There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching movers load the last box into the moving truck and drive away. Now it’s just you, your car, your family, dog or air plant (what have you), and the open road. With the truck on its way, you’re free to worry about far less.
… or are you?
Unfortunately, putting your items in a moving truck doesn’t guarantee they’ll arrive at your new home safely (even if you drive them yourself). That’s where moving insurance comes in, helping you deal with items that get lost or damaged along the way. Here’s how it works.
A Brief Crash Course in Moving Insurance
Before you get moving insurance, it’s important to do your research. Getting the wrong type of insurance, or signing up for a policy that doesn’t actually cover your move, is as bad as getting nothing at all. (Worse, in fact, because it’s a waste of money.)
To make the right choice, you’ll first need to make several decisions, including who will move your items, what type of insurance will cover them most effectively and how much you’ll insure your possessions for.
Which Is Safer, Moving Items Yourself or With a Company?
Many people automatically assume that in order to get insurance, you have to hire movers. That’s not actually the case. While moving companies do offer coverage, and contracting through them is perhaps the easiest way to insure your items, you can also use other channels.
For instance, while formerly they only offered liability and vehicle coverage, DIY moving companies such as U-Haul now offer insurance that covers your possessions as well. This is essential, points out the moving website, because “all major credit cards and most car insurance policies do not typically cover our rental equipment.”
It is also possible that your homeowners or renters insurance will cover items during your move. However, oftentimes this coverage isn’t as comprehensive as what’s available from a moving company. And you definitely shouldn’t assume your possessions are covered, as some policies exclude items once they’re out the door or before they come in. If neither your old nor new policy will help you out, you’ll need to get a moving insurance policy.
Types of Moving Insurance
More specifically, there are several types of moving insurance. These include:
- A trip transit policy in homeowners or renters insurance, which again, is not guaranteed
- Basic carrier liability, which covers your possessions at a flat per-pound rate, usually less than a dollar, which obviously won’t cover expensive electronics or antiques
- Full value protection, which is not necessarily the full value that you would assign, so make sure your carrier and you are on the “same page” when it comes to the coverage amount
- Separate liability insurance, which is a policy that specifies an overall coverage amount that the carrier has to pay on top of the per-pound rate if something gets lost or damaged
Choose Your Moving Insurance Level
Once you choose a type of moving insurance that will work for you, it’s time to choose the amount of your policy.
- How many items you have and how important those items are to you
- How breakable the items are and whether you can protect those items during packing
- Where you’re going and whether you can replace those items easily once you get there
- How expensive the items are and whether they might be targets for theft
To the last point, you should always take financial records, deeds, titles, jewelry, cash, passports, Social Security cards and other forms of identification, and especially sentimental items, with you in your car.
Keep in mind that the price of the policy is linked directly to the coverage amount, so the final factor in choosing your level of coverage is how much you can afford to spend. When thinking this through, make sure to take other moving costs into account and balance those with your desired level of coverage.
Dealing With the Worst Case Scenario
Sometimes, unfortunately, even the most conscientious movers lose or damage items. Even more unfortunately, not all movers are conscientious. If your items go missing or show up broken, it’s time to put that moving insurance to work.
What to Do When Items Get Lost
First and foremost, know that you should never sign for a delivery of your possessions before you have verified that they’re all there. The best way to go about this is to make a moving inventory ahead of time, in which you list all your larger items (furniture, appliances) as well as how many boxes you have, broken up by room. This is a good thing to schedule into your moving checklist (download for free here!) a few months before the move.
When your items arrive, check them carefully against your inventory. If anything is missing, don’t sign. Even if the movers pressure you to sign so they can go, don’t sign. Instead, ask them to wait while you get on the phone with their superiors. Ask them:
- What forms you need to fill out to track down your lost items
- If there is an alternate form to sign that releases the movers but acknowledges that some of your items are missing
- What the next steps are
If your shipment doesn’t show up at all, call the moving company immediately following the scheduled date of arrival to inquire. Can’t get answers from them? Contact any intermediary shipping companies they might have used along the way (which you can find in your contract). If you still can’t get your items back, it’s time to call in your moving insurance.
What to Do When Items Are Damaged
When your items show up damaged, you’ll have to check the contract carefully before signing as well. If it says you’re signing to acknowledge that items are in good shape, don’t sign. Instead, follow the same steps as above to figure out what forms you need to file your claim with the carrier and/or insurance company.
How to File an Insurance Claim
If your items have vanished or been damaged beyond repair, it’s time to put that insurance policy to work. While many people tend to freak out at this step, and we certainly understand why, try to approach the process calmly. Filing an insurance claim does require a lot of patience and paperwork, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how.
- Call the carrier and insurance company to get all necessary forms mailed or faxed to you.
- Fill out the forms and send them to all stakeholders.
- Make sure to keep a copy of the forms. Ideally, send them through email so you have a record of others receiving them.
- Follow the steps that they give you.
Hopefully, this will lead to resolution. But if it doesn’t …
What to Do When the Carrier Won’t Honor the Insurance
In some instances, unfortunately, your carrier or insurance company will refuse to honor the moving insurance. They might claim the paperwork was filed incorrectly, that the damage/loss doesn’t meet with the terms of the policy, or something else. In that case, you have a few options:
- Appeal to the insurance company, explaining why you believe their decision to be incorrect or unfair.
- Call an independent adjuster, who can assess an item’s damage and make their own report, which you can use in a legal claim or appeal to the insurance company. This, unfortunately, isn’t a helpful step in the case of a lost item.
- File a lawsuit with the help of an attorney.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. While this doesn’t do anything to get your stuff back, it can hopefully offer you some peace of mind.
Be Sure to Insure Items in Storage
In addition to moving insurance, it’s smart to get storage insurance as well. Many people choose storage units to house their items between moves for a few months or while they move out of the area temporarily. Even in a small storage unit, where you’re only keeping a few pieces of furniture or other important possessions, you’ll want to make sure your items are covered. Ideally, choose a storage unit that offers multiple levels of insurance so you can choose the one that works for you.
At the end of the day, selecting and paying for moving insurance is no one’s idea of a good time … but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. While most movers will deliver your items faithfully and on time, you’ll feel better if you hedge your bets and get the insurance, so don’t wait!
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