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Should You Move Yourself?

Published by Chris Townsend

Consider the hidden costs.

Maybe you’ve been offered a great new job. Maybe you’ve met the love of your life. Whatever the reason, now you have to move.

It might seem like you save a lot of money by hiring your own moving van and packing your own stuff. But there are potentially expensive hazards involved in moving yourself. Before renting that truck, consider the following.

How physically able are you to move your own furniture?

The universe is unfair, but the older you are, the less it’s a good idea to handle all the moving yourself.

People over sixty are more prone to poor balance and worse complications from broken bones. Carrying a heavy box that blocks your view of where your feet are stepping can be a terrible idea.

The danger of breaking a hip is the worst peril of do-it-yourself moving for anyone over fifty. According to studies published by the National Institutes of Health, seniors often die within a year after a hip fracture. Such a fracture may lead to pulmonary embolism or new heart problems.

There are other hidden health costs to moving, such as pulled back and leg muscles, scrapes, and bruises, just from hauling boxes and dropping a few heavy things on your feet.

Even healthy people can easily injure themselves during a move. And do not assume that such injuries won’t require expensive medical attention.

How valuable are your belongings?

Admittedly, if you are young and healthy and all your furniture comes from Wal-Mart, Crate and Barrel, and or a nearby curb, moving your own stuff may make sense.

However, if your household inventory includes valuable antiques and a couple Picassos, you need professionals. They will know how to protect the corners of your marble-topped end tables and where to apply extra bubble wrap to ensure your Lladro doesn’t break.

In a perfect world, we would all hire the best people to both pack and unpack our belongings. If you have items in your possession that are one-of-a-kind or worthy of being in a museum, hiring the best professionals to pack and transport is a more urgent matter.

In considering the value of your collections, don’t just add up what you paid. Consider the value of gifts you have received and things you have inherited. The bottom line is not what your things cost, but what it would cost to replace them.

People who are moving an entire household must also consider the emotional value of certain objects. Perhaps that teapot your great grandmother owned is not a priceless antique. But if you would have to pay a restorer $1000 to repair it, that money would be better invested in a moving company.

How much time will you lose from work if you move yourself?

Another hidden cost of moving yourself is the time you will lose from work. If you have quit a low-wage job to take a higher-paid one in another state, then DIYing your own move makes some sense.

If, on the other hand, you are a highly paid corporate executive being moved to start up an office in another state, your time is obviously valuable to you and to your company. And if that company has not offered to cover some moving expenses, you should definitely ask for them.

How much free help do you have?

The moving party where you invite all your friends to load the truck, and you provide the beer and pizza is a wonderful tradition. No one wants to take that away from you. Especially if your goal is not so much to save money, but to spend time with your friends before you go.

Because your friends will be able to drink A LOT of beer and eat a LOT of pizza.

That said, you might want to buy a couple six packs and hold off on ordering pizza until you see who shows up. It’s one of life’s mysteries how friends get sick or develop family crises around the time you need to load the rented truck.

Your teenagers have fewer options about helping you with the move. But children under twelve should not be given heavy boxes to carry.

Consider ALL the costs of a DIY move

As you are calculating the costs of a do-it-yourself move, be sure to consider:

  • The cost of hiring a moving truck or van. If you are moving more than an hour’s drive away, make sure you are getting a big enough vehicle. You will not want to make two trips if you are moving from Denver to Chicago. In general, you need a 26-foot truck to move an average two or three bedroom house. But if you are a pack rat, you will need a bigger truck. Don’t forget to include the stuff in your basement, on your porches, and in your yards in your calculations.
  • The cost of renting a furniture dolly, gasoline, tolls, possible traffic tickets, and possible blown tires.
  • The cost of new boxes, including wardrobes. Picking up used boxes from the back alleys of grocery stores is a bad idea. Cardboard is not designed for multiple heavy uses. Used boxes come with the risk of breaking from the bottom, potentially tossing your china plates on to the pavement. However, new boxes are more expensive than you think. Large wardrobe boxes are wonderfully convenient for moving your good clothes. But at $13.95 plus tax for each one, they will definitely add to the cost of your move.
  • The cost of auxiliary moving supplies, especially tape, bubble wrap, plastic sheets, etc.

Good questions to ask your moving company

If you opt to hire a moving company, be sure to ask good questions. Breakages will occur, even with the most careful and professional movers. So be sure to ask what the policy is, if something you own gets broken.

The following questions will help you to determine whether a moving company is right for you:

  1. What guarantees do you offer against breakage? Minimally, your moving company should carry liability insurance.
  2. Does your breakage policy cover all materials including particle board, porcelain, wood, and plywood? Be aware that some moving companies will exclude certain materials, like particle board furniture, from their damage coverage.
  3. What is the maximum pay out in the case of breakage? If you are moving extremely valuable items, you will probably need additional insurance which you may be able to obtain from your home insurer.
  4. Can I buy additional insurance through you or a reputable associate? Be sure you have the right insurance for the items you are moving.
  5. What is your delivery window? Moving companies typically give you a window of a few days during which they can make delivery. Be sure you can live with this time frame, because your stuff might arrive on the last day of that window.
  6. What are your moving rates based on? A fair cost basis is the total weight of your items along with the number of miles you are moving.

In conclusion

Moving can be very stressful, especially if you are leaving home for the first time, or if you are breaking up a relationship, or if your children are changing schools. Whether you move yourself or hire a moving company, planning carefully and calculating costs in advance will demystify the process and ensure a smooth transition.

Having the comfort of familiar things around you will buffer the discomfort of navigating strange new people and places. So do your best to protect your household items. They will be your old trusted friends while you undertake a brand new adventure.

Chris Townsend is a moving professional and relocation expert that has more than 10 years of experience in the moving industry. With a background that includes working in virtually every aspect of the company, he has distinguished himself as an integral part of our operations with expertise in all things related to moving. Chris has a keen eye for detail and brings intelligence and passion to every project he’s involved with.

While getting his degree in communications from Santa Clara University, Chris started out with the company working in the field as part of our team of professional moving associates. Following graduation, he was promoted to our main office, where he has thrived in a role that involves increasing responsibility and requires him to wear many different hats. Some days, you may find him answering the phone and providing moving estimates, others he may be writing for our moving blog, and another day he may be coordinating a large corporate moving job or helping us with our marketing efforts. Chris has authored many of our in-depth moving guides, as well as provided our clients with information and advice to handle the complexities of their upcoming moving plans. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do and we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.

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