I like to move it, move it
June 13, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Trying to plan a cross-country move. Having trouble finding a company to actually move my stuff. Alternatives to PODS?

So my family is moving from the SF Bay area to Florida.

We have a 3 bdrm house. We are planning to cut down on our possessions drastically, but there are still a good number of things that need to get shipped. According to my calculations, I don't think selling everything and rebuying will save enough money to make it worth my time.

I think we'd be able to pack everything in one of the larger PODS. They have quoted me $6K for the move. And they'll need 9 business days to move by stuff. Ouch.

I talked to ABF U-Pack, and they quoted me $4.5K and 5 business days, which seems a tad more reasonable. Then they told me that my street is too narrow and hilly for their trucks, so nuh-uh.

The major moving companies (like Allied) won't give me quote unless I make an appointment for someone to come look at all my stuff. I'm guessing they'll cost more than PODS. Is that a correct assumption?

Are there any other moving companies I should consider? Anyone have experience with Old Dominion Freight Lines?
posted by gnutron to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I moved my family from the midwest to Washington DC last summer -- about 900 miles. I used United Van Lines, and was mostly happy with them. I looked into ABF, Pods, and other van lines and didn't get a quote even close to what United gave me. They quoted ~$6,000 for everything, including coming to my house and packing all of my shit up, which was nice. And yeah, they sent someone out to do a spot check on what we have to give us a quote, but it was quick and free. Plus the quote they give you then is the maximum -- if your stuff ends up weighing more, they eat the cost of the difference, not you.

I had various problems with the actual movers (they were deadbeats), but United was responsive and accommodating; after my complaints, we settled with a 15% refund on the total cost of the move, so it ended up costing closer to $5k. I think I just got unlucky with who happened to be actually moving me. Probably something that could happen no matter which company you chose.
posted by wordsmith at 1:56 PM on June 13, 2013

I had a good experience getting moved across country by Mayflower, and will be using them again for my next (imminent) cross-country move. The appointment for an estimate isn't a big deal. Someone just comes to your house and you point out what is being moved and what isn't, if you want any special help with packing, etc. It gives you a good time to ask questions too, and as wordsmith said, the quote is nice because it does set a max for your costs. I've been very lucky and had good movers so far with them.
posted by ninjakins at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2013

In my experience, the driver may work for the company or own the cab with a contractor's agreement with the moving company. The packers might be ok, the muscle men might be casual labor off the street corner. Pictures of your stuff before the packing will save you some arguments about who caused that big scratch on the dining room table.
posted by Cranberry at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2013

Suddath moved us twice (from Atlanta to Philadelphia and back again), and they were just fine. In both cases, we got estimates from a few different out-of-town-moving companies, a guy came in, eyeballed everything, wrote up a quote for the estimated weight, and left.

They did nearly all of the packing, numbered and logged each box, then cross-checked the boxes during the unloading. Large furniture got disassembled and re-assembled by their guys to boot.

The packing was a day or two before by a separate crew. Two of the guys who loaded also drove the truck (I assume) because they were on the other end to unload it as well.
posted by jquinby at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

....and yes, take care to note any damage. Some wooden furniture got dinged somewhere along the way and they sent a woodworking/cabinetry guy out to our place for the repairs, which were invisible when he was done.
posted by jquinby at 2:05 PM on June 13, 2013

We had less stuff than you, but we did ABF U-Pack. Radiofiance loaded our stuff into a rented truck and drove it over to ABF and loaded it into their container. Then reverse a week later. It involved a lot of work on his part but was worth the savings for us.
posted by radioamy at 2:09 PM on June 13, 2013

Any reputable moving company will do a pre-move survey for no cost, especially in a big city. In San Fransisco, try Allied Nor-Cal, or try an agent with United, Atlas, northAmerican or Mayflower. They will not be cheaper than a self-move, but they will get the job done.

For small POD-esque shipments, you can also try My Move Options or Expat Relocation Solution's Expedited Transport and Arrival (ETA) program.
posted by lstanley at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, I have to use Old Dominion for work all the time, and they're just terrible. Your shit probably won't make it. It will be late, have a slurpee spilled on it, it will just disappear for two weeks and then show up after the company already told you it's lost, or the driver will try and sell you drugs. They're one of the cheapest freight line for a reason, and they typically only work with palletized stuff, so they're kind of bad for moving anyways..

