Moving season in NYC typically occurs at the end of the summer, but due to the current COVID pandemic, there’s a lot more fluctuation than normal this year. This also makes it more difficult to enlist family and friends to help with the dreaded schlep, but you also don’t want to blindly hire the first man with a van you come across. From big corporations to small family-run operations, movers in NYC run the gamut in terms of services, pricing, and proximity, but regardless of which route you take, there are several things to consider before deciding. Ahead, 6sqft has rounded up 12 tips for hiring movers, including performing background checks, making sure you’ve accurately counted your boxes (no one wants to be that person), and negotiating the estimate.
1. Do a background check
Sites like Yelp are great resources, but it’s often hard to determine which horror stories are real and which are just someone with a chip on their shoulder. Get more accurate information from the Better Business Bureau, the American Moving and Storage Association, and service-specific consumer advocacy sites like Moving Scam. Common sense also goes a long way; beware of companies that have no address or phone number or ask for a big deposit in advance.
2. Check that the company is licensed and insured
All legitimate moving companies are licensed with the state and have insurance–protecting both themselves and you. You can find out if your mover is licensed by calling 518-457-6512 or e-mailing [email protected].gov. Check if they have insurance by calling the New York State Department of Transporation at 800-786-5368.
3. Get multiple estimates
Depending on a company’s location, how busy they are, or their size, rates can vary drastically. Get several estimates to ensure the best deal, but make sure you get them all in writing (or via email); an estimate given verbally can’t be verified. If the company you really want to go with is more expensive, you can try presenting a lower bid from another mover, though there’s no guarantee they’ll take the bait. And be wary of bids that seem extremely low.
4. Analyze flat rate vs. hourly
Another way to potentially save money is to determine whether it makes more sense to go with a flat rate (regardless of how long the move takes, the price is set based on the amount being moved, how many men it will require, and what size truck is needed) or hourly rate (the company sets a per-hour rate, usually with a minimum). Hourly tends to work best for local moves that will be only a few hours (most common here in NYC), whereas the flat rate is best when movers must travel farther or traffic is likely to be an issue.
5. Move on an “off day”
Leases tend to renew on the 1st of the month, meaning that moving companies are busiest at the beginning and end of the month, as well as weekends. If it’s doable, moving mid-week or mid-month will save you money and give you more options. Plus, a lot of buildings don’t allow moves on Sundays, so that tends to also be a good day to schedule.
6. Count boxes and furniture correctly
When your mover gives you a price estimate, they’re assuming that the number of boxes and pieces of furniture you tell them is correct. Having more than anticipated will not only incur additional fees, but it’ll likely take longer since the number of men or the size of the truck won’t be correct. Plus, you may make the company late for their next job, which doesn’t quite follow the golden rule. If you’re filling out an estimate form before you’ve actually packed, try to fill one box as a gauge of how many more you’ll need for the rest of your things.
7. Be smart about packing supplies
You can either buy supplies on your own, or some moving companies will supply them for an additional cost (this may save you time and effort, but likely not money). Go to your local bodega, restaurant, or liquor store and ask for leftover boxes; buying them at places like Staples or Home Depot can really add up. It’s also cost-effective to buy packing tape in bulk since you’ll probably go through more than you anticipate.
For clothing, make a DIY wardrobe by keeping items on the hangers, tying them together, and draping a garbage bag with a cut hole over to protect them. Another hack is to use blankets/sheets in lieu of moving blankets to wrap mirrors, televisions, etc. You can use t-shirts and towels to wrap glassware and other fragile items going in boxes to maximize space. Also, be careful when packing books; if you can’t lift the box, don’t assume your mover can.
8. Measure doorways/hallways, stairwells
Be sure that your beloved dresser or couch is going to fit through the doorways and up the stairs/into the elevator at your new place. Movers aren’t responsible for items if they don’t safely fit (though you can always call up the Couch Doctor).
9. Scope out parking
Movers are not exempt from NYC’s tricky parking rules, so double-check there are places for them to idle at both locations and take note of street cleaning days/times. If you really want to make life easier, go outside shortly before the truck is expected to arrive and look for spots that may be opening up that you can hold for them (okay, this isn’t exactly “allowed,” but desperate times call for desperate measures). It’ll also behoove you to enlist someone to be on call to stand with the truck while the move is happening to prevent getting a ticket if the truck does have to double park.
10. Clear the move with both buildings
As mentioned above, many buildings and management companies have rules related to when tenants can move out and in. This is to prevent too many people from moving on the same day and jamming up the hallways, stairs, and streets. And many want to see proof of insurance. It’s also not a bad idea to be on their good side, whether you’re moving out and may need a landlord reference or whether you’re moving in and will potentially need these folks’ help.
11. Don’t forget the Bill of Lading
A bill of lading is a legal agreement between the customer and the mover, detailing the number of goods, locations, start and end times, total cost, and how the customer will pay. Some will also break down all items. For all intents and purposes, this serves as your receipt and should be issued at the beginning of the move or once the truck is packed.
12. Factor in tip
Movers rely partially on tips, so be sure you’re factoring that in when budgeting. The typical rate is 20 percent, plus many kind-hearted customers will throw in coffee and/or lunch if things are taking long.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on April 24, 2017, and has been updated.
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