Planning a move and wondering where to start with a budget? There is no shortage of “moving calculators” online where you can plug in a couple of numbers and get an estimate in seconds. But are you considering the myriad factors that go into calculating a true budget, the ones that don’t include mundane basics like the number of rooms, zip code and moving date?
While those things can certainly impact your budget, there are probably a lot of other things that will, too, and you may not be thinking about – or even be aware of them – at all. Here are a few of the unknowns that can affect how much it ultimately costs to hire a residential moving company.
The Basics: Size, Weight, And Distance
At its most fundamental, moving costs are calculated based on the size of your items (more specifically, how much space you’ll need in a van or truck), the weight of your items and the distance you’ll be traveling. From how much mileage the trucks will incur to how much labor is required to successfully complete your move, every moving company has a core formula that takes these factors into account.
While weight and distance may be a fixed and known factor, size and space can vary widely as you’ll read in a moment. For now, it’s important to understand that while there are certain calculations that can help you estimate budget, there are plenty of other things that aren’t so easily pinned down.
Our best advice? Get a professional in-home estimate from your moving company before you finalize a budget. Quick quotes are just that. If you’re lucky, they can ballpark it for you. If not, you may not only be way off base with your budget but you may not even realize it until it’s too late to do anything but pay up.
Packaging And Crating
This is halfway between “mundane basic” and “something you probably don’t know.” There’s no doubt that packing on your own vs. hiring a moving company to pack for you will affect your budget. You may be easily tempted by any one of a profusion of (seemingly) inexpensive moving services that include no packing service at all in exchange for a low shipping rate.
But here’s something you may not know: if your items are packed or secured improperly, a van agent may refuse to move them. And you may not find that out until somewhere halfway to your destination when a shipment switches trucks or makes a layover at a warehouse.
For example, something that is inherently fragile, like a glass topped table, must be crated properly before it can be transported. It is easy to overlook this as a cost factor if you’re looking for a quick quote either online or over the phone.
Moving poorly packed items can become a liability for the driver, which means your attempt to save money may turn into unpleasant fees later when either your shipment is waylaid at a warehouse or waiting to be repacked before it can continue to its destination.
Even if your packaging is perfect, you may still be headed for extra costs. Professional movers are versed in space usage, which means they know how to get the most out of the space available in any given vehicle. Your untrained eye may not have the same grasp on size and space, which can leave you with oversized, undersized or just badly-sized containers that take up more space than they could have if packed professionally. The end result is more space, more cost.
The bottom line is that while self-packing can seem like a cost-savings idea, be sure you understand its potential financial pitfalls before you choose it as an option. Better to understand its impact on your budget than to be unpleasantly surprised later.
Disassembly And Reassembly
From the bookcase that you’re planning to stand up in the truck to the jungle gym, you don’t want to leave behind in the yard, your choice to disassemble – or not – can impact your budget.
If you hire your moving company to do the disassembly and subsequent reassembly on the other end then you’ll need to factor that into your budget.
You may be tempted to skip the process entirely but don’t let the labor cost fool you into thinking you’re saving money by keeping items intact. Remember how we mentioned that the space you use affects cost? Depending on the size of your item and the distance you’re traveling, you may find that the cost of the space it takes up in the truck outweighs the labor cost to disassemble it in the first place.
So whether you chose to DIY or hire a pro, you have a better chance of reducing unnecessary moving costs by disassembling large and unwieldy items as much as possible.
The Quality Of Your Experience
You know the cliché, “You get what you pay for.” As overused as it maybe, it can’t be overstated. As with anything, if a cost sounds too good to be true then it probably is. And while it doesn’t mean that expensive equals better, it does mean that you do pay for ethereal things like quality of service, trustworthiness, experience and ultimately the peace of mind knowing that your cherished possessions are being handled with the care they deserve.
If price shopping is your only M.O. then you could be setting yourself up for headache and disappointment, regardless of budget. Quality may have a higher price tag but you won’t regret the cost later if you get hit with unexpected fees, find your valued items lost or damaged, run into service snags or find yourself beating your head against a wall of poor customer service.
You can’t put a price tag on quality and it can sometimes be elusive to discern. But if you look for key signals, like quality testimonials, a good Better Business Bureau rating, certifications and licenses, community participation and attention to your personal needs, then you’ll be more likely to find a professional mover you can trust.
Transportation Of Specialty Items
One of the often unanticipated costs of moving comes into play when moving oversized, heavy, delicate or otherwise atypical items. The usual weight-plus-size calculations can go out the window in the face of a baby grand piano or slate-surfaced pool table.
Not only does weight factor into cost, but the effort and equipment required to move the item does, too. Extremely heavy items require more manpower and may present unique challenges when it comes to getting the item up and down staircases. Large items present similar problems getting through doorways. If you’re moving from a ranch home to a 10th story apartment, your moving company may need to bring cranes and pulleys to bring items in through windows that won’t make it into an elevator or hallway.
You may find yourself with additional costs to repair damage to walls and doorways as you move out of one home and into another. A good professional mover will take precautions to protect floors, walls and doorways but the reality is that sometimes damage can’t be avoided.
If you’ve hired based on quality, you’ll know what to expect and be able to rely on quality customer service to handle whatever situation arises.
The Insured Value Of Your Items
Perhaps the most misunderstood of moving costs is insurance. While drivers carry insurance and the moving company has its own liability insurance, the cost of insuring your most valuable possessions is another matter. If you have a valuable antique, piece or artwork or heirloom, the weight and size alone may give you a transportation cost, but not a cost to insure it against loss or damage.
If you want to insure your items for their monetary value then you will need to include that in your moving budget because this insurance is not built into cost by default. Let your movers know about any special items so they can advise you on proper insurance and appropriate budget.
Where You’re Moving To – And From
Here’s a relatively unknown reality of moving: before you can move, you may need a truck to move your items… to another truck.
If you’re moving to (or from) a sprawling estate with a long and narrow driveway, or into (or out of) a tiny midtown apartment, trucks, and vans may not actually be able to get to your front door. So what happens when you need to get that 500-pound pool table down a mile-long driveway to the tractor trailer awaiting it? The answer is simple: shuttle trucks.
Shuttle trucks are smaller trucks that can navigate narrow streets and driveways in a way that large vans and trucks cannot. And needing a shuttle truck will affect your budget. From the labor to the time it takes to make that extra hop from the front door to large trailer, you can expect to pay more for a move if you find yourself in this scenario. And unless you know enough to ask, a moving company that you’ve chosen based on price may not mention it until you’re hit with fees later.
In the end, the cost to hire a professional residential mover depends on many factors. That’s why it’s crucial to get an in-home estimate from a reputable company so that you’ll have a better understanding of what factors will impact your move. There is no “one size fits all” cost and that can make it challenging to create a budget unless someone can evaluate your items along with both the interior and exterior landscape of your old and new homes.
If you’re planning a move, let us know so we can provide you with a free estimate tailored to your specific needs. We’re available to answer all your questions and help you budget effectively, even in the face of the unknowns.