Have you hired movers to pack for you? How was it? Any tips?
December 30, 2014 12:12 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn more about hiring movers to pack up your place before moving: Advice, tips, experiences, pros and cons, etc.

Mrs ManInSuit and I are about to move from our small 3-bedroom-ish apartment into a slightly less small house. In the past, when I've moved, I've boxed everything up myself, and hired movers to carry the boxes and furniture.

This time, I'm really tempted by the prospect of having movers come and pack stuff up for us. I hate packing up an apartment. Ive never done this before, assuming it was prohibitively expensive. A couple of phone calls suggest it'd cost under a grand, which seems to me like a not-unreasonable amount of money to pay to avoid the misery of apartment-packing. Most notably: When I pack my apartment myself, it generally means I live in state of stress and disorder for, like, a week or two, with half my stuff in boxes, boxes all over, etc. My understanding is that with pro movers, they can just come the day before the move (or even the day of) and pack *everything*. That seems like great magic.

I'm interested in hearing from people:

1) Have you had movers pack for you? If so, what was it like? Would you recommend it?
2) Can you offer any thoughts on pros and cons of doing this?
3) Any tips if we do go this route? Things to do, to watch out for?

Also: Mrs ManInSuit may want to pack one or two rooms herself (She hates packing less than I do). Any reason not to do a "hybrid" move like this, where we do some of the packing, and the movers do some?


(ps: if it matters: I am in Toronto, moving to a new place less than a quarter mile from where I live now...)
posted by ManInSuit to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
We did this, with a similar scale and distance of move. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly. They were fast and impersonal and were able to just pack stuff without the agonising about whether to keep it or where to put it. It took a day for them to pack, then we moved the next day.

so in answer to your questions:
1) yes, great, yes
2) pros listed above, no cons that I can think of (as long as the money isn't an issue)
3) it was 8 years ago so I can't remember any particular pitfalls or tips that might be useful. Keep your movers well-supplied with the beverage of their choice.

I can't see a problem with your partner doing some of the packing - you might need to ask the movers to quote a price after that's done, though, so they can assess the scale of what they need to do.

Good luck! Moving sucks.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:20 PM on December 30, 2014

Make sure you get a binding quote. Because I'm shocked it was that cheap (though I guess it depends on where you live). Make sure the quote includes the cost of packing materials, labor, the truck, etc. Make sure that there is a guarantee as to how much over they can charge you if the job ends up taking longer than planned. Insist on a walk-through of your current house so that they can't later say "it's going to be twice as much money because we had no idea you had so much stuff," or whatever. Get recommendations from friends and read Yelp reviews of your movers to make sure you're working with someone relatively honest. The quotes you get over the phone are not binding, so get a contract and read it carefully, so that you don't end up getting ripped off, which is pretty common in the moving industry.
posted by decathecting at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do it. It's a million times faster and less stressful. The only tiny downside is you might have less of a sense of what's in each box after the move than if you'd packed and inventoried it yourself. Still, having done both, I'd definitely invest in packing again.
posted by judith at 12:26 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used movers who packed for my last two moves because I hate packing. Both times from two bed apartments. They came the day of the move, took about 3-4 hours to pack everything. I would recommend it.

Never had anything broken. It's pretty easy to hang around and it also meant as they cleared each room, I could do the tidying necessary for it.

It's worth making sure
a) you keep anything you don't want packed completely separate and make it clear. The packers get into a rhythm and don't consider what might not need packing which is how I ended up taking the fridge instructions and the grill pan handle from my last apartment.
b) Anything particularly fragile then you pack yourself. You can ask them to drop off boxes early.
c) Think about whether you want them to unpack or you'd rather do it yourself. In both cases, I've unpack myself and most of the places (admittedly this is the UK) will pick up the boxes afterwards.

