No one likes moving. It's a time intensive and exhausting exercise which usually means something will get broken or lost along the way. But for most people it's a necessary evil since it's estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that 43 million Americans move every year. That's over 14% of the population. They also estimate that the average American will move nearly 12 times in their life. We are a transient society, and with all those moves many people look for help when it comes time to pick up roots and start over.
If it's a small move, say from your first apartment into a larger one, then you can probably handle the move yourself with the help of a couple friends. There's not a lot of worry about breaking stuff because you probably don't own a whole lot yet, things like expensive and valuable furniture or belongings.
But what about bigger moves? If you have been relocated for work, or bought your first house, no doubt you are going to need help with the this bigger move. You could call in a lot favors from friends and relatives, but not all of us have that kind of support network - and often those family and friends are just as busy as you are. Not to mention, most people avoid being a moving helper like the plague. Just ask someone to give up their weekend to help you move and see how many people raise their hands. Even if friends are willing to lend a hand, most are not going to be moving experts and may break something. That's why a lot of people like to take the hassle out of a major move by hiring a moving company.
There are two basic kinds of moving companies - the first kind of moving company does it all for you. This is a truly hassle free way to move as packing up boxes and loading the truck is all handled by hired labor. This is the option you want if you aim to make your move as easy as possible. You don't even have to worry about moving supplies (things like packing tape, moving blankets, boxes, and packing peanuts) since everything is purchased by the company as part of their fee. They also include the costs of gas, mileage, and tolls in their final charges.
These all inclusive moving companies are the most expensive option, often costing in the thousands of dollars, since you are hiring and paying for a lot of labor in exchange for the luxury of having someone else do absolutely everything for you. If you have a job that is moving you for work, often the company will offer some kind of relocation assistance that makes the cost of the move more manageable. But this all inclusive moving approach isn't an option for many people. The costs may just be too high, or the move isn't big enough to warrant the cost. That's why many people turn to the second option - containers.
The second, and more affordable, option for a big move is the shipping container. In this option, specialty moving companies offer drop off services where a container is delivered to your door (or somewhere close by) which you load yourself. The most known of these companies is PODS, a company that offers many container sizes to fit your moving needs. Using a container versus a full service moving company saves a lot of money since you are providing all the labor of packing, loading, and unloading as well as supplies yourself.
Once the container is loaded, the company comes back to pick up the container and gives you an estimated arrival date for your belongings. Depending on the distance of the move, the delivery date can vary widely. One of our writers, Jeremy Wright, was telling us about his moving experience and it gave us cause for alarm. He used a company similar to PODS and found that the delivery date was far from the one promised. Here is his story:
I hired a moving company for a cross country move I was making with a friend. We decided we wanted to get where we were going and enjoy a cross country drive without the hassles of trying to manage the huge truck we needed for all of our stuff. We hired one of the companies that drop off a container to your residence, which you load yourself. After it's loaded, you call them to pick it up and they give you a delivery date. Our expected delivery was a week out - perfect timing for us because it allowed us time to enjoy our drive, make a few new friends to help out, and prepare the new apartment for unloading. The problem is, our stuff ended up taking about 30 days to arrive which meant we went a long time without necessities like a change of clothes and pots and pans for cooking. We also ended up being charged more than we agreed to - they said that the area we used was over our allotted space and they charged us for each extra foot of space used. It was so expensive that the cost of the move doubled. If I had it to do again, I don't think I would use a moving container company. If I did, I would do a lot more research.
As we searched online, we came across a lot of similar complaints for the POD-style moving companies. It seems that the delivery dates rarely met what was promised. That's because the truck that picks up your container is also picking up other containers and dropping them off along the way. A hold up at any stop means your stuff is going to take longer to arrive. The more expensive full service companies seem to better meet their target delivery dates. That's probably because they are only carrying one load - your stuff - and headed straight for a destination. If you can afford the full service option, delivery sounds more reliable, but be prepared for other issues:
The shipping containers seem to have less complaints about damages than a traditional moving company. That may be because you are the person who packs the goods, and are probably taking more care to load the items than a mover will. Full service moving companies receive a ton of complaints about items damaged in transit, and often the damages are not covered by the company itself. In the contract are often stipulations that state damaged items are to be expected and will not be covered by the moving company unless a certain threshold is reached (excessive damages). We spoke with one insurance professional who said that he receives at least one claim per week for moving related damages which the moving company refused to cover. He also stated that in years of insurance work, he has never received a claim related to moving containers. Take that with a grain of salt, but it makes sense to make sure your home or renters insurance policy is up to date.
When it all comes down to it, cost will probably be the deciding factor in your next move. Moving is expensive, and you need to be sure to include all costs in your calculations. If you are thinking about doing the move yourself, don't forget to include things like packing materials, tolls, and fuel for a truck, as well as the daily rate for the truck itself. If you stop along the way for sight seeing the daily rental fees can add up. If you get lost, that extra gas will add to your final costs as well - making the move more expensive than planned.
Most importantly, budget for your time. Many of us use vacation days from work, or take days off, to pack and unpack for a big move. We read many stories from people who became overwhelmed with the moving experience, losing track of time and feeling like they had to rush to get it all done. If you rush, you will do a poor job of packing and break more of your hard earned stuff.
If you do your research and get a great recommendation (and can afford it) the full service moving company might be right for you. If you are operating on a budget and delivery date holds less importance for you, go with a shipping container. Either way, read the moving company's contract carefully to be aware of what is covered and not covered as well as what deductible applies to items damaged in transit. Often those deductibles are quite high, and the contract will provide many loopholes so that the damages will not be covered.
Moving is a great time to get a renters policy if you don't already have one. They tend to be rather affordable, as little as $15 a month. Just be sure to read the fine print and make sure that your items will be covered. Many insurance companies will deny claims on policies that recently went into effect. They look at it as insuring after the fact, or in expectation of a loss - which is insurance fraud. So you may have to purchase the insurance policy well in advance of your move to be guaranteed coverage.
If you have a homeowners policy, be sure that any especially valuable items are itemized on your policy so that you receive full value for the item rather than a blanket coverage which may not be enough to buy everything that was lost or damaged.