Movers: Hire Professionals or Do-It-Yourself?

mover with box
With only a few belongings, Molly Rankin didn't need movers when she moved into her first Chicago apartment out of college. But the story was different when she relocated to a new apartment last year. Throughout her early 20s, she accumulated more personal belongings, including large furnishings -- like a bed, couch and desk -- and this time around, she thought it was worth the money to hire professional movers.

Many renters face the question of whether to spend the money on moving companies and have a relatively stress-free move or to take on the burden of moving yourself and pocket the change. The answer depends on how far you're moving, the number of moving boxes, the difficulty of moving large pieces of furniture, and, of course, the stress factor.

Our team of experts leads us through the ins and out of hiring a professional mover versus doing it yourself.

Compare Costs

Before you assume that moving yourself is cheaper than hiring a professional mover, certified financial planner Joel Ohman says that you should calculate and compare the costs.

Says David, who blogs at "Many people think that the sign they see on the back of the do-it-yourself moving truck that advertises $19.95/day is all that they are going to have to shell out to move themselves and this couldn't be further from the truth." A look at this deal's fine print will show a whole bunch of hidden costs -- mileage, insurance, taxes, etc. -- that really add up.

For checking on professional movers -- call a couple of local moving companies and get hourly quotes based on the number of boxes and amount of furniture that need to be moved. To tally up the expenses of a do-it-yourself move, be sure to include truck rental fees, gas, packing materials, tolls, insurance for valuables, and lodging (if the distance requires an overnight stay). If you ask your friends to pitch in on the heavy lifting, you also may want to budget for a round of drinks or a pizza to thank them.

The Hidden Costs of Moving Yourself

It's likely that moving yourself, especially if your new pad is around the corner, or just a few blocks away, will be cheaper. But after checking out the estimates, you may want to consider a few other hidden costs of a do-it-yourself move.

According to David, there's a longer laundry-list of things to consider like mental or physical stress, physical injury, lost wages, injury or damage to your belongings. These types of hassles, inconveniences or risks may not come directly out of your pocketbook, but they may end up in asking favors of friends or family to help, or become a question of the cost of your time, says Ohman.

It's when you figure in the hypothetical price of these additional mental and physical stresses that you have to ask yourself -- is it worth the money saved by not hiring a mover? If the answer is yes, then you've arrived at your decision to do-it-yourself.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Do-It-Yourself Move

In addition to being cheaper to move on your own, Kristen of the blog says that moving yourself can be more convenient. She was able to pack on her own timeline and the extra time served as an opportunity to weed through her old or unused things and toss out the junk. "Having to pack all of your possessions in boxes kind of opens your eyes to the stuff that's just dead weight," she says.

However, there's some common pitfalls that an inexperienced mover might incur that could drive up the price, or the upside, of a self-move. One is renting the wrong size truck. If it's too small for one run it requires more time and mileage (and money). If the truck is too big and you don't properly load the truck, an unbalanced load could cause damage to your things or make it dangerous to drive. For transporting heavy or large items, you may also have to make sure that you and your helpers are strong enough and skilled enough to maneuver pieces in tricky, tight spots.

The Third Option

The third option may be a compromise of hiring movers and doing some of the work yourself. For a long distance move to California, David drove the 300 miles in a rented U-Haul truck, but hired movers for a couple of hours to do the heavy lifting, once he arrived at his new place.

Nationwide companies, such as ABF U-Pack Moving, Broadway Express and SelfMoves USA, provide a similar alternative -- a self-move service. These companies deliver a trailer or van to your home, you load it up, and a professional driver delivers the vehicle at your new address, where you unload.

However, it may be required that you move a certain distance. ABF U-Pack will only drive the trailer if you are moving out of state and more than 500 miles; SelfMoves USA will provide the service if you are moving at least 250 miles; and Broadway Express moves customers any distance.

As Molly discovered, each time you move it's an entirely new situation. Consider all the factors: the distance; you might have more or less to move; it may be an inconvenient or busy time; and you may be less inclined to take on the stress yourself. The decision to hire movers, or plunge into a do-it-yourself job, comes down to comparing costs and weighing the pros and cons of each method, and figuring in how much you are willing to pay to make the process of moving painless.


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