Get an early start if you need to select your own moving company. You’ll need to reserve a date about a month in advance. Keep in mind that summer is the busiest time for movers, so if you are moving from May-August you may need to be somewhat flexible with your packing and moving dates. The last week of the month is usually the busiest time for movers.
Finding the right mover for your needs takes time. You should get at least 3 estimates; show each mover the same items to be moved and ask each company the same questions so that you can make an apples to apples comparison. You can even get a free moving quote online. Be sure to ask around for recommendations, and check with your local Better Business Bureau office to see if any complaints have been registered about them. If using a major national moving company, understand that you will most likely be dealing with an authorized local “agent”. Ideally, you should check out both the national company as well as the local agent.
The moving agent will send someone over to your home to review the contents of your home and provide you with an estimate based on this visit. If you are getting rid of a lot of things, be sure to tell the estimator what is or is not being moved.
Local movers generally charge by the hour. Interstate companies charge by the pound. Interstate moves are governed by the Federal Department of transportation Surface transportation Board and follow a standard rate book for transportation and packing called “Tariff 400-L.”
There will be additional charges for Long Carries, Flight Carries, Elevator Carries, Extra Pickups or Deliveries, Bulky Articles, and Special Handling. These are costs that are charged by the hauler and can only be negotiated with their approval. These, along with packing charges and materials charges need to be included when comparing estimates.
The estimates you get may be quite different depending on how much weight the estimator thinks you have. Don’t necessarily go with the lowest weight estimate, you’ll still be charged for actual weight and mileage charges in the end. One good idea is to take the highest weight estimate and have the other two movers revise their estimates based on this weight.
Many major van lines place several households on the same truck, so your delivery date may depend on the order in which they need to unload the truck. If you need delivery on or by a certain date, be sure to specify this up front. It may affect the cost of your move.
Lastly, if you are a member of a large union or organization, (i.e. labor unions, credit unions, auto clubs) you may be eligible for some form of discount.
Get everything in writing, so that if something goes wrong you’re covered. If the saleperson mentions over the phone that they will include something that isn’t on the written estimate, make sure the estimate is revised before you agree to it! Also take the time to read through the fine print of anything that you sign, and ask lots of questions!
Interstate movers will prepare a “Conditioned Inventory” document that lists all the items you are moving and what condition they are in. You’ll be asked to sign this form twice: 1) at origin, to agree what items were taken and their condition, and 2) at destination, to agree that you received everything on the inventory in the stated condition.
Note that many movers use codes to indicate the condition of a piece and you may need to take a little time to understand their coding. Also note that they may tend to note more wear and tear to your furniture. If you have a particularly valuable or fragile piece of furniture, take pictures or a video of it prior to the move and ask about special crating and handling of it ahead of time.
The Do-It-Yourself Move
Moving yourself gives you the most control and flexibility, and can be cheaper if you don’t have a lot of stuff and aren’t moving too far away. Organizing and pulling off your own move can also be more stressful and time-consuming, so factor in what your time and sanity are worth…
If renting a truck, call at least two weeks before your move (earlier if moving at the end of the month) to get an idea of prices and what size you’ll need. Check out our truck rental page for a free quote online. You should also reserve any furniture pads, dollies, and hand trucks you’ll need for the day of the move.
If you are driving a long distance and need to spend the night somewhere, try to pre-plan where you will stay. Choose somewhere in a decent neighborhood so you can park somewhere safe and invest in a good, strong lock for the truck to deter thieves.