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Should I Hire Professional Movers or Do It Myself?

A young couple in the middle of packing sit down to research the cost of hiring professional movers.

There’s no getting around it: A move of any kind — whether it’s just across town or to the other side of the country — takes time, stress, and money. And before you make your move, you have a lot to figure out. How are you going to handle all the packing? Who’s going to actually move your stuff? Are movers worth it? And what is all this going to cost you?

For some, hiring professional movers is the right answer. Offloading the stresses of packing, heavy-lifting, and transporting is well worth the money spent. For others, saving that money through a do-it-yourself (DIY) move is the way to go. There are also ways to mix-and-match your services to get the help you really need.

When asking yourself, “Should I hire professional movers?” you have to consider a number of factors. Ultimately, the right choice comes down to what’s best for you and your family. MYMOVE is here with the necessary steps you should take to plan for a smooth move.

A step-by-step guide to determining if you should hire professional movers

To find out if you should hire professional movers or do it yourself, follow this flowchart:

flow chart to help users decide whether to hire movers or do it myself

For more details on how to decide if you should hire movers or move yourself, follow these steps:

Step 1: Take a look at your timeline

So you got that new job that’s moving you to another state, but the cincher is that you have a month to move. Or maybe you’ve sold your current home and have told the buyers that you could close in the next few weeks.

Whatever the life circumstance (and we know that there are a lot of them surrounding your move), time is one of your biggest scarcities. If you have the time to organize, pack, load, and transport your belongings, you may be able to move yourself. But if you either don’t have the time or, quite frankly, don’t want to take the time to move, you should consider hiring professionals.

Sit down with your family and be honest with yourselves. Discuss the time it would take to move and compare it to the time life allows. That will help determine if hiring movers is the way to go.

Step 2: Consider the different moving approaches

Today, there are more options than ever before when it comes to hiring professional movers. But engaging professional help with your move does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach. There are ways to cut down on the stress while also being conscious of your wallet through various hybrid moving techniques.

In order to make the best decision based on your moving needs, you have to know what kind of services are out there — starting with these four broad approaches:

Do a DIY move

This approach is for those who don’t have room in their moving budget to hire professional movers or are just natural DIY-ers. Choosing to move yourself can save you money, but will require extra time, effort, and preparation. You will be in charge of buying moving supplies (like boxes, packing paper, tape, etc.), renting a moving truck, and enlisting help with heavy lifting.

Hire self-pack movers

If you feel like you can handle the packing but don’t want to be in charge of transport and heavy lifting, hiring self-pack movers is a good choice for you. You will be in charge of buying moving supplies and packing your boxes, but can hire furniture movers to take care of the rest.

Another choice within the self-pack approach: Renting a moving container. Companies like U-Pack Moving or Pods bring you a moving container that you fill yourself. The company then puts the container on the truck and moves it to your location — where you can either unpack it or pay for it to be stored. This approach is best if you feel like you can handle the heavy lifting yourself.

Pay for professional packers, but move yourself

If it’s the packing that stresses you out most, offload the task to a professional. Professional packers are trained to treat your belongings with care, using the right materials to ensure that your things get to your new location safely. Hiring packers can save you the midnight-box packing and labeling that can cause a lot of stress during the move. You can look for professional packers online through services like Thumbtack.

This is a good approach for those who don’t have the time to devote to the tedium of packing, or for those who have valuable items that should be treated with professional care. But choosing to just hire a packing service means that the heavy lifting come Moving Day is left up to you.

Hire full-service movers

If you’re short on time or just want to cut down on the stress, hiring a moving company to do everything for you could be worth the money. From bringing the supplies to packing, lifting, and transporting, you can delegate the whole process to the pros.

If you choose to engage professional help with your move, understand what you’re paying for. Make sure you understand every moving service included in your quote. There are a lot of questions you should ask a moving company before you hire them, so make sure to shop around and compare services.

Most full-service movers include damage coverage, in case your belongings were to break during packing or transport. This offers a great safety net that isn’t included when you do a DIY move. Just make sure to double-check damage coverage policies with the moving company before hiring them.

Step 3: Examine your budget

Next to time, money is the biggest factor when deciding to hire movers. Whether you decide to hire a full-service moving company or choose to stick with one of the hybrid approaches mentioned above, those services will have to be factored into your moving budget.

As you sit down to research moving services and crunch the numbers, there are costs to consider:

Understand the starting prices:

Costs of moving companies depend on a number of factors, like distance (is it a local move or an interstate move?), your move date, the number of boxes and pieces of furniture and/or rooms, and how the company charges — do they have a set price, or do they charge by the hour or weight?