In the UK at least movers who pack wasn't much more expensive than normal movers with the bonus that some moving companies will only insure your goods in transit if they packed them.
posted by Wysawyg at 12:30 PM on December 30, 2014

I've had movers pack my house as part of a relocation package from my employer, I've never chosen or paid them myself. Things I learned:

- clean and organize the house before they show up. Whatever is in the room gets packed, so you might unpack the bedroom box and find your dirty coffee cup that you left in the bedroom.
- gather up the stuff you don't want them to pack, as if you're packing for a weekend away that begins when they arrive; don't leave your cell phone charger plugged in by the bed, because it will be buried in a box for the next 2 weeks.
- if you pack your own boxes, the contents won't be insured. (definitely not insured against breakage, since that would be like guaranteeing that you packaged your stuff correctly; probably insured against the box going missing, but only at the level of $1/lb or so, check your contract)
- getting payout from movers' insurance is a pain in the butt, and their estimate of the value of your stuff is pretty low; but htat's an issue whether they're packing it or just moving it.
- consider buying a roll of bright colored tape (blue/green painters tape, or bright pink flowered washi tape) and marking all the things you want them not to pack.
- be prepared for it to take longer than they thought. A lady came over, walked through the house, and ticked off all sorts of stuff on a clipboard. The guys showed up with a stack of boxes and packing materials, and had done just over half the house when they ran out of boxes. Had to come back the next day with more boxes. Apparently we store things too densely/efficiently? Or have too much stuff? huh.
posted by aimedwander at 12:30 PM on December 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

One time when I moved I was on an expense account and opted to have the movers pack me. It was a corporate relocation, so I may have gotten a corporate (i.e., marked up) rate. It cost--no joke--$10,000 to move from the NYC suburbs to downtown Boston. It was just a one-bedroom to a one-bedroom, both in high rise buildings with freight elevators.

But it was glorious. They swooped in and my apartment went from 0% packed to fully packed in, like, 3 hours. Since then it's always taken me weeks to pack up my stuff when moving.

I'd highly recommend getting movers to pack up you up if you can afford it. I would be flabbergasted if it cost as little as the quote you've got, unless you have next to no stuff.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:31 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did this, to ship my house full of furniture etc from Australia to the US. They came & had my 3 bedroom house packed & ready to go in less than half a day, the packing included a bunch of antiques, including an antique sewing machine & rocking horse. All arrived at my US address 3 months later where some other guys unpacked it. The only damage a small chip to one plate in a box I packed as I didn't trust the professionals, silly me, the professionals know how to pack well & fast. .

As others have said make sure the cost includes all packaging materials, I had to pay extra for my awkward sewing machine & horse as they didn't fit in standard boxes. They will pack every single thing though if you don't keep an eye on them, they even packed a box I had filled with rubbish etc to throw out, which was a surprise the other end let me tell you.

But as someone that has moved a lot in her life, if I can in anyway afford it I intend to pay movers to do it for me from now on that is how I will move, even a mile or so across town, so much less stress. I used a super reputable big name company, with great reviews, which cost me more than hiring Joe Bloggs & his mate with a truck, but was totally worth it.
posted by wwax at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: I'm shocked it was that cheap
To be clear - The figure "about a grand" is the part of the estimate that just covers the packing component of the move. The total quote was closer to $2000, which includes the van, the boxes, and actual moving...
posted by ManInSuit at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just did this 10 days ago - Two Men and a Truck. Since I didn't make the joke (they waited all day for it), they pointed out it was "Eight Men and Two Trucks".

Very polite. Very good. They didn't wrap a fragile, unframed piece of artwork (previously on the Green), just stacking other papers on it, but miraculously nothing happened. One already-cracked pottery piece smashed; eh. The other already-cracked one came through unchanged. They carefully noted all items that were prior-damaged (and had me sign off on them, calling me to note them as they found them).

They won't touch any liquids, or opened food containers.

$3200 for 2x16' of truck, FULLY packed, loaded, and moved into rooms in the new house. They told me they don't debox, but that's OK.


I've done this one other time, and one item got stolen: my Leatherman tool. This time around I put that in my pocket.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a good experience with packers who kept a fairly detailed inventory of every box they packed. I paid $500 for something like 30 boxes.

To amplify what others are saying about cleaning up first: maybe instead of packing, you might consider doing a de-clutter before the packers come. It's surprising and illuminating to unpack worthless stuff that you would have taken straight to the curb or the trash if you'd been packnig yourself.

