Your dream home has arrived, but how are you going to move there? Should you hire professionals or do it yourself?
The day you were waiting for has finally arrived: you attend your closing ceremony or sign your new lease, get the keys, and now it’s time to go from your old home to your new one. With your new lease or deed in your hands, you take a look around your current dwelling and start to internally catalog what’s going with you and what you want to leave behind. It’s exciting! It’s also stressful and more often than not, incredibly expensive!
So, how do you move? What are your options?
Table of Contents
1. Doing It Yourself
This option isn’t always available depending on various factors like vehicle space as Bergen-based moving company, or if you’re in a city like New York with low car ownership, having a friend who drives and can help you out. But if you can drive and comfortably handle really large vehicles, and aren’t opposed to doing a ton of heavy lifting and packing yourself, DIY is the way to go. It’s likely to be your preferred option if you’re not moving a ton of stuff and your new home is pretty close to your old home.
My first major move was this exactly. I was renting a room in a ramshackle rental hut near the subway, my dad happened to be in the neighborhood with the car, and time was of the essence so whatever didn’t fit in the trunk or backseat got left behind. The guy who lived downstairs had fallen on hard times and became pretty…unhinged. I’m all for treating drug addiction like a sickness and not a crime, but when you’re threatening me over something you THOUGHT you saw? It’s time to GTFO. I was just glad I found a vacant rent-stabilized studio on my second try without having to wade hip-deep through Craigslist scams! So we drove across town to my first real apartment, and I was stoked about getting actual furniture for it after I unpacked my scant carload.
But if you’ve got a lot more stuff that needs far more than your car plus a friend’s, you can rent a truck from a company like U-Haul, fill it up, and drive it to your destination. It’s the way to go if you have to move furniture and other bulky items from inhabiting a larger space for a longer time. You specifically want to use a moving company rather than a rental agency such as Avis if you don’t have a vehicle or yours is insufficient to get the job done. This is because moving companies offer liability coverage designed for DIY moves such as U-Haul’s SafeMove plans that insure your cargo, the vehicle, and a small amount for medical bills if you’re injured during the rental period.
Enhanced policies such as SafeMove Plus will also include collision coverage and tire damage, as most people don’t regularly maneuver vehicles this large short of being a professional truck driver. Not to mention driving in an area you’re not used to navigating can be a scary prospect: I haven’t driven a car since Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air, and the thought of having to drive a 20′ truck through those gut-lurching New Jersey jug handles or down the pothole-ridden Cross Bronx Expressway where my exit is always backed up like a Starbucks bathroom at rush hour? Well, that prospect makes my knees buckle like a freaking straitjacket.
And trust, the car was NOT this neat when that happened. It was more like, “Screw it, we’ll put the lamp on top of these trash bags of clothes then poke the neck through the window, and just hope for the best careening down Boston Road!”
While keeping your move small and without having to rent a truck presents an excellent opportunity to dump a whole bunch of crap you don’t need, loading up your own car still has risks. If something fragile breaks in transit, you just cut your losses. This isn’t a big deal if you have the resources to get new stuff and that item didn’t hold a lot of sentimental value. But you might not feel that way about that vintage china your grandma smuggled on the boat to America, or the two Mac monitors you need to make a living. You’ll also have a harder time keeping this stuff safe from thieves if you’ve got a long-distance move and need to keep your vehicle parked outdoors at points. Theft or an accident can mean a minor inconvenience or it can mean suddenly having to replace several thousand dollars worth of your belongings.
Having that insurance coverage with renting a moving van or truck becomes an appealing prospect as a result. However, U-Haul and other companies try to entice you with the promise of flat-rate pricing that’s anything but that. The larger the vehicle, the more it’ll cost you. Same goes for the longer your move will take if you’ll need that vehicle for more than 2-3 days. Between insurance, mileage, and taxes plus the gas and tolls you’ll have to pay regardless, it’s always going to be a lot more than the sticker price plastered all over these companies’ websites. The estimated U-Haul cost for moving from New York to Florida renting a 10′ truck and traveling about 1,365 miles is $2,298.
I don’t know about you, but I got sciatica just looking at the table in the link above.
2. Getting the Professionals to Do It
I’ll cut right to the chase: if you’ve got more than a carload and have the funds to hire professional removalists, DO IT.
My first move was easily done by car. Second move? Not so much. I literally spent my entire twenties in this apartment and accumulated things like furniture, real appliances, home office gear, and my adorable toad plus her three foot long Exo-Terra hutch that was so heavy I had to hire a courier service with at least two lifters to place it on the setup I built.
My baby in her travel tank the day we moved into our new condo! Oh I remember when those countertops were totally bare.
