Packing this time> of year isn t limited to summer vacations. More Americans than ever are gearing up for a move.
Roughly 16.7 million households move annually, according to the Census Bureau, and a little less than half do so in the summer months. Last year, that added up to more than 37 million people, up from slightly more than 35 million in 2008.
Does that mean summer is the most expensive time of year to move? It could be, though costs vary widely, depending on the distance and the quantity of stuff to be transported. For an interstate move, estimates can easily range into the mid-four-figures, says Julie Reynolds, a spokeswoman for consumer resource Moving.com. And that s before the additional expenses of packing materials, cleaning supplies and new things for the new space.
The best way to save: Plan ahead. Handing over most of your worldly possessions to a moving company isn t a decision to prepare for haphazardly, says John Bisney, a spokesman for the American Moving & Storage Association. When we hear from people who have had a bad move, it s often people who have given the decision all the consideration of ordering a pizza, he says.
Here s how to cut costs -- and maximize value:
Pick the right time
Avoiding the peak summer moving season could cut costs by 25% to 50%, depending on the region, says Phil Liu, a co-founder of CityMove.com, a free site that lets consumers solicit bids from movers. Prices also tend to be higher on the weekends, and at the very beginning and end of the month, when many leases turn over.
Consumers with smaller moves, either by distance or amount of stuff, have the most to gain with scheduling flexibility. During peak times, there s an opportunity cost, Liu says. Movers may charge a premium on small jobs because it limits their ability to take on bigger, more lucrative assignments that day.
Lighten the load
Long-haul moves are priced primarily by volume and weight; local moves by volume and time. Either way, more stuff means a bigger bill. While packing, weed out items to sell, donate or throw out. Cleaning house cuts costs of the move itself, and also generates cash back from yard-sale earnings and tax deductions.
Get detailed written estimates from at least three movers. Have the movers conduct an in-home inspection instead of estimating by phone or email, says Angie Hicks, the founder of review site Angie s List. That way, there s less room for errors like miscounted boxes or a larger-than-described dresser that would change the price come moving day. Ask what s included -- such as packing materials, road tolls and insurance -- for an apples-to-apples comparison.
The price may sound right, but it s not if the company has a reputation for showing up late (if they show up at all), damaging items in transit or even demanding more money before they ll unload everything from the moving truck. It s critical to do a bit of background checking, Bisney says. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the American Moving & Storage Association monitor license and complaints for interstate movers. Local moving companies aren t always regulated, but consumers should check with their state attorney general s office or state moving association.
Use muscle power
Hiring a mover isn t an all-or-nothing proposition. Doing some of the work yourself shifts the price point, Reynolds says. Consumers who aren't up for heavy lifting can cut costs by packing everything themselves. Even simple things like unhooking appliances, rolling area rugs and disassembling bed frames before movers arrive can shave off an hour or more of paid time. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of time the movers spend on your property is beneficial, she says.
Snag a tax break
Consumers moving for job-related reasons can deduct the cost of their move come tax time. To qualify, the taxpayer must have moved within a year of starting the new job and remain employed for at least 39 weeks after the move. The new job must also be at least 50 miles further away from home than the old job.
Review insurance coverage
Many renters and homeowners insurance policies cover belongings in transit, Hicks says. That eliminates the need to buy coverage from the moving company. If you do need extra coverage, ask how the company determines value. Policies often pay out by the weight of the item, reducing the value of a pricey-but-light flat-screen TV to just a few dollars.