Part of why I only paid $500 was that my partner, less packing-averse than I, did pack a third or more of our total boxes before the packers came. There's a chance your partner might feel like doing the same, and it's probably worth having clear communication about this.
posted by xueexueg at 12:39 PM on December 30, 2014

aimedwander: - be prepared for it to take longer than they thought. A lady came over, walked through the house, and ticked off all sorts of stuff on a clipboard. The guys showed up with a stack of boxes and packing materials, and had done just over half the house when they ran out of boxes. Had to come back the next day with more boxes. Apparently we store things too densely/efficiently? Or have too much stuff? huh.
On this note: I was intending to hire friends to move me, and bought boxes from U-Haul ahead of time. Plan A fell through, but U-Haul charges much less than the movers did per box, and the unused ones you can sell back anyway - so get about 10 more of each size than you think you will need.

Or, don't, and no fuss returning unused boxes. It's not like they were the expensive part of the move.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on December 30, 2014

My mom hired mover/packers, and they definitely will pack things like dirty coffee cups! Not that it's a big deal, just something to consider. Make sure you pack your overnight bag and anything you'll need immediately *before* they come.
posted by radioamy at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

We did this for a move from LA to Sydney and it was every bit as magical as you're imagining. If you can afford it, I would consider it money very well spent!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2014

We did this on our last house move and can't recommend it enough. As others have noted, they don't spend ages agonising over whether to chuck something out (they'll pack *everything*), or whether it should be in the same box as that bunch of stuff from over there. Our guy did everything (apart from our box of loose change - that really freaked him out!) in about 5 hours; we had a large 3 bed house which was "densely filled" - lots of books and other heavy stuff. We asked them not to pack certain items (underwear*) and they were fine with this as well as leaving stuff for us to be able to clean up the old house. No dirty cups were packed!

The next day, two other guys also turned up and three of them loaded the lorry and were off within 2 hours. Not a single item was lost or damaged and because our new house has pretty terrible access for large stuff (2 flights of almost circular stairs), it was an absolute joy to watch them manhandle large items up the stairs - almost with ease!

*My Mum had the removers to pack and unpack during one of her many moves. She still can't get over the fact that they unpacked her underwear drawer in the new house (in different furniture) exactly as it was in the previous house. She reckons they must've taken a photo of it...
posted by car01 at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

We did exactly this, actually for about the same distance. It was far and away the nicest move I have ever had -- I hired the most-recommended movers (from friends and coworkers, not random online reviews), not the cheapest, and they were completely professional and incredibly fast. They used a lot more packing material than I would have, especially for a move that short, but I suppose boxes and wrapping paper are cheap, whereas damage claims and bad reviews are expensive.

I moved a few things like jewelry, guns, and medications myself; they probably would have been fine but if you have something that is of particularly high value, financial or emotional, it might be easier to just take care of it yourself and not have to worry about it. The packing crew showed up first and once they had enough full boxes the moving crew started shuttling them over to the new place.

We gave a cash tip at the end of the move which the workers appreciated, and have recommended that company to other people since then. If I can afford it I will do this for my next move as well; it was incredibly low stress and easy compared to the gazillion DIY moves I have made.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: I did not ask in my original q, but now I am curious: What did people pay for their moves? (and for what amount of stuff, distance, in what city, etc...) I'm wondering if the estimates I'm getting are somehow unrealistic...
posted by ManInSuit at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2014

I just got a quote from Mayflower this morning for a cross-country move with partial packing. I will pack most things, but they will come in and pack my art, big televisions, and my entire kitchen. The quote was for about $3k, and this is a 2 bedroom + office house.
posted by tryniti at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2014

I paid ~$4000 CAD to move across Canada twice. I have a 1 bedroom. Both times we packed some things ourselves. Keep in mind that many movers won't guarantee boxes for damage if you packed it yourself.

