Best way to move from Chicago to Milwaukee
September 15, 2009 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Need recommendations for the best (read: lowest stress) way to move from Chicago to Milwaukee. We've never dealt with a moving company before.

We've moved three times in the last five years and it has ROYALLY SUCKED each time, probably because we did it ourselves (with help from family). So we're willing to pay someone this time, but we don't want to get ripped off. We have an average amount of stuff for a middle-class couple with no kids. A bedroom, a living room, 2 home offices, kitchen stuff. Nothing particularly valuable; we'll move the few sentimental things on our own.

We've had one of the most stressful summers on record, so I'd like this to go as smoothly as possible. Your suggestions?
posted by desjardins to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go with one of the big national movers-- Mayflower, Allied, Bekins, etc. They'll be a little more expensive than Joe Movers, but there will be no fucking around with holding you up for another grand before they'll take your shit out of their truck.

Get estimates from several, and go with the ones who seem most together and professional. If they won't do an in-person estimate, cross them off your list and move on.

Also, tip the dudes who are carrying your shit, and have a fridge full of bottles of water for them.
posted by dersins at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2009

Seconding dersins recommendation of a big national mover. Having moved more than a dozen times over the past 20 years, I can say with certainty that this is the way to go. For me, saving a couple of hundred dollars on a cheaper mover would not be worth it. I would go with the most professional outfit possible, not with the cheapest. There are too many moving horror stories. I have moved into and out of different apartments in Chicago and have moved from the city up to the suburbs and have always used the big national chains. Memail me if you want me to dig up a couple of names for you.
posted by Kangaroo at 9:26 AM on September 15, 2009

MovingScam has lots of resources, including forums with recommendations and places to ask questions.
posted by kimdog at 9:28 AM on September 15, 2009

I would look on Angie's list...
posted by xammerboy at 9:30 AM on September 15, 2009

Having done two cross-country moves myself (both with Atlas), I'll also chime in and say that having a big reputable company perform the move was worth it. They managed all the logistics, including assembly and dismantling of furniture and they even packed the kitchenware (glasses/dishes/etc.). My desk was damaged and Atlas paid the claim without hassle. Reading some stories on the internet, I doubt that some of the less reputable companies would do the same. Also, though the large firms are insured, you'll want to confirm with your insurance company that everything is insured while on the truck between your old place and your new place. If the truck is involved in a crash etc. you'll want to be sure that you're covered for all your contents. Finally, make sure that you inventory everything as you pack boxes. That was what made the difference for me between a good move and a great one. When I arrived at my new place and knew what items were in each box, it make it easy to locate essential items and streamlined unpacking. Also, keep all your essential tools (hammer/screwdriver/wrench) easily accessible.
posted by galimatias at 9:45 AM on September 15, 2009

You are fortunate that you are moving interstate. Federal regulations prevail, and there are some nice ones, for consumers. You are entitled to a "binding estimate". That means it will only cost what they tell you, in writing.

You move will probably be handled by the same people at both ends. That's a good thing. Do use a national chain. However, your move will be as good as the local agent that does it. What affiliation they have makes little, if any, difference. If someone can recommend a local agent there in Chicago, that's better than chance.

If you have original cartons for any of your appliances/electronics, use it! You can do it with the movers (if they're packing), you can do it yourself. If you're concerned about breakage, understand, usually they insure only what they pack themselves.
posted by Goofyy at 9:46 AM on September 15, 2009

I've personally never had ocasion to hire a mover, but my brother and sister have both used Adamantine Spine Moving, based in Iowa City, for long-distance moves. Based on my own involvement in both moves, I would recommend those guys without reservation. I have no idea how their rates compare to the national outfits, though.
posted by bricoleur at 9:50 AM on September 15, 2009

This may be obvious, but do a garbage/give-away sweep prior to the movers coming. It'll cut down on the cost of your move and make unpacking easier on the other end. Hired movers have zero sentimental attachment to your stuff, so whether it's a priceless antique or just junk, they'll wrap it and pack it and move on without a second thought. This is mostly a positive thing, because it means they get the job done fast.

We were very happy with our Mayflower movers, but I'm still finding carefully wrapped garbage as we unpack our last boxes.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:10 AM on September 15, 2009

Packers! We used one of the big reputable moving companies for our last cross-country moves and while the movers were just okay (so slow at actually packing/unpacking the truck and every single item not boxed was scuffed or dented or otherwise worked over), the packers were awesome. A half dozen guys descended upon our place and within three hours had our entire two-bedroom place dismantled and neatly packed into regularly sized boxes. Nothing the packers packed broke. If I was ever to do such a move again, I'd spring for the packers, but probably do the moving myself.

I also purged about 25% of our stuff before moving and my only regret was that I didn't get rid of more.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 10:30 AM on September 15, 2009

I've heard very good things about Pods and Bekins from friends.

Definitely check out (mentioned above) and also Consumerist, who also have some interesting articles about dishonest moving company tactics.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2009

We're in the middle of this now (packing now, moving next week). We got 3 or 4 estimates in the spring, two from interstate but kind of local movers (recommended to us by my husband's company) and two from national firms (Allied and Mayflower). We chose the local affiliate of Mayflower because they have moved us twice before, were professional, never broke anything, were able to manoeuver an armoire around a corner and through a door with 1/4" clearance, and had the cheapest estimate by far with the most 'freebies' thrown in (like the canoe).

You can get estimates for no packing, packing of a few bulky or odd-shaped things (mattresses, mirrors, art, e.g), a partial pack, or full packing. Otherwise the price is based on distance and weight, so reducing the weight of your goods through winnowing is well worth it.

We've bought some insurance from Mayflower for this move -- after finding out that our homeowner's policy wouldn't cover it if the moving van ran off the road and all our goods were smashed to smithereens.

The one time I moved with local movers, when I was a renter, it went fine but I had a lot less stuff then, and a lot less big, bulky stuff. We don't have kids either but we still have a heap o' stuff.

We do tip the movers if they're friendly, efficient, and professional, which they always have been. And we offer sandwiches, chips and soda/water for them on loading and unloading day.

There will be some items (they're listed online at movers' sites -- here's Mayflower's list) you will have to move yourselves, like plants, opened cleaning and gardening items, medicines, flammable and explosive things, important documents, perishable food.

Good luck!
posted by mmw at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2009

By all that is holy, if you want your stuff to survive unbroken & arrive on time, do not use Mayflower! My husband & I used them to move from MT to WI. It was a horrible, awful, terrible experience. All of our worldly belongings -- everything we owned except our cats and a small suitcase for each of us, was loaded onto a Mayflower truck in MT. It was late December, and the truck was meant to arrive in WI to unload at the new house in 4-5 days. It got lost for THREE WEEKS. We called Mayflower daily and was given the runaround, "Oh just another day or two, he was delayed by storms," "driver had a family emergency," "woops there was another storm," and about 2 weeks into it they even had the b_lls to tell me our driver went on vacation! With our truck full of stuff! When they finally did find our truck, some other guy delivered it (Mayflower never did tell us what happened to our driver); and most of our things were damaged. They didn't wrap or pad anything well enough: all the mirrors had permanent scratches across their faces, several glass picture frames broken, stereo smashed to pieces, wooden furniture gouged & scraped. I had to put in a damage claim and they only paid half what was reported. I can hardly imagine how it could go much worse.

But anyway, I can say with confidence that we've had nothing but good luck (yay!) with Two Men and A Truck. We've used them for two moves and a couple of smaller furniture deliveries and they've been great.

Good luck with your move to WI! Welcome across the Cheddar Curtain!
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 4:27 PM on September 15, 2009

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