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 which operate within any given local area. In the United States, all legitimate interstate moving companies must be licensed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. About half the states regulate local, or intrastate movers.
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 to pack their household goods themselves to keep their moving costs down. They are called PBOs (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.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 million Americans 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. Custom wooden crates are typically used when transporting large, heavy and odd shaped objects.
Removal vans will often have a Luton body, internal wooden wall bars (called raves) 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 finish or applying excessive force to the sides of the instrument.
For long distance moves, the cost is typically determined by the weight or the size of the items needing to be moved and the distance. For local moves, the cost usually depends on the number of hours it takes to move the goods. Some movers offer flat rate services but usually these are overridden by hourly costs. Professional movers usually offer an invoice. The cost of a move usually depends on factors such as the number of hours, distance, number of items, the size and weight of the items.