The last big move, the company quoted $800 to pack breakables in the kitchen. We decided to leave the dishes behind as they weren't worth that much. If it was my decision I would pay anything not to pack. I hate it and find it incredibly stressful. Movers are also extremely efficient as others have mentioned. They will have a closet box to throw your hanged clothes in, etc.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:46 PM on December 30, 2014

I did an interstate move, from Florida to Pittsburgh. It took about 2 men and 8 hours to back up my 2/2 condo. With the packing and the move I paid $3,000 14 years ago.

It's kind of a drag because you have to be there watching them.

You do want all your valuables with you during the packing. Most folks are honest, but you don't want to tempt anyone.

My local move cost $1,000 for 6 hours last year. Best money ever spent.

Another bonus is that if anything is broken in transit, they can't claim that the items were incorrectly packed.

Get replacement value insurance, not the standard. The standard is limited to something like .40 per pound.

Also, reduce as much stuff as you can. For example, knock-down, particle board furniture. Don't bother. It doesn't survive moves well. So sell your Ikea bookcases and tables, buy them new at your new location. Think twice about mattresses. If they're near end of life, don't move them. There's always the chance of bedbugs. I'd rather buy new.

Interstate moves are regulated by the FTC and DOT. All of your quotes should be pretty much the same. If you get one that's really lower, run away, it's a scam.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:49 PM on December 30, 2014

I'm in Toronto. The "moving a three bedroom house to a two bedroom condo where I had already packed the boxes" price three years ago was about $900, so that part of your quote sounds okay. I was moved out of and back into my place by insurance movers this summer and they packed, but I wasn't paying so I don't know the cost.

I'm comfortable recommending either firm, so memail me if you want the names.
posted by TORunner at 1:49 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in San Francisco. A 1 mile move from a one bedroom in a high rise to a two bedroom 2nd story walk up cost around $1400, about half of which was packing and half of which was moving. Paying for the packing was completely worth it, and nothing they packed arrived damaged (unfortunately, the furniture was another story).

Echoing the advice of some of the folks above:
- Declutter before they pack - if you get everything in the right room, the boxes will make more sense
- Clean the fridge and toss anything in fridge that you don't want before they come so that you can clean the tupperware and they can move it
- If you care which rooms things go to on arrival and they won't be the same rooms, mark the boxes as they pack them
- Move your valuables / fragile things yourself before the movers show up
- Mark anything that you want them to leave (appliance manuals, oven racks, etc.)
- Look at their prices for boxes and packaging material - you may be able to save some money by purchasing boxes / mattress covers elsewhere and having them use yours
- Don't let them pack your cleaning supplies if you need to clean your old apartment
posted by asphericalcow at 2:14 PM on December 30, 2014

I agree with it being a wonderful way to move, but make sure that quote is written down and firm before giving the go ahead - both for the packing and moving.
posted by Brent Parker at 2:38 PM on December 30, 2014

I did it twice, once with the cheapest quote I could find, and once with a company chosen for stellar reputation. I would not do the cheapo way again. They were okay, better by far than doing it myself of course, but still... I would find random things like towels all packed up with the printer, etc... meh.

The classy outfit I used more recently (Delancey Street, I don't know if you have them where you are) was amazing. Some of the things they did:

1. Every box was labeled not only with what it contained but with where it came from in the house, and also with the destination room in the new house (I think I had the option of assigning these, but their best guesses were excellent.) So unpacking was a snap.

2. As they stacked up the boxes in the new house, they made it so light switches and outlets were accessible; every label on every box was visible; and each box was accessible (like supermarket lanes kind of)

3. They treated my stuff like precious baby birds. Each glass carefully wrapped, etc. One very old piece of particleboard furniture did break, totally not their fault, and they repaired it on the spot.

4. They placed the furniture in the new place meticulously and patiently even when I went back and forth on how I wanted it.

