How do moving companies work?

How do moving companies work? The average homeowner has over 300,000 items in their home.  If you are thinking about moving, then you need to have a plan on how you are getting those 300,000 items to your next destination.    So, where do you begin?

Meet Bruce Waller.  Besides being an avid bowler and lover of peanut butter, Bruce is Vice President of Corporate Relocations for Armstrong Relocation & Companies.  He has spent the past 16 years helping clients move all over the world, and was recently interviewed by Lindy Chapman on relocation and how “moving” works.     Below are a few tips we picked up from his interview that will help you plan your move, understand the process, and even learn how movers figure out the price to give you. 

When should you first contact a mover?

While most movers prefer to meet with you around 6 weeks before your move, if you know months in advance you are going to move, there is no reason why you can’t have your home surveyed (see next question) ahead of time.    Having this completed ahead of time will help give you an idea of your total costs so that you can review everything and see where you might be able to save on certain costs.

Working in advance is also helpful if you have expensive, hard to move items.  If you are taking these items with you, you will need to have them appraised a head of time to ensure you are covered if anything were to happen to those specialty items during the move.  

Lastly, working ahead gives you more time to decide on which of your 300,000 items will be traveling with you, and which ones you can sell, donate, or throw away.   This is especially important if you are downsizing.

What is a survey?

A survey is when a representative of the moving company comes to your home and walks through every room to understand how much needs to be packed and if certain items will need special attention (big items and specialty items that can’t just be put into a box and placed on the truck).    This survey is what they work off of to decide your costs.  Don’t expect an estimate right then and there, as most companies need time to review all of the logistics of the move. 
Most estimates will be valid for 60 days.   If you are more than 60 days out from your move, you can have them re-cost the estimate once you get within your 60 days. This will be important if you have spent time donating, selling, and throwing away items.   If you are working within 60 days, be sure to ask the moving company to add a “not to exceed” binding estimate to ensure your price does not change during that time.

Other than what you decide to add or remove from the estimate, things that may increase or decrease costs would be fuel prices and time of your move.  If you are planning on moving during peak times, the cost of transportation will be higher due to demand.   Peak times will vary by area, so check with your moving company for more information on timing.  

If you decide to get surveys from multiple companies, they will most likely all be different prices.  That is typically because of these key factors: packing, packing materials, transportation services (driver), specialty services (disconnecting appliance and specialty moves, valuation coverage.  When comparing these estimates, make sure you are comparing apples to apples with what they offer and cover.

How do you find a quality moving company?

As always, check your sphere of influence first.  Your sphere of influence could be your friends, family, and even your coworkers.  You can also ask on local social media groups to see what experiences people have had with certain moving companies.    You can also check reviews online, but remember that not all reviews are factual and true, so take the good and bad ones with a grain of salt. 

Should you pay someone to pack your 300,000 things?

The packing process typically makes up 25% to 40% of your total moving costs.

If you are looking to save money, you can pack your own boxes, but keep in mind that self- packed boxes are typically not covered if broken during the move.  Most moving companies will work with you to split the packing so that you pack non-breakables and the moving company will pack the fragile and challenging items.

You can use your own boxes, or purchase your own boxes to save money.  You can also ask the moving company for any used boxes they already have at no charge. 

What is Valuation Full Replacement Coverage and Release Value? 

These valuations are not insurance, but do function like insurance as they ensure you are compensated for things that are damaged during the move.   This is an important thing to review as your personal homeowners' insurance might not cover your items that are damaged during transportation.
  • Release Value/ Liability Coverage:  this is typically included with your transportation service.  This means that you would receive $0.60 per pound for what is damaged.  In this scenario, if a 50 lb flat-screen TV was damaged during the move, you would receive $30.
  • Full Replacement Valuation Coverage:   This option gives you better coverage and will cost around $400 for a three-bedroom home and $800 for a five-bedroom home.   It does offer different deductibles that can help lower the cost.  For this coverage, you would receive (on average) $6 per pound for what was damaged.  If anything gets damaged under this coverage, the moving company will first try to “Repair” the item, if the items can’t be repaired, then they will “Replace” the item with a similar one, or if not replaceable, then you would receive a cash settlement equivalent to the broken item’s current market value.

For more expensive items, you can have a High-Value Replacement Form created and are typically covered as $100 per pound but may vary depending on the item.  These are items that would require an appraisal.

How does a mover price out your move?

As mentioned before, packing will be a good portion of your cost.  To factor in the other costs, you will need to look at where you are moving and the size of your move.  The size of your move will determine how many movers you will need.  A local move will most likely be priced out by the hourly rates.  When you venture further out, and even into other states, your price will be driven by weight and mileage.
An international move will be more costly due to a variety of variables: customs, country regulations, shipping/transportation, etc.

Do you have questions on how to start your move?  Bruce was kind enough to share his contact information (see author below) for anyone that has questions about the moving process.  If you are lucky, he might even share some bowling tips with you as well!