Explain it like I'm five: hiring movers to unload a truck.
July 8, 2015 1:57 PM   Subscribe

In about two weeks, I will have around 12 hours in which to unload a whole lot of stuff into a fourth-floor walkup apartment. I have a few friends who have offered help, but given the amount of crap to be moved I'm pretty sure I will need to hire movers too. I've never done this before. What should I look for in a moving company? Can I ask my friends to help in addition to hiring movers, or will the movers need us to stay out of the way? And how do I estimate how many person-hours of help I need?
posted by nebulawindphone to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Moving companies will typically have their own truck. Yelp, referrals, or angie's list are all good places to seek quotes. Find a company that only charges for actual hours used. Moving companies will also offer packing services; consider packing everything yourself and just have it all ready to go by the door so they can just pick it up and move it. You also want to call now. Two weeks from now is a very short period of time to hire a mover and a lot of the reputable movers may be booked up.

Assuming the company is available on the exact date and time you need them, the company will typically first give you a sheet to fill out that gives an estimate of how much stuff and how many boxes you have, including the flights of stairs. From there they will estimate how many hours and what number of crew they would recommend. Get a few estimates; they're happy to do this and they do this all the time. Remember to budget a cash tip as well for each mover.

Whether your friends can help is a question to ask them - I doubt they'll let you move things into their truck for liability reasons but I can see friends pulling boxes on their own to put into a separate moving vehicle - it may be better just to have your friends on the inside of the apartment helping to move things to the door to maximize the efficiency of the movers without getting in their way.

Also remember that typically you're responsible for making sure there's a parking space for the movers - if it's street parking you can usually get some sort of emergency street parking sign from the city.
posted by Karaage at 2:06 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Generally, you should be able to call a few companies, get estimates and compare them. The best companies will want to meet you in person and check out both locations. In theory, you should be able to get a few comparable estimates and go from there.

My horrid moving experience is that it was really hard to get 2 apples-to-apples estimates, in the end I went with what I thought was the most reputable company, and I still got totally screwed. (Did not receive tons of boxes. Ever. ) I checked yelp and BBB for all companies, but there's such a range of experiences there and again - i picked the most reputable and still had an awful experience.
So go with the one you feel is being the most honest and has told you everything. The more information they have upfront, the more likely you won't get blindsided by later fees: extra costs for a shuttle truck if they cant bring a large truck, extra costs for stairs, extra costs for long hallway, etc. That's also why the estimators who are willing to come meet you in person are likely to give you the best estimate.

I think the best way to combine professional movers + friends help is to have your friends help you prep before the move with packing, get out of the movers way while they do manual labor, then have your friends help you with unpacking. Movers will likely want everyone out of the way so they can get their stuff done.

And some unsolicited moving advice: when you are packing and clearly labeling each box by room, make yourself a list with how many boxes are per room. Maybe even put a certain color post-it on each room. Then have a quick easy list to refer to : 5 kitchen boxes, 5 clothes boxes, 2 living room, etc, so you can quickly check that you have everything once the move is done and before the movers are anxious to get out.

Good luck!
posted by kmr at 2:06 PM on July 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

What should I look for in a moving company?
My partner and I hired movers for the first time for our most recent in-town move (Porter-ish in Somerville to Cambridgeport, in January), using the probably-not-entirely-wise method of noticing a moving company while we were out at breakfast one morning and looking them up later. It was basically wizardry and I wish we'd done it earlier instead of doing the college-age thing of asking friends to help us out and paying them in beer and pizza. It was these guys, who also operate out your way I think, and it cost us a few hundred bucks, which I have no idea whether that was a standard market price or not but given that I didn't have to wrangle a bunch of other people was totally worth it.

Can I ask my friends to help in addition to hiring movers, or will the movers need us to stay out of the way?
We were around on either end of the move, obviously, but I don't think we could have helped the movers if we'd tried -- they were pretty efficient and we'd only have slowed things down if we'd been trying to tote boxes and furniture up in parallel with them.