Some of the best money I ever spent and I would do it again in a heartbeat and tip heavily.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:04 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have had movers pack up my kitchen for me while I packed everything else. I don't recall what it cost over and above the move itself (which in both cases I've done this for were actually local moves) but I do know it was worth every penny. The kitchen is the WORST thing to pack up and one thing I learned is that if they pack it they'll ensure it; if you pack it they often won't. If I were moving long distance I'd absolutely have them do the whole thing. The only downside is that they tend to overpack - everything gets wrapped up tight so it uses a lot of moving supplies which you pay for.
posted by marylynn at 4:01 PM on December 30, 2014

Like marylynn, we just had our kitchen packed for us, as from previous moves we knew how painful it was. Boy oh boy was it worth it. If you decide you don't want to go the whole hog of having them pack the entire apartment, I would consider at least having them do the kitchen.
posted by dfan at 4:06 PM on December 30, 2014

Not to be too repetitive, but I echo what almost everyone else has said. Having the movers pack is great, and I would never move any other way again. I don't remember what we paid, but the packing was a very small portion of it, and totally worth it.

I also found the unpacking service to be more than worth the money. IIRC the unpacking was significantly less expensive than the packing. They don't put everything completely away (at least, our movers haven't). For example, they unboxed all the kitchen stuff and put it on the counters, rather than away in the cabinets. But that's exactly how we'd want it. I want to choose where stuff goes. The great thing about having them unpack is that they haul away all the boxes and packing materials. And having everything out of the packing material makes putting it away far, far faster.

These two things have made our recent moves dramatically less tiring and stressful than they otherwise would have been. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
posted by primethyme at 4:06 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've had the movers pack twice with mixed experiences. There are some caveats, many of which have been mentioned up thread. The better experience was with the more expensive company who packed up the day before the move. They took their time and did everything right. The cheaper company on the other hand packed the same day as the move, was in a big rush because they showed up late, and did not bring enough boxes. Instead of going to get more, they put some things in bags I had lying around the house. This resulted in one item getting lost and another item being found lying around my driveway after the movers departed. They also were in such a rush that they randomly left behind items, like the cover for the blender.

So the TL;DR version: as mentioned by others up thread, beware of going with the cheapest quote and you will need to watch them.
posted by jazzbaby at 5:04 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

My work paid to have my stuff packed for me. It was fantastic.

However, is it worth $1000 to have someone do something that you are perfectly able to do yourself? I don't think so, and by the sounds of it, neither does your wife. And that could be a problem, because there are a lot of things that a couple can do with $1000. Are you willing to forgo $500 worth of other things to avoid doing something a bit unpleasant. Are you willing to make your wife forgo $500 of fun? What is worth paying for is a common issue in a marriage, and can be tricky.
posted by kjs4 at 6:59 PM on January 1, 2015

We did this once before for a much smaller move before we had kids and it went super-smoothly, although I do remember wishing that I had purged more, since our movers literally packed the trashcans with trash inside. It's definitely worth doing some organization ahead of time.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:39 PM on January 4, 2015

Response by poster: I am writing this from our house, in the hours following our incredibly easy, fast, non-stressful move. This really went well. Moving is still hard, but the degree to which having movers pack for us: it was a *major* reducer of stress, time, effort, and hassle.

A point that others did not mention, that was amazing to me: 48 hours ago, I was in my old place, and it was entirely functional. My experience of moving myself is normally that your place is usually a shambles for a couple of weeks as you prepare boxes, etc. This was really the opposite of that. Mrs Manandsuit and I did a bunch of organizing/purging etc before we moved. But we did as much as we wanted, at our own pace, etc, as opposed to the usual mad dash I associate with moving in the past.

In the end: having movers pack the place up for me probably cost a little over $1000 what it would have cost had we packed everything ourselves.

If it's okay (and I asked the mods, who say it is...) - I'd like to give a shout-out specifically to the company who did this: The folks at You Move Me here in Toronto did an amazing job. The people we dealt with were personable, friendly, helpful, and awesome. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
posted by ManInSuit at 2:17 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

IMPORTANT NOTE: Regardless, make damn sure you have TP, light bulbs (a 4-pack is plenty), and a screwdriver with both slot and phillips bits set aside! An exacto knife, pencil, pen, and flashlight are also mighty handy while still unpacking.

If they break down any furniture, make sure they TELL YOU where they put the hardware. Still looking for the parts that hold the shelving up on my 5 bookshelves...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:44 AM on January 30, 2015

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