than coordinating the move yourself or hiring a broker because there’s no negotiating between companies.
  • You may not get every service you want if the van line doesn’t offer it in-house.
  • You’ll typically receive a range of delivery dates for when your belongings will arrive at your destination. So, you might need more certainty than a van line can typically provide if you have a tight schedule.

Standard Van Line Services

Van lines are full-service movers. Services often vary by company, but here’s what most can do:

  • Disassemble and reassemble furniture
  • Load and unload moving trucks
  • Pack all household goods
  • Provide packing supplies
  • Unpack and dispose of packing materials

The above services are all standard, but there are some others that van lines may offer:

  • Car (or other vehicle) shipping
  • Custom crating
  • Corporate relocation services
  • Fragile-only packing and moving
  • Temporary storage-in-transit
  • Specialty item moving (antiques, fine art, pianos)

Most van lines operate nationwide, so you’ll have multiple choices no matter where you’re moving from and to. Here’s how to find the best long-distance movers for you.

Identify the Services You Need

First, make sure you know which additional services you’ll be using. For example, if you want to include your car in the shipping process, you don’t want to find out at the last minute that your chosen company doesn’t offer that service.

Check Licensing and Insurance

As previously stated, all licensed moving companies must be registered with FMCSA under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) as either a carrier or a broker. This allows them to move household goods across state lines legally. Ask for proof of up-to-date licensure. Additionally, all moving companies should be properly insured.

Search Customer Reviews and Complaints

The FMCSA has a mover search tool that lets you look up outstanding customer complaints against national moving companies. You can also search for the company on the Better Business Bureau website, which will show you customer reviews and ratings based on the transparency of the company’s business practices. However, remember that the national van line and the van line agent completing your move are two different entities. Get information on the hauling agent and look for their reviews and ratings as well.

Get Multiple Quotes

Most van lines offer free quotes, and you can often get a quote by filling out an online form. We recommend getting quotes from at least three companies and getting written estimates whenever possible. Keep in mind that the most affordable moving company may not be the best for you, and it’s important to know what the quote includes and what it doesn’t. Lastly, try to get a binding estimate from your preferred van line.


Our Conclusion

Hiring a van line for your interstate, international, or other long-distance move is a stress-free choice that has advantages over hiring a moving broker or trying to coordinate the whole thing yourself. A van line is also ideal if you want a full-service moving experience and someone to take care of all steps of the process in-house. All you’ll have to do is transport yourself and your family to your new home, and the van line will take care of the rest.


FAQ About Moving Van Lines

What are the advantages of using a moving broker?

Moving brokers, who coordinate the logistics of your move rather than moving your belongings themselves, tend to be less expensive because they can negotiate between moving companies. Brokers can also coordinate a wider variety of services because they aren’t limited to those offered in-house.

What is a moving carrier?

A moving carrier is a company that owns its own moving trucks and directly employs professional movers. This kind of mover doesn’t contract the work out but completes it in-house.

What is the difference between a moving company and a moving broker?

A moving company is licensed and authorized to transport your belongings and typically owns and operates its own trucks. A moving broker coordinates your move and negotiates on your behalf with moving companies to complete the process.

What is the difference between a long-distance moving company and a local moving company?

The difference between local and long-distance moving companies is the distance they cover and their licensing. Local moving companies only operate within a single state or even a single region or city. Long-distance moving companies are licensed with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to move your belongings across state lines and are necessary for interstate moves.

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