And how do I estimate how many person-hours of help I need?
For the folks we used, their website had an online quote request form where we could put in the approximate size of the apartment we were moving, plus specific counts of any large items (1 couch, 1 bed, 3 elephants, etc) and they made a time estimate for us. FWIW, moving us from Porter-ish in Somerville to Cambridgeport took them less than 5 hours, including the time it took them to travel to and from their dispatch location before and after. Maybe 3-4 hours of our time.
posted by dorque at 2:11 PM on July 8, 2015

You won't need or want your friends to help the movers. I know it seems simple enough to carry some stuff, but trust me - the pros are going to be so much faster than your friends that it'll be faster overall if everyone stays out of their way. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've had professional moves done in under 2 hours - packing a truck, driving to new place, unpacking entire truck - by 3 movers, with more stuff than took a whole pack of friends 4+ hours. They're professionals; they know what they're doing; just let them do their thing.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:14 PM on July 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you haven't packed, and haven't arranged a truck, and haven't thought about how you're going to load the truck, then you should go through the tedious process of getting and comparing quotes from full-service movers.

But unless I'm misreading it, this question is about unloading a truck.

If you need boxes and some furniture unloading and carrying up some stairs, you don't need full-service movers. Just book a couple of people on Taskrabbit. Go with movers who are in your budget and whose reviews show that they arrive on time and do the job. If you have valuable or awkward furniture then make sure they have hand-carts and blankets, and be prepared to pay more per hour.

Depending on how much awkward furniture there is, and how big the apartment/truck is, two people with handcarts can probably unload a truck to a 4th floor in 2-6 hours.

You can make the loading/unloading process easier by using idiot-proof stackable plastic boxes like these, rather than mover's cardboard boxes (which are great for pros, but a hassle for regular citizens).

And like everyone else says: if you book movers then no friends. They'll get in the way and, unless you genuinely can't afford movers, friends don't ask friends to help them move.
posted by caek at 2:14 PM on July 8, 2015

Where is the new apartment? What city? If you have already packed the truck and all you need is strong experienced people to unload 12 hours is a long time. I am moving a 3,000 SQ FT house next week and the estimate is for four (4) guys to load it in 3-4 hours and unload in a little less. I am moving across town so it is all being down in one day.

If you have 12 hours and at least 4 maybe 6 people on the move, and if you have experience or understanding on how to move boxes and furniture efficiently, you should have plenty of time.

Hiring moving just to unload will be reasonable. They will charge by the man and hour. They may be hesitant to unload what they did not pack, but if you sign off on who is responsible for transit breakage, you will get it done no problem.
posted by AugustWest at 2:14 PM on July 8, 2015

As someone who has hired movers a few times, I think no, you definitely do not WANT your friends "helping" them. You asked us to explain this to you like you're five ... actually, having your friends helping would be like having someone who is five helping them.

Movers are incredibly fast. Any layperson helping them is just going to be in the way.
posted by jayder at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

It is difficult to go wrong if you call the top three rated companies on Yelp and get quotes.

Note: you said "unload a truck" rather than "load their own truck and take it to another location and unload it" - you may find some gems that actually are just loaders/unloaders but not as well or frequently rated because that's a more esoteric job.

The movers will estimate how long you need them by you telling them how much stuff there is or what size the apartments and truck are.

Your friends will slow the movers down, costing you more money, and the movers may make you sign a liability waiver if you're going to mix amateurs into the work you're having them do. What you can do, though, is have the movers put your stuff in the right rooms (label your boxes and also label the rooms) and then have your friends come over and help rearrange furniture and hook up your tv and unwrap your plates and stuff after the movers are done. You can also recruit 1-2 of them to direct traffic and just keep an eye out - on the truck, on the open apartment, as both will end up unattended periodically.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:18 PM on July 8, 2015

When I moved to California (20 years ago), I got a recommendation from the Ryder drop-off on this end for someone to help me move in. Turns out he charged me $25/hr per guy, went down to the local day laborer pick-up, and probably paid them $8-10/hr (the rates that day laborers quoted me for another move a half a year later). He communicated with them using gestures and sign language 'cause his Spanish was definitely no better than mine.

