How to ship heavy stuff without bothering the shipper
March 18, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My retired uncle is gifting me a virtual stockpile of power and hand tools. This is awesome. But the catch is that I have to find a way to get them shipped from his house to mine, at my expense, and with as little effort on his part as possible.

My uncle, a former general contractor and handyman extraordinaire, has retired and is moving to Florida in the next year. I recently bought a new house that needs a lot of renovation, and he very generously offered to gift me whatever power tools or hand tools he has, so long as I do it at my own expense. This is a potential goldmine, as his stuff is nearly all jobsite quality and much of it in excellent condition, so I'm more than willing to pay for the shipping.

Complication: he lives in semi-rural northern Michigan, I live in Virginia. My traveling to get them is not an option. Time is not of the essence. Anyone know a good service where the shipee can prepay (or give a credit card/pay on delivery) and have a package picked up from a shipper and delivered? I know a lot of the major companies do this for regular customers with accounts, but I can't seem to find comparable quotes for a one-time service for regular people.

He recently had a knee replacement and is having mobility issues, so I want to minimize the inconvenience to him. He is willing to obtain boxes and pack them, but he doesn't want to hump 150 pounds worth of boxes 30 miles into town to the nearest post office/Fed Ex. He'd be much happier if he could just pack some boxes and have a shipping company pick them up from his home and be done with it. Given his extreme generosity, I'd like to avoid having him pay upfront and do the reimbursement thing if possible, just to avoid the hassle for him.

Googling has given me a lot of different options, some requiring opening accounts, etc. Since this is a one-time deal, I'm wondering if anyone has a simple solution for this type of situation.
posted by GorgeousPorridge to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Pay a convenient cousin to do it for you while they're on school break?
posted by Wretch729 at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry -- should note that no other relatives (other than his disabled wife) live within 500 miles of him.
posted by GorgeousPorridge at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2016

You might have better luck searching for moving companies in his area rather than shipping companies.
posted by Kriesa at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Create shipping labels on for him (if he can figure out the weight, which can can do with a bathroom scale by weighing himself holding a box, weighing himself without the box, and subtracting) and email him the labels? Then he just needs to print the postage labels, tape them securely to the boxes, and get them to his mail carrier.

You can do the same thing with FedEx or UPS by opening a credit-card linked account online, which is easy and painless. FedEx and UPS may charge you a bit for the pickup, while USPS will not.
posted by zachlipton at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2016

If there's a local college near his place, see if you can hire a student to come do the lifting and packing?
posted by heathrowga at 12:19 PM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is almost exactly the service that movers provide, it's just that nobody is actually picking up house and going someplace else to live - but the whole aspect of coming over, packing some stuff one one end, and then shipping it to the other end is basically moving. I'd call the nearest moving company and see what their minimum quote is, since this is way lower volume than even a 1-person, 1-room move.

However I fear it may be in the range of a couple grand, which I suspect is too much. So you could try to explain the situation to them and ask if a couple guys would be willing to come out and charge by the hour to pack up the tools and equipment. And then schedule UPS to come pick up and ship the boxes, as suggested above.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:20 PM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Does he need movers? You say he's able and willing to get boxes and pack them, but just wants someone to pick them up. If he can get fully packed boxes to his front door, you just need a shipping company like USPS, FedEx, or UPS, not movers.
posted by zachlipton at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

ABF U-Pack might be an option.

Smaller than a POD, and they can arrange for a couple of guys to come pack it up at the distant end if your Uncle doesn't want to be bothered.

You can unpack it yourself when they drop it off in your driveway.

Check out the site. Most folks really like the service they get.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

This seems like a perfect taskrabbit job.
posted by Dashy at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2016

Try either Navis or Craters & Freighters. They both pack and ship.
posted by smashface at 3:38 PM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

A lot of this stuff is going to pretty heavy; Standard UPS will probably be cost prohibitive.

If it was me I'd buy as many Job Boxes as you want to fill (might be cheaper locally) and then have him hire someone to fill them up. Or fly out for a weekend; it wouldn't take more than a day to fill two or three boxes.

Lock the boxes up and then call a LTL shipping company to come pick them up (make sure you let them know they need to send a power gate truck) and ship them to your location. The boxes are designed to be moved with a pallet jack so it's easy peasy for them. And you can store the tools in the boxes outside if necessary at each end as the boxes are weather resistant. Don't forget to buy padlocks for the boxes. You might want castors too if you plan to move them around at your end as they can't be moved when full without them.

The LTL company will weigh the boxes and then either take a credit card over the phone before shipping or at delivery.

If you don't want the job boxes after you get them unpacked you can sell them easily for 50-80% of the new price recouping most of the cost.

Wrapping the tools in bubble wrap or old blankets or something will help mitigate damage from vibration during the trip. Saran wrapping the boxes after filling and locking will help protect the paint (or reuse the original packing material if there is any).

To give you an idea I went to Freight Center (not an endorsement, just the first google result); put in for shipment from Detroit to Williamsburg (only cities I know off the top of my head in those states). To ship 2- 48x24x30 crates, weight of a 1000lbs, filled with tools, with lift gate at both ends to residential locations gave a dozen quotes from ~$650 (with UPS LTL) to ~$1350. And that was specifying an individual not a business. Depending on how rural he is he may not have vary many choices.

If he has very large tools like say an air compressor or large table saw those items can be bolted to a pallet (available free in a lot of places if you look around).
posted by Mitheral at 4:11 PM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

One more thing: if you have a pickup and can pick them up at your end at the depot instead of getting them delivered it might save you a significant amount of money. The boxes are fairly easy to handle when empty so you just leave them on your truck and empty them of tools before getting the boxes themselves off.
posted by Mitheral at 4:16 PM on March 18, 2016

I've moved annoyingly large stuff (like a freestanding mid century modern metal fireplace) a few times using Worked out great.
You list what you need moved, and from where you need it moved from and to, and also if the shippers will need to pack it up, either in boxes or on pallets, or both.
Shippers will bid on your job and you choose the one that you like. Or none.
Time not being of the essence is a great thing, because they will deliver it when they have spare room on a truck going in your direction and save you a bunch of money.
It's worth a try regardless of whether or not you decide to use one of the bidding companies, since you're not obligated to use any of them and it's free to register and list.
Good Luck!
posted by newpotato at 5:32 PM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also used for an odd job. It was just someone in a car.
posted by bongo_x at 5:37 PM on March 18, 2016

Is there an Amtrak nearby? Their freight options are great.
posted by corb at 5:47 PM on March 18, 2016

It might help to have a better idea how much stuff (in weight and volume) we're actually talking about here. The answers so far have ranged from good ways to ship a couple cardboard boxes to good ways to ship a small apartment's worth of stuff.
posted by zachlipton at 6:28 PM on March 18, 2016

Depending on the weight and volume, a pod might be good. I think UPS or similar would be way too costly.
posted by anadem at 8:42 PM on March 18, 2016

I think what you probably want is something like Shyp (but I see now the pickup location is northern Michigan, so that particular company won't work but maybe there are other companies with more geographic coverage).
posted by OCDan at 9:21 PM on March 18, 2016

You could consider hiring a TaskRabbit to collect the tools and take them to be packaged up at UPS/FedEx.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:03 AM on March 19, 2016

You can also look at crating and freighting companies.
posted by troll on a pony at 6:28 AM on March 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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