The short answer
- You’re moving across the country or you’re moving a large household.
- You’re looking for for additional services (e.g. car transport, storage, piano movers).
- You’re planning with plenty of time.
Here’s what to expect with pricing:
- Atlas gives customers rough pricing estimates instantly through their online platform.
- For an accurate estimate, you’ll need to get an in-home estimate from an Atlas agent.
- Distance, season, and weight of shipment will all affect the cost of your move.
As for liability coverage…
- You can choose between Minimal Protection or Full-Value Protection.
- Full-Value Protection will be automatically applied to your bill unless you specify Minimal Protection.
The long answer
Atlas Van Lines has over 300 locations across the United States, which makes them one of the most recognized van lines in the industry. Like most professional moving companies, Atlas uses a network of agents. Agents are local, independent moving companies that own a share of Atlas and use Atlas’s resources to better serve customers.
The agent relationship has its benefits and flaws. While it allows Atlas to service more areas, it also means that quality of service varies by agent. We recognize that Atlas does its best to audit its agents, but poor service still happens. Reading reviews for your assigned agent can help you avoid issues.
Atlas stood out to us for the effort it places on providing unique features to its customers. Here are a few that stood out:
- Online shipment tracking. Customers can easily track their belongings with their bill of lading or order number.
- Sustainable moving standards. In 2016 Atlas rolled out a sustainable initiative to lessen its carbon footprint. Starting in 2017, Atlas will certify agents who meet pre-set standards.
- Independent research. Atlas conducts independent research on migration patterns and they publish their findings annually. Kind of nerdy, but we love it.
- Spanish site. Atlas is one of the few name-brand van lines that has a website available in Spanish, giving it an edge over the competition.
One of the benefits of choosing Atlas is its broad network of agents located across the United States and Canada. If you plan to move during the summer months, you may face limited availability since summer is considered peak season in the moving industry. To get the best availability year-round, we recommend scheduling your move months ahead of time when possible.
Atlas serves customers for the following types of moves:
- Household move
- International move
- Corporate relocation
- Military move
Several factors influence Atlas’s pricing. Estimated weight of shipment, distance of move, and time of year can all affect your quote. If you’re just looking for a really rough estimate, Atlas can provide an instant online quote based on how many rooms you’re moving and the distance you intend to travel. This is a convenient feature if you are still in the early stages of deciding what kind of moving service you want to use.
For example, a move scheduled around November 2016 from Salt Lake City to Mesa, Arizona for a home with six rooms (kitchen, living room, bathroom, laundry room, and two bedrooms), had an estimated cost of $4,000. This estimate did not include additional services like car transportation, packing assistance, moving supplies, or taxes, but it did give us a rough idea of the minimum cost for our move.
Ultimately, we recommend scheduling a free in-home estimate from your local agent if you want a more detailed and accurate breakdown of cost. The instant estimate is a great resource for Atlas customers doing preliminary research, but its convenience is also its downfall. Moving costs aren’t one size fits all, so use the instant quote generator with a grain of salt.
Based on feedback from previous Atlas customers, here are the most common hiccups and complaints that affected customer experience:
- Late shipment. Tardiness with shipment arrivals was the most common complaint from people who previously used Atlas. Unfortunately, there is little to nothing you can do to prevent this from happening. Road conditions and routes can unexpectedly affect the timing of your shipment, but Atlas does give you the option to file a delay claim to compensate for unexpected out-of-pocket expenses (more on this in our claims section).
- Damaged property. Broken or lost goods aren’t unique to Atlas. Every professional company we reviewed struggled in this area. The best way to avoid this is to carefully vet your local agent before signing a contract. Past customers will often leave feedback on the agent’s Facebook or even through Google reviews.
- Low compensation offers. When customers go with a higher level of liability coverage, they must choose between two deductible tiers—$250 or $500. This means if you file a claim for property ruined in transit, then the cost of the loss will need to be higher than $250 or $500 (depending on your selection) before Atlas steps in.
For example, if you have a couch worth $600 and you opted for the $500 deductible, then your compensation from Atlas could be as low as $100, even if your couch has irreparable damage. Choosing the lower deductible can help a little, but the compensation offer from Atlas still depends on the value of the damaged property.
