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September 02, 2010


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I've moved cross-country three times in the past decade and I've gone with United Van Lines all three times. Aside from a misunderstanding on an insurance claim once (resolved) they've all been good experiences.

My last move was earlier this year and not only did they not damage a single belonging -- they refunded me nearly $800 because the shipment didn't end up weighing as much as was estimated. They were very reasonably priced compared to estimates I got from Allied, Bekins, and another local mover.

The "no deposit upfront" item above doesn't really apply to long-distance moves because in my experience everyone requires half on pick-up and half on delivery (usually 1-2 weeks later).

I once had to do a lot of research on the moving and storage industry for an IPO we did years ago. I worked as a mover when I was young. And I’ve moved more times, in more ways that I would like to count. The industry is not consumer friendly. This list is great.

There are two types of moves- short and long haul. Don’t hire a local shop if you are moving across the country. Some local shops will try to do the long move and it forces them to rely on other companies or they will hire the long haul company and charge you a fee. In addition, it can be a mess if something happens and the likelihood of problems increases.

If you are moving a long distance and you hire a long haul mover, you should know a few things.
1. They are franchises. So the group that packed you up is not the same group that will unpack you. You might have hired the best option in LA, but the franchise in NYC is the worst. Do your research for both ends of the move.
2. Unless you can fill an entire long haul truck, your stuff will be mixed with other people’s stuff. (You wont fill a long haul truck unless you live in 10,000+ sq feet)
3. The ‘insurance’ tends to be by the lbs. So don’t expect very much money if something gets damaged.
The process:
1. They empty your house and pack up a truck. You wave goodbye to all your worldly possessions and hope to see it in a few weeks in the condition you left it.
2. The team heads back to the warehouse and empties out the truck. Your things sit in a pile at the warehouse roped off from all the other moves. It will sit there, exposed to everyone in the warehouse until they have enough moves to load an entire truck. (This is when things get lost in the back of someone’s car and why you should be careful what you write on the boxes.)
3. Everything gets loaded on a truck going east. 4,5,6 homes worth of stuff gets loaded and mingled. Yet another place where things get lost. (We thought your new TV was Billy’s in KS City.)
4. Your stuff arrives in NYC and is unloaded in yet another warehouse.
5. They reload all your goods into yet another truck and drive to your new place where they unload it.

The main product of a moving company is the labor. If you are moving within 50 miles, consider hiring the labor yourself. If you hire the labor yourself, you will also need to rent a moving vehicle. From what I know, this is the only structural way to save money.

Don’t cheap out on people. If they say you need 3 people, ask if 4 would be better. If you only have a move that requires 2 people, you should really consider doing it yourself with some friends.

Everything goes in a box. Everything- no exceptions. You want to make the move as easy and fast as possible. If you're major cost is people, and they charge by the hour, speed is key.

The last time I moved across the country I used a company like pods (not pods) that dropped off the boxes, I locked them up, and they sat in a storage facility for a few months. I hired movers to do the lifting. It was the best experience I’ve had… and I’ve moved a lot in many different ways.

I've hired movers to load a U-Haul truck that I then drove to my new location. Since I had friends on the other side to help me unload, it ended up being cheapest to do it this way. Plus, there was no worry about my stuff being held hostage.

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