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Moving costs: Do it yourself and save

Feeling energetic? Want to save money? You could take on the monumental task of packing up all of your possessions, loading them on a truck, driving the truck to your new home, unloading and unpacking everything. You'll probably vow to never do it again, but you'll have saved quite a chunk of change.

The traditional way to go about a do-it-yourself move is to rent a U-Haul, Budget or similar truck or trailer and do the whole thing, start to finish, on your own. But there is an alternative that's become quite popular in the past few years -- you load and unload a trailer, but the moving company handles the drive and delivers the load to your new home. We'll look at both options and compare the savings between a "self-haul" and hiring a full-service moving company.

Economizing to the max
The rental truck companies such as U-Haul and Budget, which operates Budget Truck Rental and Ryder TRS have a variety of trucks and, in U-Haul's case, trailers. If you're looking to economize to the max, this is the way to go. Cost may depend on size of the truck, length of time you'll need it, mileage and demand for the equipment. You'll also want to buy insurance to protect you from liability in case anything happens to the vehicle. And, you'll need to rent furniture dollies, pads, etc.

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On the plus side, some of these outfits provide free storage for a limited amount of time. In addition, if you want to tow a car, you'll only need to rent the hitch equipment.

A big positive for a lot of people who use this method to move is the control factor.

"Part of the advantage is you're in control when you arrive," says John Taylor of Phoenix-based U-Haul. "You ensure your goods arrive at your destination and on time."

Peter Hantman of Budget Truck Group headquartered in Lisle, Ill., agrees.

"You retain possession of your goods through the entire process," he says. "Anyone who's moved has had tough experiences with belongings not being moved the way they'd like."

The drive intimidates many
The thing that puts off many people about a "do-it-yourself" move is the drive. They worry about the truck breaking down and they worry about driving a vehicle bigger than anything they've ever driven.

"I got into the business because I rented a 20-foot truck one day and in about five miles I almost mowed down 20 people," says Howard Grad, owner of MoveAmerica based in McLean, Va. "I realized I had no business driving a truck."

The idea behind the "you load, we drive" industry is that a 28-foot trailer is dropped off in front of your home. You get a day or two to load the trailer. It's then picked up and driven to your new home where you have the pleasure of unloading it. The prospect of back-wrenching work apparently is not deterring many people.

"Business is phenomenal," says Keith Murray of Help-U-Move in Jupiter, Fla. "The public is real receptive to this, especially in long-distance moves."

'You load, we drive' cuts costs
One of the benefits in this type of move is customers only pay for the space they use. Most of these businesses allow a customer to take as little as 3 feet of space, which is about one room's worth of furniture.

"I tell people we're like a pizza place with one size pizza. We can sell it to you by the slice or you can have the whole pie," says Murray.

A 28-foot trailer should hold all the furniture in a four-bedroom home. If two trailers are needed they can usually be hitched together.

Cost is based on various factors, but it's often some combination of space used, mileage or the number of days you'll need the trailer. All three companies we talked with that do the driving for you say they save customers 50 percent or more over the cost of full-service movers and often meet or beat truck rental firms such as U-Haul or Ryder.

You may not save 50 percent, but the amount will still be sizable.

Do-it-yourselfers save more
Murray of Help-U-Move did a quick estimate for us of what it would cost to move a six-room home from New York to Los Angeles. He estimated 1,000 pounds per room for a total of 6,000 pounds, which equals 1,008 cubic feet. Total cost: $3,200. That compares with $5,226.63 for a full-service move estimated by the American Moving and Storage Association in Washington, D.C., a savings of 39 percent.

But it still doesn't beat the deal a person can get by renting a truck and driving it. U-Haul's John Taylor estimated a New York to Los Angeles move in a 26-foot truck would cost $2,230. That's about a 30-percent savings over the "you load, we drive" method and a nearly 60 percent over full-service movers.

Bottom line -- if you're willing to provide the muscle you can save a lot of money. If you're willing to drive, you'll save even more.

Some transport goods, coach customers
Most companies that do the driving also offer various levels of "coaching" free of charge.

Scott Kelly of E-Z Way Relocation in Jacksonville, Fla., says his company assigns a personal move coordinator to each customer.

"The coordinator is available 24 hours a day, they're on call. They do pre-move counseling and act as a single point of contact."

Proper packing is crucial. Box everything just as a full-service mover would.

"Occasionally, you run into someone who throws stuff into the truck with predictable results. You need to be sure you have the right packing materials," says Grad of MoveAmerica.

Consider these guidelines
Here are some things to consider when using a "you load, we drive" company.

  • Trailer load -- If you don't use the full trailer, someone else's belongings will probably be used to fill it up. Often it will be a commercial load, but it could be personal property. All the companies assure us no one else will have access to your property. A secured bulkhead is between the loads.
  • Full payment upfront -- Some companies will do cash-on-delivery in special cases, or 50 percent upfront and the rest on delivery, but don't expect that. Have a certified check or money order ready.
  • Cash discount -- All the companies we talked with will give a 3 percent to 4 percent discount for payments made in cash instead of with a credit card.
  • Deposits -- Some companies will expect a deposit when you book the trailer -- most likely less than $100.
  • Loading and unloading -- Most companies will allow a day or two to load or unload the truck. Most will charge about $50 a day if you need extra time.
  • Towing -- None of the companies will tow a car. If you have more than one car or you plan on flying to your new destination, some companies will help arrange for a car to be shipped.
  • Packing materials -- More than likely you'll need to buy boxes, packing paper, tape, etc. from a local mover or a U-Haul. You'll also need to rent an appliance dolly.
  • Insurance -- Most cover at a rate of $0.10 per pound and provide $10,000 worth of coverage if the truck is involved in a serious accident, fire or is stolen. You'll need to buy additional coverage either through the mover or an insurance agency if your homeowners policy doesn't cover the move.
  • Storage and delivery -- Allow six days for delivery to your new address, especially if it's long distance. Your trailer will be stored at a local facility for a limited amount of time -- after that, you'll need to have it unloaded at a private storage facility if you're still not ready to move into your new home.
  • Extras -- As with any move, you may need to hire a specialist to shut off the gas, unhook the washing machine, etc. If friends are helping load the trailer, you'll at least want to provide sandwiches, soft drinks and water. It's usually a good idea to hire a sitter for the kids and the pets so they're safely out of the way. If you're driving, you'll also need money for gas, tolls and hotels.

-- Posted: July 7, 2004

Guide to Moving
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