I have lived in several cities; San Diego, San Francisco, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Berkeley, Oakland, Sonoma and now Los Angeles. After several relocations around the map, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is how to find a good moving company and how to estimate the cost.
Relocating cities or moving just across town, can be very exciting yet exhausting all at once. After finding a new address, redirecting your mail at the post office, packing up your entire life, and putting down your deposit or mortgage- the actual physical move itself is the last thing you want to think about. Take it from someone who has lived in 8 cities, has had over 10 different roommates and a pet: spending the extra cash for a moving company is well worth it. You just need to be organized and cost efficient.
Preparation is essential:
• You're about to relocate, do you really need to take everything with you? Probably not. So take the time to go through your closet, your pantry and your garage and clean it out! You can donate old clothes and household goods to Salvation Army or Goodwill, all the while minimizing the bulk of stuff you need to pack.
• While packing, consider the things that are most immediate. Keep your every day necessities in suitcases or boxes that will go in the car with you. The rest can be organized by room or category to go with the truck and movers.
• Bubble wrap and newspaper are two easy ways to add padding around valuables to keep them safe.However, bubble wrap does get expensive. I have found the cheapest solution would be to use linens, bath towels, beach towels, bathrobes and old comforters instead. (Plus, when you use bubble wrap and newspaper this adds to the weight of the moving costs.)
• The cost of new boxes is expensive. Though they are available at any storage facility like Public Storage, most moving companies can supply boxes for you. Beware you will be charged for this. The most eco friendly way to acquire boxes would be to ask friends for their old ones, supermarkets, malls and department stores. Most of these facilities have recycling centers where literally stacks of used boxes will go to waste.
• Use your own supplies. Any time a moving company has to supply a blanket, bungee cord, a box, a marker, or packing tape you will be charged.
• Label everything! Marking what room you packed it from, what's in it, and if it's fragile will save you and your movers much more time when it comes to loading the truck properly. You don't want your wedding china stacked under your 50" flat screen.
• Another thing to remember, give yourself time to pack. Whenever I've moved, I've found that if I allow at least a month to slowly but surely get things together, the less stressful the whole ordeal is.
• If you choose to have the moving company pack your house, they are responsible for any damages. If you pack your own belongings, the company will hold no responsibility. Obviously this is a liability you want to clarify beforehand.
Finding A Moving Company:
There are many ways to go about this. You can ask friends and family what company they recommend or you can blindly search the web. If you check local resources like Craigslist, you will be overwhelmed with options.
• Independent contractors vs. corporate moving companies- regardless if you go with the local movers or a global moving corporation, make sure they have insurance. First and foremost you want have coverage on your belongings and you don't want to foot the bill on someone's injury.
• Independent contractors are more likely to quote you a flat rate for the entire move. They will want to know the travel time, the type of home/building you are leaving and moving into, are there stairs, is there a driveway, do you have an elevator? The driving and the labor will all add up, and corporate movers will chargeyou for everything. I had one moving company that charged me additionally for each foot they had to carry bulk furniture like my bed and couch from the front door to the van. Also, if there is no parking and they have to double park or find a spot not directly in front of the building, you may be charged for that as well.
• Most independent contractors will have a team of 2 or 3 movers and work with a flat rate on the whole packaged move. Corporate moving companies charge by how many movers you need, the scale of the house, the distance of the drive, the weight of the actual belongings and gas charges. I hired a company once from Sonoma to Los Angeles that ending up costing me closer to $1000 after I had gotten a $600 quote. Also they didn't directly drop off the next day, they loaded my stuff into storage pods, and brought it down with their next available cargo run. Beware!
Questions To Ask Your Movers:
1. Do you have insurance?
2. Do you own your own truck? Many moving companies especially the smaller ones, will rent out the truck from Uhaul or Allied, which also ends up costing you additional fees.
3. Will you be driving my belongings to the new home immediately? You don't want to wait a week for your stuff to only travel 6 hours. If you're relocating from coast to coast that is entirely a different situation, which you may take a week to see your movers.
4. Can you quote me a flat rate in writing?
5. What are your additional fees? How can I help to avoid them?
6. References? If you can talk to anyone else who has used them before this can save you stressful headaches.
7. Do I need to leave a deposit? If you have to put money down on this move before you see the condition of your belongings or any extra charges, it's probably a scam. For the bigger companies that do charge additional fees and taxes, they won't ask for a deposit. Most of the time they add everything up after your move is complete.
What are your moving tips? Any horror stories you want to share? Any advice for those hiring movers for the first time?