9 Ways to Save a Bundle on Moving

Are you among the tens of millions of Americans who will be moving this year? Well, brace yourself for the costs you will incur, unless you are relocating on your employer’s dime — and even then, moving is still a pain.

A 2014 U.S. News & World Report article says:

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the average cost of an intrastate move is $1,170, and the average move between states costs $5,630. (Both numbers are based on an average weight of 7,100 pounds.)

Fortunately, there are ways to save on this arduous and expensive task.

1. Do your homework

If you plan to hire a moving company, it is essential that you do homework to avoid problems later on.

Rick Gersten, CEO of Urban Igloo, told U.S. News:

People need to do their homework on the moving companies that they use. Where people tend to get hurt [is] they hear a low price going in, and then they find out it’s hourly, but they forget to look into the details of what that means. How many personnel are they bringing to move your belongings? One person or three?

For starters, pay a visit to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website so you can learn the red flags of moving fraud and an array of other useful information to ensure your experience goes smoothly.

Once you have familiarized yourself with what to expect, get quotes from at least three reputable movers and evaluate their offerings. Remember, the cheapest option is not always the best choice.

2. Pick the right time

If at all possible, try moving during periods with less demand, like midweek or midmonth or during the school year, to get the best rates. Avoid moving during holidays, when higher rates may be charged.

If you must move during the peak summer season, start planning early before movers are fully booked. Moving companies also appreciate if you allow flexibility in the pickup and delivery dates, so they can get a moving van with available space to your location with the most efficiency.

Remember that moving when it’s very cold or beastly hot could result in damage to some of your belongings in the truck.

3. Find free materials

The cost of moving supplies, including boxes, tape and bubble wrap, can add up quickly if you buy them from a moving company or the U-Haul store. Free is better.

Try your place of employment or websites like Craigslist or Freecycle for free boxes. Also, check with your local grocery, book or liquor store to snag unwanted boxes. Just make sure the boxes are durable, or you could end up with broken goods.

If you know you’ll be moving, save all the bubble wrap that comes your way. Or skip the bubble wrap and use towels, shirts and crumpled newspaper to protect fragile items instead.

4. Pack it yourself

You can save a lot of money by packing items yourself rather than paying the movers to do it. United Van Lines offers this advice for packing fragile items like china and glassware:

Be sure to select a sturdy container with a lid. Place a 2- or 3-inch layer of crushed paper on the bottom of the carton as a cushion. Wrap each item individually with a soft material to provide a safe, protective “padded nest.” Pack the heaviest items on the bottom and the lighter ones next, filling in empty spaces with crushed paper. Place plates on edge and glassware on rims for maximum protection. Mark the carton “Fragile,” and list the contents on the outside. Be sure to seal the carton with tape.

5. Pack only the essentials

The more you move, the more you will pay, especially if you plan to hire movers. Long-distance movers charge based on pounds and distance covered.

Be ruthless as you evaluate possessions. Do you really need to cart around all of those college textbooks you promised yourself you’d read again but haven’t opened? Donate them to the library at the local community college. Do you have boxes of old receipts and records that you could easily dispose of (after shredding) or digitize?

Do you have gently used clothing you haven’t worn in years or other items you no longer use? Donate them to a thrift store or sell them at a consignment shop. You may qualify for a tax deduction or make a little money.

Or, if you have a lot of stuff, hold a moving sale.

6. Get accurate estimates

Moving companies will send a staffer to your home to provide a free estimate of what the move will cost. Make sure they see every room and storage area so their estimates will be accurate.

The actual price you pay, unless you choose a binding estimate, will be based on the difference in the weight of the moving van before and after your belongings are loaded.

7. Pick the released value option

Long-distance movers will include at no additional cost what’s called “released value protection.” This reimburses you at a rate of up to 60 cents per pound for damaged or lost items. You will pay extra for protection that helps you replace or repair lost or damaged items.

Also check to see if your homeowners insurance covers any aspect of your move.

The FMCSA urges you not to sign a delivery receipt for your household goods if it contains language about releasing or discharging your mover from liability:

By law, you have nine months to file a written claim. Strike out this kind of language or refuse delivery until a proper receipt is provided.

8. Keep good records

Keep good records in case you need to file a claim against the movers or write off the expenses for a job-related move that might be tax-deductible.

IRS Publication 521 states:

You can deduct your moving expenses if you meet all three of these requirements: Your move is closely related to the start of work, you meet the distance test and you meet the time test.

9. Do everything yourself

Want to save a nice chunk of change? Skip the moving companies and handle the task on your own. Ask friends to pitch in and be sure to feed them well to show your appreciation for their willingness to help.

To lighten the load, label all your boxes so they end up in the proper location in your new home, and stack them near exits so the room is easily accessible and minimal effort is needed.

But be aware of the hidden costs associated with do-it-yourself moving.

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