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Should I hire movers, use an app, or do it myself?
Compare costs to move
You’re moving in with your partner. Your apartment building is getting converted into condos. Or maybe you got a new job waaaay across the country. Pretty soon you’ll need to pack up your stuff, haul your furniture down the stairs and load everything up. But the big question is: Will you and a friend try to muscle that massive couch down the stairs, or should your hire movers? From a traditional moving company to peer-to-peer moving apps that connect you to people you can pay to help, you’ve got options that can save you some money — and save your back.
Read on for the lowdown on moving options and how to avoid mistakes (spoiler: it’s all about the boxes).
How much do moving services cost?
Let’s get a high-level sense of cost, before we get into the details on each moving service. Keep in mind that your cost can vary greatly depending on how much stuff you have, how big your current rental is, where you’re moving to, and, well, you get the idea. We’ll get into all that — as well as detailed descriptions of your three options — later.
Typical costs for moving a two-bedroom apartment
|Professional moving service (you pack)||Peer-to-Peer moving app||Moving yourself|
|Loading and unloading||$1200||$670||$0|
|Driving (local)||$30 (mileage)||$30 (mileage)||$25 (gas)|
|Misc. (tips, beer, dinner)||$50||$40||$50|
|Benefits||Skilled, professional movers|
Floor/wall protection and damage insurance
They’ll drive that truck around, so you don’t have to
|Don’t have to beg friends and family for help |
App helps you estimate cost
Self-paced: You can start whenever you feel like it
|Drawbacks||Have to schedule in advance|
|Smaller trucks mean more loads|
Not professional movers
|Requires friends and family|
Risk of injury
What about professional, full-service moving companies?
You’ve seen them before—those massive trucks hauling down the highway full of somebody else’s boxes. Professional moving companies do it all: packing, labeling boxes, loading the truck, driving it, and unloading your belongings. They’ll
even put everything in the correct room at your new place and make sure your piano is “just right” before heading out. They offer insurance and carry some liability, so if your piano loses some keys during the move, it’ll most likely be on them to fix, not you. There is also a whole range of moving companies and levels of service, so chances are you can put your dollars toward the kind of help you need most.
How to hire movers
- Look for a reputable company. Your moving company is responsible for all of your belongings, so you need to feel good about their reputation and approach. Read reviews and check with co-workers and friends who have recently moved.
- Get an estimate. Once you find a few good options, get in touch with them to get a general sense of their pricing. They’ll need detailed information from you and may even come out to your current place for an in-home estimate.
- Pick your company. You’ll work with your chosen moving company to pick your moving day and if you’re moving far away, an unloading day. Your job now is all about packing up your boxes — unless you’ve hired them to do that, too.
Moving company pricing
It’s probably not a surprise, but there are a lot of variables that impact the cost to hire movers. Typically, the size of the place you’re moving from (number of rooms, amount of stuff, etc.) is a major factor. So is distance.
Moving across town can often be done in a day. If you’re moving to another part of the country, the moving company has to hire drivers, and those drivers have to stay at hotels and have meals, and moving trucks use a lot of gas. Also, there’s a big difference between moving out of the 20th floor of a condo, where every trip involves a ride in an elevator and moving out of a ground-floor apartment.
When to hire movers
Professional moving companies make the process of moving as painless as can possibly be. If you don’t need to do any sorting ahead of time, you can pretty much walk out the door at your old place, take a mini-vacation, and show up at your new place a few days later. That’s pretty cool.
On the other hand, full-service moving companies are clearly the most expensive option. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1200-$4500.
What about peer-to-peer moving apps?
Peer-to-peer apps connect you to people (your neighbors, essentially) who are willing to tackle a task or provide a service for an hourly rate. Moving is now one of those services. Some moving apps connect you to people who are willing to haul the majority of your stuff, while others may only help you move one or two items at a time. As with most peer-to-peer services (think Uber, DoorDash), the quality of the service is entirely dependent on who you connect with, so pay close attention to any reviews in the app.
How it works
- Compare your options. Companies like Phlatbed, Buddytruk, Lugg, and Dolly connect you to local drivers with trucks or vans that are available to help with your move. Read through their websites, check app store reviews, and compare their services to pick the best one for you.
- Get ready. Every service is a little different, but once you’ve selected an app and hire movers, have your stuff packed and ready to go. Once the driver arrives on moving day, they’ll load up their vehicle with your belongings and deliver them to your new place.
- Help upload. Help haul your stuff into your new place (unless you’ve negotiated that they do all the lifting) and start unpacking. If you feel like they did a good job, consider tipping — and leaving a review.
Most peer-to-peer moving companies will offer an hourly rate for their services, so the longer it takes to move your things, the more you pay. This rate can also differ depending on the number, size, and weight of the items being moved. Some apps are basically a bidding platform – you’ll enter the details of your move and multiple people will bid on your job.
When to use a moving app
Peer-to-peer moving services have become more popular because they’re more affordable than moving companies and mean you don’t have to ask friends or family for help. You’re also lowering your chance of injury, which is pretty darn important.
Another benefit is that if you hire movers using these moving apps they do offer some damage insurance. So, in the event that something happens to your walls, floor, or ceiling, they’ll most likely cover the repairs.
On the other hand, the person helping you isn’t a professional mover. He might be the guy down the street with a pickup truck making some extra money on the weekends. That means the loading and securing of your belongings may not be up to par compared to experienced professionals, so you’ll need to be more involved and oversee the process.
