7 ways to cut moving costs
Most people choose to move in the summer -- which makes it an expensive time to relocate -- but there are still ways to trim your costs.
This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.
"People move based on their own personal schedules, and most people prefer to move when their children are out of school or they have some time off," says Laura Vauer Darr, the chief executive of the American Moving & Storage Association, an industry group.
The average in-state move runs $2,300, reports AMSA, while families relocating across state lines pay an average $4,300. That's just for the moving company's time. Purchases to "feather the nest" in the three months around the move add $4,000 for apartment-dwellers, $10,000 for homeowners, according to Moving.com.
Although it may be tempting to go cheap, consumers who choose the lowest bid may find themselves out even more money in the long run. "While the majority of moving companies are honest and legitimate, there is also no shortage of predators," says Eric T. Kanefsky, the acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
Earlier this month, the state filed a lawsuit against two "rogue" moving companies that allegedly increased prices from $210 to as much as $4,940 once the goods were loaded onto the moving truck, with employees refusing to release the items until customers paid the higher price. In one case, employees allegedly demanded sex in exchange for a reduced price. A New Jersey Superior Court judge then issued an order that requires the companies to return any customers' property being held, and prohibits them from conducting new business until a June 15 hearing.
More broadly, movers ranked 17th among the Better Business Bureau's most-complained-about industries last year, and a 2011 Angie's List survey found 38% of consumers "had trouble" with their recent move. Common complaints include damaged items and hidden charges, says Cheryl Reed, a spokeswoman for Angie's List.
Experts say the best way to get a good deal is to plan ahead. Here's how to cut costs -- and maximize value:
Time the move
If possible, go with a weekday move mid-month. Prices can be up to 30% higher on weekends, and at the very beginning and end of the month, when leases turn over, says Phil Liu, co-founder of New York's CityMove, a free site where consumers solicit bids from movers.
Lighten the load
De-clutter as you pack, especially if you're moving into a smaller space, Darr says. Long-haul moves are priced primarily by volume and weight; local moves by volume and time. Either way, "you're paying to move all that crap you're going to throw away when you get there," she says.
Enterprising consumers may be able to cover part of their moving costs by hosting a yard sale -- and donations can ease next year's tax bill.
Get at least three movers to conduct an in-home inspection and provide a written estimate, says Reed. An in-person quote will be more accurate than a phone or email quote, because the mover can spot issues that might add to the cost -- such as a dresser that will need to be disassembled to fit down the narrow hallway, or a book collection that puts your 30-box estimate to shame.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, get details of what's included, such as packing materials, road tolls and insurance, she says. Liu says many movers will match competitors' prices, so don't despair if the mover you like best isn't the one with the lowest bid.
"Know who you're hiring," says Darr. A number of groups track complaints about moving companies, which can reveal not just rogue movers, but also those with a track record of damaging goods or showing up late. The American Moving & Storage Association and the Department of Transportation both monitor licensing and complaints for interstate movers, and state regulators often track local companies. Check the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie's List, too, Liu says.
Browse daily deals
Moving services have started taking advantage of the daily-deal industry, offering vouchers for a few hours' service at discounts of up to 60%. But unless your move is very simple, it's likely that the discount isn't as significant as advertised, says Darr.
Additional hours are typically billed at the regular rate, which, tallied with other fees, may not yield the most competitive price. Shoppers should also check that the moving company offering the deal has a good reputation, she says.
Review insuranceMost credentialed movers offer insurance, but such coverage reimburses based on an item's weight rather than its value. You can expect to get roughly 60 cents per pound for a damaged item, which could be far less than its replacement cost, Reed says. "A painting doesn't weigh very much," she says. "Neither does your flat-screen TV."
Check to see if your renters or homeowners insurance policy covers belongings in transit. If the item is particularly valuable, she says, "you probably either want to move that yourself, or pay very close attention to when it's packaged and put on the truck."
Do your own packing
If you're paying by the hour, consider doing as much of the prep work as possible to reduce the time it takes to get everything out of the house, Reed says. Pack boxes yourself, and take on easy tasks like rolling up rugs and securing cords of unplugged appliances like lamps and electronics. If you're up for it, disassemble bed frames and other items that will need to be moved in pieces.
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