In subsequent moves I cut out the middle man and made sure they got a good lunch to boot, 'cause they worked hard.

I now am wary of hiring day laborers for insurance and liability reasons, but it is an option, and it is quite likely that anyone you hire is doing the same thing.
posted by straw at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can I ask my friends to help in addition to hiring movers, or will the movers need us to stay out of the way?

In my limited experience, they prefer you and your friends to stay out of the way, both for safety and liability reasons. Once everything is safely in the apartment, invite your friends over to help unpack.

Look for companies with insurance/bonding and good reviews. You may be able to get a decent referral from a realtor.

Definitely keep an eye out for the places that are just hiring day laborers under the table as straw mentioned.
posted by Candleman at 2:25 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds from your question like you already have the stuff in a truck, and you just need a crew to move it into the apartment. This is a service most moving companies offer, and it will be by the hour, with an estimate up front. They'll be able to estimate how many people and how many hours better than you will. Look out for gotchas in the contract if you go over time. You and your friends just need to stay out of the way and let the professionals handle it. You'll have your hands full just telling them where to put things and making sure everything is there and nothing is broken, and your friends will really just be in the way.

And remember to offer them drinks and snacks, and tip generously at the end if you are happy with the service. These guys do back breaking labor for little money - treating them well is important.
posted by spilon at 2:33 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Uhaul has a sub-page where you can hire moving labor. After you put in your particulars, it gives you a list sorted by average user rating. Granted this was in 2007, but we used them for loading in TX and unloading in NY and were happy.

Definitely don't bring friends too and stay out of their way. Lyn Never's idea to have friends help with unpacking and setting up is great.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:35 PM on July 8, 2015

If you just need hands to help to unload your own truck, I recommend Craigslist. I've done this twice, and it was about $60 for two burly dudes to help for a few hours. Note that they will not be professional, bonded movers, but it is the most cost effective solution I've found.

In my case my friends contributed by hanging out at the truck and in the apartment to sort/prioritize stuff as it was moved.
posted by jess at 2:37 PM on July 8, 2015

1. Twelve hours is by far enough time to unload a truck's worth of material.
2. Four flights of stairs make this a marathon very quickly.
3. Don't mix the movers and your friends. Have your friends in for the first shift and hire movers for the second shift.
4. If you have expensive things you don't want broken, having bonded movers makes a difference.
5. If you are mostly moving up boxes of books, Craig's list will work.
6. How many friends? If you can have a truck to second floor shift and a second floor to fourth floor shift, they won't wear out so easily.
7. Do you have heavy stuff like a refrigerator? Save it for the professionals.
8. Good luck.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:43 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

One significant advantage that a legit moving company will have over cash-paid laborers picked up from Home Depot or your friends is that they will have workers comp insurance for their employees.

I knew a guy who broke his neck moving a sofa up a flight of stairs once -- think about whether you want to expose your friends or random day laborers to that risk without any insurance.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:54 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can afford movers, go with them. I actually worked as a swamper for a summer, and there is definitely a right way to do things. Most DIY movers do it the wrong way, and this just adds to the time it takes.

For our last move I tried doing it myself. I hired a truck and a couple of college students. It took FOREVER and EVER. I would gladly pay someone so I would never have to do that ever again.
posted by Nevin at 3:01 PM on July 8, 2015

I've hired movers from movinghelp.com fives times now. Two of the movers I ended up using twice. All five moves went really smoothly. The website gives you a bunch of options and also suggests the number of movers and hours you'll need.

The movers will go really fast and want you (and your friends) to stay out of the way.

Definitely use your friends to pack though. And make sure to get furniture pads for the big stuff. The truck rental place should have pads for rent.