When researching moving companies, MYMOVE recommends that you gather three to four different estimates. Just to give you an idea of pricing, we researched a few of the top moving companies and gathered estimates for a 100-mile, 500-mile, and 1,000-mile move:

Here’s the range for the base moving price, which includes loading the moving truck, driving, and unpacking:

  Wheaton World Wide Moving United Van Lines and Mayflower Bellhops
100 miles $3,212.39 to $3,819.15 $3,800 $1,800
500 miles $4,080.38 to $4,872.82 $4,800 $3,000
1,000 miles $5,311.37 to $6,364.08 $5,250 $4,500

Calculate the moving cost add-ons:

Most moving companies also include optional services like packing. Electing these additional services will require an additional fee.

Both Wheaton World Wide Moving and United Van Lines offer partial and full packing services.

Here’s the price range for packing services for a three-bedroom house:

Wheaton World Wide Moving United Van Lines
100 miles Full: $1,903.44 to $2,379.07

Partial: $1,142.06 to $1,427.44

Full: $2,600

Partial: $1,300

500 miles Full: $1,903.44 to $2,379.07

Partial: $1,142.06 to $1,427.44

Full: $2,600

Partial: $1,300

1,000 miles Full: $1,903.44 to $2,379.07

Partial: $1,142.06 to $1,427.44

Full: $2,650

Partial: $1,350

Most companies also offer coverage for lost or damaged items

Wheaton World Wide Moving offered replacement valuation with estimated costs ranging from $570 to $660. United Van Lines included full valuation protection in their estimate, offering valuation coverage for up to $60,000 for $480.

Please note: These numbers are estimates and are subject to change.

Consider the costs associated with a DIY move

While doing it yourself is often cheaper, there are costs you still have to consider. Before you decide to forgo professional help, make a list of everything you will need to prepare for Moving Day.

Here are some list items to consider:

  • Moving boxes
  • Packing tape
  • Packing paper
  • Rental moving truck
  • Rental moving equipment (like furniture pads and a dolly)
  • Moving truck insurance (typically an added daily fee)
  • Gas for your moving truck
  • Pizza (or other food) for your friends and family. You’ve got to say thank you somehow, right?
  • These costs individually may seem small, but they do add up. There’s no getting by the expenses associated with moving. You have to decide what the work and effort are worth to you.

Step 4: Make your home inventory

There’s a big difference between moving a three-bedroom house and a one-bedroom apartment. Most moving companies will ask you about the size of your house because that will help them estimate how much stuff they’d move.

To help determine if hiring movers is worth it, you need to take a look around and take note of your belongings. Don’t just roughly estimate the number of things you own, make a home inventory.

Clearly listing your belongings serves multiple purposes:

It will help you determine if you and some friends can take care of the packing and heavy lifting yourselves. If you have a ton to move, we recommend saving your back and calling the pros.

A home inventory will help you keep track of your valuables during the move. If anything gets lost or damaged during the move, you will have proof it’s covered under your valuation coverage.

This list will also help when it’s time to secure homeowners or renter’s insurance.

Step 5: Be honest about your physical capacity

Moving can take a physical toll. Between the bending, stretching, and heavy lifting, there’s a chance of hurting your back or pulling a muscle. Lifting something incorrectly could result in a painful injury.

Don’t overestimate your physical capacity when planning for a move. You don’t want to have rented a moving truck only to realize you can’t lift that heavy washer or bulky armoire (even with the help of a dolly!).

Professional movers have the tools and training to keep themselves and your belongings safe. If you think that the job is too big (and too heavy!) for you and your family, consider hiring movers.

But if you do plan on doing the job yourself, follow MYMOVE’s tips to safe-guarding your back during the move.

Step 6: Enlist free help (and don’t be disappointed if there’s none to be found)

In most, if not all, cases, moving is more than a one-man job. You will need help, so don’t be afraid to ask for it. Call on your friends and family to help before and on Moving Day. Promise them that you’ll pay them in beer and pizza (or other food, if they’re gluten-intolerant).

But you might be moving on a weekday. Or you could be moving to a place where you don’t know anyone yet. Ask around and see who’s available to lend a helping hand, but be understanding if no one is free. You may have to bring in professional reinforcements.

Factors to consider when planning your move

So what are the considerations you should make when determining whether your move is going to be a do-it-yourself job or one that you’ll leave professional movers to handle?

The following factors could sway your decision one way or the other.

Cost is more than money

When it comes to cost, it’s easy to conclude that a DIY move will be cheaper than hiring professionals. However, there are some things that money can’t buy. For example, in a DIY move, you’re in charge of the heavy lifting. You could damage or lose furniture or belongings that an experienced professional’s experience could have delivered unscathed or mover’s insurance would cover.

