If you are moving to a new home in the Baltimore area and have decided to hire a moving company for the job, congratulations! Moving is a stressful business, but having professional support will make the project easier to manage and less work for you. Americans change residences more than people in many other countries, and we have a thriving moving industry dedicated to helping us. There are thousands of movers in the Baltimore area, mostly small companies. Some are genuinely independent, with no affiliation to larger companies, while others are agents of national moving organizations or locally-owned franchises. No matter which one you choose, the right mover will be well worth the investment.
Finding the right mover is worth the investment of time you will need to get it right. The first step is to decide what you are looking for. You can hire a full-service mover that will come in and take care of absolutely everything, you can do some of the work yourself and bring in a moving company for the parts you can’t manage, or you can land somewhere in between. Movers are adaptable, and most are happy to provide you the level of service that you want so that you can stay within your budget.
In a long-distance move, the cost is based primarily on the shipment’s weight and the length of the journey. The average interstate move for a 3-bedroom house (with a weight of 7,500 pounds and a distance of 1,250 miles) averages $4,300 in recent years. The problem with averages is that “average” doesn’t account for how different everyone is. If you have a piano, that will add a hefty fee to the move, just for that one item. If your move is farther, the average move cost won’t apply to you.
Similarly, if your move has logistic issues that make it harder for the movers to do their work, the cost will increase. Suppose you live in a high-rise apartment. If the movers must wait for the elevator with every load, that will increase the price. If they also can’t park the big truck right outside, that will add another charge due to street parking rules. If you live in a house that has a narrow staircase that twists and turns, you will encounter a fee for that. Or perhaps you own some high-value artworks that need special preparation before the movers can transport them. Any of these things will increase your move costs well beyond the average. The best way to find out what your move will cost is by getting estimates from moving companies.
The purpose of getting several estimates isn’t only to find the lowest price. The process of getting estimates from movers helps you narrow down the search for the right mover and to find the best deal. It also enables you to choose what services you need, if you aren’t already sure. If the move you are planning is between two states, the mover is required to visit your home to do a visual survey of what you are moving before providing an estimate.
Estimates must be written and must state whether they are binding or nonbinding. This distinction is significant. A binding estimate is a guaranteed price, as long as you don’t add anything to the shipment or request any additional services. Suppose that the mover estimates your shipment’s weight at 7500 pounds and provides an estimate based on that weight. If the actual weight later turns out to be higher, the mover won’t raise the price if you had a binding estimate.
On the other hand, a nonbinding estimate can go up if the assessment the mover made was inaccurate, which is not something within your control. If the mover forecasts a 5,000-pound shipment, but the actual weight is 7,000, you will pay for the added pounds if you have a nonbinding estimate. This explanation is not necessarily intended to steer you away from nonbinding estimates. However, you should recognize that the guaranteed quote holds less risk of an unexpected cost increase.
For a local move, the price quote will typically be presented in hourly terms. So, a mover will submit an estimate that states that it will provide three movers and one truck, for six hours, at the cost of $250 per hour (for example). Again, you should ask if the quote is binding or nonbinding, but local moves do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration since they are not defined as interstate commerce. Maryland has a new law requiring movers to register with the state, but it has not yet implemented it. That means you have to be more cautious. If the mover does any interstate work, you can check to see if it has the appropriate federal licensing by going to the FMCSA site. That website also offers information on companies’ safety records and customer complaints. Also, for any distance move, check the business reviews collected by the Better Business Bureau. They have an independent rating for businesses in many industries and collect both positive and negative reviews.
When you meet with the moving companies about the estimates, talk about the ancillary services they offer. These services add to the move’s cost but might be worth it. Plus, there are ways you can save in one area to spend more in another. Here’s an example: if you want the full-service packing that a mover can provide, you might be able to make up the cost differential by carefully reducing the quantity of items you are moving. Suppose you have a long-distance move planned. Many people never get around to sorting through their storage, books, clothing, and linens before they pack to move, and those extra boxes follow along from one home to the next. If you take a firm approach to the evaluation process, you can probably eliminate a lot of weight from the move. If you sell a few items, you may be able to earn enough in profit to cover the cost of the professional packing service the movers offer. Selling things you no longer use before you move is smart. If you don’t want to go to the trouble to sell them, donate instead, and you may still get a tax deduction.
Packing service is a common component of full-service moving. Another frequently requested add-on is storage. If you are leaving one home before the next destination is ready or aren’t sure where the next residence will be—short-term storage is available from the movers for an additional charge. Keep in mind that you will also pay for the labor to move your goods into storage and then back out when you are ready to take delivery. Finally, you want to have adequate protection during the entire process—insurance (also known as valuation) coverage for your belongings. Your mover will offer you a choice of indemnity levels. Review your options carefully to be sure that you have what is comfortable for you.