What about moving your stuff yourself?
We’re betting you’ve used your own manpower to move at least once before — and hopefully you gave yourself a five-star review! If you decide this is the best option, a couple of quick tips can make your move a little easier:
- Protect your body. Injuries during moving are pretty common. Learn how to properly lift heavy items and try to spread your move out over a couple of days, if you can, to give your body a break.
- To recruit friends, offer tasty items. It’s amazing how compelling an ask for help — paired with an offer of pizza and beer — can be. Chances are good your friends will step up and help. Bring out your portable speaker, pray for sun, and make it a moving party.
- Nap. Once everything is moved into your new apartment, rest.
How much do-it-yourself moving costs
Taking a DIY approach to moving is definitely the cheapest option. You’ll need lots of tape, markers, boxes… and maybe some extra blankets or padding, bungee cords or straps, some muscle, and of course, a truck.
If you can borrow a friend’s pickup (or you have your own!), you can haul every load yourself and just pay for gas and a thank-you gift for your friend. Sometimes it makes more sense, however, to minimize the number of trips by renting a moving truck. You can get a bunch of different-sized trucks or trailers at places like U-Haul and Penske.
When to move your stuff yourself
If you’re short on money, want to spread your move out over a couple of weeks, or have a large crew of friends who want to help, moving your stuff yourself is probably your best option. On the other hand, moving is hard on your body and you’ll be fully responsible for any damage to your belongings — and to walls, floors, or doorways.
It’s all about the boxes: avoid these common mistakes
Whether you’ve hired someone to help or are tackling your move yourself, how you pack and organize your boxes is a big deal. It can lead to situations like “losing” a box of kitchen pots only to find them in the basement labeled as “college books” three years later! Here’re a few common mistakes to avoid:
- Unlabeled boxes. Label each side of each box with a description of the box’s contents. At a minimum, label one end and one side of each box. This ensures movers and friends will treat delicate belongings with extra care.
- Not downsizing before the move. Go through your belongings before you pack and identify what you want to donate or sell. Otherwise, you’re paying someone to move stuff you don’t want anyway.
- Partially packing boxes. If your moving boxes aren’t filled to the top, you lose out on moving space and risk damaging items inside when they get bounced around.
- Using the wrong sized boxes. Don’t fill large boxes with books or other heavy items. The movers won’t be happy and your belongings are more likely to be damaged.
- Not putting room labels on the boxes. On each side of every box, mark which room it belongs in at your new place. This helps the movers unload the boxes into the right rooms, making your life far easier when it’s time to unpack.
- Mixing up boxes. If you’re putting some items in storage and some items in your new home, label each box very clearly. Use flag tape (from any big-box store) in two separate colors to indicate which furniture and boxes go to your home and which items go to the storage facility.
A few more questions and answers
What precautions should I take when moving due to COVID-19?
There are definitely a few precautions you should take — from how to prepare, to packing and unpacking plans. Read more about moving during COVID-19 here.
If I hire movers and I need to tell them the square footage of a room. How do I know that?
Square footage is essentially the floor space. Get a measuring tape and measure the length and width of the room. Then multiple those two numbers. So, if your room is 15 feet wide and 10 feet long, you’ll multiply 15 x 10 to get a 150 square foot room.
Why should I get an in-home moving estimate?
In-home estimates are the most accurate and most of the time, the moving companies offer them for free. We highly recommend that you ask for one because it’s much better to know in advance how much their services are going to cost rather than dealing with extra, unanticipated charges later.
Should I buy moving insurance?
If you’re moving everything yourself, contact your renter’s insurance provider to see if they cover moving damages or if you can add that to your policy. If you’re using a moving app, some coverage may be automatically provided or you can ask for some. Read their information carefully or contact them for details. The same is true for professional movers. Many provide some coverage, and some states require them to provide a certain level of coverage based on the distance of the move, but ask them directly for details about what they do and don’t cover.
Should I tip my movers? How much?
Tips are always appreciated, no matter what the service. If you hire movers, a good rule of thumb is to tip them each about $4-5 per hour. Another option: 5% to 10% of the total bill for small moves and 15% to 20% for larger moves. And if they’ve had to navigate some tricky circumstances — a spiral staircase, a snowstorm — consider tipping more. (If you’re moving across state lines, you’ll probably have different load up and unload crews. In that case, divide the tips between both crews.)
What if I only need a couple of items moved?
Find someone to help through one of the moving apps. Companies like Lugg or Dolly offer hourly rates for moving a small amount of items, using local movers’ personal trucks or vans..
How do I change my address?
To officially change your address, contact the United States Postal Service. The process is fairly simple and can be done online in no time. There’s a small fee (typically around $1.00) and you’ll need to verify your identity, but it should only take a few minutes to complete.
Moving out, moving forward
When it comes to moving, you’ve got a lot of choices to make: where to move, when, what to keep, what to get rid of. And, finally, how you’re going to get all your stuff packed up and hauled from one place to another. Fortunately, you have options.
If you’re game for more of a DIY approach and know people who are willing to help, you’ll save a lot of money. But you’ll also have to be comfortable driving a truck around the city and you’ll need to be really careful about avoiding injury. If you’d like more help and have some budget to spend, there are lots of professional moving companies that will make your move so… much… easier. If you want something in between, consider hiring someone through a moving app. They’ll help you load and unload your stuff, do the driving and take a bit of the load off of you.
No matter which approach you take, just remember: label your boxes.
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