Moving across town can be stressful enough, but moving across the country can compound your worries.  I’ve found that moving companies can be pretty slimy and unreliable.  Plus, you might have to coordinate having your car shipped as well as a flight for yourself.  Everything has to run like clockwork on a long-distance move or the whole thing will be messed up.

I’m on my second coast-to-coast move now.  Here are some strategies that I’ve used to find good moving companies and make things go smoother.

1. Start early

What I found during my move is that everything took longer than I expected.  I had more junk to get rid of than I thought I had (more of it kept turning up as I packed).  It took longer to clean my place than I thought it would.  Finding a good moving company took a while.  If you wait till the last minute to throw out your junk, you could easily overwhelm your trash cans.  Start early so you can spread your disposal of trash over a period of weeks.

Another area where I got burned was disposal of my mattress.  My city has a weekly curbside pickup which I missed because I didn’t think about it early enough.  Not a big deal – I just drove it the disposal place myself, but it was a pain, all because I waited too long to look into it.

2. Pare down before the move

I read an article written by a mover and his number one tip was to have a garage sale before your move.  He was astonished at the amount of worthless junk people were moving.  In my case, the cost to move items from coast-to-coast was $4 per cubic foot.  Calculate the volume of any questionable items and multiply by your cost per cubic foot.  Then ask yourself, “would I pay this much at my destination for this article?”  If not, then donate it or dump it.

Oh, and if you’re planning to put your stuff in storage at your destination, factor that cost in as well.  You might find out that, say, all of that bulky patio furniture isn’t worth moving, especially if you can sell it on Craigslist before your move.  This might be a great opportunity to simplify your life and get rid of stuff you don’t need anymore.  If you can’t sell it, then donate it and get a tax write off, or give it away and help someone in need.

3. Use a moving company, not a broker

As I went online to search for moving companies, I quickly found out that many of them were actually just brokers who used other companies to do the move.  Avoid these!!  Many of the bad reviews I found online were of brokers.  Having a middleman between you and the actual moving company is just a bad idea.  It can lead to miscommunication, finger-pointing, and lack of control, not to mention higher cost (the broker has to make some money too).

So, try to find actual moving companies who have their own moving people and trucks, not someone who will just contract the job out.  If you’re not sure if they are a broker or not, call and ask.  Often the website will not say this clearly.

4. Check the Better Business Bureau website

Once you have found a few prospective moving companies, check their rating at the Better Business Bureau website.  They give a grade from A to F, just like in school.  But beware of this scam I encountered: I was on the phone with a moving company and he encouraged me to enter their company phone number into the BBB website.  I did it and it showed they had a “B” rating, which is not bad.  I was suspicious, though, because there was very little activity for that company.  After I got off the phone, I did a search on the BBB website by company name, and found two entries with the same address.  One had the “B” rating but the other had a “D” rating!  They had set up a fake company name to hide their poor rating!  So, beware of “front” companies!  Make sure there is a large pool of people who have rated the company.

5. Check online reviews

If you simply Google the name of the moving company, you will find tons of reviews online.  Be careful, though, because different companies can have the same name in different cities or states.  This threw me off originally.  I thought I had found a really low cost mover with outstanding ratings online.  But when I compared the addresses, they were different.  So, I Googled the name of the moving company plus the city and found that the company really had poor reviews.  I know this sounds silly, but when looking at reviews, make sure you are looking at the right company.  So many different moving companies have the same name.  Compare the address to be sure.

I ended up going with the company that had the second-lowest quote (not the lowest quote), because they had much better reviews.  Note that every company has bad reviews.  No company is perfect.

6. Clearly mark your boxes with the destination room

You can make your life and your movers’ lives easier if you clearly mark your boxes with the room they need to go to (i.e., kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc.)  Otherwise, they will be constantly asking you where things go, or worse, they’ll just leave everything in your living room and you’ll have to move it yourself.  So, make things clear so they can do the work for you.  Don’t worry about numbering your boxes; the movers will (should) do that for you.

7. Use this trick to save on car shipping

If you are shipping your car, here is a trick I discovered.  Find out where the shipping company’s depot is at and drop your car off instead of having them pick it up. You can find this on their websites. In my case, the depot was four hours away in Newark, NJ, and if I drove my car there, it would save me $200 off of a $1200 cross-country shipping bill.  Now, that alone might not be worth the hassle of driving three hours, but Newark airport happened to have a lot more flights than my local one.  So, driving four hours saved me a two-hour connection plus $200, plus some airfare cost.  For me, it was worth it.

Check to see how far your shipping company’s facilities are from you.  I like being in control and dropping off my car, as opposed to waiting for someone (who may or may not show up on time) to pick it up.  (I used Dependable Auto Shippers with good results).

8. Allow extra margin in your schedule if you are flying

I read a lot of horror stories online of movers who were late or just plain didn’t show up on the day they promised.  This was disastrous for the people who had flights scheduled the next day. Don’t cut it so close.  Allow an extra day or two of “slop” just in case the movers are late or don’t show up.  It would be a real bummer to to miss your flight because your movers didn’t show up!

After your stuff is shipped, sleep in a sleeping bag or crash with a friend until your flight leaves.

9. Confirm everything with a phone call

To help prevent any no-shows, call a few days before your move to confirm your movers and your car shipper.  I was fortunate in that both my movers and car shippers were on the ball and called me to confirm.

10. Treat your movers well

Buy a case of bottled water for your movers.  They will be grateful.  Be courteous to them.  Help them carry stuff when possible.  After all, they are handling your earthly possessions.  A little courtesy can go a long way.  If they do a good job, give them a good tip and leave some good reviews for the company online, so the rest of us can benefit.

Hope these tips have been helpful to you.  Please leave your ideas as well! – Brian

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