When it comes to protecting your belongings, Atlas offers two options: Minimal protection or Full-Value protection. Neither of these qualify as insurance, and that’s because only a licensed agent or company (like your home or car insurance company) can sell insurance. Instead, these plans are considered valuation.
Valuation simply sets a limit to Atlas’s liability if it damages your belongings. In other words, there is a cap to how much Atlas has to compensate you to clear itself of any legal repercussions in the event of a loss. Again, this is not exclusive to Atlas because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets and regulates liability coverage on a federal level.
Here’s what this means for you:
- Minimal Protection: Minimal Protection covers your belongings at a rate of 60 cents per pound per item, and you can add it for no extra cost. This means if your whole shipment weighed around 10,000 pounds and Atlas lost or damaged all of it, then Atlas would be liable for a maximum of $6,000.
It’s rare, if not impossible, to lose or damage a whole shipment; therefore, when belongings are damaged, it’s usually only a few items. However, this means that if your couch is ruined and it weighs 70 pounds, Atlas is only liable for $42 of the damage. We don’t recommend going with the Minimum Protection unless you plan to purchase third-party transit insurance.
- Full-Value Protection: Going with Full-Value Protection covers your entire shipment at a rate of $6 per pound, times the weight of your shipment ($6 x Weight = Value). This means if you have a 10,000 pound shipment, then Atlas would be liable for a maximum of $60,000, much higher than the the $6,000 in our previous example. Of course, if the total of your items is higher than $6 times the weight , you must state it in your bill of lading in order to receive the adequate coverage.
As opposed to the Minimum Protection, Full-Value protection does not value single damaged items on a per pound per item scale. Instead, Atlas offers to repair or replace the item at its current value up to the total value of your shipment. This is great as long as your belongings haven’t drastically depreciated in value over time.
Unlike Minimum protection, Full-Value Protection costs extra, and you’ll pay a deductible if you file a claim. Full-Value Protection is automatically added to your bill unless you specify you only want Minimal Protection. The weight of your shipment and the deductible option you choose influence the cost of your Full-Value Protection. Your deductible options are either $250 or $500. The higher your deductible, the lower the cost of Full-Value Protection and vice versa.
Unfortunately, moves don’t always go as smoothly as planned. If you have any issues, Atlas gives you the option of filing a claim. You can file two types of claims: a delay claim or a damage claim. Atlas gets bonus points from us for allocating separate forms and systems to better serve its customers.
- Damage claim: If any of your belongings are broken, damaged, or lost while in transit, you can report it to Atlas for compensation or repair services. We recommend taking pictures to document the loss as well as keeping the item until Atlas evaluates the damage. Although Atlas allows you to report damage up to nine months after the delivery date, filing a claim sooner than later improves your chances of compensation.
- Delay claim: A delay claim is only relevant for late shipments, and it covers the expenses you incur while trying to live without your belongings. Keep your receipts for meals, lodging, and other miscellaneous costs to submit a delay claim.
However, Atlas makes it clear that submitting a delay claim will not immediately warrant compensation. It only compensates the cost of meals at a 50% rate, plus you won’t receive a bonus or a premium outside of what you actually spent (so don’t expect compensation for damages akin to pain and suffering). Fortunately, Atlas allows you to file a claim over the phone, via mail, or online. There is a benefit to filing online or via mail since Atlas requires a written notice to process your claim. A phone conversation doesn’t count as an official claim notice until you also file a written notice, but submitting online or via mail takes care of this issue immediately.
Atlas also offers customers these additional services:
- Atlas Flex ( an alternative for smaller moves)
- Movr (assistance with relocation services such as utilities or change of address)
- Car, motorcycle, and boat transportation
- Piano moving
The bottom line
Overall, we recommend Atlas if you are planning a long-distance move that requires a variety of special services. Atlas may still be a great option if you’re moving locally or if you’re moving a small household, but we recommend comparing pricing with local options, rental trucks, and portable moving storage before committing. Also—again—we can’t emphasize enough the importance of researching your assigned Atlas agent to make your final decision.
Leave us a comment below if you’ve used Atlas before or if you have any unanswered questions we didn’t cover.
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