United Van Lines Is an Outstanding Moving Company—If You Can Get Past This One Hurdle

Featuring truly outstanding resources to help customers plan, organize, and streamline their move, United Van Lines caters to most needs by offering customers everything from a full-service moving experience to a simple transport service. So how is it chasing customers away?

By Meghan Wentland | Published Jun 29, 2022 3:33 PM

United Van Lines Review

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

The biggest, most insurmountable hurdle of a move is the move itself. Many people who have decided to move have a moment where they sit in their existing home, look around, and think, “How on earth will I ever get this packed, moved onto a truck, transported, unpacked, and moved in?” Especially for those who have been in their homes for a long time, the job can seem like too much to even approach. For those with small homes and fewer belongings, a self-service moving truck may be all that’s needed, but for those with houses full of furniture or many stairs between the door and the truck, professional moving services are the appropriate place to look for help.

United Van Lines is a top nationwide moving company that provides a wide range of services catering to various needs. The company can provide truck rental and labor for a small local move, but it also offers full-service packages that include packing, loading and transporting an entire home’s contents, then unpacking and carrying away the debris on arrival. United Van Lines will even move a vehicle so that families can drive or fly to their new home together.

In order to evaluate United Van Lines moving in practice, I used its website to plan and price out two moves: one interstate and one local. There are some outstanding and noteworthy services and resources—but a couple of significant drawbacks. Read on for a full United Van Lines review.

See more of the best moving companies, best long-distance moving companies, best interstate moving companies, and the best senior moving companies.

At a Glance

The Best Senior Moving Services Option: United Van Lines
Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Our Verdict: United Van Lines claims that it will “take care of it all,” and the company certainly follows through with that promise with a comprehensive website, convenient portal, and more. However, what may deter customers from choosing United Van Lines is the rigorous quote process. While it’s likely to yield a more accurate quote, some customers may feel put off.

SPECS

  • Service area: 50 states, international
  • Type of move: Local, long-distance, international
  • Customer service: Phone, email, live chat
  • Auto transport: Yes
  • Free cancellation: Yes
  • Deposit required: No

PROS

  • Small moving jobs for studio apartments or tiny homes available at a discounted rate
  • Add-on options like cleaning services or Wi-Fi network disassembly available
  • MyUnited online portal puts checklists, mover contacts, and tracking in one convenient place
  • Free cancellation as long as no services have been provided

CONS

  • Time-consuming quote process necessitating a virtual or in-person home tour
  • Customer support can be challenging to get in touch with

United Van Lines Review: Claims

Local, long-distance, international: United Van Lines claims that it has moving services available for every eventuality, including car transport, small moves, and military moves. In addition, it offers a raft of pre- and post-move services and resources to help customers organize and track their move.

Service Options

United is licensed to perform interstate moves and offers tracking of the truck on which a customer’s belongings are traveling through its MyUnited Move Portal. These long-distance moves involve moving goods across state lines. This means that state-to-state moves are subject to federal regulations of elements such as the truck drivers’ maximum hours of service, documentation and treatment of household goods, and requirements involving electronic logging devices to track both the goods and the drivers. These regulations are in place to protect both the people who work for the moving company and the customers who have entrusted all of their worldly goods to a truck they can’t keep an eye on as it moves across the country.

United provides a nationwide network of local moving companies who are approved agents but work under their own company names to facilitate large and small local moves. Local and intrastate moves have fewer regulations, but they also require different tools: The enormous semitruck that transports a home’s contents across the country may not be necessary for a local move.

Photo 1_ What are you moving and whos paying

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

For customers moving internationally, United provides pre-move consultations prior to providing a quote, because moving internationally involves a host of permissions and regulations that will vary depending on the destination. United can provide moving services to more than 150 countries, but this type of move requires some special preparation.

For small moves, including moving the contents of small apartments, transferring older adults to assisted-living facilities, moving students in and out of dorms, transporting small collections of furniture to another location, and downsizing, United offers Snapmoves, which simplifies the process and the pricing without sacrificing the quality of service.

