Insurance is like advertising. Half the money spent on it is wasted. The problem is, nobody knows which half. Add in the wildly confusing array of products, services and types of insurance policies, throw in some legalese, and it’s a wonder anyone knows what’s going on from one minute to the next.

For a moving company, the choices are a little clearer, given the type of business and the fact they have a custodial responsibility for other people’s property. The details, however, can still be intricate. Making a mistake or not getting the right kind of coverage can be risky and even rise to the level of a potential financial disaster if management isn’t careful.

Is there a solution? What should a moving company look for in an insurance package?

A Note on Surety Bonds

Many people encounter companies that claim to be “bonded.” This is different from insurance. A surety bond exists to guarantee the moving company does its job. If it does not, the customer can recover losses from the bond and the moving company is responsible to pay the claim. An insurance policy, on the other hand, covers losses suffered by the moving company. Bonds are more common among companies that are licensed in some way. Many moving companies, like New York mover Imperial Moving & Storage (83 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011, (212) 879-6683), are licensed, bonded, and insured.

General Liability Insurance

A liability policy is a bit like a bond in that it covers any losses incurred by the moving company based on damage they cause to a third party. It’s also very much like auto liability insurance, which fixes the other guy’s car if you are at fault in an accident.

The reasons a moving company need a liability policy are voluminous. If someone’s furniture is damaged in transit, or if someone drives the moving truck into the side of someone’s house, that’s when a liability policy will pay the damaged party for whatever costs are incurred to make them whole.

Bodily Injury and Property Damage are two of the most common categories of coverage under a liability policy. These types of insurance will cover things like medical bills, repairs and even legal representation costs in the event of a court dispute.

Cargo Insurance

Covering the costs of repairing or replacing freight carried by a truck or, in some cases, a rail car, is performed by cargo insurance. Unlike general liability, cargo insurance is a commercial policy which is generally unavailable to the average driver. Cargo insurance covers, among other things, the costs of removing a spilled load, repairing or replacing freight in the event of a collision or fire, and refunding charges paid by a customer for hauling the cargo.

Umbrella Liability

Many basic insurance policies have coverage limits which may leave the moving company liable for expenses over and above what their insurance will pay. In these circumstances, it is often a good idea to look into additional liability coverage. An umbrella policy only kicks in when other coverages run out, but often such a policy will have a very high limit, which gives the moving company considerable peace of mind no matter the nature of any claims.

Required Insurance

At both the state and federal level, moving companies are bound by regulations that require them to carry certain kinds of policies. At the federal level, long distance movers must offer a range of liability policies. In California, for example, moving companies must have workman’s compensation, cargo and general liability insurance and must also be bonded in some circumstances. Using Route 66 Moving as an example, you should be able to look up the company’s insurance information by searching the state or federal database.

A properly structured policy with the right deductibles and the right coverage limits and scope can not only protect a moving company but can also put customers’ minds at ease knowing their possessions are well protected. It is worth the extra time to get it right.