A full-service move is the right choice for those who are too busy to pack up their stuff and ship it out on their own. It's also great for those who have to move on the fly, say, because of a job relocation, and are moving on someone else's dime, say because of a job relocation, or are simply lazy. You can kick back on your couch as the full service movers are carrying it out of your place. Not really, but you could sit on the floor and watch them as they do all the heavy lifting. Right about now, you're imagining yourself sipping an iced tea as your things simply disappear from one home and reappear in another. Magic! And you're thinking, "Why isn't everyone going full-service?" Well, it costs a lot of money. That's why. A lot. We're talking thousands.
Still, you get what you pay for. The movers pack your stuff, load it onto the truck, drive the truck, unload it at your new place, and even rebuild furniture that had to be disassembled for the trip. You're just left to unpack the boxes at the new place.
How much does a long distance move cost?
To give you an idea of how much a long distance full-service move might run you, I (Francesca, your full service guide) got a sample quote. Central Moving Systems, an agent of Mayflower Transit, would charge, at most, $7,587.75 for a move from Fort Lee, N.J. (just outside Manhattan) to Kissimmee, Fla. (just outside Orlando). This was a binding quote, which means that the company would not charge me more than this, but I could end up paying less if I decided to bring along fewer items (which would make my shipment weigh less than the estimate). Other movers offer non-binding quotes, which could mean paying a lot more than you expect at the end of moving day. If you ask me, nearly $8,000 is plenty to pay as it is, and I'd hate to find that number go up at the end of my move.
If that number is just a little too much for you to swallow, don't choke, we've got solution that'll go down easier. There are other options for a local or long distance move that are less taxing on your wallet without taxing your back instead, and without forcing you to drive a ginormous moving rental truck thousands of miles either. You can actually hack together a full-service move with a Hybrid™ move by renting a portable storage container or space in a freight trailer and then hiring movers to do the heavy lifting. What's that? You're flush like five spades Ace high? Then read on and find out how to navigate your full-service move.
Full Service Time Estimate
You might not realize how much time you actually spend planning and executing your move. Breaking down where all that time goes can be tricky and tough to agree on, but we've seen over 100,000 moves, so we've got a pretty good estimate of where it disappears to. One thing we can agree on is that your time is valuable. So, to help you decide whether it's worth it to just pay someone else to do this or that part, here's a breakdown of where your time will be spent.
Total Time Estimate
Based on an 1,100 mile move of a 3 bedroom home.
Quoting & Planning Time
It took days to actually get a quote for a full-service move since you have to schedule an appointment and then it takes one to one and half hours to walk through the house and get the estimate in hand.
2 - 3 hrs.
All you really have to do is decide on the time and day for the movers to start packing. Then you'll pack up any valuables or essentials that you won't be leaving to the movers. Again, this is based on packing up a 3 bedroom home, so scale accordingly for your household.
The Perfect Match
Someone who has lots of money to spare and cannot handle the rigor of a move is a great fit for the full-service move. Your options for hiring are based on the kind of move you are making:
Out-of-State Moves (Interstate):
As it sounds, this is a move where you're moving across state lines. Moving companies have to get a special federal license from the FMCSA and DOT in order to legally perform these. National van lines are the big names in the business for these types of moves. They are utilized for long-distance moves, and they usually load up the shipments of a few different clients in one truck. They also have warehouses all over the place, so they can help you with storage for an additional cost. These guys have tons of experience. Many of them have been in the moving business for 60-plus years. Smaller moving companies that are licensed to conduct interstate moves are competitors. While their prices are usually lower, they lack the experience. You'll have to be even more vigilant about vetting them to make sure they are legit before committing.
In-State Moves (Intrastate):
Also like it sounds, this is a move where you're moving within the same state. Every state has different regulations for the moving companies that operate within it. Some require special moving licenses, and some don't. Be sure to do your research to find a moving company that's operating legally. You should check with your state's moving association to get a list of legitimate moving companies in this category. In my case, I would head to the New Jersey Warehousemen & Movers Association at www.njmovers.com. You can use the FMCSA website to find the governing body or state association in your state. Local independent moving companies that are not associated with van lines tend to handle most of these types of moves. While smaller than the van lines, these companies can also have a long tradition of excellent moving service to move customers locally (within your state). Many are family owned and operated and will do a great job for you.
Planning a full-service move requires more investigation than the kind of coordination typical of D.I.Y. or Hybrid™ moves. You're only searching for one company to do all the work, so you don't really have to coordinate schedules or plan for much personal packing. But you do have to make sure you're hiring reputable, professional movers (otherwise things could terribly, terribly wrong. So, put on your private detective's hat and that trench coat, a la Inspector Gadget, and get to work:
Pick a moving date
Decide an approximate date for when you need to be out of one home and into the next. Of course, some of the scheduling will depend on the availability of the movers you hire. Most full-service movers suggest you give them a four- to six-week window at least. And you'll want some time if you're going to try and purge some of your things or do some of the lighter packing yourself. So, give yourself some time and flexibility if you can. Don't procrastinate. Start your moving plan as soon as you can.
