Moving Brokers vs. Carriers: What’s the Difference?

By Sean Donnelly | May 18, 2023

American semi truck transporting boxes along the Columbia River and mountains.

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As you research moving companies, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of options available. One choice you’ll need to make is between a moving broker and a moving carrier. Understanding the difference between these two entities is important, as it impacts the service offerings and overall customer experience you can expect. In this article, we’ll explore moving brokers versus carriers to help you make an informed decision for your upcoming move.



What Is a Moving Broker?

A moving broker is an intermediary between individuals or businesses who need professional moving services and the actual moving companies. When you contact a moving broker, it will collect information about your moving needs, such as the origin, destination, and size of your move. Then, it will search its network of pre-vetted affiliates and provide you with a list of the moving companies that fit your needs and their respective quotes.

One of the key benefits of using a moving broker is convenience. Instead of contacting and vetting multiple moving companies yourself, you can rely on the broker to do the legwork for you. This simplifies the search process and saves valuable time. Additionally, moving brokers often have access to a wide network of reputable movers and competitive pricing, increasing the likelihood of finding the perfect provider for your move.



What Is a Moving Carrier?

A moving carrier is a company that provides the loading, transportation, and additional services for your move. Moving carriers typically have a fleet of moving trucks and a team of trained professional movers. When you hire a moving carrier, you can expect a more direct and hands-on approach, with the carrier taking full responsibility for the safe and efficient transportation of your belongings.

Working with a moving carrier gives you a clearer line of communication, allowing you to discuss your concerns and requirements directly with the company that will handle your move. This can provide peace of mind and a more personalized moving experience. Additionally, moving carriers often have a greater degree of control over the moving process, which can translate into better consistency, reliability, and accountability.



Key Differences Between Brokers and Carriers

Moving brokers facilitate the moving process by connecting customers with suitable moving carriers based on their unique needs and requirements. They find and vet carriers, gather estimates, and coordinate logistics—all with the goal of streamlining the process and providing a comprehensive solution for their customers.

Because moving brokers operate as middlemen, they do not own trucks or employ moving staff directly. Instead, they leverage their partnerships with various interstate moving companies, often referred to as van lines. Carriers, on the other hand, are the actual moving companies. When you hire a moving carrier, it is responsible for handling all aspects of your move—from the packing and loading to the transportation and unloading at your new location. 

Here are some pros and cons to consider as you make your choice:

Benefits and Drawbacks of Moving Carriers

Upsides Downsides

Direct engagement and more control over the move

Limited options compared to brokers

Personalized experience with clear communication

Time and research needed to find a suitable carrier

Accountability for the entire moving process

Potentially higher costs, depending on the carrier

Benefits and Drawbacks of Moving Brokers

Upsides Downsides

Convenience of handling logistics on your behalf

Potential lack of control over the actual move

Access to a wider range of moving services and competitive pricing

Reliance on third-party carriers for service quality

Network of pre-vetted, reputable moving companies to choose from

Less direct interaction with movers and trucks



How to Choose Between a Broker and a Carrier

Whether you should choose a moving broker or a carrier depends on your specific needs and preferences. Start by evaluating your priorities. If you value direct communication and want more control over the moving process, a moving carrier may be the better choice. On the other hand, if convenience and access to a wider range of services are your priorities, a moving broker could be the ideal option.

Next, take the time to ask important questions of any brokers or carriers you consider hiring. For brokers, focus on their vetting process for moving companies, the range of services they offer, and how they handle issues or disputes. For carriers, ask about their experience, licensing and insurance, equipment, and services. Request references or read customer reviews for insight into their reputation and reliability.

Here are a few tips to follow as you weigh your options:

The FMCSA offers several resources for consumer protection. It issues motor carrier numbers and maintains a database of registered movers. Its “Protect Your Move” website is packed with information about red flags, moving tips, and the difference between carriers and brokers. You should also review the FMCSA “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” pamphlet.



Our Recommendation

While reputable brokers offer convenience and access to more options, carriers provide direct engagement and more control. By carefully considering your priorities, asking the right questions, and following the tips above, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your needs.

As you evaluate local or long-distance moving companies, we encourage you to obtain free quotes from at least three providers. Then, compare pricing and services, as well as customer reviews and safety records. After doing your due diligence, you can confidently choose the moving broker or carrier that best matches your requirements.



Moving Brokers vs. Carriers FAQ

Can you be a carrier and a freight broker?

Yes, you can be a carrier and a freight broker. Many companies in the moving industry fill both roles. For instance, International Van Lines (IVL) is licensed as both a moving broker and a carrier with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

What is a moving agent?

A moving agent is an individual or company that represents a larger full-service moving company or van line in a specific geographic area or market. Most moving agents differ from brokers in that they typically have a contractual relationship with one specific moving company rather than a network of partners. They act as an extension of the larger company, coordinating moves on their behalf rather than simply being salespeople or offering brokerage services.

What are the benefits of using a moving broker?

Using a moving broker offers several benefits:Time-saving and convenienceWide range of servicesAccess to competitive pricingExpertise and guidance