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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Get Organized" - Article

Transporting Your Possessions

So, which is it -- hire a mover or rent a Ryder truck? Although the decision may seem obvious ("Go with the cheaper alternative!" or "Whichever means I have to do less work!"), you have an awful lot of issues to consider -- cost, responsibility for damage, the physical labor involved, and your moving time-frame. Whichever option you choose, make sure you are fully INFORMED before making a decision that could cost you a lot of time, money, and mental anguish.

Many people are choosing to rent a truck and move themselves because it is less expensive than hiring a moving company to transport their household belongings. However, the costs of renting a U-Haul can add up over the long run. Get QUOTES from several different companies for the cost of the rental. And remember that you must figure in the cost of the gas for the truck, tolls, food, and other travel expenses during the trip. Will you need to rent any additional equipment -- a dolly, a hitch for your car, or packing supplies? Do you have friends who can help load and unload the truck? If not, you will have to hire helpers -- or risk even more costly medical bills when you throw your back out trying to lift that refrigerator on your own! And don't think that "do-it-yourself" means you don't need INSURANCE. What if your truck is in an accident? Be sure to figure in the cost of coverage for your cargo and any potential damage to the truck. You will also want to ask about additional drop off fees -- if you are returning the truck to a different location or dropping your truck off in a low-demand area.

But so often, we make too many important decisions based solely on PRICE. Let me suggest that this is the perfect time to overcome that bad habit! There is so much more at stake when you are moving than the up front cost. You are transporting all of your most valued possessions from one location to another. It may cost less up front to have your brother-in-law load your mother's piano onto the truck. But what happens when he overestimates how much weight he can carry and drops it? With professional movers, you not only benefit from their years of EXPERIENCE, but also their insurance coverage. Can you handle loading and unloading large, heavy, bulky items? Are you comfortable driving a large vehicle through heavy traffic? Remember, that U-Haul is a tad bigger than your pickup truck! And think about the TIME and ENERGY you will have to put forth to move yourself. Sometimes, it's just easier (and well worth the money) to have someone else do it for you. Renting a truck is certainly the best option for some people -- just be sure you know exactly what you are getting into before you write out the check.

If you do decide to hire a moving company, start by compiling a list of at least 5 potential movers. You can let your fingers do the walking, but it's better to ask for REFERRALS from friends who have moved recently, your company relocation department, or your realtor. Then ask for a BID -- an estimate of how much the move will cost -- from at least 3 movers on your list. Be sure that you are comparing apples to apples, and ask each mover up front about any additional costs. Will the movers have to traverse more than one flight of stairs or take furniture up an elevator? Are you moving bulky items or asking movers to carry your things an excessive distance from house to truck? Are you expecting the movers to provide packing supplies or to assemble items once you have reached your destination? You can also usually expect to pay more for side trips (to pick up items at an off-site location), unusual transportation obstacles (construction, detours), exclusive use of a truck by your household, delivery on holidays or weekends, or the use of the moving company's off-site storage facilities. Whatever you agree to, be sure to get a BINDING ESTIMATE -- that way, if your load weighs more than expected, the mover must honor the quoted price.

But remember, price is only one of the criteria by which to judge a mover. You should also find out if your belongings will remain on ONE TRUCK for the entire length of the move. Transferring items from one truck to another increases the chances of damage. Also ask if the company will guarantee your delivery date. If you aren't careful, your belongings can end up in a storage unit on the other side of the country for months at a time! And most importantly, be sure to check your mover's credentials thoroughly before you sign any agreements.

When moving from state to state, contact the Interstate Commerce Commission to find out if the moving company:
  • has ICC authority to perform interstate moves
  • has an active MOTOR CARRIER NUMBER (get a copy)
  • has bodily injury, cargo, and property damage INSURANCE
  • has filed its TARIFF (rules and rates)
  • has a record of making deliveries on-time and damage-free

International and INTRASTATE (within the same state) moves are not governed by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Contact the state department that regulates moves (transportation, public utilities, public services) for more information about your local movers. Look for extensive international experience and strong references when moving overseas. You may also contact the Better Business Bureau or Department of Consumer Affairs -- in the cities of origin, destination, and the mover's headquarters -- for COMPLAINTS about a company. And whether you are moving locally, nationally, or overseas -- make an unannounced visit to the company to get a good look at their operations. Ask lots of questions!

The first rule of protecting yourself with movers is to be educated about your rights. Start by participating in the INVENTORY of your belongings by the mover. Follow the mover around your house and double check their work. Make note of any PRIOR DAMAGE to your belongings and be certain that the mover lists every item that will be loaded on the truck. You should plan to carry extraordinarily valuable (furs, jewelry, art) or irreplaceable (memorabilia) items yourself if you are concerned about their well-being. Ask for a copy of the inventory before the mover leaves and store it with your important papers. You may need to produce that inventory record at the time of unloading, should any of your belongings be missing or damaged.

Also take the time to understand your insurance coverage. Household moves may be covered by your homeowner's insurance, but it is wise to purchase extra coverage. VALUATION pays for a loss based on the value of your belongings - however, you must prove the mover is liable for the damage in order to collect. INSURANCE pays for loss on covered items without proof of liability. Always request "full-value" valuation, which pays you for the actual cost of repairing or replacing any damaged items. Other options may short-change you in the end. And get everything IN WRITING! Your written agreements (price, delivery date, care of your belongings) are your only proof of what the mover promised you.


Ramona Creel is a Professional Organizer and the founder of -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!" Visit for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau, get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you, or get some help starting and running your own organizing business. You may contact Ramona at .

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