Also, you might be surprised how much tip is expected. Especially when you have stairs involved. Think $10-20 per mover per hour. So between $120-240 total for a 3 person crew working 4 hours, on top of whatever the actual charged rate is. Still...worth every penny, IMO.
posted by mullacc at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hired some people to unload a moving truck from Movinghelp.com (which I think is the UHaul subpage ROU_Xenophobe mentioned above). All in all it was a great experience. The price was good and the guys hauled ass yet didn't break anything. My wife and I worked alongside them and they didn't seem too bothered as long as we kept out of their way (they were way faster than us).
posted by zsazsa at 3:17 PM on July 8, 2015

When I moved from NYC to Providence, I used hireahelper.com to hire moving help on both ends of my trip. I rented and drove the truck, but had guys loading it and unloading it for me. Both sides of the move went super smoothly and it was completely worthwhile.

Credit to munyeca for their answer in my moving AskMe.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2015

Even if you hire movers, you should have at least one friend around to help. They can keep an eye on the truck (which is parked on the street, full of all your stuff, and visible to any dubious passers-by) and open the building door, while you direct the movers in the apartment. Also handy to have a second person around to run and get takeout for lunch, or any other urgent errands, so you don't leave the movers unattended. Plus moving is stressful, and having someone to calm you down if something goes wrong is very useful.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:01 PM on July 8, 2015

Uhaul.com makes this super easy, and you can compare lots of quotes and reviews. I wouldn't suggest asking friends - if they drop something special/expensive they'll feel bad, and if they throw out their back, you'll feel bad.

I paid $200 for 2 hours with movers in PA and NYC through Uhaul, and they were very friendly, efficient, and got the job done 10 times faster than my friends would have (no offense to my friends).
posted by elvissa at 6:56 PM on July 8, 2015

We used Precision Moving twice in Cambridge (in and out of the third-floor walkup in Central Square) and they were very good. So if Bostonish in your profile means that part of town I'd check them out.
posted by sy at 7:14 PM on July 8, 2015

I know many many people who have used Two Men & a Truck.
My next move will involve them.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2015

I moved from a third-floor walk up recently and used a small, local company I noticed when walking my dogs, then it turned out my neighbor has known the owner since he was a teenager and has used him a number of times over the years. (Not incidentally, their quote was 1/3 what Two Men & a Truck tendered.)

Tomorrowful is exactly right about letting the professionals do their job. I paid for a crew of three, and they had my 1-bdrm place emptied in 50 minutes flat. (Everything was boxed, and I had dismantled the bed.) They were practically running with twice what I myself could carry, yet they were super careful and made not one ding in the stairwell (I checked before and after). They had moving pads for the larger pieces that needed them, bubble wrap and tape for pictures, tools for removing the feet from the sofa and other minor dismantling tasks. They strapped down everything going into the truck. They were also super-polite.

Something you might want to consider, when they arrived I tipped them each a hundred bucks, stating explicitly that I wanted to acknowledge the difficulty level of the stairs, and my appreciation. I believe I would have gotten the same level service if I hadn't done that, but I also believe that it "set a positive tone" for the endeavor; they actually seemed to be enjoying the job.

One pro-tip: label boxes on their sides. I labeled every box on its top, which made it harder to tell what was going where when the boxes were stacked three high on the tailgate.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2015

Some very good advice above.

Be sure to get a personal recommendation for the company you use, i.e. those above; note that there was a recent expose on American moving companies setting up fake review sites, and just disappearing with the contents of someone's house:

posted by DancingYear at 4:26 AM on July 10, 2015

Went with Movinghelp.com. It went very smoothly.

One thing I wish I'd known in advance: The way Movinghelp.com is set up, when you're getting a quote, you want to low-ball your estimate for how many hours the job will take. If it takes more than you estimated, you can always add hours to the quote and pay extra. But you can't remove hours from a quote — if you estimate five hours' work and they finish in three (as mine did) you still pay for five hours' work.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2015

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