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Preparing to Move? Here's What You Need to Know About Your Insurance

guy with moving boxes

If you’re moving, chances are high it will happen during the summer.

Northerners prefer to move without the chance of a blizzard striking, but even in the South, summer is peak season for home sales, storage and moving companies. Parents want to get settled before a new school year begins and, perhaps due to this, companies tend to transfer employees in summer months.

Not surprisingly, May is designated as National Moving Month, with tons of helpful and educational moving tips circulating before moving season goes into full swing. To boil things down, if you’re one of the estimated 20 million Americans packing up your life this summer, the key takeaway is this: Plan ahead.

A lot of that planning can be done before the first box is packed: Forwarding mail, setting up utilities, sorting and purging your stuff, and another task you might not think of in advance — updating your insurance.

Your homeowners or renters policy must be addressed, of course, and you might want additional coverage on your belongings while they are in transit. But even with auto insurance, rates vary by ZIP code and most states require a policy issued from that particular state. Overwhelmed? Nah, don’t be — here’s a handy timeline for a smooth transition:

As soon as you know the address:

As soon as you have it, let all your insurance providers know your new address and when you are moving. This is especially important if you are moving out of state because your provider may or may not be authorized to do business there, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Your premiums may rise or drop based on where you live, and there are a lot of reasons for this. Larger cities, earthquake or flood prone areas are good examples. With auto insurance, longer commutes and urban areas with higher traffic congestion impact your premiums.

Since you’ll need to take a look at your policies anyway, now’s the time to multitask and do a little shopping around. To get quotes, you’ll need basic information about your new residence, such as the year it was built, whether it’s concrete slab or pier and beam, type of roof, etc. When comparing, look at more than the premiums, because you might be getting what you pay for — one insurer might offer a lower premium but way less coverage.

Shopping around is also something to think about if you prefer a local agent. 

professional mover on the job

If you're hiring professional movers:

“If you have family heirlooms, stuff you can’t replace, put it in the car yourself,”  says Steve Bernas, President of Chicago and Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau, who recommends hiring only certified professional moving companies.

When you hire them, expect them to ask you about insurance.

Your homeowner’s or renter’s policy will provide coverage in some types of mishaps, so find out about those in advance.

Fun fact: Moving companies are required have insurance, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The usual built-in coverage, called “released value,” is what is provided at no extra charge. With released value coverage, the mover pays you up to 60 cents per pound for lost or damaged items. 

Available for an extra fee is “depreciated value coverage,” which is exactly what it sounds like. The mover pays you market value for a lost item, minus depreciation — or a pre-determined amount per pound.

If you’ve got really nice stuff, you can also purchase “replacement value” coverage, and be paid fully for any lost or damaged items.

Fast forward to moving/delivery day: Don’t let your movers leave before you check your belongings, including the contents of boxes if you can. If you find damage, get a signature from the mover acknowledging which items are damaged, so you can file a claim. 

If it's a DIY move:

Before renting a van or truck, check to see if your auto insurance will cover the size truck you’ll need. Some policies exclude trucks of certain sizes, but most will let you add on coverage during the move, according to NAIC.

Supplemental liability insurance, or SLI, covers the renter and rental truck company if the driver causes injuries or damage, while limited damage waiver insurance, or LDW, protects the driver from having to pay for damages to the truck itself. 

At least a week before moving day:

Make a written inventory of everything you’re taking with you and its value. In addition to a list, photos or a quick walk-through video of your possessions is a great preparation step should you need to make a claim later.

“This will make filing a claim easier, but it will also help you purchase the right amount of insurance,” says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president at the Insurance Information Institute.

Your list of valuables is an every-changing one, thus experts recommend updating it before and after every move.

“When people move from one home to another, it usually comes with a purge of personal property you no longer need or want that goes to charity or the junkyard,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of El Dorado Hills, California-based HomeZada, a company that provides digital home management services. “Then in the next 30 days after the move to the new house, new furniture, electronics and tools get purchased.”

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