You’ll need to decide if you are going to “self move” or hire movers. The two essential ingredients of a successful self-move are “personpower” and hauling capacity. Whether you rely on friends and borrowed vehicles or hire local college students and rent a truck to do the job, you need not only enough strong helpers but also the right hauling capacity. Convincing friends can be tricky. If the move is short, the weather cooperative and you have enough help to make the work light, a move can actually be fun. A quick shuffle of furniture followed by pizza and a house-warming party is a do-it-yourself mover’s dream. But consider all that could go wrong: a strained back, a broken heirloom, and, worst of all, bruised friendships. In the end you might find it better to hire professionals.

Choosing a moving company may seem like an overwhelming task.

Where do you start? What qualities should you look for? The actual move when you buy a new home can be trying. Moving can be of the most stressful events in a person’s life, ranked by researchers as high as the death of a loved one or divorce. The biggest mistake most people make is failing to plan ahead. Waiting until the last minute limits your options. Begin making arrangements as far in advance as possible.

Make sure you get in advance the mover’s full name, address, all contact information, as well as their I.C.C. MC number and their U.S. DOT Number. All of this information will help you in case there is a problem with the move.

If you use a moving website that will farm out your move to multiple movers, be sure to ask if your shipment will be brokered and insist on learning the identity of the licensed mover. Although some sites are legitimate, few bother to weed out rogue movers they work with. To be safe avoid web-based brokers and deal directly with known, well-established movers that are located in your area.

If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. We’re trained as consumers to look for the lowest price. While honest movers are competitive and their prices differ, they will be within a reasonable range. If a mover comes in with an estimate way below all the others that should raise a red flag.

Beware of prices based on anything but the shipment’s weight.

Legal interstate moving estimates are based on the weight of your shipment, but scam movers often base charges on the cubic feet your goods take up in the truck then adjust them to their advantage. Under law, shipment weight must be determined on a scale certified by a state agency. If the mover bases his price on cubic feet, which means you can’t verify the amount you’re charged, you may want to use another mover.

Never rely on a price estimate made over the phone or over the internet. Federal rules require a legitimate interstate mover provide a written estimate. While some legitimate movers may offer a survey over the phone, we recommend you ask them to send a trained, experienced estimator to your home for a more accurate estimate. The internet is a wonderful tool for research but obtaining a moving estimate over the internet is very risky.

During the estimate show the estimator every single item to be moved. Don’t forget the attic, basement, garage, closets and under beds. Reach a clear understanding about the amount of packing and other services needed. Also, any move will cost more if you forget to mention that the destination is located on a street too narrow for a large truck.

Understand binding and non-binding estimates.

Binding estimates guarantee the cost of the move based on items to be moved and services listed on the mover’s estimate sheet. Remember, any items or services added later will result higher charges and may cause delays. By law, once the mover arrives at your destination, the driver cannot ask for payment that is more than the binding estimate before unloading the truck unless you have added items or services that were not included in the binding estimate.

A non-binding estimate, on the other hand, is not guaranteed. It is an approximation of the cost based on the mover’s survey of the items to be moved, with the final cost determined after the shipment is weighed on a certified scale. With a non-binding estimate there is no guarantee that the final cost will not be more than the estimate. However, under law the driver cannot ask you to pay more than 110% of the non-binding estimate before unloading the truck. You then have at least 30 days to pay any remaining charges.

Another estimate type used by many movers is the not-to-exceed estimate, sometimes called “guaranteed price” or “price protection.” This is based on a binding estimate or actual cost, whichever is lower. Like a binding estimate, a not-to-exceed estimate must be provided to you in writing and is binding on the mover. The driver cannot collect more at destination before unloading the truck.