Finally, United Van Lines is a General Service Administration (GSA)–approved carrier, so it is authorized to provide service to members of the military, government, and their families as they move between temporary duties or permanent changes of station.

What’s Included

Every full-service United moving company contract includes a personal move coordinator, who is assigned after the quote is calculated. This coordinator will be the point person throughout the move and should be available to answer questions and facilitate changes.

Rather than charging customers separately for moving insurance, United includes Full Value Protection for items included in the move. This means that subject to certain limits, conditions, and declarations, United will either repair damaged items or compensate customers for items that can’t be repaired due to damage during the moving process. There’s no need to prove negligence—the company will handle the claims itself and provide compensation rather than requiring claims to be filed with homeowners insurance companies. The plan is based on the weight of the total shipment and provides basic coverage of $6 per pound. Items that are of high monetary value (more than $100) must be declared separately in order to be covered at full replacement value. Customers can opt out of the Full Value Protection plan, in which case they’ll be covered only at the federally mandated $0.60 per pound rate. Customers can also choose to increase their valuation for an additional cost.

In terms of the move itself, United includes loading, transporting, and unloading of household items, standard furniture placement in the new home, and transport of appliances (appliances must be disconnected prior to moving, and the connections at the new home are the customer’s responsibility). Drivers are qualified and use moving-specific equipment to relocate and place items.

Photo 5_ Full Service Packages

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Every move also includes access to the MyUnitedMove Portal, where customers can access planning and preparation tools and track their move once it’s begun. In addition, they can review estimates and contacts, adjust their inventory, keep track of contacts, and make payments. They can also access discounts through companies that have partnered with United.

Extras and Add-Ons

Beyond the actual moving and transportation of goods, United offers a range of additional services designed to meet the needs of individual customer situations. Rather than a one-size-fits-all option, the additional services can be added one at a time (or not at all), and most include customized options to balance additional services against the customer’s budget. Add-ons can also be bundled through Full-Service Moving Package options for set costs.

Photo 7_ Additional Services

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

  • Packing: United customers can choose from several levels of packing services. The cost is dependent on the amount of material that is being moved and the option selected. The least expensive is the DIY Packing Plan, in which the customer packs their own belongings, and United movers will wrap furniture and handle the loading and unloading of all materials into and out of the truck. The next step up financially is the Customized Packing Plan, in which customers pack some areas of the home and movers handle other designated areas. The most expensive option is the Full-Service Packing Plan, in which the movers pack the entire home prior to moving and unpack at the new destination. United also offers Custom Crating services for especially fragile or valuable items, a service that is priced per item.
  • Storage: In a perfect world, move-out and move-in dates would align perfectly. When they don’t, customers can face a conundrum: What does one do with a houseful of belongings? For state-to-state moves, United offers storage services for packed items and furniture, whether the customer needs items moved out of a home while it’s being sold or held until the new location becomes available.
  • Car shipping: United can ship cars either door-to-door, terminal-to-terminal (which means picking up the car at a regional storage facility near the new home), or to an alternative location if city ordinances don’t permit car carriers to drive on local roads. Costs will vary based on distance and type of delivery.
  • House cleaning: United contracts with local services to provide house-cleaning services after move-out and prior to move-in, saving a planning step. For customers who opt to do their own unpacking, United can return within 30 days of the moving date to carry away boxes, cartons, and packing-related material.

Getting a Quote and the Booking Process

United Van Lines offers tailored quotes specific to each move. Customers can either call to request a quote or click a link to fill in basic information about their move; they’ll then be contacted by an Estimator assigned to them. The Estimator will follow up with a phone call to schedule a visual survey of the home. This can be scheduled as an in-person survey or via the United Virtual Survey app. Following the survey, United will generate a quote. Customers can accept the quote via the MyUnited Move Portal and, once the moving date and plan are confirmed, book the move via the portal. At that time, a Moving Coordinator will be assigned who will be the contact person for the remainder of the moving process. Items, services, and Protection Plans can be adjusted up until the move begins, which may affect the quote, but the adjustments can be made with no penalty or fees.

