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indigopierogy

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Has anyone ever hired a professional mover to move them across country? What service did you use? Did you have a good experience? Is it worth it to consider it for a cross country move?

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I found professional movers to be very expensive and even with my partner (non-academic) and our 1-2 bedroom apartment full of stuff, we didn't end up moving with professional movers for all 3 cross-country (and cross-border) moves. Instead, we just used pod-like moving services (i.e. pack your stuff into one cube and ship it). This costs about $2000 each time (the first move, we had very little and just moved by driving it ourselves). Movers were quoting us $3500-$6000.

Even for my postdoc move where my employer gave us $5000 towards moving expenses, we still opted for the cube method. We used the remaining moving allowance to drive ourselves to the new place, to pay for the costs of a apartment-hunting trip, and to pay for professional movers to pack our cube for us at our origin. This extra expense was a lifesaver though (in past moves, we recruited friends and packed it ourselves). But this time we were moving from a 3rd floor walkup, had a bunch of stuff, and my partner was pregnant, so the $450 for 2 guys to move all of our stuff into their truck, drive it to the cube's depot, and pack the cube, all within 3 hours, was well worth it (other moves had us and 2-3 friends work 4-5 hours each to get it all done because we aren't professionals!)

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@TakeruK So with the pod, did the Pod Service, ship it for you? My significant other and I have two cars, so I'm not super keen on hitching one to a U-Haul. Also, I am disabled, so the prospect of having to lug a very heavy IKEA sofa doesn't appeal to me much! I wonder if I could just get a mover service to put stuff into the pod? We're just in the consideration period, as the move itself is a few months away.

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The other thing to keep in mind with professional movers is that it can take 2-8 weeks for your stuff to arrive at the destination after they pack it up.

With moving cubes, you can choose local movers to load the cube. You then call the company and they pick it up and ship to to the destination (which can be their warehouse or your new residence depending on the company and the option you choose). Then, once again, you can hire local movers once you arrive to unload everything at your place. I've done three cross-country moves, all using a moving cube service (I'm most familiar with ABF U-Pack but have also looked into PODS and U-Haul). 

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@indigopierogy: Yes, the pod service ships the cube/box/pod/whatever you want to call it for you! To clarify, as @rising_star said, we used a local moving company to load the cube for us in the most recent move. Here's a quick summary of my experience with these moving pods.

Things that seem to be common across the two companies we used and the many others we considered/researched:
- You pay for the shipment of the pod as well as "rent" for the pod (sometimes this is a separate charge, sometimes not)
- Generally, you* load the pod at the pod's depot near your origin city and unload the pod at the pod's depot at your destination city, however, you can often pay more for door-to-door service (they will drop off the pod right at your origin apartment, you load it and then they pick it up after 3 days, then drop it off at your destination apartment, you unload it, and then they pick it up after 3 days). We found this to be more expensive and not practical (not every place has an area where they can just drop off such a pod)
- There is often some grace period where you are notified of the pod's arrival in your destination city and you have to come unload it. After this period ends, they will charge you for storage. Alternatively, you can view this as a way to store your belongings for relatively cheap if you aren't moving right away and don't want to keep your old apartment just to store your stuff (it's like $150/month for storage usually).
- If you are shipping across international borders, there's a lot of extra paperwork. Be aware!
- You can pay for insurance. Usually if you have renter's insurance, it will cover the contents of your pods too, but check your policy.

In 2012, we used the U-Haul U-Box pod service to move from eastern Canada to southern California. It was one of the few pod services that was affordable at the time, but it was very new to our origin location. I won't get into the details but there was a huge mixup by the originating U-Haul where we almost did not get a U-Box on the day we were supposed to load it (and the day before we left forever) and their paperwork screwup meant that the estimated delivery time of 2 weeks ended up taking 4 weeks. In addition, back then (maybe even now) U-Haul did not actually ship the box themselves. It was contracted to a third party company and there was no way to contact them. So we had no idea where our stuff was when we were trying to settle into a PhD program. Because all U-Haul locations are independently run, there's almost no contact and very little customer service support from their national hotline. Very stressful. Fortunately, we prepared for this scenario by moving a few necessities including an air mattress which we took with us as checked luggage so we ended up camping in our new apartment for almost a month. The U-Haul centre at our destination could not believe the screw up that happened and rented us a truck and equipment to unload the U-Box at our destination and move into our apartment for free. Their manager even gave us his personal phone number and was trying to figure out where our stuff went on our behalf. Excellent and competent service there, but not much they could do for the screwups of the other location. In the end, we did get everything but this is a HUGE downside to a non-centralized system that U-Haul had (and maybe still has?). The cost for the U-Box service (not counting costs to rent equipment to load it) was about 1900 CAD, which was also around 1900 USD at the time.

