The average professional household move costs a whopping $12,230, according to a 2010 report by Worldwide ERC, an association that tracks mobility costs. However, this cost is for a full-service professional move, in which the moving company packs up your belongings and essentially handles the entire move for you. While many people choose to hire professional movers, others opt to orchestrate the move themselves—by renting a truck through U-haul, for example (In-town moves start at $19.95, plus costs for mileage.) This is a good option if you have the manpower to move by yourself, but if that's not feasible, you may need to enlist the help of professional movers.
If you hire professionals, there are still ways you can reduce expenses, such as through tax breaks, research, and packing up small belongings before the movers arrive.
Approximately 16.7 million households move annually, with a little less than half moving in the summer months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The summer season is an especially popular time to move, because most families want to move when their children are out of school, says Julie Reynolds, a spokesperson for Moving.com, a site that connects consumers with professional moving companies.
That convenience comes with a price: A move during this busy season costs 25 percent more than moving between October and April, according to Phil Liu, co-founder of CityMove.com, a free site where consumers solicit bids from movers.
U.S. News spoke to moving experts for their best cost-saving tips when hiring movers.
Unload what you don't need. The weight of your load is a big factor in determining the price of a long-haul move. To downsize, offload your junk through services like College Hunks Hauling Junk, who will come to your house to take unwanted possessions off your hands. Another option is giving to charity. Move for Hunger, for example, accepts canned goods.
"Finding things that you can recycle, donate, give to a friend, or throw away, you can reduce the amount of items you have to transport by 40 to 50 percent," Reynolds says. She recommends starting to go through your house 60 days in advance of your move and organizing things by room.
Also measure to see if you have any furniture that won't fit in your new space, advises Linda Bauer Darr, CEO and president of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). "It's kind of like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, but you don't want to pay someone to move something that you won't use," she says.
Time it right. A mid-month move will save you the most money, as movers are busiest during the beginning and end of the month as leases turn over.
Save on boxes. You can purchase used, recycled boxes and pack small items up yourself to decrease the amount of time the movers will have to spend. You can then typically sell those boxes back to the company that you purchased them from to recoup costs, Reynolds says.
Plan ahead. Order colored tape and label which room each box goes to. "That way, you don't have to have somebody at the truck, telling the unloading crew where to put things," Reynolds says. Even better, if you snap pictures of your next home and draw on them to show the movers in advance where each item goes, you'll reduce the moving time even more.
Cover your items. A big benefit of hiring professional movers is that you can insure the expensive items you're transporting. Insurance costs extra, but will save you money in the long run if anything breaks. However, your goods might already be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance, so check your policy first.
If you purchase insurance through the mover, be clear about what you're signing. Reynolds recommends asking questions like "Is this replacement value or market value?" and "If I pack it, do I pay a different type of insurance than if your movers pack it?" Often, moving companies will offer you coverage of up to $0.60 per pound, so the insurance doesn't necessarily take into account what the items are, Bauer Darr says.
Snag a tax break. If you're moving because of a job change, you may be able to deduct certain moving expenses, such as transportation and storage costs for household goods, as well as travel and lodging expenses incurred while moving from your old home to your new home. To see if you qualify, check the IRS guidelines or consult a tax preparer.
Price it out. Reynolds advises contacting at least three professional moving companies to compare prices. You'll also want to get an in-home estimate by each mover, Bauer Darr says. That way, the mover can get a better idea of what they'll be moving and can, in turn, give you a more realistic estimate for the move. "When they come in, it's good to ask questions like, 'Is this something you should handle?' 'What are the items I should pack myself?'" Bauer Darr suggests.
Research the mover. Make sure that you're hiring a legitimate mover—a licensed company equipped with the proper insurance and resources to complete your move efficiently. "Unfortunately, it's too easy these days to put your name on the side of a truck and call yourself a professional mover," says Bauer Darr. To help you vet moving companies, AMSA provides a list of certified "ProMovers" at Moving.org. Also check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
These strategies take time, so plan ahead to ensure your move is a cost-efficient one.