If you plan to move across the country, or any long distance, and you are worried about the cost, it’s understandable. The average price of a professional out of state move over 1000 miles is close to $5000 for 7500 pounds. Considering that the contents of an average 3-bedroom house weigh in at nearly 10,000 pounds, you can guess that your move will be expensive if you use a moving company. But if you are looking for cheap moving discounts, you have probably already decided that the DIY method isn’t going to work for you.
It may be that you are short on time or not able to physically take on the task. There is a lot involved in moving, and all but the simplest of moves require both a lot of time, planning, and manual labor. Whatever has motivated your relocation is likely more compelling than spending time packing, loading, and driving a truck full of stuff from your old home to the new one. Besides, a professional move is likely to be less stressful and less damaging to your possessions. Movers know what they are doing—it’s their job, after all.
Now that you have decided to engage movers, you want to save money without forgoing quality. There are ways to accomplish that. It takes planning and may take extra work, but you can influence the outcome by doing your homework.
Before you start, take a good hard look at what you are moving. Carefully consider whether each item should make the cut or not. Reducing the weight of your move is the easiest way to reduce the cost, and there is something attractive about the idea of starting fresh in your new home. If your furniture is not worth the price of moving, then sell it or donate it. Move the pieces that matter to you—anything that has substantial sentimental value or would cost more to replace than to move is a keeper. If you know where you are moving, consider how the furnishings will fit (or not) in the destination environment. If you are moving from a ranch-style California single-family house into a smaller high-rise urban townhouse or moving into a condo, you will want to redecorate when you get there. Some of your furniture may not even fit, so look at the dimensions before you start loading the truck.
Also, if you are going into temporary housing at the new location, you may not know what your final domicile will be, or how big. That is a good reason to reduce the items included, as is the potential cost of storage. If you need storage, you add fees for an additional iteration of loading and unloading (into and then out of storage).
Pro tip: don’t move the college textbooks you haven’t looked at since graduation. If you haven’t read them yet, you will probably not read them now. Is it time for new dishes, pots, and pans? Donate or sell the old ones at your starting point, rather than moving them and then deciding to upgrade. The rule-of-thumb on clothing is that if you haven’t worn it in six months, you shouldn’t have it in your closet. The same is probably true of impulse-bought appliances (time to ditch the juicer, it’s just making you feel guilty) and exercise equipment.
Once you have whittled down the scope of the move by reducing the weight, you can save money by being selective about the services you add to the move and looking carefully for discounts. You may also save by being flexible.
Paying movers to pack for you may be worthwhile if you are short on time or moving at the request of your employer, who is paying for the relocation. It is also worth considering if you have valuable or fragile items that you are concerned about safely packing yourself. Professional movers know how to pack—it is their job, and they have the proper materials to get it done right. They want to ensure that your valuables are protected, so there are no conflicts over damage at the end. But this is a service that will cost extra, likely $1000 or more, obviously depending on the time it takes to complete the packing.
If you choose to pack on your own, you will save money by buying the materials from another source. Packing supplies are a high mark-up item for the movers. You can collect boxes gradually for free, either by asking friends who have moved (or by looking on neighborhood websites—people generally are happy to have someone come and pick their empty boxes up at no charge). Newspapers are suitable for wrapping dishes, pictures, and decorations. Packing tape and bubble wrap for the delicate items are less costly from a big box home improvement store than directly from the moving company.
Many moving companies will offer a discount to military families. There are plenty who provide pricing incentives to other organizations as well, including specific college alumni, automobile association members, religious affiliates, AARP members, and others.
Be careful. A mover may offer you a discount to accept an estimate that is not based on a visual inspection of your household goods. Movers are required (at least for interstate moves, and within many states as well) to conduct a walkthrough before providing an estimate, unless the customer waives the requirement, or unless the customer’s residence is more than 50 miles from the mover’s office. The requirement exists for your protection, and if a mover is reluctant to come in person for the walkthrough, it should make you think twice about the discount.
You can often obtain a lower price by being flexible in your timing. You may already be aware that moving is seasonal—more families like to move in the summer, often to avoid disrupting the children during the school term, so higher demand pushes the cost up in the late spring and through the summer months. You may also be able to find a lower price during the off-season if you can take advantage of a mover’s schedule—if someone cancels or has a gap in the lineup that can accommodate your move.
Trust your instincts. If a price seems too good to be accurate and is much lower than competing bids, it is unlikely to be legitimate. Check the movers’ references, and always check with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to ensure the moving company doesn’t have a safety or complaint problem. FMCSA has a searchable database of companies, and all interstate movers are required to register with them. Check with the BBB in your areas as well, and ask people you know for recommendations.
Do not skimp on insurance. While you may be tempted to save money by choosing the “free” coverage of $0.60 per pound, the full replacement coverage is usually a safer choice. If it isn’t worth protecting, it probably isn’t worth moving.