DIY or Hire Professionals? Tips for a Cost-Effective Move

Tips for a cost-effective move


Moving can be exciting. There is the promise of new friendships, exploring a different city, and creating a new life. It's like going on your own little personal adventure. However, before any of that can happen, you have to actually pack your items and make the move. This brings you to the inevitable fork in the road where you must decide whether to hire someone to move you professionally or do it yourself, and consider and the costs associated with each. Before you decide, let's take a few minutes and unpack the two (see what I did there?), shall we?

DIY Move

Moving yourself can save as much as 50% to 75% according to SpareFoot, a self-storage marketplace that also offers tips on moving and home organization. They offer the following advice to help you do it right!

1. Get a Head Start. Start packing six weeks prior to your move date if you can. This is helpful because it allows you to map out a plan for unpacking at your new location. It also keeps you from getting into “rush mode” where items could be potentially damaged during the move.

SpareFoot also recommends the following list of supplies:

  • Moving boxes
  • Packing material
  • Packing tape and dispenser
  • Black sharpie
  • A supply of Ziploc bags and zip ties

2. Your Boxes Matter. Avoid getting boxes from a grocery store. These boxes are not designed for moving. They crush too easily. SpareFoot says you should use boxes that are specifically designed for storage and moving. Most storage facilities sell them. They usually come with a rating of 32ECT or higher.

As for packing, keep size in mind. It's tempting to pack a lot of items into big boxes, but they can be cumbersome to move. Smaller boxes are always easier to load and unload.

3. Renting a Truck. Moving trucks come in various sizes. If you're unsure as to which one to rent, give the rental agency a call. They can usually point you in the right direction, provided you can give them an idea of the square footage of your house. Beyond that, remember the points below.

  • Mileage issues. Most moving companies will give you unlimited miles if you’re making a one-way trip, but could charge you per mile if you’re making a round-trip. Sometimes this is negotiable, depending on your specific situation. Just be sure to check beforehand and make sure you have your bases covered so you don't get sticker shock when returning the truck.
  • Watch the Gas. Most rental contracts specify that the vehicle must have the same amount of gas in the tank when you return it as it had when you picked it up. Failure to do so usually results in a refuel charge that is often substantially higher than gas prices.
  • Insurance. Rental companies will offer insurance for the truck. Your vehicle insurance policy might cover something like this, but you should check beforehand to be certain. If not, you might consider purchasing the extra coverage from the rental truck company. It might seem a bit steep at first, but if something happens you will be well-protected. Plus, it's not like you make a move every three weeks. Just consider this as one-time expense.

4. Pack Well. Make sure you use the proper materials when packing your items to prevent them from being broken or damaged during your move. To save on packing material costs, you can wrap breakables in old T-shirts, towels or dishtowels before you pack them. Once you’ve done the packing, make sure each box is clearly labeled to make unpacking more efficient. You can also color code boxes and labels by room to make unloading more efficient later.

5. Load it right. One basic rule for loading a rental truck is putting heavier items and larger boxes in the truck first. This gives you a great base to stack lighter items on. Plus, it's a good idea to put items that you’ll need right away in the truck last, if you can. This will help a great deal if you arrive at your destination in the wee hours of the morning. Keeping a couple of clothing boxes and a mattress accessible will allow you to get a good night’s sleep. Then you’ll wake up mentally and physically prepared to unload the truck the next morning.

DIY Move Costs to Consider

There are three main things to keep in mind when choosing to move yourself.

  • Truck Size. The larger the truck, the more you’ll pay.
  • Fuel Cost. Even though we mentioned this earlier, it bears repeating. You don’t want to get nailed with a gas charge because you failed to refill the vehicle.
  • Insurance. This is an optional cost, just remember that. We mentioned this previously too, but it does affect your overall moving cost so you need to keep it in mind. The best thing to do is check with your insurance company beforehand to see what your coverage options are. You might be able to tack on a temporary rider that will be much cheaper than the cost of the optional coverage at the rental truck facility.

Hiring a Professional Moving Company

Now let's take a look at what is involved when you hire a professional moving company. While the cost is certainly higher, the trade-off might be well worth it depending on your particular situation. For instance, if your move date falls really close to the day you start your new job, a moving company might be a great idea. There are other situations that would require a professional moving company as well. No matter what your situation may be, we have some expert advice from Angie Hicks of Angie's Choice.

Questions to Ask Professional Movers:

  • History. Angie says you should ask any professional moving company how long they have been in the business and what certifications they have. This is important because newer companies might not be as familiar with the process. Plus, if a company has been around for a while, you can usually find a solid stack of reviews. Also, ask for an on-site estimate. Any reputable moving company should be willing to come to your location and provide you with one. It will clearly spell out the expectations and requirements of both parties.
  • Employees. She also recommends asking whether the company uses their own employees or subcontractors. Sometimes, in busy seasons, moving companies will hire temporary help to assist them. This is fine, as long as you know what you're getting into before your move occurs. You can even ask about the individuals who will be involved with moving your items.
  • Insurance/Hidden Fees. You cannot ask too many questions about this. Be sure that you fully understand what insurance covers during the move. Also, make sure you understand extra fees for things like moving large items up and down stairs and packing oddly shaped, fragile or overweight items. All of this will help you calculate a realistic price and protect the interests of both parties.
  • Payment. You should never have to pay before you move or come up with a large down payment/deposit. You should only pay for the move once your items have been transported and unloaded. At that point, make sure you inspect everything and verify any damage with the mover present, for proper documentation. Provided you have chosen a reputable company, this should be one of the shorter parts of the process.
  • Restrictions. Finally, Angie says to make sure you understand what a moving company will and will not transport for you. It's best to ask up front rather than be surprised a few hours before the move. This is one of those instances where an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.

Professional Move Costs to Consider

As with a DIY move, there are certain things to keep in mind when hiring a professional in order to keep your costs in check. Pay attention to these and you can save a significant amount of money.

  • Weight/Time. If you’re moving locally, moving companies will charge you according to the time it takes them to move you. If you’re moving a long distance, then weight matters. Knowing this, decide ahead of time which items you plan to move yourself in order to save on either of these costs.
  • Packing. Decide ahead if you ‘ll pack or if you’ll let the movers do it for you. Typically, packing is charged at labor rates for these moves. Therefore, if you can pack the items yourself, you’ll save money.
  • Get an On-Site Estimate. This was mentioned before, but it is important. You need an accurate number to have in your head when you’re preparing for your move. Phone estimates don’t take extras into consideration, like walking up stairs, or walking long distances from the moving truck to get the items into your house or apartment. Get an on-site estimate, since it will be more realistic. Then, get two other estimates so you can make a comparison.
  • Ask for a Discount. You should ask for and expect a discount. There’s no harm in asking. Just be forthright when you ask, then be quiet. You’ll be surprised at the results!

So now you have all the information you need to decide whether you want to pack and move yourself or hire a professional mover to do the job for you. As long as you’re mindful of the guidelines mentioned above, your move should go off without a hitch. Well, unless you’re pulling a rental trailer behind you. Don't unhitch until you reach your destination!

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