(RealSimple.com) -- 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.
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 www.uhaul.com or www.budgettruck.com. 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).
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.
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 http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,1057936,00.html.)
Find out what you can expect to pay for a "you pack and load; they drive" move with a moving calculator.
Get help determining how many boxes you'll need for your move.
Research the business practices of the movers you're considering.
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