On the other end is the cost of time, physical effort, packing supplies and gas, risk of personal injury, and other considerations that might cost you money in the long run.

So, it’s important not to just think of costs in terms of dollar signs. That’s only half the picture.

Availability of time

How soon do you need to move? If your move is planned in advance, it’s much easier to make an informed decision about how you would manage a do-it-yourself move or pay for a professional service. This gives you the time to brainstorm with all of the people involved and gather the required resources. But if you have a tight schedule, you may discover that your circumstances make the decision for you.

Distance

Distance is an essential factor to consider when deciding which moving option you’ll go with. For instance, friends and family could help you move locally. But if you’re talking about a 500-mile move, that’s a bigger ask. You might have to call in the pros.

Also, your small van may be more suitable for carrying your stuff if you’re making trips to a place nearby than it would if you were attempting to make numerous hundred-mile trips.

Amount of stuff you are moving

If you’ve lived in the same house for a few years, it may not be easy to appreciate how much stuff you’ve accumulated until the day you have to pack it for a move. While you may want to choose to DIY, there are instances where you just have too much stuff to handle. A big move with lots of boxes and furniture might require the professionals.

On the other hand, if you’re moving out of a small apartment, planning to declutter, or have been living the minimalist lifestyle, a do-it-yourself move might be a good option.

Availability of helpers

They said they’d be there for you, come rain or shine. But things come up, and commitments wear off with time. When moving, getting help from your friends, family, or neighbors isn’t always a guarantee. If you can’t find enough people you can count on, the do-it-yourself option may be impractical.

friends helping with moving boxes

Stokkete / Shutterstock

Moving yourself vs. hiring a professional mover

We took some time to look at the general pros and cons of each option. However, the advantages and disadvantages will depend on your specific situation.

For instance, one advantage of a professional moving company is that it will typically conduct a home assessment to determine the cost of your move as well as the kind of stuff they’ll be moving. They would usually dispatch a surveyor who will list every item, including the fragile, the valuable, and the ones that may need special handling.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of stuff, you might find that a DIY move has more advantages. This will ensure that the move is on your own terms.

Hiring a professional mover

Pros Cons
  • You can sit back and relax, knowing that the pros will handle everything
  • Reliable and efficient, compared to friends and family
  • The professionals will ensure that your belongings are where you want them at a specific time
  • Saves you time that you can use to attend to other tasks
  • Most professionals will provide insurance for your belongings
  • Generally more expensive
  • You’ll have to trust and allow strangers to handle your most precious belongings
  • Not very flexible if you want to make sudden changes
  • Possibility of miscellaneous charges (you’ll want to nail down a fixed cost)
  • Contracts are usually written in legal jargon (which you may not be able to fully understand)

Moving yourself

Pros Cons
  • Could save money if you don’t have the means to pay the professionals
  • You have complete control over your move
  • Gives you more flexibility since you work with your own timeframes
  • You can move at the shortest notice
  • You have to make more time available and bear the heavy lifting
  • Planning can be time-consuming and packing difficult if you are not experienced
  • Lack of experience could lead to unexpected problems
  • You’ll rely on the assistance of friends and family (who may or may not be reliable)

The bottom line

There’s no right or wrong when determining if you should hire professional movers. It all depends on your individual circumstances.

If you have the time and energy that’s required of you in a DIY move, you could save some money. But if you want to offload some stress and can fit it into your moving budget, research moving services around you. A hired helping hand could be the difference between a stressful and smooth move.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to move?

That depends on whether you’re moving alone to a new city or moving with a family, especially if you have kids. Many families don’t want to disrupt their children’s education in the middle of the school year, so they wait until the summer. However, that makes May through September the busiest time of the year to move and it’s often harder – and sometimes more expensive – to move then. Ultimately, you have to decide what’s the best time for you and your family.

How soon should I begin collecting free moving quotes?

You should start contacting moving companies at least six weeks before a relocation. That’s true even if you just want to rent a truck for a day. You want to get an early start to ensure you have time to review the estimates carefully and choose the right moving service.

Should I buy insurance when I rent a truck for a day?

Even though it may seem like an unnecessary expense, it’s smart to pay for insurance on your rented moving truck. Most moving trucks are not covered by your car insurance and you could get penalized for any scratches or dents the vehicle incurs during the move.

Should I buy movers insurance?

Probably. If you have homeowners insurance, your possessions may be covered when they’re in transit — but you have to check with your insurance provider. As previously stated, most moving companies have valuation coverage that can be purchased at an additional cost. This should cover replacements for any items that are damaged or lost while in transit.

This post was originally published on May 10, 2018. Updated on May 20, 2020.


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