We did a move from Oregon to Maine last year and just finished up the reverse a couple weeks ago using Door to Door & ABF-upack different times. Door to door uses wood pods that are a bit smaller. ABF uses metal ones that are indestructible. All the POD type service is probably going to be a good 5-10 business days depending on the distance of the move. ABF-Upack was two days later than their quote, and Door to Door was a day late.

You don't mention if the ABF service you were looking at was for their pods system, or for their trucks. I would double check and see if ABF-Upack will let you use their pods system, as they also have a larger truck service that is a bit more hinkey. They seem to have their customer service pretty together, which is really nice. If you can find someplace nearby that will let you park the pods, that might be a really good option. Once the actual driver drops off/picks up your pods, you can just tip them really well and they'll drop it wherever. The drivers and the dispatchers/customer service phone people often don't talk to each other much.

They have some coverage gaps, but I doubt SF or Florida would be a problem, but Door To Door does the same thing as ABF and PODS, for a price closer to ABF. Their customer service is kind of terrible, and the transit time was a bit longer overall, but you get what you pay for.

Be sure to wrap everything in moving blankets. Those pods bump around quite a bit in transit.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:01 PM on June 13, 2013

The shipping times you'll get from a moving company are best case numbers (if that) no matter that they guarantee it, say they will put you up in a hotel, etc. You're dealing with a salesperson who has much more incentive to make the sale than to make you happy, as a one-time customer.

A moving truck going that distance will probably have multiple stops along the way, unloading and loading. So take Mayflower's 5 day with a big grain of salt.
posted by zippy at 4:00 PM on June 13, 2013

I've moved with Allied, United and Mayflower. These were corporate moves so I didn't select the moving company. I found all three to be very similar.

BTW, don't underestimate the value of having someone show up with the Right Size Boxes and pack. Good moving boxes make things stack securely in the truck and that means less stuff is damaged. Plus, they pack up your stuff in a few hours.

It would be worth having the big moving companies come give you a quote.
posted by 26.2 at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2013

I used FlatRate several years ago and it was my best non-local move EVER. (I move every 2-3 years.) They were able to provide a quote via phone (we went through each room and I named every item and size [small, medium, large]). They were also able to adjust my quote when I got rid of some stuff. The people loading the truck were so careful wrapping everything. And the best part is the estimate was reliable -- the price was the price. (I packed everything myself, mostly in sturdy 18-30 gallon Rubbermaid tubs, with a sticker on each one with my full name and phone number. It worked like a dream.)

I was very frustrated years ago to do a move with one of the big three moving companies. An estimator with a dozen years of experience came to my home, looked around for five minutes, and called it done. His quote was a full $500 off. The movers were 7 hours late dropping off my stuff. Boxes were lost forever. Stuff was broken.
posted by mochapickle at 6:47 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

You want to go with a national company like Mayflower or United- it will be much cheaper in the end. And yes, they will come do a walk through and give you an estimate for free with no obligation, so you can ask both companies to come do a walk through and give you an estimate. When they do the walk through you can say "that table will be gone, that bookshelf will be gone" etc, so you don't have to wait until you've gotten rid of the things you're selling.
posted by lyra4 at 5:12 AM on June 14, 2013

Estimates from a couple of the big companies are well worth it, and likely cheaper than you think. My partner and I used United and Allied for our Bay Area-to-Boston and Boston-to-Bay Area moves, and both times were surprised that it wasn't much more expensive than packing and driving a UHaul ourselves, and the convenience (other people packing the truck, their experience dealing with street permits for the truck, the insurance) was more than worth the bit of extra cost. I think the last move--a 2BRs worth of stuff, including a heavy bed and a lot of heavy electronics, from Boston to Berkeley--was a bit over $5K. On one of the moves they broke a couple pieces of furniture irreparably, but the insurance process was relatively painless and we were reimbursed promptly.

This is a great guide to finding a reliable moving company. Important takeaway:
Never hire a mover who gives you a quote based on cubic feet. Never, ever sign blank paperwork, and know what you're signing. Read the document, understand it and don't worry about making the moving company wait.
Also, before you sign paperwork with the movers you choose, make sure the quote is binding, which means they can't suddenly decide to charge you more when they get to the destination and hold your stuff hostage until you pay.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:24 PM on June 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

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