Moving Preparation: How to Save BIG $

On average, most people move 11 times in their life. So naturally, most people are unprepared on moving day.

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What if I told you that if you read this article, you could save hundreds of dollars or more on just an average sized move? (If you have a big move lined up, you REALLY want to read this)

It’s often the little things we don’t think about that impact the cost of a move, and many don’t take much time or effort to execute.

The purpose of this article is to help you ensure your move goes as efficient as possible. If you follow the suggestions in this article, you will be prepared. The move will take less time and cost you less money.

Tip: You don’t have to read all the sections that don’t apply to you (such as packing if you aren’t packing). Just read the section headings and the bold text if you are skimming.


This article was written by Brandon Walker, experienced mover, and business owner of 2 Bros and a Truck Moving Company located in New Haven County (East Haven), Connecticut.


When Should I Book My Move?

The summer is the busy season. Having “too many trucks in the winter and not enough trucks in the summer” is the curse of every moving business. Unless the economy is roaring like the 20’s, residential moving will slow down in the winter.

Consequently, moving companies will lower their rates in the winter in order to remain competitive.

So if you have a move coming up in the dead of summer, try and book when it is less busy so you can lock in a lower rate.

But first you have to choose a company…


Choosing a Moving Company

The Company

If you are choosing a moving company you’ve never used before, you probably have some concerns.

Not all moving companies are created equal, yet their rates will be [nearly] the same all year. So it’s important to do your research.

Here we explain:

  1. What you should research in moving companies
  2. How you can research a moving company without actually using their services

What are their rates and fees?

Find out what all their rates and fees are so there aren’t any “surprises” when the bill comes due.

The rates should be straight-forward. And fees for things like travel and piano moving are common.

But there are less common fees that vary by company, so being aware of them could factor into the cost of the move.

Check out their business pictures

For the moving companies you are considering: check out picture galleries associated with their business pages (Yahoo, Bing, Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.).

Does the company seem active? Professional? Do they have any pictures at all? Are they using stock pictures?

What do their loads look like?

If there is a single way to tell what a good moving crew is, it is how they load the truck. This is because loading a truck properly takes years to learn. Many moving companies will take pictures of their loads.

Take a look at the above picture: Where all the furniture is perfectly wrapped and snugly loaded to the top of the truck in a perfect tier. These are the types of loads you want to see.

What do their reviews look like?

Check our their reviews on Google and Yelp: are they highly rated? 

And look into any accreditation: are they associated with Angie’s List or rated on the Better Business Bureau?

Read some of the reviews for yourself: do they seem legit (more than a few sentences, mention movers by name, or go into specifics)?

Do the reviewers have credibility such as friends/followers or a high number of businesses reviewed?

Not enough Yelp reviews?

Tip:  If you scroll to the bottom of a business’ Yelp page, you can also view their “personally not recommended reviews”.

Yelp systematically deletes tons of legitimate (as well as illegitimate) reviews.  Their algorithm is set to delete the reviews of reviewers who are not constant “Yelpers”.


How Many Movers for your Job?

How many movers you need for your job mainly depends on:

  • size of the house (number of bedrooms and/or square footage)
  • total flights of stairs (at pickup and delivery)
  • total amount of furniture and boxes (estimated in pounds)
  • distances from the truck to both entrances (how “long” the carry)
  • amount of assembly/disassembly required
  • # of total stops

However many movers the company suggests will usually be correct. But ensure they ask the right questions if they estimate it over the phone/email (which you can infer from the list above).

For reference: for the “big dog moves” (4+ bedrooms, 2-3 stories, and lots of furniture and boxes) we will typically put 4 to 5 movers on them and finish in around 8-10 hours.

The two or three movers conundrum

Sometimes, people will push for two movers when we suggest three, in an attempt to “save money”.

An extra $50-$60 an hour per man may seem like a lot more money, but unless two movers will finish your job in 4 hours or less, three movers on the truck will always be more efficient.

Let’s assume every mover you hire will be at the same rate of $60 per hour. And factor in: any job that takes two movers 7 hours to complete, three movers should finish in 4 hours.

2 movers: $120 ($60 per mover) x 7 hours = $840

3 movers: $180 ($60 per mover) x 4 hours = $720

3 movers is $80 less expensive in this scenario. (And even at 4.5 hours for the three man move, you’d still be paying $30 less with 3 men.)

Why are three movers faster? Because one mover does the loading and carries the one-man pieces to the truck while two movers run the majority of the two-man pieces. There is also less of a fatigue factor with three men on a job.

If you only have two movers, then the loader will have to touch every two man piece of furniture (while splitting the duties of disassembly, wrapping furniture, and one man pieces). This slows down the loading process and furniture “gets out of the way” more slowly.

*An exception to this rule is when you have a lot of driving time (such as moving to a different state) and not a lot of furniture. In this scenario, getting less movers may be more cost effective, yet take more time.