No deposit is required to book the move. Customers can put their credit card information into the portal prior to the moving date, but United will not charge it until the move actually starts. Customers can pay by credit card (American Express, Discover, Visa, and MasterCard), or with cash, money order or cashier’s check, or traveler’s check. All payment must be made in full before the truck can be unloaded at the destination.

United’s estimates are binding, which means that the estimate in effect when the truck begins loading will be the amount that the customer pays, unless the customer requests additional services that add to the cost or the company determines that there is a reasonable necessity to change service in order to safely complete the delivery.

Insurance and Liability

All moves with United Van Lines are protected by Full Value Protection, unless the customer has declined the coverage, in which case the items in the move are covered for the required-by-law amount of $0.60 per pound. All items of value must be declared ahead of the move, which can be done either during the survey or later on the High Value Inventory form on the MyUnited Move Portal to ensure higher coverage. Damage claims can be filed through the portal as well after the move is complete; these require photographs of the damaged items.

Cancellation Policy

If the move needs to be rescheduled, customers need to contact their Moving Coordinator as soon as possible. While there is no fee for rescheduling the move, the cost may need to be adjusted: Moving costs are affected by the time of the month and year, and interstate moves may cost more or less depending on the sharing of trucks heading in the direction of the move. Because there is no deposit required, there is no cost to cancel a move unless services have already been provided (packing completed or trucks loaded), in which case the customer will be responsible for the costs of those services.

Customer Service

The customer’s primary contact points will be with the Estimator and the Moving Coordinator, either through the MyUnited Move Portal or via telephone. Customers can also contact a central Customer Service line for assistance.

Putting United Van Lines to the Test

We planned two moves through United Van Lines: one interstate move from Connecticut to Oregon, and one between two cities in Massachusetts.

Exploring United Van Lines’ Website

United Van Lines’ landing page greets customers with several menus and a sliding offering of service highlights. The menu banners along the top of the screen offer quick links to Customer Service, the MyUnited Move Portal, shipment tracking, and locations, while a banner below the top line provides links to general information about moving services, packing, and other resources. Scrolling down provides links to more information—although many of the links lead to the same “next page,” which seems redundant; United seems to be trying to catch the eye of the specific service a customer might be seeking and then redirecting them to the next landing page to find more information. It’s an effective approach, at first, but as you work your way through the different pages, it can be frustrating that so many links lead back to pages you’ve already explored. The pages are clean to look at, clear in their direction, and laid out in a way that is friendly to the customer without being overwhelming.

A Treasure Trove of Moving Resources

Prior to seeking quotes, I spent a significant amount of time exploring the wealth of moving information on United’s website. And it is a trove—possibly the greatest and most undersold value that United offers. For those just beginning to consider a move, there is data displaying the cities and states people are actively moving to and from over the last several years, areas that are moving destinations for retirees and young families, and destinations for people in various stages of their careers. Another page offers resources on planning to move with a family, and another runs through the moving process and examines the different schedules that might work best for planning, packing, and moving depending on how much time remains before the move.

The most helpful information is the actual moving tips and checklists. The site provides a moving supply list for those who are packing their own items, videos and explanations about how to pack different categories of belongings (books, for example, should be packed upright in small, sturdy boxes lined with newsprint with as few air gaps as possible), and guides for how to manage move-out day and move-in day. Helpful guides for how to save money on the move, how to sort items and purge unnecessary belongings, and even how to pack the car make a task that seems enormous more manageable. Most helpful for those who are detail-oriented (and those who need some help in that area!) is the detailed “Moving Checklist Week-by-Week,” which is printable. Beginning with a quick, general overview, the list then zeros in on tasks to complete each week leading up to the move, providing a sense of control during a time when everything seems out of one’s control.

