Moving pro or no?
The world is divided into two groups: those who move
themselves and those who hire professionals to handle it for them.
Put Tammy Lyn Phillips firmly on the "get a pro"
side. She took this route for her first uprooting, but chose the
do-it-yourself method the next few times to save money. But after
she ruptured a disk using improper bending, lifting and carrying
techniques -- racking up at least $10,000 in recurring medical bills
over the next three years -- she wised up to a different definition
"If a professional incurs any unfortunate injuries,
you're not held responsible. Plus you feel completely at ease overseeing
and not pressured to physically assist, so you avoid hurting yourself,"
Still, in this age of cash allowances for moving expenses
rather than an automatic company-covered perk, it's tempting to
play the odds and pocket the extra bucks. It's rather like sitting
on a pitchfork: either way you squirm, it hurts. Experts offer these
points to help you decide which way to go:
Single people rarely accumulate enough stuff to make
throwing it in a U-Haul an ordeal. "But the minute you get
two people in a household and start adding children, the things
really accumulate," says D'Arcy Goldman, president of Humboldt
Storage and Moving Company in the Boston area.
By her guidelines, anyone living in a one-bedroom
apartment not stuffed to the gills -- meaning a basic bedroom set,
closets that aren't spilling their contents onto the floor, no overly
large furniture that needs to be shoved out a window because it
won't fit through a door -- could lean toward doing this themselves.
Professional organizer Maureen Gainer asks her clients
to assess what their free time is worth before making the final
decision. If the move is far enough in the future to allow you to
pack a box or two each evening, go for it. However, when the maverick
route costs you time off from work, the bargain begins to fade.
"If moving is stressing you out -- perhaps you're
doing it in less than a month or because your spouse is in the military
you're handling the details alone -- it might be time to get a mover,"
says Donna Kozik, co-author of "29 Days to a Smooth Move."
The younger you are, the more likely you have strapping,
healthy friends to pitch in on moving day. Score one for going it
alone. But when your support network begins to develop bad knees,
tennis elbows and weak backs, professional movers look more attractive.
Remember, the farther you move, the more economical
the professional angle becomes. That's because industry de-regulation
back in the '80s ushered in an era of competitive discounts. And
pros work in volume. Combining four families' goods into one truckload
bound for Los Angeles means your share is proportionately lower
than using an entire Budget truck to yourself. According to Goldman,
it typically costs between $3,500 and $4,000 to take a one-bedroom
apartment's worth of items from Boston to California; $1,000 to
take it across town.
On the good side, if you're only moving across town,
the items don't need to be packed as expertly to survive, Kozik
says, so the do-it-yourself option isn't such a nightmare.
City dwellers will appreciate letting professional
movers figure out where to park the moving truck on the street and
secure potential permits they need for that space. When you have
a private driveway, taking control of the wheel can make more sense.
Just double check that the size vehicle you rent doesn't require
a chauffeur's license or other permits to operate. According to
Goldman, state transportation departments started cracking down
on who can drive what since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Even the time of year can sway your decision. Kozik
discovered through her myriad moves that June, July and August are
harder to book with professional movers, thanks to high demand.
Consequently, companies are less likely to negotiate on price in
the summer than in January.
Taking both sides
Often, families opt to take the best of both worlds: Pack their
items but hire the professionals to load and drive the truck. Goldman
says this is a good way to save money, as long as you go into it
with eyes wide open. Moving companies won't accept liability for
any damages to items you packed, "short of us throwing the
box and you can see the outside was visibly tampered with,"
And no matter which route you take, you won't escape
all responsibility. The burden of making arrangements to relocate
plants, animals, precious jewelry, stocks and bonds, collector coins
and any hazardous materials is on you, says Goldman. Add pianos,
antique furniture and pool tables to that list of specialty items
the average mover won't touch, in Kozik's experience.
"In general, the more precious the item, the
more susceptible it might be to damage when you move," she
says. Whether that translates to pro or no is up to you.
-- Posted: July 7, 2004