Spending smart: Tips to make a smooth move
Summer is moving season. If you're shopping for a reliable full-service mover, expect the firm to visit your home in person to assess the job and then provide a written estimate. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune photo)
That could be a mistake — for your wallet and your peace of mind.
Moving can be quite expensive. A typical full-service interstate move costs about $4,300, while the same in-state move might cost about $2,500, according to the American Moving & Storage Association.
And while the moving industry has many fine companies, it is notorious for fraud and dirty tactics by so-called rogue movers.
Here are tips on making your move with lower costs and less hassle.
Choose a type of move
You have three basic choices: do-it-yourself, full service and a relatively new hybrid of the two. Going it alone is cheapest, costing the rental price of a truck, gasoline, packing materials and, perhaps, pizza and beer for friends you rope into helping.
With full-service moves, moving within a state is charged by the hour, while moving across state lines is charged by weight and mileage.
With a hybrid move, a mover will drop off a large container at your home for you to pack. It will then load the container onto a truck, drive the belongings to your new location and drop off the container for you to unload. Because you're doing the manual labor of packing and unpacking, it's far less costly than a full-service move.
Hire a quality mover
If you hire help, get at least three price quotes and do homework. Seek recommendations by talking with family and friends, even your Facebook circle. Investigate a company's reputation with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org), Yelp.com and possibly the paid-membership site Angie's List (angieslist.com). Check a company's complaint history at the federal government site, ProtectYourMove.gov.
"People think a good reputation equals expensive, but that's not true," said Laura McHolm, co-founder of NorthStar Moving in Los Angeles. "You don't get a good reputation by overcharging people."
For interstate moves, a company's ProMover certification with the movers association is a good sign. The organization in January 2009 started screening movers based on seven criteria. It kicked out some 220 of 3,100 members over the past two years because they didn't measure up, said spokesman John Bisney. See "Find a ProMover" at Moving.org.
"The old rubric 'You get what you pay for' is true more often than not," Bisney said.
Look for two things: A full-service mover should visit your home in person, not give a quote over the phone or online, and should provide a written estimate, experts say.
No matter what type of move you're making, taking less stuff is cheaper and less hassle. Set up a staging area, perhaps in a garage, with various piles, such as throw out, recycle, donate and sell.
"If you really love those go-go boots from the 1960s but will never wear them again, take a picture of them and get rid of them," McHolm said. For many items, use the rule of thumb, "If you haven't used it in a year, you probably don't need it."