There was no way my father was in physical condition to help me with this and while some of my friends got cars, this was WAY too much for a car. Oh yeah, and my closing date was literally New Year’s Eve and my lease expired January 1. I already told the landlord I wasn’t renewing so just like last time: time to GTFO and FAST, this time keeping Yael the toad safe and comfortable! In a brutal New York winter no less, not a very amenable time for a toad in need of warmth.
Whether you’ve got pretty short notice or time to plan so you can get a few quotes, you make an appointment with the company and they take inventory of what you’re taking with you. After factoring in insurance, mileage, the type of property you’re moving to, and sundry, they give you a quote. You should always leave at least 25% wiggle room in this quote. This is in case you decide to take more things with you, plus it’s customary to tip the movers 10-20%. What’s awesome about professional movers like Move my stuff is that they also offer packing and unpacking services, so if you’re in a bind like having to vamoose because your lease is up you don’t even have to worry about ensuring you’ve got boxes or put the physical and mental energy into packing. This is also fantastic if you have terrible spatial reasoning like I do.
Some professional movers also offer auxiliary services like furniture assembly and handy work including installing shelves, TVs, and air conditioners. Others will clear out your old place and take things to the curb or charity for you. I used Flatrate and paid about $3,500 total after tip to go from the west Bronx to the southeast Bronx which is about six miles. I didn’t just get all my stuff transported though, that fee included packing, unpacking, building new furniture I had waiting in my new place, and reassembling the pieces I had transported.
Whether you’re busy, disabled or suffer from chronic pain, or just don’t want to think about it: it is some of the best money you’ll ever spend.
The drawback with this though is that you can have less control over when the movers come and go and it’s a lot hairier to do this for long distance moves. If you’re moving into an apartment building that has limited hours when you’re allowed to move in and out, this can be a real problem even when you tell them in advance. My condo didn’t really enforce this rule and my new neighbors didn’t care, we showed up well after 4PM when you’re supposed to be done, but others could give you a problem and get you off on the wrong foot.
You also might have things you don’t want the movers to see, like your anime pillow or the contents of your nightstand drawer if you hired them to pack for you. Trust, they’ve probably seen a LOT worse on the job! But it’s understandable, so try to pack those items on your own then leave everything else to them.
3. To Ship or Not to Ship?
If you’re going long distance, can’t or don’t want to drive that far, and professional movers are out of your price range you might want to look into shipping containers.
Companies like Pods and United Mayflower bring a small shipping container to your current home, you fill it, then they pick it up and deliver it to your new home. This can be a fraction of hiring professional movers as a drawback is that you’ll have to do all your own packing and unpacking, but you also don’t have to take the risk and expense of driving your own U-Haul. It’s a wonderful option for cross-country moves, though depending on the franchisee rules where you are some container models are only allowed for in-town moves due to insurance rules and local ordinances.
These containers can also serve as temporary storage units that can be held at your current location or their facility until it’s go time, which makes them an attractive option if you don’t want to stay anchored to one area like a standard storage facility would call for. Of course, the drawback with this plan is that you can be totally screwed if your street or development doesn’t have sufficient space for the container. Ditto for where you’re headed: I’m getting nauseous thinking about trying to park this puppy somewhere with really narrow streets like Chinatown and the ungodly tickets from meter maids with nothing better to do.
But if you’re going somewhere with open space where no one cares? A moving container might be for you! All you have to do is pack and unpack, though some lesser known companies may offer “white glove” packing and unpacking services to differentiate themselves from the competition.
4. Gimme a Ticket for an Aeroplane
Going cross country is always going to be more difficult and expensive than going across town if you’re taking a lot of stuff with you. But if you’ve got a carload and no car yet not enough stuff to warrant a moving container, have you done the math on taking things on the plane with you?
It’s definitely worth looking into seeing how much you can fit into large suitcases even if you don’t get free bag checks from airline cards or anything. Always check the airline’s baggage policies first then weigh your bags on a bathroom or luggage scale, as 50 pounds is usually the limit to avoid excess baggage fees. Even when you’re up to $150-200 for that third bag, it might be worth it to finish the move in one shot instead of mailing several heavy packages to yourself. This is not the time to try shoving everything humanly possible into your carry-on to avoid that fee.
Moving is as physically and financially exhausting as it is exciting. But when you know your options and got time on your side, you can mitigate those physical and financial risks to your best ability.
Rachel Presser is a crazy toad lady from the Bronx who was exiled to New Jersey, spending a significant chunk of her youth where all the hideous 1970s couch covers and avocado shag carpeting went to die. Upon escaping the sea of brown and founding Sonic Toad Media, she decided to devote her time to writing from the fantastically-preserved Googie artifacts in LA and former speakeasies in Chicago, to forging new game worlds in the tea lounges of Taipei and Tokyo. She can be found at game jams, hardcore shows, vaporwave dance parties, and petting amphibians on a sensible corner loveseat.