How to Keep Your Moving Costs Down
People who are trying to hire moving companies are finding it expensive and exasperating — experts offer some tips on how to cut costs
Jane Coloccia is no stranger to moving long distances, having moved in 2014 from New Jersey to southern California. When she picked up the phone to hire a moving company earlier this year to relocate from California to northwest Oregon with her husband, Victor Teixeira, and their small dog, Sophie, she expected the price to be the same or a little more.
She was shocked.
"They wanted ten thousand dollars for the move, which was nearly three times what we paid to move across country in 2014," said Coloccia, 58, who owns a communications and branding company. "The service was also horrible, and they used high pressure tactics to book us early, as they only had certain dates available."
A website that calculates moving costs, moveBuddha, recently conducted a survey of 63 top moving companies in the country. Ryan Carrigan, co-founder of moveBuddha, which is based in Athens, Ga., said 76% of the companies surveyed had raised prices varying between 5% to over 25%.
"One of the main factors is the labor shortage, not just among laborers, but also drivers."
Carrigan said the number of people on the move is one of the biggest challenges. The U.S. Postal Service reported 10.2 million address change requests between January and April of 2020.
According to Carrigan, the large numbers are taxing the moving company industry. "One of the main factors is the labor shortage, not just among laborers, but also drivers," he said. "Drivers in general, are very hard to find and many in this industry need a CDL (a commercial driver's license) to drive an eighteen-wheeler."
Other factors include rising gasoline prices and shutdowns due to COVID-19, which has affected the supply chain and prices for moving items such as boxes and other materials.
A Fresh Start Without the Sacred Stuff
Lizabeth Meredith, 57, recently retired from her career as a probation supervisor in Alaska and decided to move closer to her family in Tennessee. She called three moving companies to get a quote to move less than 500 pounds of household items from her home, where she has lived the past 27 years.
"The cheapest was for three thousand and six hundred dollars on a slow boat," said Meredith. "I booked and then I cancelled. Although all of my things are very important to me, some of them sacred, I can't afford to ship them."
Instead, Meredith decided to donate items and consolidate others, such as family photos, and only ship a maximum of six boxes to her new home via the postal service.
"I decided it's a fresh start and it's painful to let some things go, but there is also something satisfying in paring down to only just the things I need," she said.
She also took as much as she could on her flight to Tennessee, including her two cats, Oliver and Lou.
6 Moving Tips from the Experts
Experts say there are ways to save on moving costs other than eliminating all of your possessions and starting over.
1. Consider Hiring a Moving Truck or Mobile Storage
"If you're hiring a moving company, you should consider it a luxury and not be of the mindset it's going to save you money," said Carrigan.
There are ways around hiring a professional moving company. Collin Flynn, co-founder of UniMovers, a labor-only moving company in Charleston, S.C., said you can rent a truck or get a mobile storage unit. If you can drive or have someone who can drive a moving truck, you can hire a moving company and pay only for the labor of loading and unloading your goods. The hourly rate for that could run $40–$60 per mover.
According to Flynn, in addition to saving money, the other benefit is supervision. "If you rent a truck, you have control over your stuff at all times," he said. Mobile storage companies deliver the unit to your home; you're responsible for packing and loading your items and may have to pay for labor to assist.
2. Pack it Yourself
If you do decide to hire professional movers, Flynn suggests you pack the items yourself. "It's not super hard work and there are many videos on YouTube that show you how to properly pack a box."
Flynn suggests obtaining boxes from a first-party seller and not buying them from the moving company, which is typically more expensive. Carrigan said you can save even more money by finding free boxes at big box stores, liquor stores or even through friends and family members who have heavy items delivered to their homes, such as pet food.
"I would not suggest getting boxes from grocery stores due to the fact they may have bugs," said Carrigan.
3. Pack to the Company's Specifications
If you pack your own, make sure you know the company's specifications. "If you don't and they have to re-pack, it may cost you more in the end," said Carrigan.
"They promised our stuff would arrive in August and it didn't get here until September."
4. Book Early and Have a Back-up Plan
Coloccia said they booked their moving company two months in advance, but the company still moved their items to storage while they waited to fill the load, forcing the couple to "camp out" in their new home for 2 ½ weeks without any household items.
According to Coloccia, they spent at least $1,000 for dishes, utensils, towels, a bed, linens and other goods until their stuff arrived.
Carrigan said the moveBuddha survey revealed 71% of companies showed delays to varying degrees, which can cost those moving by not only having to replace household items, but possibly also for lodging and penalties if they cannot vacate the home they are leaving on time.
5. Avoid Booking from May to August
Coloccia said they moved during the summer, which was a mistake. "They promised us our stuff would arrive in August and it didn't get here until September," she explained.
6. If You're Leaving California
"Expect that you may not even be able to find a mover right now; many have quit doing business in California because so many people are moving out and not enough people are moving in. The companies can't refill their trucks for the return trip," said Carrigan. "If you do find a moving company in California, expect to pay [more] and expect delays."
Do Your Research
The Better Business Bureau said they receive over 13,000 complaints about moving companies each year. Coloccia suggests you not only obtain several quotes, but check the company out thoroughly, read the fine print in the contract and ask questions, such as "Do you have enough labor?" "Will my items be shipped directly?" and "How long will it take for my items to arrive?"
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also offers suggestions for preparing for your move.