Do your homework
Since the moving industry is plagued by frauds and fly-by-night operations, you need to vet your movers. Start with a Google search. Consider the company's experience and reputation. Long-time veterans, like Two Men and a Truck, will be around the day after your move in case you have a complaint. Someone, who has been in business a week, might not. Find out if the movers have won awards for their customer service and skills. Read client reviews. Make sure they follow the rules by doing things, such as sharing the required information pamphlets from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). And you can even dig deeper and check with the FMCSA about complaints on each company. In fact, at www.protectyourmove.gov, you can find tips and advice to help you avoid scams and learn more about full service movers you are considering.
Seek out estimates
Well-known moving companies, such as Mayflower Transit, offer free in-home estimates. Start hitting up these companies to come on over and give you a quote early in the process. They take a long time to get back to you, especially in the spring and summer, which is the busy season for movers. Just an FYI, don't rely on the service that has you e-mailing them for a quote. Many of them offer this on their Web sites, but I didn't always get a response. Your best bet is to call and talk to a human being, who can schedule the estimate. Get prices from 3 to 4 full service movers, so you have options and can be certain you're making the right choice with such a big investment.
This can get tricky. Of course, the lowest estimate might be the one to which you are most attracted. But it's not necessarily the best choice. For starters, you have to consider the company. Was it professional? Are these guys legit movers, who are doing their jobs lawfully? Are they going to protect your stuff and refrain from taking advantage of you? Second, you need to consider whether the quote is binding or non-binding. Those that are non-binding could get much higher by the time you get charged. You know your stuff and you have walked around the house a few times - both on your own and with these estimate givers. How much do you think it all weighs? Who is giving you a good idea of what you're going to really have to pay to haul this much stuff? Take all this into consideration as you make your choice.
Pick a Mover
You have considered the professionalism of each company, the price it is going to charge you for the move, and any personal needs you might have (you need a mover who can pack, drive, unload but also provide storage or someone who can do all that and transport your car). Now, you just have to make a choice. Decide which mover will be a good match and sign on the dotted line.
Decide what, if anything, you can do
Some full-service movers will lower the price if you do some of the packing yourself and if the weight of the shipment is lower than it was expected to be at the time of the estimate. So, it behooves you to go from room to room in your house and consider each item. Do you really need it? If not, then consider donating it, giving it away to a family member or friend, or selling it on sites, such as eBay. You could also have an old-fashioned garage sale. Trust me, the pre-move purging can be cathartic. Once you know exactly what you're bringing, then you can decide if you can take on some of the packing. You can pack up light items, such as bedding and pillows, curtains, and toys. Leave the heavier and more delicate items to the professionals.
Don't settle for anything but a free, in-home estimate.
Some full service movers are going to suggest you fill out an online form or just talk to them about the stuff you plan on bringing to your new place. They'll give you an estimate based on your estimates. This is generally a red flag. Because full-service quotes are based on the weight of your belongings, you want someone who is experienced in judging the weight of a full-service move to come to your house and see for him or herself. Doing the estimate any other way could result in a low quote. If it's a non-binding estimate (and in these cases, it usually is), you will be surprised at how much more you end up getting charged at the end of your move. However, there are some slick new services out there that will allow you to do a video call with them to take the inventory, which is convenient. Others have some pretty smart algorithms, but they depend on you taking a proper inventory. You can go that route if you're up to the task--just make sure it's a binding estimate.
Beware movers who want only cash.
Something is fishy if the professional movers only want cash from you and won't accept other forms of payment, such as cashier's checks, money orders, or credit cards. Don't trust those who only accept cash. This could lead you to a 'hostage' situation where shady movers hold your belongings hostage until you pay an exorbitant ransom to get them back. Move on, literally.
There should be no request of a deposit.
A Mayflower agent informed me that it is illegal to ask for a deposit on a full-service move. After all, the packing, driving, and unloading haven't happened yet, so there should be no exchange of money.
Call your homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Sometimes, these policies allow you to purchase a rider, an additional policy, which could be cheaper and easier than paying for extra protection with the moving company.
Movers must inform you of their full valuation protection plans.
Legitimate movers will tell you that the minimum valuation, which is usually included in the original price estimated for your move, is very small. It usually doesn't come close to covering the full value of your stuff should there be damage or loss. By law, movers have to inform you of the possibility - and the cost - of getting additional coverage with the company.
Check with your community about its parking laws.
Full-service movers come with their own trailers. These can be big. They'll need to park them for the duration of the packing, loading, and unloading. Different towns have different policies about the parking of such large trucks. Determine the regulations ahead of time and make sure to inform the movers, so they can follow the ordinances. You wouldn't want them to get kicked out by local police or charged with a fine (for which you'll be responsible) before they can do the job.
Get the company's license and insurance numbers.
Then, you can check with the state that issued the credentials to make sure they are legitimate and current.
Take on the lighter packing yourself to bring down your costs.
Duh! This requires no explanation because you're a smart cookie, and you were already planning on doing this.
Be prepared to pack your flat-screen TV yourself.
Too many folks have complained that movers have scratched or damaged their flat screen TVs when removing them from the wall. So, if you have a flat-screen TV that is mounted on the wall, you're going to have to take it down and pack it yourself. Most moving companies don't want to be responsible for it, so they won't do it. They tell you ahead of time. You just need to be prepared to do that. You might want to photograph the wall mount and all the connections, so you have a reference when putting it all back together in your new place.