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Plan a (relatively) stressless house move

  • Story Highlights
  • Pick a style of moving based on amount of belongings, where you're going
  • Check out movers carefully; service receives a number of complaints
  • Use checklists and worksheets to get things right
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Real Simple

( -- Whether your last move was across the country or across the street, it probably ended with two words: "Never again!" But you don't always have the luxury of staying in the same place forever. Sooner or later, you find yourself surrounded by cardboard boxes and packing tape again. Don't despair.

Moves can be one of life's most stressful experiences. But the process doesn't have to be.

Here, you'll learn how to hire a mover (or move yourself), pack your belongings properly, and do it all with relative ease. Take this advice -- and maybe the two words that end your next move will be, simply, "I'm home."

Choosing a mover

Of course, there is more than one way to move. Depending on the size of your home, the distance of the move, your budget, and the amount of time you have to get yourself situated, you might choose to rent a truck and move yourself, hire a mover to do the job, or use a "you pack; we drive" service. Here's the lowdown on each option.

  • Do it yourself. Are you comfortable driving a big truck on busy highways and narrow streets? Do you live in a fairly small home and have a few strong, very good friends you can recruit to help you? If so, moving yourself might be a good option, and an economical one, since you're not paying a mover to load, drive, and unload your stuff. It's also the option that gives you the most control.
  • Just be aware of hidden costs, such as insurance for the rental truck (your auto policy probably doesn't cover this, and neither will the credit card you rent the truck with), gas, and the rental or purchase of special equipment you'll need, like dollies and quilted furniture covers.

    U-Haul and Budget are the biggest and best-known truck-rental firms. Both have different-size trucks for long-distance and local moves. Their largest trucks (26 feet for U-Haul, 24 feet for Budget) are big enough to move six to eight furnished rooms (including up to four bedrooms). Be careful not to underestimate all that you have to move, though. Extra trips might require more money -- for the truck rental, mileage, and gas (and refreshments for your friends).

    To check rates, reserve equipment, and find rental locations near you, go to or You might get better rates if you rent your truck midweek and midmonth and reserve it as far in advance as possible (as soon as you have an exact date for your move).

  • You pack and load; they drive. Several nationwide companies, such as ABF U-Pack Moving and Broadway Express, offer what they call self-move service. ABF U-Pack will move you only if you're going out of state and more than 500 miles. Broadway Express will move you any distance, but shorter moves are relatively expensive because certain minimum charges apply. Both services deliver a trailer or a van to your house, where you load it. They then provide a professional driver, who takes your things to your new home, where you unload them.
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    This option saves you the hassle of driving a truck, and it is less expensive than using a full-service mover. You share the space on the truck with other customers (if you don't need it all) and pay for only the space you use. Both companies have calculators on their websites to estimate the costs. You can get an initial quote by phone, fax, or e-mail, but be aware that actual charges will be higher if you exceed your estimated load.

  • Hiring a full-service mover. If you can't afford to spend a lot of time getting from here to there, you're moving a long distance, or you have a lot of stuff, this is your best bet. Good professional movers have the experience and equipment to move you quickly while avoiding damage to your property. "The first thing we do is protect the property by putting down floor runners, covering railings and doors, and putting down floorboard if we're moving heavy appliances," explains Jon Hollander, an owner of Hollander Storage & Moving Company, based outside of Chicago. Many movers will even pack everything for you -- a convenience that can be worth the additional cost (20 to 30 percent of the price of your move), especially if you have limited time.
  • There are bad moving companies. Of the more than 1,100 industries that the Better Business Bureau keeps tabs on, the moving industry ranked 14th in consumer complaints in 2003. So be sure to carefully check out anyone you're considering (See our moving worksheets at,21770,1057936,00.html.)

    Web resources

    Find out what you can expect to pay for a "you pack and load; they drive" move with a moving calculator.

  • Broadway Express:
  • ABF U-Pack Moving:
  • Get help determining how many boxes you'll need for your move.

  • Budget:
  • Online Moving Boxes:
  • U-Haul:
  • Research the business practices of the movers you're considering.

  • The Better Business Bureau:
  • Moving Advocate Team:
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