Photo 4_ Moving checklists

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Some of the articles in the research section provide important guidance, such as how to choose a moving company, why you should choose a moving company, and questions to ask a moving company. These articles, while clearly geared toward steering customers to the “Get a Quote” button at the top of every screen, are remarkably unbiased; they do provide food for thought, and while their questions prompt readers to recognize some of United’s strengths, they’re good questions to ask. These pages are important resources whether customers select United Van Lines as their movers, or whether they choose movers at all. For example, it had not occurred to me that if our family hired movers to transport our household goods, we would still have to drive two vehicles across the country. I wasn’t even aware that a moving company could handle transporting one of the vehicles so that we could travel together in one, or transport both so that we could fly. Traveling together would take a lot of the stress out of the move, and while I might have eventually thought to check and see if this was a possibility, the seamlessness with which United rolls that service and others into a single package is attractive and helpful. Once I was aware, I continued to look for that service as I compared movers.

Getting a Quote—Or Not

After reading through much of the information provided, I was ready to get a quote to find out how much my move would cost. What I really wanted, first, was a ballpark figure—one that I could compare with other moving companies providing similar, if not identical, services. The site provides a blue “Get a Quote” button at the top and bottom of every page and smaller clickable links at the bottom of many sections and paragraphs. Moments after landing on each page, a chat bubble pops into view in the lower right hand corner offering chatbot help with links to start a quote, get help with a current move, or ask general moving questions. One of the general moving question options is “Can I get a ballpark quote?” Because this was my initial goal, I selected it, only to receive the response that United recommends a visual survey to provide a price. I thought to myself that recommending that was fine, but I’d really like a ballpark first. I thought, “I’ll work through the Get a Quote function and push past that obstacle before I go through the process of getting a complete, detailed quote.”

Photo 6_ chatbot

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Clicking “Get a Quote” takes customers to a straightforward set of questions: Choose a move within the United States or international, then enter the ZIP codes for the starting and ending points. Next you’ll select the move date—and there’s an option to note that your date is flexible or uncertain, which will allow United to price out the move over a range of dates within your time frame to help find the most cost-effective option. The end of the month is commonly a busy time, and many moving services cost somewhat less mid-month, so if you’re flexible this is a great option. After that, you’ll indicate whether you’re moving from a house or an apartment and choose an approximate size; this is also the place to note whether you or an employer are paying for the move. Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to click on a selection of add-on services, including packing, car shipping, unpacking, debris removal, and storage. Customers aren’t committing to these services at this point, just indicating interest, so it makes sense to select any of the services that you may wish to consider so you can see how they price out. Enter your contact information, and click “Get My Quote.” Boom! At that point, I expected a very loose estimate to pop up on the screen, calculated based on the dates, distance, size and services.

Alas! Instead, a message popped up welcoming me to United Van Lines and instructing me to expect a phone call from a representative to schedule my visual survey. I also got an email telling me the same thing along with the area code from which my call would come, so that I would know it wasn’t spam, and an invitation to create a MyUnited Move Portal account, which I did.

Photo 8_ account screen

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

Late the next day, I missed a call from a United representative, who left a message with a number to call back to schedule my survey. I called back, but it was unfortunately after business hours. The next day I missed another call from a different representative asking me to call the same number. When I called back, I reached a third representative at the call center—apparently customers aren’t assigned to a particular estimator until they actually schedule a survey. I spoke with the representative and explained that before scheduling a survey, I’d like a rough estimate of the range of costs I might incur with this move, and a ballpark of how much the different services might tack on. It was at this point that it was clarified that I could not receive an estimate of any kind without the survey. Was this available to complete online? I asked. The representative explained that there are two options for the visual survey. One is a home visit from an estimator, and the other is via United’s Virtual Survey app, an interface that allows customers to set an online appointment with a Moving Expert, then take the expert on a visual tour of the home using a smartphone, pointing out items of high value and giving the expert the opportunity to see the quantity and rough size of items in the home. The representative explained that shortly after the Virtual Survey, I would receive a formal quote that was specific to my situation. I explained that I wasn’t quite ready to commit that amount of time to getting a very specific quote—what I wanted to do as part of my research for the move was to get rough estimates from several companies before deciding which ones I was interested in seeking specific, binding quotes from before booking. I was told I could speak with another representative, but I was disconnected while waiting. I did get another call back the next day and briefly played phone tag with that representative, but frankly, by that time I was ready to move on to another company.