In 2017, we used ABF U-Pack to move from southern California to western Canada. This was way better than U-Haul. They ship the boxes themselves and you can track the progress of your box with an online dashboard as they drive it on their trucks. They were much more professional and had everything ready for us, unlike U-Haul! Once you load up the truck and sign the forms, they give you a guaranteed delivery time (within some range) and it only took 5 days. You get a 3 day grace period to unload---it actually arrived earlier than we were ready for it (new apartment not yet ready) but they were happy to accommodate.

The cost for shipping the U-Pack box was about 1500 USD. We could have paid an extra 150 USD for ABF to deliver the U-Pack box to our origin apartment, however, we had no place to put such a box. Instead, we chose to hire local movers at a cost of 450 USD for 3 hours (minimum 3 hour booking) to move all of our stuff from our apartment, down 2 stories to load up their truck, drive that truck 30 mins away to the ABF depot, and then load up the U-Pack box expertly (they packed things way better than we could have). So, it was really only 300 USD more to use professional movers and it was well worth it for us. The only "catch" was that ABF would only deliver the U-Pack box to their depot on the Canadian side of the border (they don't have a permit to ship in Canada or at least, it might have cost them more and they didn't want to do that). Luckily, we have family near we were moving to, so my family and I rented a U-Haul truck in Canada, drove to the depot, unpacked the box, and moved it to our new place. Could have also hired local movers in this case but we chose not to. 

We moved ourselves by car. Nice drive up the I-5 :) It sounds like for your case, hiring local movers at both ends to load/unload the cube would be a great idea, and then just driving your two cars to the new place might work. You could look into shipping your car but those were quite expensive (we considered shipping our car and taking a plane to move ourselves, but it was about $1000 to ship the car and we would be reimbursed for mileage by my employer so we decided to enjoy the road trip).

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I can't vouch for the experience in moving, but I had a very pleasant experience booking with U.S. National Movers. I'll be moving from Colorado to Connecticut, and all they needed was a time frame and an estimate of what I would be moving. To give you an idea, I'll be moving ~1 bedroom, living room, and kitchen, and they quoted me for ~$1,700. I had initially wanted to use the pods, as I don't mind moving the furniture around, but this ended up being cheaper than ever option I found, and I can't say I'm not looking forward to having someone else to the moving for me.

They told me that it was cheaper because I was booking out of peak season. This could very well just have been a sales tactic, but I was satisfied nonetheless, so if you start looking now, you can probably find a good deal.

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@Paleoman , did you have to give them an inventory list? Also, $1700 is definitely a price I could swing, but the thing I'm worried is moving and then the quoted price being vastly different than when all of my things are actually delivered. I have also heard of people not having all of their things being delivered (i.e. "lost") or just being destroyed in the move. I'll have to look up the company you're trying though, and see what their reviews are.

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@indigopierogy, I gave them a vague inventory ("X-sized bed+frame, dresser, a few bookshelves, table) so that they could gauge how much space I needed. In terms of the price, we have signed a contract and I've made a down payment so I'm not worried about that changing unless something drastic comes up.

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@Paleoman, did they do an actual walkthrough? In my experience (I've looked into moving companies several times), the estimates I got by telling them what I had and the estimates I got when people came and did a walkthrough were vastly different. I'd also double-check that contract because I doubt a company would agree to an estimate over the phone without giving themselves wiggle room in case you have more stuff than estimated (just to give an example).

@indigopierogy, there are sooo many moving horror stories on the internet. One thing you might do is contact the HR department wherever you're going and ask if they work with or recommend specific moving companies to incoming faculty/postdocs. You may not be able to get a new employee discount but it will give you the names of some hopefully reputable movers.

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5 hours ago, indigopierogy said:

@Paleoman , did you have to give them an inventory list? Also, $1700 is definitely a price I could swing, but the thing I'm worried is moving and then the quoted price being vastly different than when all of my things are actually delivered. I have also heard of people not having all of their things being delivered (i.e. "lost") or just being destroyed in the move. I'll have to look up the company you're trying though, and see what their reviews are.

