Need recommendations for cross-country movers!
September 13, 2015 1:12 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are moving across the country (PHL -> SEA) and are starting to research moving options. We are looking for recommendations for reliable and easy-to-work-with moving companies who do cross-country moves (or warnings of companies that you would avoid). Other tips and tricks for making this the easiest move possible are also welcome!

Some details.

We are moving from Philadelphia to Seattle for my work. My new company has provided a relocation package to be used at our discretion. We want to make this move easy, so low-cost is a bonus, but reliability, responsibility, and customer service are more important to us. We will be moving in October, in order to be in our new apartment by November 1st.

We are in a unique situation in Philly--our current apartment came furnished, so while we have an apartment's worth of stuff, when it comes to furniture, we are only moving one chair. Other items include a ton of books, clothes, dishes/kitchenware, 40" TV, couple of lamps, etc.

One of our timelines leaves us with about a 3 week gap between when we want to leave Philadelphia and when we will be able to to move into our new apartment. Did your moving company provide storage and did it work out? If you are willing to share approximate added cost, we'd appreciate that.

We thought about Pods or other self-packing crates, but didn't want to deal with getting permits, etc. Plus, we were a little ambivalent about leaving a pod on the street overnight. We have also thought about a U-Haul hitch that we pack ourselves, but since we have the relocation budget, we'd rather not have to worry about dealing with it while driving across the country. Also, our car is a little 2010 Honda Fit (with no trailer hitch and not a lot of towing capacity). Are we wrong? Tell us why!

We were planning on packing ourselves, but should we have the movers do it? Is there a half-and-half deal where we pack some of our things ourselves (clothes, books) and leave some for the movers (dishes, kitchenware etc)?

We would love to hear about your additional experiences moving across the country--the more specific the recommendations, then better!

We've seen these two previous Ask MeFi Questions, but are looking for current recommendations and non-U Pak recommendations (or for you to tell us why we are wrong about this).

posted by workingdankoch to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I highly recommend ABF UPack. We used them in April to move from Pennsylvania to Oregon. They were easy to use and reasonably priced. Feel free to memail me if you have specific questions about them. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 1:18 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have used Graebel for two long-distance moves (once from MI to CA and another from CA to WA) and they were fantastic. Very professional, meticulous in preventing any sort of damage, and very flexible with pick-up and delivery dates. Both times I had them store my stuff for a couple of weeks while I found housing and it was not a problem at all.

I'm currently in Seattle and from what I understand, Microsoft and other high-tech large employers here use Graebel for their corporate moves because they have such a solid reputation.

Get an estimate for you doing the packing and them doing the packing, just so you know the cost. Every time I've moved I've done my own packing, hated it, but sucked it up because of the cost. Next time I move I'm paying the movers to pack for me. Do it if you can afford it.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2015

I also recommend ABF U-Pack. They are usually the cheapest option and had good reviews. I've heard nightmare stories from friends about moving trucks breaking all their stuff or giving them bed bugs, but friends who used moving containers were all happy. I have used ABF for two cross country moves (and Uhaul for a third, they were good too so compare prices, PODS was always way overpriced but Uhaul/ABF are pretty close). It might help to know where in Seattle you are moving to, because my two moves were in Ballard and I left the UPack containers on the street for a few days both times with no permit and it was fine. You're responsible for the lock so you can buy a good one to ease your concerns about it being broken into. Not a guarantee, but I wouldn't let the permit thing hold you back. I see PODS/Uhaul/ABF containers around all the time without the proper No Parking signage. ABF always picked it up much faster than quoted, too, so it wasn't on the street for very long.

The moving cubes fit into a parking spot so if your new place has one, that's an option instead of the street. Or maybe your new place has a better idea for where to drop it. The company will tell you if they can get into the spot (since the container comes on a truck bed). They use a forklift to move it from the truck, so it can maneuver pretty well once they figure out where to park the truck.

As for storage, yes! You can have them store it for awhile once you arrive. The pricing varies but it wasn't a big deal. I can't remember how much, sorry. ABF gives you three days to schedule delivery, I think, and beyond that you pay a storage fee. My moves always ended up costing around $1500-1700. (Seattle to Michigan, Michigan to Arizona, AZ back to Seattle).