Forces of Nature

Steep Hills

Keep in mind that if a driveway is very steep, a large moving truck (such as a 26 footer) may not be able to go up it. You can sometimes see where other trucks have bottomed out due to large indents or scuffs near the beginning of the incline.

Smaller trucks with shorter wheel bases (17 footers) can usually make it up pretty steep hills.

Carrying furniture and dollying boxes up/down steep hills will slow down even the most seasoned movers. In short: a steep hill can turn a little move into a long move.

So if you have a very steep hill to get to your entrance, this is something to take into consideration when communicating the logistics with a moving company–like suggesting a smaller truck(s) or an extra mover.

Weather (rain)

As a mover, the worst possible condition to move in is heavy rain. Everything is slippery and the furniture cannot be staged directly outside the truck. 

Staying surefooted in wet conditions while lugging around furniture all day is exhausting. This will all slow any move down .

If it is going to be pouring rain all day and you have a large move lined up, it may not be a bad idea to request an extra mover if possible.

If your garage is in a convenient location (near the truck), the movers may be able to stage and wrap much of the furniture there. This helps the loader have easy access to the furniture he wants to get rid of/fit into the load. (Just being able to “see everything” right off the truck helps loading tremendously.)

Tip: buy a sheet of carpet mask at Home Depot or Lowe’s. It’ll likely be cheaper than asking the movers to provide it.

Weather (snow)

Make sure your pathways are shoveled if it’s snowing and use salt on the pathways if it’s icy.

For pieces of furniture that won’t fit out the front door, be aware that they may have to be carried out through other entrances that you normally don’t bother shoveling (such as sliding doors leading to a deck or porch) .


The Pre Move

Packing

An entire book could be devoted to packing, so we will cover the basics in this particular article.

If you are doing your own packing, the first thing you should know is that: however long you think packing will take, it will almost certainly take longer.

What you’ll need:

  1. boxes
  2. packing tape (preferably tan)
  3. white paper
  4. brown paper
  5. black sharpies

Here are the types of boxes you may purchase and the types of items that should go into them:

  1. small (1.5) boxes – heavy non-breakables like books. also specialty items (small lamp shades, model airplanes, coral decor, etc.)
  2. medium (3.0) boxes – foldable clothes and some of the smaller random misc. items like toys. a medium sized lamp shade (1 per box).
    • You may leave foldable clothes inside your dressers (just remove breakables and heavy objects such as books)
  3. large (4.5) boxes – blankets/quilts/linens, pillows, and longer light-weight items that don’t fit in smaller boxes
  4. dish packs – kitchen items: heaviest items in the bottom (thick glass), lightest and most fragile items at the top (stem glasses)
  5. wardrobes – shoes and shoe boxes in the bottom and hanging clothes, belts, and ties on the hanger
  6. mattress cartons – one carton per box spring and two cartons per mattress (only one carton per twin mattress)
  7. mirror boxes (4 piece) – glass, mirrors, and medium sized artwork
  8. large TV boxes – large TVs. or groups of bigger pictures and glass pieces (wrap all items in brown paper first)
  9. lamp boxes – lamps and tall art

Okay now you are ready to start packing. The general rules are:


  1. white paper in the bottom of boxes
  2. then belongings
    • wrap small breakables in white paper, and the large breakables in brown paper
  3. separate layers of breakables with a thick layer of white paper (such as in dish packs)
  4. stuff the top of the box with white paper so that it is sturdy enough to be stacked on (the box should be tough to close)
    • do not overstuff the top of the box so that it “bows out” and loses its rectangle shape

Example – how to start a dish pack:

white paper layer in the bottom and dishes wrapped in white paper

Tip: you can use older newspapers as white packing paper to save money, BUT the newspaper will not be as easy to separate.

How to divvy out white paper to stuff in your boxes:

  1. lay out entire stack of white paper on a flat surface at least above hip height (so you don’t hurt your back bending over).
    • if you don’t have a flat surface of comfortable height where you are packing:
      1. get a large moving box (preferably a dish pack) to serve as the base
      2. tape ONLY ONE SIDE of the box shut (that will be the top/base)
      3. place a flat medium (3.0) box on the top of the dish pack base (so all the white paper doesn’t fall off the dish pack)
  2. lick (or wet) your index finger and middle finger and use your wet fingers to “spread” single sheets of white paper to one side, crumpling them in the same motion
  3. once you have 7-8 pieces of white paper spread, crumple them up further with both hands while stuffing them in the box in one swift motion

Properly Labeling your Boxes

On the bigger moves, doing something as simple as properly labeling your boxes will save you a lot of money.

A majority of shippers write on the top of their boxes. DO NOT DO THIS. On the unload, the movers will have to unstack and re-stack the boxes in order to view which rooms they go to instead of taking them all by the dolly load to their destination.

