Deciding whether you should hire a moving company or move yourself really comes down to how much time, money and muscle you have. The other big factor is how far you're moving. If you know your budget, know how much time you can devote to moving and how much help you'll have, the decision isn't that hard to make. Many moving companies offer flexible plans that let you move the lightest items while they do the heavy lifting, which saves not only your back but money.
Can You Afford It?
Nine times out of 10 your budget is going to dictate whether you can afford to hire a moving company or not. The cost to hire a full-service moving company to pack a typical 1,600-square-foot-house and transport the items more than 1,000 miles ranges from $5,000 to $9,000. Local moves (say within 50 miles) are often regulated by hourly rates, which can range from $40 to $100 an hour for two guys and a truck. So, you're looking at forking out around $1,500 to $3,000 for a full-service move.
But there are ways to save money if you can carry some of the load. Buying your own packing materials and packing yourself could save you as much as $2,000. Then the movers just load their truck and unload at your new place. Some movers will pack up your stuff and load a rental truck, then let you do the driving. This approach could shave up to 70 percent off a typical full-service move, but you do have to factor in your rental costs and how much gas you'll end up purchasing.
Do You Have the Time?
The saying "time is money" certainly applies to moving. Packing a typical three-bedroom home could take several days for nonprofessionals. What might take you two days to pack could take a team of professional movers just half a day. So consider whether it's worth taking time off from work and anything else you'd rather be doing. Plus, moving heavy pieces of furniture requires strong muscles, so it's likely you'll be asking friends and family members to give up their time as well.
If you're moving a relatively short distance (say under 100 miles away) driving may not be much of a factor if you've got a truck big enough to carry most of your stuff and can avoid making multiple trips. A long distance move will, of course, take more time and energy, but doing it yourself might get you moved in faster. Professional movers commonly pack more than one household into a tractor trailer to maximize their profit. This could add hours or even days to your move. You'll pay a high premium to have a moving company go directly from your old house to your new house without making any other pickups or drop-offs.
If you do decide to hire a moving company, call around and get at least three quotes. Ask about whether there will be any extra charges to move your especially heavy and awkward items like pianos or fish tanks. See if they'll be willing to let you do the packing, and let them load and transport everything. Make sure your items are insured in the event of an accident, and find out how long it will take between when your items are loaded on the truck and when they arrive at your new place.
Moving yourself will save you money, but is it worth the headaches and backaches that come with it? You'll need lots of time to pack, load and transport everything, and likely a few helpers to move heavy or bulky objects like couches, entertainment centers and mattresses. The good news is most friends will happily accept beer and pizza and an IOU.