Are Full-Service Movers Worth It? Here Are Cheaper Alternatives to Consider

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Buying or selling a house is a stressful marathon of endless complications—but when you’re finally done borrowing wheelbarrows of cash and signing approximately one thousand sheets of paper, you can finally relax and enjoy your new home, right? Ha ha, no of course you can’t, because the worst is yet to come: You have to move.

The logistics of moving are bad enough. The cost is something else—moving house costs an average of $1,250 for what’s considered a “local” move, while a long-distance move (1,000 miles) can run you about $5,000. And if you think hiring “full-service” movers will ease your burden at least a bit, a million horror stories will dissuade you of that notion: Mover whose price quote suddenly changes when they’re sitting in your driveway and your whole life is in boxes, movers who never show up, broken or lost possessions—even movers who hold your stuff hostage.

That’s why it’s worth considering an alternative to traditional full-service movers next time you have to uproot yourself. You might not only save money, but you’ll also spare yourself a good deal of stress. Here are some alternatives to the full-service moving company.

Just do it yourself

It seems obvious: If you don’t want to hire movers, why not do it yourself? The traditional beer-and-pizza gathering of friends and family to move you to a new home might work for a very local move when you’re relatively young—but trust me when I say that your friends will be much less willing to help out the older you get and the further you have to go.

Otherwise, you need to kick your DIY moving game up a notch. Rent a truck yourself—you might have even done that with previous moves that relied on the free labor of your exploited friends. But this time, you can hire the labor, too.

Moving labor companies let you hire the people who will pack and unpack your truck. You pack your stuff yourself, then rent a truck and a team to pack everything into it. Then you drive your stuff to your new home, where another local team helps you unload everything. Your costs will be much lower, and you’ll remain in complete control of the experience—and your stuff—the entire time, without exploiting your friends and family.

Use portable storage containers

Another option for moving without the movers is to use portable storage containers. You’ve seen commercials for these—a truck drops off a big metal container, you fill it with stuff, and the truck returns and takes all your crap to a storage facility. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that most of these storage companies also act as alternative movers, because they’ll happily take your storage container anywhere.

The costs can be a little less than moving companies—about $3 per mile, or roughly $3,000 for a 1,000-mile move—but the big advantage here is time: You don’t need to coordinate your move like it’s a precise military operation. The storage container arrives and sits there at your old house as long as you need it to. You can pack it up slowly. When you’re done, you make a call and the container goes away—but if you’re not ready to unpack it all, you can opt to leave it in storage for a while (and the storage fees will likely be less than what a moving company charges for a similar service). Then, when you’re ready, you have the container delivered to your new address where, again, you can take you time to unload it. (You can also still hire moving labor at either end of the process to unpack the container for you at your leisure.)

Freight trailers

Storage containers are a terrific idea for moving, but they tend to be on the small side. If you have a large home or a bunch of enormous furniture, you might need something more substantial. In that case you can consider a freight trailer. That’s the sort of trailer you see trucks hauling on the highways.

Similar to a storage container, the freight trailer is brought to your property and left there. Unlike a storage container, you typically have a tight schedule to get the trailer loaded up before the company comes back to pick it up. And you’re charged by volume, not weight—which means if you only fill half the trailer, you only pay for that portion. The downside? The trailer company will take that trailer somewhere else and sell the rest of the space.

Another downside is that freight companies aren’t moving companies, and provide zero services or equipment. For example, you’ll need to acquire your own furniture blankets and ensure that your furniture is secured and protected. The freight company will literally only be responsible for getting your stuff from point A to point B. The good news? Freight trailer moves cost an average of about $2,000, so you’ll be saving a lot of money, although you’ll need to crunch the numbers to take into account the costs of buying stuff like furniture blankets and hiring labor (unless you’re doing it all DIY).

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