Moving help: cut costs without getting gypped

Twelve moves down, one to go. Since I graduated from college 20 years ago, I have moved that many times, and I am about to embark on what I hope will be the last for a very long time.

Whether you are single or hooked, with children or pets, moving is a major ordeal. Yes, it can be an exciting adventure, but transplanting yourself from one piece of ground to another is not akin to gardening.

In fact, experts rate moving as one of the top ten most stressful events in life, right up there with divorce and loss of a loved one. So if you are moving this summer, take lots of deep breaths, make lists, and try not to sweat the small stuff.

Given my extensive experience, I have put together some tips to save you time and headaches when choosing your mover. Unfortunately people get ripped off – just visit, where I got recommendations for honest moving companies with the best record.

Which Kind of Mover Do You Need?

Large Moving Companies
National operations like United, Allied and Mayflower are not likely to spring any surprises on you. On the minus side, the costs will be higher.

Another disadvantage of large companies is that, because they will combine your stuff with others to fill their tractor-trailer trucks, you’ll probably get a delivery window of two days to two weeks!

Do-it-Yourself, but Not All of It
Of course, with all things in life, you’ll save money if you do-it-yourself. I have rented many a U-Haul in my day, and we even leased a bucket of bolts for our first move as a family.

However, since we no longer knew a bunch of brawny guys who would unload our stuff for pizza and beer, we hired moving help through The guys arrived on time, did their job extremely carefully, and there were no hidden charges. can also help you pack, unpack, and clean.

You Load (Calmly), and They Drive
Driving a run-down truck full of heavy furniture across the country can be harrowing. Just ask my dad. Another budget-friendly option is to hire someone to do the driving part.

Perhaps the most well-known company in this category is ABF U-Pack Moving, but watchdog website also endorses Atlas SmartMove and Broadway Express.
A variation on this theme is PODS. With one of those white storage containers placed in your driveway, you can take your time loading (and unloading), while the company hauls the container for you.

Small- to Mid-Size Moving Companies
This is my favorite method. We found a small New York City-based company by consulting, which lists a handful of mid-sized companies which have received only positive ratings from people on that website.

The company we are now using for the third time, All Star Moving, uses smaller trucks, take one family at a time, and deliver the next day. I love that their competitive fee is not an estimate, but a fixed price.

Be Careful of Who You Trust With Everything You Own

While cost is a concern, so is safety and trust. To avoid getting cheated by a rogue mover, who might quote you a low price and then demand more money before they release your things, follow these tips:

• Try to get an all-inclusive price, not an estimate, which will be free of hidden charges and last-minute fees
• Beware of companies that ask your budget straight off and tailor their estimate accordingly
• Do not rely on telephone quotes: an estimator should come to your house and evaluate your stuff
• Be wary of a company that asks for a deposit, which is not standard practice
• A mover should get mainly positive consumer ratings at places like or
• Go with a company that has been around for many years
• Ask friends, neighbors, and real estate agents for recommendations
• Make sure there are no complaints lodged against the company at the Better Business Bureau

Amy Suardi, Buttoned Up’s Savings Expert, is moving from Syracuse to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month. She writes about ways that save money and make people happy at Frugal Mama.