I have hired movers and I believe it's pretty common to pack some of your stuff and let them do the rest. They are so insanely fast, both in packing and moving boxes, that you might want to make sure you have enough for them to do. All the companies I've used have a minimum of hours you must agree to. (Usually 2 hours, I think.) I've had good luck calling the higher rated companies on Yelp and asking for advice on how long things take and what I should pack myself.

Safe travels!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 2:29 PM on September 13, 2015

Personally I found Door To Door cheaper than even Upack, and they are super nice and well run. I used them from NY to SF and back again.
posted by dame at 3:26 PM on September 13, 2015

I just moved from Brooklyn to LA, and also have a Fit. We packed that thing to the gills (it holds quite a bit, as you probably know), and moved the rest via a Uhaul U-box. It was really down to the wire, both in terms of weight and space. They warn you several times not to exceed the weight limit which in this case was 2000 lbs.

The reason I picked Uhaul U-box over the others is because you can load it at a Uhaul storage/truck place, you don't have to park it on your driveway or on the street (100% not an option for me in Brooklyn). They can deliver it to a Uhaul center so you can unload it into a storage room (what I did) or have them keep it stored for you (but without easy access to your stuff).

This was my third x-country trip, and I have to say, the easiest one was when I just moved by car. I left a few boxes with family and friends to mail to me when I had a place. Stuff like books, DVDs, cds, records- that can all go media mail which is very affordable for the weight. Definitely think about what you can't move via the car, and what it's worth versus the cost to move it across the country. Might turn out that it would be cheaper to sell locally then replace what wont fit in the car versus pay $2k or whatever to move it.

Oh and you won't want to tow with the Fit for a bunch of reasons. I looked into that as well.
posted by tremspeed at 3:41 PM on September 13, 2015

Even though the brands are nationwide, and you're going cross-country, this is a super location-specific question. The company you work with will be a local affiliate (maybe not the right term) of the larger brand, and their quality varies widely even within the same brand. I recommend shopping solely based on the reputation of the local company, and ignoring the brand. I know it was mentioned several times in the other threads, but I'll reiterate that has been hugely helpful to me in multiple moves. I highly recommend you look up location-specific reviews there.
posted by primethyme at 4:39 PM on September 13, 2015

I have also had great experiences with ABF U-Pack, including moves involving narrow Seattle streets. If I had to move any distance again, I'd use them. If I had extra money, I'd hire local movers to move heavy things into or out of my U-Pack container.
posted by yarntheory at 5:33 PM on September 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a bunch of information and recommendations about interstate moves.
posted by orchidfox at 8:26 PM on September 13, 2015

Is there anybody your employer normally uses or does the package consist of cash/submitting receipts for incurred expenditure? Could you use the package to replace these things and just take your clothes?
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:27 PM on September 13, 2015

Nthing joan_holloway re: Graebel. One of the big reasons they are so good is that they are company-owned from coast-to-coast. Everyone trains under the same rules. Everyone follows the same (strict) procedures. The people who show up to move you are Graebel employees, not Darryl, my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl who happen to have a contract with XYZ Movers.

Expensive? Yes. (They'll negotiate.) But, absolutely worth it!
posted by John Borrowman at 1:51 PM on September 14, 2015

I'm marking this down for later as I will want to know about it in a year or so.
posted by mephron at 2:32 PM on September 14, 2015

Our move is near complete, and we did ultimately go with ABF U-Pack. It went great! No problems on either side -- we managed to get street permits for the U-Pack on both ends (Seattle was easy, Philly was... well... the Pope was in town) -- they picked it up and dropped it off promptly, the price was reasonable (~$1700, as the thorn bushes have roses mentioned), and the movers on both ends packed and unpacked it in a hurry. Would definitely use them again in the future.

Thanks again to everyone who responded! We were originally leaning against using a moving pod, but your answers got us over that hump, and it turned out to be right call. Thanks AskMeFi!
posted by workingdankoch at 3:23 PM on October 24, 2015

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