Insurance coverage:

  1. Standard coverage: Movers provide their customers with minimum insurance for every item. This coverage is based on weight alone, and is required by law to be at least $.60 per pound. So if your 1 pound priceless Babe Ruth autographed baseball was destroyed during the move, standard coverage would only insure it for $0.60.
  2. Assessed value coverage: This coverage is based on how much you must pay to cover the assessed value of any of your property if it’s damaged due to carrier negligence. If the computer you bought for $2,500 now goes for $300, the current price is all that’s covered.
  3. Full replacement value coverage: This coverage is based on how much you must pay to cover the full replacement value of any of your property if it is damaged due to carrier negligence. Under this coverage, the carrier must pay to obtain a new replacement, no matter the cost, of any piece of property damaged.
  4. See if your home insurer offers any protection on your goods while they are in transit during the move.

While the moving cost of any long-distance move is federally regulated based on weight and distance traveled, be prepared for fine-print charges, which can add up quickly. For example:

  • A transportation surcharge if the moving company compensates its movers for work performed in metropolitan areas where labor rates tend to be higher.
  • Charges for moving heavy items such as riding lawnmowers, snowmobiles or that baby grand piano.
  • Additional charge for specialists brought in to disconnect gas mains or disassemble pianos and pool tables.
  • Additional charge if the movers have to walk more than 75 feet from door to truck or need to use stairs or an elevator.

Consider the following for packing:

Dishes and Fragile items

  • Cushion the bottom of the box with wads of bundled or rolled up paper.
  • Wrap each piece individually. Newspaper or unprinted soft paper is ideal for this purpose.
  • Bundle flatware in-groups of three and wrap each bundle.
  • Place a few layers of paper between each piece of china.
  • Cushion the top and sides of boxes with paper to prevent shifting.

When you shake the box, you should not hear anything move. The steadier the contents, the lower the risk of damage.


  • Make sure your dresser drawers are completely empty.
  • Put hanging clothes in wardrobe boxes.
  • Use the bottom of the wardrobe boxes for shoes.

Lamps and Electrical Items

  • Wherever possible, pack electronics in the original cartons. If the original boxes are not available to you, pack the items using bubble wrap and make sure that they are packed in the correct sized boxes.
  • Code wiring with tape for easy re-installation reminders.
  • Compact disk: Check instructions to secure a laser.
  • Personal computer: Backup important files. “Park” the hard disk (program often included on diagnostics diskette.)

Helpful Hints

  • Tape the bottom and top of every box closed tightly when the boxes are full. Run two strips of tape along the side and one strip down the center. (If the box is still not strong enough, apply more tape to the sides.)
  • Use small boxes for heavier items and larger boxes for light-weight bulky items.
  • Wrap small or fragile items individually.
  • Pack boxes to the top. This prevents them from being crushed when they are stacked.
  • For anything you pack yourself, number each box and make a list of what is in each one. This will make the unpacking process much smoother. Make a note on the box as to which room it belongs.

DO NOT PACK the following items:

  • Money, securities, valuable papers or jewelry. Keep these items with you. Alternatively, you may prefer to leave these items in a security deposit box at the bank.
  • Flammable items such as aerosol cans, paint, gasoline, etc.
  • Perishable items such as frozen foods, produce, plants, etc.

Be present when your goods are packed. Proper packing by a trained packer using specially designed cartons and materials is crucial to a good move. Schedule packing with the mover a day or two before the moving van is loaded.

If you are packing yourself, it is never too soon to start. Although packing yourself can save money, movers usually won’t accept liability for damaged items packed by owners. If you want to save money, consider packing non-breakable items only, like clothes and bedding.

The driver will make an inventory of your goods and it is important to resolve any disagreements prior to signing it. Make sure all copies are legible and all items are numbered. List valuable items separately.

Your mover may ask you to select several consecutive days for loading, and a second series of dates for your goods to be delivered. A spread of days gives you and your mover the flexibility needed to keep your move on schedule.

Upon delivery, check your goods for damage. Do not sign the inventory until you have inspected your furniture and the exterior of the cartons.