Selecting a Mover
If you are just moving the contents of your studio apartment to a condominium across town, you may decide to hire a truck or van for a few hours and do it yourself or with a couple of brawny friends. If the truck-rental fee is minimal for a day rental and you take the friends out for beer and pizza afterward, your moving expenses could come in under $100.
You can also hire the van and a couple of brawny fellows who come with it. Their charge might be $40–$75 an hour, depending on where in the country you are. This, too, is quite a bargain if you are not moving an eight-room house across three states. The fellows are not likely to supply you with boxes and other packing materials, though.
You could also box up your items and ship them by mail to your new home. You take more risks with this method, but it may be significantly cheaper than more conventional moving methods.
If you want to rent a van from one of the national companies and drive it to your new location yourself, you can expect to pay — again, depending on a number of factors — a few hundred dollars. These trucks come in a variety of sizes.
If you are moving an eight-room house or if you are a little older or have some physical limitations, you should probably hire a moving company. You should know a couple of things before you pick up the phone: first, moving can be very expensive; and second, the field has its share of charlatans. You do not want to wind up with an overinflated estimate or a no-show mover, or one who seems to drop every carton marked “fragile.”
Expect to pay $500–$1,000 or more for a local move with a moving company. An interstate move can run $3,000–$10,000 or more. The price is significantly more if you use them to move a car or two as well.
That's a good question. You have a choice of local movers in your area or the large nationwide companies. Naturally, you should check any mover you select with your local consumer protection agency.
It is smart to get estimates from three movers. When you call, a representative from that carrier will come to your home to look over what you plan to move and give you an estimate.
To keep kids upbeat about a move, give them materials from the chamber of commerce of the new town and let them plan the first sightseeing tour once you get to the new place.
For short, intrastate (within the state) moves of fewer than 40 miles or so, the estimate can be an hourly rate or based on cubic footage of the goods. The charges for interstate (from one state to another) moves are based on the weight of the goods and the distance the movers will travel. Be certain you give each mover the same information about what is going and what you are leaving behind so you can accurately compare the figures you are given. Too much changing your mind only confuses everyone, including you, and adds more expense to the move. To be really on top of things, have all your goods inventoried before the estimators pull up.
Some companies will offer you a binding estimate, which means that estimate is the cost you will be charged. With others, the estimate is just that, and the final charge can — and probably will be — higher. If you are given three binding estimates, the choice is then a personal one, unless one mover offers more auxiliary services than another, such as free cartons or packing paper.
Pack boxes and a suitcase of essential items you will need for your first few days, including clothes and necessary kitchen and cleaning supplies, and keep these with you. It may take a few days for the movers to get your stuff to your new place if you are moving very far.
What if you get two binding estimates and one nonbinding one? Sometimes the binding estimates are higher, just because they are binding. The nonbinding one may be a better deal for you if it is lower and you are sure you have told the mover everything that will be going. If on moving day you add a few more items, especially heavy ones, your cost will increase. Adding items on moving day to a binding estimate may throw the movers for a loop, causing delays, more paperwork, and additional charges.
Moving companies are busiest April through October, with business peaking between June and September. That is because so many families move after the kids have finished the school year and before they start again or enroll in a new school.
On moving day, make sure someone is there to meet the movers, indicate which items are to be loaded on the truck, and check that everything is done correctly.
Movers overbook during their peak season to make up for the slack from the remainder of the year. This practice can, of course, leave you cooling your heels and waiting for a van on one end or the other some fine August day. When looking over and signing the company's documents, remember that oral promises on pickup and delivery dates mean nothing — get everything in writing. A growing number of carriers, especially the larger ones, offer payments for each day their trucks are late. If you must move during the peak season, try to give the carrier as much notice as possible — sixty days is not too much notice.
Moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods they transport; however, there are different levels of liability. Make sure you know how much protection you are purchasing from the carrier you choose. To ensure the most hassle-free as well as the least costly move possible, follow these eight rules:
Watch what you purchase from the mover. For example, you can easily skip paying for their boxes. Pick up ordinary cardboard cartons for free at the supermarket (you may have to tape them back together with strong mailing tape). Other good bets for sturdy boxes include liquor stores, office supply centers, and clothing stores.
Keep an eye on the movers' packing, if you're having them do it. A common practice is “short” or “balloon” packing — putting too few objects in large boxes and stuffing the boxes with paper. All of that extra weight adds to your bill.
Be sure to observe the weighing of the goods, since that will determine your final cost in long-distance moves. Weight-bumping — weighing goods in a truck that is already full with dollies, pads, and even a couple of men — is not rare.
Call if your mover is one day late showing up. Believe it or not, some folks wait weeks for the carrier. Sure, most moving companies will reimburse you for hotel/motel costs and a percentage of food bills if late delivery is their fault, but who needs the aggravation? They will not pay if you have to rent furniture while you are waiting.
Stay with the movers all the way, if you can. If not, at least have someone at either end looking out for your interests.
Even if the movers offer some form of liability protection for your goods, look into extra coverage. Check your own homeowner's insurance policy.
Do not sign any receipt when the movers arrive at your new home until you have examined at least the most important of your furnishings. On the receipt, you can note any damage and add something like “Approved subject to unpacking boxes.” Remember, if anything goes terribly wrong, your words on that receipt may be all you have to document your case. Get a copy of that receipt from the mover.
If you are moving either to or from a cooperative or condominium building, check for rules that restrict moving to certain days of the week or within certain hours.
If you are planning to move valuables such as art and antiques, you should call the valuables to the attention of the mover to be sure of adequate coverage. Check your homeowner's insurance policy, too, to see if it, or any special endorsements to it, mentions coverage during a move.
With most companies, any dispute that arises that cannot be settled between you and the mover will be settled through binding arbitration. That means both you and the mover must go along with whatever decision the arbitrator reaches about your problem. The mover will provide you with a booklet describing the arbitration procedure. The arbitrator's word is final.