Photo 2_ Virtual Moving App

Photo: unitedvanlines.com

There are clear benefits to an informed, specific quote, and I absolutely understand why United Van Lines would pursue that direction. I’m certain, having packed my own boxes before, that most people wildly underestimate the amount of stuff they have in their house (for example, the 60 boxes of books I packed before my last move was quite a surprise for me, and an even bigger surprise for the poor movers who had to carry them downstairs). I can see how this could lead to angry customers who felt they’d been misled, and how specific quotes based on a representative actually visualizing the space and the items to be moved could prevent any additional stress. But I also know that moving is a stressful time when customers are trying to shift a lot of moving parts. The ability to click a few boxes and be able to gauge whether a company falls into their general price range or not would allow potential customers to balance the range of services against the potential cost to determine which companies they’ll make time to schedule a formal visual survey with.

That said, while I won’t be using United Van Lines for my move, it offers some great services. The MyUnited Move Portal, which I signed up for after my quote requests, is an outstanding interface to organize a move. The Dashboard keeps customers on track through each step of the quote process and how to prepare, getting an estimate, booking the move, loading day, tracking the move in transit, delivery day, and post-move concerns. There’s a tab to manage estimates and make payment, adjust services and keep the High Value Inventory list updated, and a contact list that automatically connects customers with their service agents. It’s a clean interface with everything you’ll need in one place to feel comfortable during the moving process—almost like the binder full of documents and lists and contracts and contacts you’d have to keep track of if it wasn’t centralized here for you.

In addition, the fact that United Van Lines is GSA-approved is a boon for military families who may have to move more frequently than others. While most military families have moving quickly down to a science, using a moving company that is so clearly organized and features so many additional services may reduce the stress that families feel when it’s suddenly time to move, again.

Finally, for those who need to make smaller moves, United’s Snapmoves service offers a smaller-scale version of its full-service moving packages. I asked the representative I spoke with about Snapmoves on behalf of a coworker who was planning a smaller intrastate move, and the representative explained that there are two levels of Snapmoves service (Standard and Priority) with two different price points. For specific quotes, customers still have to go through the visual survey process, but Snapmoves Moving Coordinators are experts in smaller moves, right down to details such as reserving elevator times, coordinating with assisted-living facilities, and breaking down packages so that customers can pay only for the services they’ll need. This is a service that most national moving companies don’t provide, so it’s something that makes United stand out.

Overall, the services that United Van Lines provides are extensive and carefully thought out, and the information and moving resources offered on its website are spectacular. The MyUnited Move Portal is a great interface that will simplify the moving process and keep important information at the fingertips of its customers. The inability to get a rough cost estimate without scheduling time and giving a representative a full tour of your home is a significant drawback, and in a time when more and more customers turn to the internet for information and prefer not to make contact with customer service until they’ve narrowed down their options—especially when it means letting someone into their home, physically or virtually—it’s a problem.

United Van Lines Reviews by Customers

Customer reviews of United Van Lines seem to be somewhat mixed. A quick look at reviews posted on TrustPilot, Consumer Affairs, and Yelp shows that while many customers felt they were well cared for by customer service representatives, many mentioning their coordinators by name, quite a few felt the movers themselves weren’t up to snuff. Because United sometimes contracts with local movers, there’s always the possibility that your items will be loaded or unloaded by someone not directly hired by United, which can certainly be a concern. Other complaints frequently involved the delivery windows and delivery times being missed. As is the case with most interstate moving companies, belongings may be loaded onto one truck locally, then moved onto a different truck for the long haul, and possibly then moved onto yet another truck for local delivery. Customers expressed concerns that their items had been mishandled—that items they’d seen loaded safely onto one truck later arrived off of a different one with damage.

