When making the decision between hiring a moving company or doing a DIY move, there are a multitude of things to consider to get the most out of your moving budget. Use these tips to decide if you have the time, energy, and resources needed for a DIY move, or if it’s better to pay the professionals to get it done quickly and securely—especially if you’re going long distances.
1. Pay attention to what’s included (and not included) in commercial moving estimates.
A commercial moving quote varies greatly due to mileage, the weight of your items, and the number of crew members needed. The moving company will send an estimator out to appraise your goods and will give you a written quote so you won’t be surprised with unexpected charges later. Know that most commercial moving companies have a minimum weight of 2,000 pounds, which means you’ll be charged for that weight whether your goods weigh that or not. Be sure to ask what their minimum is.
2. Tip workers at least $10 per person–depending on the move–and provide refreshments throughout the day.
Since tips aren’t usually included in commercial moving estimates, you should tip the packers when the loading is finished, and tip the un-packers at the destination as well. Plan to tip $10 – $20 for smaller moves that take less than four hours, and $30 – $40 per person for longer hours/bigger moves.
If they’re there for the majority of the day, you should provide refreshments for them. On one particular move, we picked up fast food for them and on another, we ordered in a few pizzas. I’ve always kept soda, tea, and bottled water on hand along with cookies or chips for nibbling.
3. Moving in cooler months and mid-week will save you up to 30%.
According to Vasilka Atanasova, a moving industry professional, moving in the fall or winter months can save you up to 30% on commercial moving company costs. Additionally, moving during the middle of the month and on weekdays are prime ways for additional savings as companies are less busy at these times.
4. Most companies will try to beat a competitor’s rate if you mention you’ve received multiple quotes.
When appropriate, tell one company that others have offered you better deals and you’re shopping around.
5. Be flexible on your moving dates, and let the company fit you into their schedule.
Be flexible on your moving dates, and let the company fit you into their schedule, rather than them working around yours. They might be more apt to negotiate the rate if you have an open schedule.
6. DIY moves can be a time and money sink if you don’t have help.
Families need to consider how they’ll juggle work responsibilities and family demands while trying to pack a full household as well. Larger households can take considerable time to box everything properly–not to mention the time and effort it takes to securely load trucks or portable shipping containers. If you don’t have a pool of friends or family to help, you might have to consider hiring a crew of loaders.
U-Haul offers a service that will link you to loading & un-loading companies in your area for an hourly fee or day rate. Don’t forget to tip them!
7. Rental moving trucks are not for the timid driver.
While renting a moving truck can seem like a cheaper alternative to commercial movers, consider if you're confident enough to drive a big 26-foot truck that’s carrying everything you own. Will you be pulling a tow dolly for your car? That adds additional length and weight, affecting your starting and stopping ability.
Consider your route. Learn if you’ll be traveling over mountains where these under-powered trucks are at their slowest. Think if you’ll be going through height restricted areas with low overpasses and bridges, and if you’ll be making multiple turns through streets with lots of parked cars or heavy traffic. If you’re going to go ahead with the rental, practice in an empty lot before embarking on your trip. This YouTube video has some helpful hints.
Note: If a friend or family member is going to drive the truck for you, remember that the person who signs the form at pickup is the one responsible for any accidents or damage.
8. Avoid rush hour traffic to save on fuel costs.
Traveling during rush hour traffic is not only nerve-wracking, but it can actually bog you down and consume excess fuel. The smallest truck gets 12 mpg, and the largest gets only 9 mpg on average, so you’ll want to maximize your fuel consumption for savings at the pump. While planning your trip and estimating your fuel costs en route, check out AAA’s gas price calculator.
Want to avoid traffic nightmares in real-time? Navigate through bad traffic easily with the Waze app to avoid getting stuck in the rush hour muck.
9. Smaller moving vans aren't always the most economical.
Vans and smaller apartment-sized trucks are cheaper than the bigger moving trucks, but if you need to make several trips with the smaller vehicle, the costs of gas and the mileage will rack up. Multiple trips in a smaller truck might actually cost you more than making a single trip in a bigger truck.
10. Portable storage container shipping is perfect if you don't want to drive the load yourself.
The company drops the container off at your house, and you pack it up. They'll pick it up and deliver it to your desired destination or hold it at a storage facility for you until you’re ready. These DIY containers generally will hold upwards of 7,500 pounds and range between 900 – 1,500 cubic feet of space, which will easily hold couches and mattresses with plenty of room for more belongings.
Prices for portable storage containers vary according to the type of material their made of (containers come in a variety of materials from wood to metal). In general, an 8x8x12-foot container with 1,200 square feet of space will cost somewhere around $220 on average for a month’s usage. Most companies charge a drop-off fee and pickup fee as well, so check your contract carefully, and ask questions before you sign.
11. Cheap and heavy furniture aren't worth the shipping costs.
If you're using commercial movers and your poundage is pushing the limits, consider pitching cheap furniture that’s easily replaceable at your destination. And unless you’re a dedicated weight lifter, consider ditching awkward and heavy weight sets that can really send you over your limit.
12. If you don't have a ton of items, Greyhound offers great freight shipping.
If you don't have a huge amount of household goods, Greyhound Bus has freight shipping rates that might be an option to explore. Your item(s) must fit within the undercarriage of the bus to qualify for bus transport. Further details on what items are allowed, along with the size restrictions, can be found on Greyhound’s FAQ page, but it’s a good way to cheaply transport large, bulky boxes under 100 pounds.
Greyhound Freight offers discounts to military families and to students from 25 – 40% depending on what shipping package is chosen. If you ship six or more boxes/pieces, you can take advantage of the Busfreighter deal offering up to 50% off. Use the online quote calculator to help you decide if this shipping option is right for your needs.
13. Use USPS media mail to ship books, DVDs, or CDs cheaply.
Media mail shipping can likely save you some cash. A 20-pound box of books ships for less than $12 according to USPS.com's calculator tool.
14. Using creative packing places can save you cubic footage.
Don't ignore small spaces like china cabinets, dresser drawers, or the insides of your washer/dryer to save on cubic footage in your DIY containers or rental trucks.
15. Newspaper ink can transfer; use coffee filters or tissue paper instead.
Use coffee filters or dollar store tissue paper to wrap around cups, and place between plates and bowls to protect against chipping—without all the smeared newspaper ink.
16. Household plants need to be properly packed to avoid moving damage.
Cover plants loosely with a few layers of newspaper to avoid being burned by sunlight and place them in boxes for stability.