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Self Service Movers

The essentials

The two essential ingredients of a successful move are "personpower" and hauling capacity. Whether you rely on friends and borrowed vehicles or hire local college students and rent a truck to do the job, you need not only enough strong helpers but also the right hauling capacity. If you lack either of these, it's best not to self-move.

Convincing friends can be tricky. If the move is short, the weather cooperative and you have enough help to make the work light, a move can actually be fun. A quick shuffle of furniture followed by pizza and a house-warming party is a do-it-yourself mover's dream. But consider all that could go wrong: a strained back, a broken heirloom, and, worst of all, bruised friendships.

Is it really cheaper?

Consider whether moving yourself actually makes economic sense. If you are moving a long distance, calculate the cost of travel: gas, tolls, meals, lodging, and so on. Add in the costs of renting a truck large enough to handle all your belongings, insuring valuable possessions, hiring additional help, and even the cost of pizza at the post-move party. Then get some estimates from professional moving companies and decide how costs compare with a self-move. If a professional move will cost you more money, ask yourself if it's still worth the decrease in stress and hassle. In the end, you might find it's easier and more worthwhile to hire professionals. But if you decide it makes sense to take on a self-move, the next step is to examine the details.

The three "Ps" of moving

Pack: Well before moving day arrives, pack up everything but the bare essentials in your old home. Well-packed goods take up less space, are easier to handle and are less likely to be damaged.

People: Line up as many people as you can at both ends of the move. More people means less strain on each individual and a faster move. Even so, be sure to match individuals with tasks. The people you ask to carry the couch up two flights of stairs should be in good shape.

Power: Make sure the truck is big enough for the job. The goal should be to have enough space to make loading and unloading easy, and to complete the move in one trip.

Following is a guideline for estimating how much truck you'll need.*

10-foot truck: 1 to 2 furnished rooms
14- to 15-foot truck: 2 to 3 furnished rooms
18- to 20-foot truck: 4 to 5 furnished rooms
22- to 24-foot truck: 6 to 8 furnished rooms
 * Equipment varies from one company to the next, so ask for advice from your truck rental representative.

Choosing professional movers

Choosing a moving company may seem like an overwhelming task. Where do you start? What qualities should you look for? The following checklist summarizes the steps in choosing a moving company.

Give yourself plenty of time

Planning well in advance makes it more likely you'll find a good company, and also gives you time to figure out how much the move will cost. Start your research at least eight to ten weeks before the move.

Ask family and friends for recommendations

Were the movers on time? Were they professional? Did they have enough people and the right equipment for the job? Did they damage anything? If you need more information than your friends can provide, contact local consumer protection groups for performance records on movers. If your employer is transferring you, ask your relocation agent.

Determine the size, distance, and timing of your move

How much do you want to spend on your move? How much work do you want to do yourself? Knowing these important facts will help you get a cost estimate and decide what company is best for you.

Cost factors

Size: The weight of your move. The more weight, the more cost.
Distance: The number of miles you're traveling and the states of your old home and your destination. Some carriers only serve certain states.
Time: The time of year you decide to move. Moving during peak times, such as the summer or holidays, means that you'll pay more for your move.

Self-service vs. full-service

The final major cost factor when hiring a professional moving company is deciding between a "self-service" and a "full-service" move. In self-service moves, the company transports your belongings from old house to new, but you have to pack and unpack everything at both ends. In a full-service move, the moving company not only transports everything, but also packs and unpacks all your household goods. Most people who hire professional movers choose full-service. Although you could do a self-service move to save money, long-distance moves with lots of heavy, valuable items are best left to the professionals. In addition, cargo insurance for do-it-yourself moves is limited to $25,000 and covers only damage caused by such disasters as crashes or fire

Obtain a written cost estimate

Most companies give free estimates, so be sure to ask ahead of time. If the estimate is not binding, however, the final cost may differ. Factors that might affect the cost of the move include:

  • Packing: Many moving companies will help you pack, but keep in mind that help costs money. If you want to save money, it's best to pack as much as you can on your own, leaving only the hardest tasks for the movers.
  • Appliances: Many movers will disconnect major appliances (for example, washing machine, ice maker) at your old home and reconnect them at your new home. However, movers typically charge for this service.
  • Staircases: Do you love your new four-story house? Movers won't. Expect additional costs based on the number of staircases they need to use.
  • Pianos: Despite the beautiful music they make, pianos are big, unwieldy objects. Movers typically charge extra for each piano they move. Many companies will provide quotes online.

Determine what items moving companies will not transport

Some common examples include hazardous items such as paint, cleaners, aerosol cans, or gasoline; personal valuables such as jewelry, important documents or furs; pets; and plants.

Decide on coverage

Valuation is carrier liability and is usually based on weight. Valuation should be not be confused with insurance. The coverage only applies to cases in which carrier negligence can be proven. It covers your property by assessing the three different value categories described below:

  • Standard coverage: Movers provide their customers with minimum insurance for every item. This coverage is based on weight alone, and is required by law to be at least $.60 per pound. So if your 1 lb. Babe Ruth autographed baseball was destroyed during the move, standard coverage would only insure it for $0.60.
  • Assessed value coverage: This coverage is based on how much you must pay to cover the assessed value of any of your property if it's damaged due to carrier negligence. If the computer you bought for $2,500 now goes for $300, the current price is all that's covered.
  • Full replacement value coverage: This coverage is based on how much you must pay to cover the full replacement value of any of your property if it is damaged due to carrier negligence. Under this coverage, the carrier must pay to obtain a new replacement, no matter the cost, of any piece of property damaged.

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