Preparing and planning a move
The first thing to decide is how much of the moving work you’ll do yourself and how much will be handled by professional movers.
If your employer is paying for the move you can take it easy and watch the professional movers do nearly all of the work. If you’re financing the move yourself, you might opt to do your own packing to save money.
But before you decide how much to do yourself, call some moving companies to get estimates for what they charge for different levels of service.
Weed down your stuff: Most people are packrats to one degree or another and if you've lived in the same place for several years you probably have closets and junk drawers filled with stuff you really don't need. Start making stacks of what to throw out or donate to charities. Organizations like Goodwill and AmVets will accept a variety of clothing and household goods.
Collect supplies: If you’re doing your own packing, you'll need lots of boxes. The best boxes are the ones that reams of copier paper come in because they’re sturdy, have lids and are easily stackable. If you work in an office, find out who handles supplies for the copy machine and have them save boxes for you.
You can also buy boxes from supply stores or some large discount stores, but this can really add up.
Identify high-priority items: During a move there are two kinds of high priority items:
Your most prized possessions, like family photos, birth certificates, passports, etc. Plan on packing these yourself and transporting them in your car so they are never out of your control. Ordinary household items can be replaced if lost or damaged. If it's priceless to you, then you should carry it.
Things you need every day, such as a handful of dishes, toiletries, Fido's dog dish, your car keys, etc. These may not be highly valuable, but you don't want to lose track of exactly where they are.
Pack these yourself and keep the box handy so you can get in and out of it whenever necessary. Keep out your cleaning supplies so you can finish up in the old house and take the cleaning materials with you to the new house.
Change your utilities and services: Contact service providers for utilities such as water, gas, electric, telephone, cable and internet services to inform them of the impending move. You can let these companies know when you plan to be out of your home and into your new home so that your services can be switched over.
This will prevent you from paying for services you do not receive or having to provide a security deposit for your new residential service needs through the companies at your new location.
Postal Change of Address: A change of address kit is available through your local post office branch office or online. These forms prevent the possibility of others gaining access to your mail without your knowledge.
The mail will be forwarded to your new address beginning on the date you specify on your change of address form.
Hiring professional movers can take the stress out of an already stressful situation. (Photo courtesy of member Sharon P.)
Hiring a moving company
You may choose to do all of the packing, but do you really want to do the moving as well? If so, you'll need to rent a truck, a couple of two-wheeler handcarts and some pads to protect your furniture.
Then you'll need to recruite friends to help and probably feed them. You may want to compare that to the cost of hiring movers.
As in all professions, in the moving industry there are rogue operators who give you a low price to get the job, then demand a much larger amount before they will unload the truck. Don’t hire a moving company without checking them out.
Check out the company with the American Moving & Storage Association, which has a certification program called “ProMover.” You should be wary of any moving company that does not have ProMover certification.
Ask for the company’s U.S. Department of Transportation registration number. You can then search a federally registered mover’s complaint history at protectyourmove.gov.
Questions to ask:
Even when you are using a legitimate, honest moving company you may have a bad experience if you don’t know what services the company is providing at what cost. Here are some basic questions to ask:
1. What are the insurance terms for the move? You will typically purchase an insurance option for items damaged or lost in transport. Does the insurance cover the full value of the item?
2. Is the quote price an estimate or a “not-to-exceed” ceiling?
3. Are there any hidden fees? Moving companies often work from a "tariff," which lists items for which you could be charged, such as if there are stairs involved.
4. How long has the company been in business.
5. Is the moving crew employed by the company, temporary hires or casual laborers?
A copy of the mover’s bill of lading, liability insurance and valuation coverage policy. All movers must assume liability for the value of the goods they transport. “Released value” is a no-cost option that provides minimal protection, requiring movers to cover any damages at 60 cents per pound, per article. “Full value” is the most comprehensive option, but cost varies.
A timetable for performing the move, including packing and arrival date.
Does the company perform the move or work as a household goods broker? A broker can’t represent himself as a mover, doesn’t own trucks and generally has no authority to provide an estimate on behalf of a specific mover.
Local vs. long distance moves
Rules and regulations governing the moving industry depend on whether it’s a move within the state (intrastate) or one that requires crossing state lines (interstate).
