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Moving costs: How to save money

If you're changing jobs and your company is picking up the relocation tab, you're lucky. You'll still have all the hassles of uprooting your life, but at least your bank account will rest easy.

For those who do not have that luxury, we're going to show you ways to save money when you move.

Costs for moves across state lines are based on the weight of the goods and the distance traveled. We'll focus on interstate moves for this story. Local moves are a different animal since they're completely unregulated; we'll cover them in a separate report. Still, much of the money-saving information here also applies to local moves.


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  • The discount: Here's your first chance to save money. When you receive an estimate from a mover, see if you can get a slightly better deal. Each company that offers interstate moves must publish its rates, charges and services as a tariff under federal law, but may be willing to offer a discount. Since moving companies compete for customers, it doesn't hurt to ask for a break on the estimate that you've been quoted – smart movers know you can take your money elsewhere. You should get at least three in-person estimates, so you may have some leverage to negotiate.

  • Be flexible: You'll stand a chance of cutting a better deal if you can be flexible about your moving date. Movers are very busy from mid-May to mid-September, says MaryScott Tuck of the American Moving and Storage Association. They are usually looking for work in January and February.
    Moving sometime other than summer could be 5 percent to 12 percent cheaper, says Tuck. Also, try to avoid moving during the first and last weeks of the month, any month. They're busy weeks for movers.

  • Don't box them in: Another way to get a bigger discount is to give the mover some room when it comes to pickup and delivery dates. If possible, give the movers a span of three to five days when they can pick up the load and three to five days when they can deliver.

  • Packing: Doing some of your own packing is one of the best ways to reduce costs, says Tuck. "Pack your books, clothing, VCR tapes -- but leave your china and high-dollar items for the mover to pack."

  • Packing materials: The mover will sell you boxes, tape and packing paper. But you may be able to get them cheaper at a do-it-yourself mover such as U-Haul or Ryder. You'll save more money by getting boxes from your supermarket, but make sure they're in good shape and weren't initially used for produce, or they may attract bugs.

  • Cut down on the load: If you haven't used it or worn it in more than a year, movers suggest that you pitch, sell or give away the item.

  • Tax deductions: Keep all receipts; you'll be able to deduct allowable expenses from your income taxes.

Unfortunately, there are some areas of the move where you probably won't be able to cut costs. A few examples:

  • Additional transportation charges: These charges compensate the mover for services performed in areas where labor rates are higher -- usually major metropolitan areas. These costs usually range from $1 to $3 per 100 pounds but can be even higher in places such as New York or Los Angeles.

  • Advanced services: The mover needs to hire a specialist to disconnect gas mains, disassemble a piano or pool table, etc.

  • Appliance services: For example, blocking the tub in the washing machine so it doesn't move around.

  • Bulky items: Snowmobiles, lawn mowers, boats, etc. may cost extra to move.

  • Accessorial services: Long carry -- if the mover has to walk more than 75 feet from the truck to your door, you may pay extra. You might also be charged more if there are stairs or an elevator. These costs can range between $1.50 and $2 per 100 pounds.

  • Shuttle: If the van can't get to your house because the street's too narrow or there are low-hanging branches or wires, your belongings will have to be loaded onto a smaller truck first. If you have to use shuttle service, aka auxiliary service, you'll probably be charged for the extra labor involved and for the use of the smaller vehicle.

  • Payment on delivery: In most cases, the customer pays for the move when the goods are delivered, before they're taken off the truck. If you don't have a certified or cashier's check or whatever the mover requested, your goods may be put in storage until payment is received -- and you'll be charged extra for the storage.

After you save yourself some money, you'll want to be sure to avoid these common moving mistakes. Then, our moving timelines can help you get organized, whether you're buying or selling a house.

-- Updated: July 22, 2008

Guide to Moving
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