A Mover’s Guide, Part 1

Moving day is coming soon for many of us. Whether you’re finishing college or graduate school, getting married, changing jobs or simply changing homes, moves are a part of life.

They are also stressful. Part of the stress of moving is second-guessing whether or not you made the right decisions. Since getting married nine years ago, my wife and I have moved seven times! I’ve also moved my sister about a dozen times, so I’ve learned a little bit about moving along the way. With the information provided in this two-part series, you can be more confident about the decisions you make.

Working with Pros

An option called “self-service moving” has become a popular alternative to hiring full-service movers (who pack your things and load the truck). With it, you pack your stuff in a provided cargo container or onto a 60-ft trailer, paying by the linear-foot of floor space you consume. They load the rest with standard freight, so you share the cost with shippers, and your trailer arrives at your new home in 2-3 days. You don’t have to drive a truck, but you save by not paying movers to load and unload. The most well-known company that does this is ABF. One alternative is Help U Move; I’m sure there are a few others.

For local moves, if you can’t (or don’t want to) load the truck yourself you may find that Two Men and a Truck has a location in your town; they are in 29 states and growing fast. They have earned a solid reputation of being reliable, careful movers. (They also have a great list of moving tips on their website.) They do both “self-service” and “full-service” moves.

Check in with MoversWeb, Moving.com, Movers.com, JustMovers, 123Movers, “My Moving Quote”

and/or Movers Directory to get quotes about your move. Some of them will contact you by phone or e-mail; depending on the type of move you’re considering, some will do a free in-home examination and quote. Be judicious in how many of these services you use—your information will be shared with several moving companies, and some will flood your e-mail inbox with communication about your estimates.

You may find it helpful to check up on consumer complaints, scams and protection about moving and movers. Some helpful pages to read are Moving Scam.com, ConsumerAffairs.com’s Good Guys, Epinions.com: Moving Companies and the American Moving and Storage Association to find out about the service you are considering. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to get a reliability report on companies, including moving companies.

Quotes from moving companies (such as North American or Allied) or for self-service moving are based on two variables: how much stuff you have, and how far you need to take it. Thus, you can begin gathering quotes before you have a firm destination by using the location you might be that is furthest from where you are now. Once the final location is known, they can run a new quote based on that location—and since they will already have the estimated weight of your stuff, this will be a fast process (little more than entering a Zip Code into a field and clicking a button).

If you get a quote, be sure to ask for a copy of the “Cube Sheet.” This is the document used to calculate the quote and lists all of the estimated weights and quantities that the quote is based upon. If you have a copy of this, you can compare it to other quotes’ Cube Sheets. You should ask about any significant variance in weight estimation—they should all show about the same weight (give or take 300-500 pounds).

See Also

Make sure that quotes you receive are “Not To Exceed” quotes. This means that the amount quoted is the most you will spend, assuming the distance listed. Once your stuff is loaded, the actual weight will be determined and the cost re-calculated. You should also ask about fee rates and when they are changing. Moving companies pay tariffs, and these can change by several percentage points. Ask when the next change will be, and how much—and be sure to verify whether your quote will be good after that change. Be sure to ask, at the time of the quote, about any undisclosed fees. Also, ask for a discount. They are able to discount your fees significantly. (One quoter told me that they had a discount for everyone. He gave me a 69 percent discount on our quote!)

Inquire about the cost difference for packing your own stuff vs. having a moving service pack for you. This can sometimes be several thousand dollars in difference, which is a compelling case for packing yourself. If you are packing yourself and you are using a moving company, ask about whether you can get boxes through them. Some will offer heavily discounted or even free boxes (although they may be used ones) to those using their services. My wife and I used the same boxes to move us four different times, then we gave them to someone else—so used boxes can be a good deal. (We’re not talking about grocery and liquor store boxes either, but good-quality moving boxes.)

Finally, if you have a lot of books, you might consider shipping these bulk or media rate through UPS or the postal service. In one of our quotes, I asked for a calculation of what part of the total quote was books—it was almost $1000 (of a total $7000 quote). It would be much less expensive to ship them than pack them in our moving truck—unless the final cost is not based on weight. Do some checking to discover if you could save a lot of money shipping your books.

In part two, I’ll discuss “do it yourself” moves and important information for all moves.

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