If forced to choose between childbirth and moving a household, I’d pick childbirth any day.
Both can be deeply painful and expensive experiences. But on moving day, no one offers you an epidural. And labor tends to produce a wonderful result at the end, while moving just leaves you surrounded by boxes.
There’s another thing the two ordeals have in common: over time, the most excruciating details tend to fade from memory, which is why we’re willing to do it more than once.
With that in mind, I thought I’d remind veterans and terrify novices with some of the many hidden costs that accompany shifting from one household to the next. Given that it’s prime moving season, some of these details might be helpful to know — so you can avoid them, plan for them or use them as an excuse to stay put.
The actual move
You may think you’re prepared for the big expense of hiring professional movers, or at least a rental truck. But that’s just the beginning.
Moving supplies. Unless a corporate fairy godmother is paying for your move, you’ll need to worry about the costs of packing supplies — boxes, tape, markers, paper, bubble wrap. Boxes alone can run $2 a pop and up, with the average eight-room house requiring more than 100 boxes.
You can reduce the cost with a little footwork. Liquor stores and some grocery stores may have boxes to give away; if you start collecting a few weeks in advance, you can drastically reduce the number of boxes you need to buy.
By the way, it’s customary to tip professional movers about $25 each, according to Realty Times. Feeding them isn’t required, but pizza and sodas are usually appreciated (and all but required if you’ve dragooned friends into helping you).
A potential silver lining: if your move is job-related and your new work site is at least 50 miles from your previous one, your expenses could be deductible.
Insurance. If you’re moving yourself, you may need to purchase insurance from the truck rental company, since your regular coverage (home and vehicle) might not apply. (Call your insurers and ask.) Professional movers are legally liable for your stuff, but their level of liability can vary. The cheapest, no-additional-fee option typically only pays you pennies per pound if your possessions are lost or damaged, so you may well want to pay for extra coverage.
Moving special items. Certain big or expensive items–like pianos or cars–may require special handling, which means extra charges. Shipping a vehicle can easily add hundreds of dollars to your move, for example. Extraordinarily valuable items, like art collections or antiques, might not be covered under your mover’s regular insurance–you may need to buy extra coverage or even hire special handlers. One MSN staffer paid $450 to move a grand piano from Seattle to Portland using specially-trained movers to pack and protect the instrument during transit.
Getting hijacked by your mover. As I wrote in “Don’t get scammed by your mover,” complaints about moving companies have more than tripled in the decade since the federal government stopped regulating interstate moves. The most common tactic: Your movers take your stuff hostage and demand you pay them hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than the agreed-upon price.
You can reduce your chances of getting hijacked by getting referrals from friends who have moved recently or asking large local employers which companies they use for executive relocations.
“In transit” costs. Longer-distance moves usually incur significant travel costs, such as gas, lodging and meals.
Also remember that delays can happen on either end of a move, requiring you to cough up more than you expected on lodging, supplies or a storage facility to hold your stuff while you wait.
These expenses don’t necessarily end when you’re ensconced in your new place. You may, for instance, find yourself eating out more for days or even weeks after the move as you deal with the strain of unpacking.