It’s worth noting that a significant number of the complaints had to do with a misunderstanding of the Full Value Protection plan that is included in the Full Service Package. The plan insures your belongings for $6 per pound, unless you’ve stipulated on the High Value Inventory form that certain items are worth more. You’ll see a total or maximum insured value, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be paid the replacement cost of every item—you’ll be compensated at $6 per pound. This means if your mirror weighing 10 pounds is broken, you’ll be compensated $60, even if replacing the mirror will cost $200. If the mirror is included on the High Value Inventory, you’ll be compensated $200. It’s critical to carefully read the documentation that comes with the plan to avoid confusion and upset after the move is complete.

There is also a sprinkling of commentary about hard-to-reach customer service agents after the move is complete, which is certainly a concern. However, many other customers were delighted with their service and their moving experience.

How United Van Lines Stacks Up to the Competition

United Van Lines has one of the largest service areas in the industry, partly because of its partnerships with local and regional moving companies, which means one is likely to be able to move just about anywhere in the continental United States on a United-affiliated truck, as well as internationally. It’s a full-service moving company, which means it can handle the entire move from start to finish or anywhere in between, making it inherently flexible and likely slightly more expensive, depending on the services the customer selects. Budget Van Lines reviews (Budget Van Lines is a company that is a top competitor of United Van Lines) suggest that its own services are some of the most wallet-friendly in the industry, but this company is a broker that connects customers with movers who can fit their needs and is not a cohesive full-service company. Other companies have some similar features; for example, United Nation Van Lines has a program designed to help seniors move to a new home, which has some elements similar to United’s Snapmoves, but United Nation doesn’t have the comprehensive library of services or customer portal that United Van Lines offers. Other large national companies such as Mayflower Transit and Allied Van lines provide some services similar to United Van Lines, but none offers quite as many in one package. And while many of United’s competitors also recommend an inventory prior to offering a quote (and nearly all of them want the customer’s contact information), quite a few of them are still willing to provide very rough estimates based on general information.

What really places United Van Lines a click ahead of the competition is the customer portal, which centralizes information and contacts, and the Full Value Protection Plan, as long as customers are aware of how it works and its limitations. The add-on services are a great benefit; scaling up to the top package even includes wall mounting of TVs and can include Wi-Fi hookup! The free cancellation policy and absence of a deposit reduces the risk of planning the move ahead as well.

Should You Use United Van Lines?

First, whether you choose to hire United Van Lines or not, it’s worth consulting the library of moving resources that is available on its website. It’s easy to be drawn into the wide range of services the company provides, and if you’re in need of those services, it’s probably a good option for you, despite the obstacles.

United Van Lines is ideal for many, if not most people, who are planning to move. Local moves are likely to be handled by local movers who contract with United, so while you’ll be covered by United’s policies, it may be easier to contact the local movers directly based on recommendations from neighbors and friends; you’ll find United’s affiliates by searching for “United Van Lines near me.” Long-distance moves are really United’s strongest point. Military families will benefit enormously from United’s multiple categories of service and GSA certification, which cuts out a fair amount of paperwork and hassle. Older clients will also benefit from United’s Snapmoves program, which simplifies the process of smaller moves, as well as United’s full-service options that mean they can leave the packing and unpacking, cleaning, and even car transport up to someone else and simply enjoy the fresh start in a new home without the hassle of the move itself.

The most significant drawback at United Van Lines is the challenge of getting a ballpark quote before going through the full process of a home inventory, and it’s not a small drawback—in fact, it may drive away customers who simply don’t have time and aren’t in need of the higher level of service United provides. Those customers may eventually just stop trying and move on to another company.

Despite that drawback, United Van Lines is a worthy choice. As for all services, it’s recommended to closely read and have a clear understanding of the documentation that comes with the protection policy. If you have the time and patience to weave your way through United’s quote process, it has a lot to offer that may ultimately be worth the hassle.

We independently reviewed this service by weighing the company’s claims against first-hand experience with its professionals. However, due to factors such as franchising, human error, and more, please note that not all experiences with this company may be alike.