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Protecting Your Move: How Moving Insurance Works

Your stuff is important. But is moving insurance worth the cost?

Nina Raemont Writer
A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she's in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.
Nina Raemont
5 min read
A moving truck filled with boxes and furniture

Also known as evaluation or coverage, moving insurance can protect your belongings in case they're lost or damaged.

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Moving is stressful enough even if every moving part (pun intended) goes according to plan and your belongings stay intact throughout the move. But let's say minor or major disasters strike: a couple boxes go missing or your favorite plateware and treasured heirlooms break in transit. What happens then? 

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When we hire professional movers, we can't control what happens to our boxes and belongings once they're out of our hands. That's why moving insurance -- or moving valuation or coverage, because moving companies do not actually offer insurance -- is something to consider when you hire a moving company. 

What is moving insurance, how is it different from value coverage and do you need either ahead of your next move? We'll get into all of that and more below. 

For more moving tips, here are the best moving companies of 2023 and how you can vet prospective moving companies ahead of your move. 

What is moving insurance and what does it cover?

When thinking about moving insurance, there are two types to consider -- the valuation that moving companies provide for damages and third-party moving insurance for additional coverage. Moving companies themselves are not technically allowed to sell actual insurance policies.

Interstate moving companies are required by federal law to provide both "released value protection" at no cost and "full value protection," usually for an additional fee. These are two methods for reimbursing customers for items damaged or lost. 

Additional, third-party moving insurance can protect your belongings in case they are lost, damaged, stolen or destroyed by fire or other disasters. The compensation you receive for losses will depend on the type of moving insurance you choose -- you could get very little in the case of damages or have everything fully replaced and repaired. 

Some moving companies work with insurance providers to offer policies, while others will require you to find insurance on your own.

What is the difference between released value coverage and full value coverage? 

Most moving companies provide released value coverage at no additional cost. The Department of Transportation requires all movers to provide it and many states mandate it as well. 

With released value coverage, a customer is not electing any additional value or protection to their belongings. Movers evaluate the monetary value of your belongings by weight -- 60 cents per pound -- to reimburse you in the event of damage or loss. So let's say the movers break a 32-inch flat screen TV that weighs around 30 pounds. They would pay you a whopping $18 for it. Not that much money, right? 

Full value protection, on the other hand, offers customers replacements, repairs or a cash settlement for the lost or damaged item, generally through a deductible. "Under this option, movers are allowed to limit their legal responsibility to loss or damage to items of 'extraordinary value,' meaning items that are valued more than $100 per pound (such as jewelry, china, or furs)," per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Full value coverage costs extra, but it's a more secure option if you're moving prized possessions that you don't want to lose or see damaged. There are some caveats to full value protection. Since higher-valued items are limited to no more than $100 per pound, you will need to disclose everything that is worth more than that in writing prior to your move. 

How is moving valuation coverage different from moving insurance?

It's important to remember that moving companies' valuation coverage is not insurance. It's a system for reimbursing you for lost or damaged items. 

A moving insurance policy requires you to sign a contract in which you pay an agreed upon premium for a specific amount of financial coverage. Whereas valuation coverage only deals with damage caused by movers, moving insurance is generally broader and covers events like fire, theft and other losses. 

Should I buy moving insurance? 

In most cases, it's worth the peace of mind and protection to pay extra for moving insurance. Your decision to opt for it will be based on the value of your belongings and how much risk you're willing to take when moving.

Most movers are required to provide valuation coverage for handling your belongings, but which type you choose (released value coverage or full value protection) dictates how much you're reimbursed in the event of damage or loss. If you're only accepting released value coverage, you may want to supplement with a separate insurance policy that protects all of your possessions from a wider range of calamities.

Before purchasing mover's insurance, you'll need to make a complete inventory of your stuff and properly assess the value of everything. Insure yourself for 100% of your possessions' value in order to replace everything in the case of catastrophe. 

If you already have renter's or homeowner's insurance, be sure to contact your provider to see if your policy includes any coverage for moving. You may already have some protection you don't know about.

What else should I know before buying moving insurance or coverage? 

Moving companies don't cover damages inside boxes you packed, unless the boxes are obviously damaged on the outside. "You may consider packing your own household goods articles to reduce your costs, but if the articles you pack are damaged, it may be more difficult to establish your claim against the mover for the boxes you pack," the Department of Transportation writes. 

Packing perishable, dangerous or hazardous materials in your household goods without your mover's knowledge may limit your mover's liability. So will choosing released value coverage when your belongings are worth more than the standard 60 cents per pound evaluation. 

What happens if my belongings get damaged during the move? 

An extensive inventory list comes in handy for identifying damages and loss. Keep a tracking list of all the valuables you're packing away ahead of moving. 

Creating a comprehensive inventory that includes all of your items, their conditions and their values will make it much easier to prove that your items were damaged by movers. 

If your belongings do get damaged or lost during a move, you'll need to report those lost or damaged articles by filing a claim with your mover within nine months of the delivery date.