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Is Hiring a Moving Company Worth It?

My wallet screams no, but my entire body (and closest, largest family members) scream yes

I’m currently in the midst of a chaotic move, and let me tell you: I’m one more heavy dresser away from blowing my Goddamn brains out.

Now, I admit to taking the cheap (and painful) route: My girlfriend and I rented a small U-Haul for about $140, but other than that, we decided to pack and move almost everything by ourselves. We also recruited two family members (with the promise of free lunch) to help move a select few ultra-heavy items. What can I say — we wanted to cut costs as much as possible.

Alas, two days into the move, our bodies are broken and our new house is an absolute mess, which obviously left me wondering: Should I have splurged on a moving company instead of being a stingy asshole? My sore back makes me think so, but let’s take a look at the numbers just to be sure.

Generally speaking, hiring a moving company is expensive: The American Moving and Storage Association estimates that the average total cost of a local household move is $2,300. Meanwhile, the the average cost of a long-distance move is $4,300.

Figuring out exactly how much a moving company will cost you, however, really depends on two things: How much stuff needs to be moved and how much work the movers need to do. Less stuff obviously means cheaper moving costs: For instance, HomeAdvisor estimates that local moving companies will charge between $200 and $500 to transport a one-bedroom apartment (which obviously seems extremely low compared to the American Moving and Storage Association estimates, but it’s important to understand that this is only a base cost). Hiring movers to transport a four-bedroom house, however, will cost between $800 and $2,000-plus.

While that might not sound too pricey, especially if you live in a small apartment, these costs increase exponentially when you start asking the movers to do more work. For example, HomeAdvisor also estimates that local moving companies will charge at least $400 more to pack and unpack your items. If you happen to have a pool table, which would be considered a specialty item that requires additional care, you can expect to pay an additional $300 or $450.

On top of that, legitimate moving companies are required by federal law to offer several insurance options that can be costly (the actual cost is often based on how much stuff is being moved). The most basic one (which is usually built into the price) covers approximately 60 cents per pound per item, but if you want additional protection, you can expect to pay up. On top of that, movers can potentially sue you if they injure themselves on your property, which means investing in good insurance yourself is a wise idea.

All of which means the only real way to estimate your moving costs — and to decide whether hiring a moving company is worth it — is to call one and tell them what you need done. But of course, there are some sketchy moving companies out there, which is where these tips might come in handy:

  1. Shop Around. This might sound obvious, but the best way to find a cheap, reliable moving company is to get a quote from at least three or four. It might be time-consuming, especially considering how hectic moving is, but being able to compare prices will pay off in the end.
  2. Yelp That Shit. There’s really no better way to find out if a moving company does a good job than by reading reviews from previous clients. If a moving company sucks, Yelp will inevitably let you know. As always, though, be wary of one-star reviews (aggrieved customers mad about everything up to and including the weather that day, looking to take it out on someone) and five-star reviews (the company’s family and friends).
  3. Ask All the Questions. Before hiring a moving company, make sure to collect as many details about their rates (including extra fees and hidden costs) as possible. Need extra boxes? Ask them how much that costs. Need to move a piano? Ask them if that costs extra (it will). The more you know from the get-go, the less surprised you’ll be when you get the final bill.
  4. Check Their Credentials. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, ask the movers for their license number, then head to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety website to verify those credentials. HomeAdvisor also has a list of reputable moving companies that you can check out.

But assuming I did find a credible moving company, the question still remains: Should I have hired a moving company at all?

And the answer is: Probably?

It still would have probably cost me several hundred more than the U-Haul — based on estimates from HomeAdvisor, it would have cost me between $200 and $500 just to have them transport my stuff, plus I had stairs at my old place, which again, may have upped those costs — but I could potentially cut down on those costs by doing my own packing and unpacking. Had I done this, I suspect I could have ended up significantly less stressed, with both my back and familial relationships feeling less strained.