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees interstate movers and legally requires them to:
Obtain licensing by FMCSA and display their U.S. DOT number in any advertising.
Provide arbitration if consumer complaints can’t be resolved amicably.
Give homeowners a copy of “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” brochure.
Allow homeowners to review their tariff — a list of rates and charges — for a particular shipment.
Furnish an accurate summary of their complaint handling procedures, including a phone number.
It’s important to note that FMCSA has no authority to resolve complaints against an interstate mover. However, the federal agency may investigate a specific mover if the agency receives multiple documented complaints.
The investigation may result in the mover’s license revocation and/or fines. To file a complaint against an interstate mover, call FMCSA at 888-368-7238.
Best practices mandate intrastate movers also follow federal standards, and most are subject to state laws. The American Moving & Storage Association recommends consumers check with their state’s moving association, public utility agencies such as a state’s department of transportation or commerce, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau before hiring.
Moving contracts and costs
A binding estimate is a written agreement made in advance with your mover that clearly describes all services provided. It guarantees the total cost of the move based on the quantities and services written in the estimate.
A nonbinding estimate is what the mover believes the cost will be based upon the estimated weight of the shipment and additional services required.
However, the final charges are based on the actual weight of your shipment, the services provided and the tariff provisions in effect.
Some movers offer a “guaranteed-not-to-exceed” estimate, which allows the consumer to pay the binding estimate or the actual cost, whichever is lower.
According to 2012 estimates provided by the AMSA, the average cost of an interstate move is about $4,300, based on an average weight of 7,400 pounds and distance of 1,225 miles.
The average intrastate move costs $2,300, based on the same weight and a crew of four. Prices may fluctuate, depending on where you live.
Common moving mistakes
Forgetting to contact service providers
This can cause you to be responsible for paying for services that you did not use or create.
You can contact service providers as soon as you anticipate your move and provide them with a final date of service. This will allow you to only be responsible for services that you used and prevent others from using your services without your knowledge.
If you're moving to a new home within the same area you can even schedule services to be connected prior to your move so that they are ready when you move in.
Failure to complete a change of address
If you do not submit a change of address 14 days prior to your move your mail may end up in the wrong hands. This can cause your person information to be compromised should others get your mail without your knowledge.
Not having insurance coverage
You can contact your homeowner’s or rental insurance company to ensure that you have insurance coverage during your moving experience.
This will provide you with the comfort and security of knowing that should your property be damaged or lost during the move it will be covered for replacement.
Not completing proper move out procedures
Individuals that are renting their current residence are required to complete a final inspection checklist with their landlord. This provides a final account that cannot be disputed as to the condition of the premises when you move out.
Damage can occur within the premises by trespassers following your departure from the home which can be blamed on you if your landlord does not witness the move out condition with you.
If you paid a deposit at the beginning of your lease you may be required by local and state laws and statues to file certain documentation to retrieve this money. The laws that govern these situations are strict and specific. Failure to properly adhere to them can mean a loss for you.
Forgetting to complete an inspection
It is necessary to report any problems with your property that is moved by a moving company within a certain amount of time if you want to file a claim.
An inspection of these items should be done before signing anything that the moving company may require after the transition is completed. This will prevent you from having a hard time collecting compensation for damaged or lost items that can occur during your relocation.
Moving a piano or pool table
General moving companies often recommend hiring a specialty company to move a piano, which can weigh between 400 and 1,500 pounds and requires special handling to protect fragile components.
Reputable piano stores are a good source for finding a piano mover who will have the experience and equipment to do the job right. Consider also how Angie's List can help. Members have access to local consumer reviews on piano movers and service providers in more than 550 other categories.
For more information, see the Angie's List Guide to Piano Moving.
Moving a pool table can cause it to become unbalanced, or could lead to the slate top breaking. You can ask a general mover, but make sure whoever does the work is experienced at moving a pool table.
Your best bet is to hire a professional pool mechanic or other experienced expert to take down, move and set up your table. To find an expert, check with your local billiards service center.
It takes about an hour or two to dismantle a table and another three to six hours to set it back up.
The price to move a pool table varies, depending on the size of the table and the distance moved. The average price for a standard table can range from $200 to $600, which includes disassembling, transporting and setting up.
Many companies charge an extra fee if you're traveling more than 50 miles and if there are stairs at either place.