I used a professional moving service when I went from NC to AZ, and it was the worst experience of my life. They gave me a window of about 7 days when my stuff would arrive in AZ, but it took another 6 days after that for them to show up. Then they held my stuff hostage while I argued with some clerk in Minnesota about the price, which had doubled, because they said that my items had somehow grown from 900 lbs to 1600 pounds on their way down I-40. Her argument was that there were things in the move that I hadn't listed in my initial inventory on which they'd based their quote -- like my vacuum and an additional 2 boxes. Ended up paying them the difference because if you don't, they'll hold it for thirty days, adding $150/day for storage, and then Storage Wars your stuff if you don't give in within that time. Also, three of my boxes didn't make it. So basically I paid an extra thousand bucks for my vacuum and negative one boxes. :/

I'm about to move back east for grad school and based on the math and the aggravation, pods seem the way to go, especially since it's based on whatever you can stuff in the pod and not on weight (I'm an English major, I GOT BOOKS). At least, the U-haul Ubox isn't. I can't tell with PODS and U-pack because their website doesn't give you any info, you have to put in your contact and wait for them to call you (nope). With U-haul, a pod from PHX to LEX is about $1500 ... renting a 10' truck, before gas, is about $1300, so why not?

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@GallifreyGirl, just FYI, there is a max weight limit on moving cubes. The guy who moved my most recent ReloCubes (that's what ABF calls them) said he'd only ever seen it be an issue once, when a person loaded the cube full of boxes of books. Basically, it was too heavy to lift with the forklift they bring to the site so they had to have the person reload the cube and come back later to pick it up. 

Also, you should be able to get an estimate online from U-Pack. I certainly always have... (P.S. If the rate for ABF goes up between when you get your original quote and when you book, they're usually able to honor the original quote. And they used to have a student discount of like $50, which isn't much but every little bit helps.)

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Thanks for the info, @rising_star ... definitely something to keep in mind. I've been trying to do some Swedish Death Cleaning but ... [insert Stanley Kowalski voice] MY BOOKS!

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I have hired a professional mover twice for my cross state moves.  First one was from the East Coast to the Midwest and it was around $2,300 for a 1 bedroom apartment.  I had a great experience - no damage and they were very professional.  They couldn't give me an exact date for when the stuff would come, but it was a range of a week I want to say, and they call you the day before to say what they are dropping off. It took about 2 weeks for my stuff to get there. 

The second move was from the Midwest to the South and it was about $3200 for a 2 bedroom apartment. My professional movers actually packed it in cubes instead of putting it on a large truck.  They were able to tell me the exact drop off date which was nice, but it was still about 1.5 weeks from when they picked up.  Unfortunately, they didn't pack the cubes very well so there was a lot of damage to my stuff.  I got reimbursed for all the damage (around $1K) but it was a lengthy process because I had to fill out a lot of forms, document the damage, and have insurance adjusters come by to see what can be repaired and what could not be.

My advice is you need to do a lot of homework on each company - get an in-person quote, make sure the company is licensed, bonded, and insured (at minimum), ask for a binding quote if you are not going to do cubes so they can't change prices on you, and ask for references from the company of recent customers.  They should also give you free boxes or a stipend towards boxes.  I always got 3-4 quotes and then chose a quote in the middle that seemed to have the best reputation. 

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I did when I moved from Texas to Chicago.  I had everything in a storage unit in Texas, and had movers pack it up and truck it to Chicago, then drop it off at my flat there. It's been a few years, but I believe it was ~8000 and took 3 weeks.  I did very little to pare down my belongings.  For example, I brought my bed, chairs, tables, couches, etc.  If I had to do it over again, I'd get rid of all that sort of stuff that can be easily replaced.  The costs are based on weight, so the more you can get rid of, the better.


I think my moving company was United.  Although expensive, I did find them very professional.  It was fully insured, so if anything had gotten broken, I'd've been able to claim it.

 

Also, I know the feels about BOOKS.  I've been packing mine up.  I'm so far at "Book box 6," in addition to the two boxes of cookbooks (they were my mom's and grandma's!  I can't get rid of them!), and a box of "Books that have changed lives."  So I know the feels.

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@rising_star, That is a really good idea! I know where I am most likely going, and it also just happens to be the school that is furthest away, so its probably going to be the most expensive. I've been checking the US gov't's sources on moving companies, they keep a log of all the complaints that are lodged against USDOT registered companies and what the complaints are about. While it doesn't get into specifics, its still useful to know if I'm looking at a company with 0-5 complaints vs hundreds in the past 4 years. 

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