Write on one side of your box:

  1. your last name (optional)
  2. the room the box goes to (for the movers)
  3. the contents inside the box (for you when you unpack)

Example of a properly labeled box:

The “Unpackening” – A Mover’s Nightmare

Many times movers show up to moves and nothing is packed. This normally isn’t a hassle.

But then there’s times where there is so much large glass/breakables, expensive artwork, flatscreen TVs, marble/granite tops, etc. unpacked that it creates problems.

The movers will have to be extra careful because moving things that should be in a box (or crate) exposes them to risking a claim if something breaks.

Figuring out how to load tons of unpacked breakables will slow the move down and and actually changes the way in which your furniture is loaded in the truck.

Tip: Generally, 2-3 medium to large pieces of glass/mirror/artwork can go between every mattress/box spring combo (for king and queen beds) and make it safely unpacked.

Writing “fragile” on nearly every box…

“Fragile” and “breakable” are not synonymous in the moving industry.

Experienced movers treat every box that could be breakable with care (dish packs, mirror packs, TV boxes, top load boxes, lamp cartons, and the like).

We suggest only writing “fragile” on the boxes that actually contain very fragile items OR highly valued breakables, so that they can be treated with extra VIP care.

If you write “fragile” on every box with breakables, the word may translate to just “breakable” to the movers. Or the movers will treat every “fragile” box like it’s expensive art. Either way, you’ll probably want to differentiate.

*Improperly packed boxes are a different story. If your boxes of breakables are improperly packed, then by all means: notify the movers and mark every single unit “fragile”.

Let’s talk about the little stuff AKA “chowder”

It is always the little stuff, or “chowder” as they say in the moving business, that takes the longest. Two movers may be able to dolly and move a 700 pound fire safe, but they only have two hands.

Things like loose toys, smaller pieces of decor, and the like are considered chowder.

Even if you have decided you aren’t going to pack a single box, you would save the movers many trips to the truck by getting some large boxes (trash bags) and stuffing them full of all the lightweight little stuff.

A lot of times, the customer will tell the movers to avoid the little misc. unpacked stuff; whether or not you want the movers to load it is entirely up to you.


The Move

Parking: long carry = long move

How far the movers have to go from the truck to the entrance of the job is probably the biggest determining factor in the cost of a move.

In the moving business, a “long carry” is when you have to walk a long way from the moving truck to the job’s entrance.

Saving the movers a good parking spot will make a big difference,especially in busy areas where they may be forced to park far away from your entrance.

Tip: Some moving trucks load out the back and some load out the side (generally the right side, but sometimes both sides).  You will need to save more room for trucks that load out the back for the ramp.

The Walk-Through: what stays and what goes

The walk-through is showing the movers what goes and what stays at the beginning of the move.

Some moves are straight-forward, some not-so-much. If you have a lot of stuff that is and isn’t going, it is helpful to mark the stuff you don’t want moved with a sticker.

That way there is no confusion and the movers aren’t asking you if a certain item goes or stays after the walk-through.

Lunch

Bringing the movers lunch will speed things up because leaving the job area and finding a place to park the truck and eat is time consuming. 

I personally bring my own lunch to jobs, but a lot of movers don’t.

The Unload: The Game-plan

Try and have a general plan as to where everything goes. The big items and your boxes.

Sounds simple, right? Well, the tough part is with dealing with all the boxes that would otherwise be unpacked and put away.

Tip: boxes go under windows (because furniture usually isn’t placed directly in front of windows), into closets, and anywhere that the furniture will not go (ideally along a wall). Some people use their garage.

A veteran moving crew will know where to get rid of most the boxes, but it helps to have a plan if you have a lot of boxes.

Having a plan will help you avoid the time consuming cycle of moving things 2 or 3 times instead of it all being placed just once. A 5,000 pound move can turn into 10,000 pounds if you have a lot of furniture + boxes and no plan.

The Unload: Directing Traffic

During the unload: if you want the move to finish quickly, your #1 priority should be directing traffic.

If the owner is not present on the unload then you’ll have a crew of movers running around the house trying to find the owner to tell them where to set the furniture.

What the movers will eventually end up doing is setting the furniture into the room they think it goes in (and they won’t always be correct).

Be near the entrance directing traffic or just make sure you’re in earshot of the movers bringing in the furniture if you want the move to end quickly.

The Unload: Unpacking

If you are going to unpack during the unload, stick with clothing wardrobes or dish packs (kitchen boxes). If you have kids, let them each have one toy box.

The problem with unpacking your boxes indiscriminately while the move is ongoing is: items will start to pile up on the floors, obstructing the paths of the movers and the furniture.


Conclusion

That’s it! If you have any comments, questions, or want to add anything we failed to mention, feel free to do so in the comments section.

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