Whether you are relocating from one coast to the other or moving to your dream house just across town, changing homes can be hectic, exciting, and certainly stressful. But, relax. You can eliminate all the anxiety associated with moving by taking control of the situation with confidence.

How, though, can you take charge when there’s so much to do and so little time to do it? By exploring your options, establishing a schedule, and following through.

Who will handle the move? Your lifestyle and the distance of the move could be determining factors for deciding how to move. If your move is local, for instance, it may make more sense to handle it yourself and save hundreds of dollars.

On Your Own

Small Sculpted Birds, a plant sitting on a table by an outdoor seating area

Photo courtesy of Decorating Den Interiors – Worldwide Headquarters, Easton, MD

If you do decide to move yourself, the first thing you’ll need to do is rent a truck. Ask the truck rental agency to estimate the size of the vehicle you’ll need. Besides the truck rental fee, be prepared to pay mileage rates and additional fees if you rent pads, dollies, blankets, packing materials, and boxes. It’s also your responsibility to hire movers, pack, load, and unload the truck. And of course, if anything is damaged during the move, you pay. That’s why it’s important to check the coverage on your homeowner’s insurance.  If your goods aren’t insured during the move, find out if you can purchase a rider to cover them.

You can avoid damage by packing the truck tightly, loading from bottom to top. Load your appliances first. Larger pieces of furniture, protected by pads, can follow. So drawers or doors won’t open, secure them with rope. Stand mattresses upright and tie them to the sides of the truck. Place rolled-up rugs in the middle area of the truck. Keep things tight by filling spaces with small boxes. Once you are properly packed and ready to move, you can keep your shipment safe by driving slowly, especially if you are a novice truck driver.

A horse drawn buggy in front of the Old Talbot County Courthouse a black and white historical photo.

A stately conveyance for the times in front of the Old Talbot County Courthouse during the 1876 Centennial.
Photograph from the collection of the Historical Society of Talbot County.

Going with a Pro

For long-distance moves, you’ll probably want to hire a professional moving company. This is the time to ask friends and relatives who have moved about their experiences in the situation.

Try to get the names of at least three movers; then contact the companies to find out about their services. You can research each company and protect yourself by contacting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), by calling (800) 368-4260 or visiting their website at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move.  Because the FMCSA regulates only interstate moves, contact your public utilities commission to find out what protection you have when your move is within a state.


When getting estimates, make sure you show the mover everything you plan to move; show the same inventory to each mover you interview. Usually, charges for local moves are calculated on an hourly rate based on the amount of time it takes to handle the shipment. Interstate moves are typically based on the weight of the shipment (a typical residential move ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 pounds) and the distance of the move.

Additional charges are added for packing and unpacking, and disconnecting and hooking up appliances. You’ll pay more if the movers have to contend with several flights of stairs or an elevator, and you can count on paying more to move a piano or a pool table. If you live in a city, don’t be surprised if you are charged an extra amount for urban driving.

You might get a discount, however, if you move during off periods like fall or winter or during the week instead of on a weekend. And if your move is career-related, the moving expenses may be tax deductible, so keep your receipts.

Once you decide on a mover, the company is required to prepare an order for service. The order for service is not a contract, but a work order that shows the terms (services, pick-up and delivery dates) of the initial agreement. If you need to cancel or change any part of the terms, notify the company so the proper adjustments can be made.

You have the option of choosing either a binding or non-binding estimate. If you know exactly what you’re shipping at the time of the estimate, you can avoid surprises with a binding estimate. Although the fee for a binding estimate tends to be higher than one for a non-binding estimate, the agreed-upon cost estimate is final.

There is no guarantee that a non-binding estimate is final, so choose a non-binding estimate if the exact shipment is questionable. If the cost of the move is greater than the estimate, you’ll have to pay the original estimate plus 10 percent when your shipment is delivered to your new home. Any balance must be paid in 30 days.

Regardless of the type of estimate you choose, be prepared to pay the driver in cash, money order, traveler’s checks, or cashier’s check before your goods are unloaded.

Without a doubt, the most important document when using a professional mover is the bill of lading. The bill of lading is the legal contract between you and the mover, and you’ll sign it on moving day. Before signing the bill of lading, read it carefully. Keep it in a safe, accessible place. You’ll need it when your shipment is delivered, paid for and if you file any claims against the mover.

Before you pack up your possessions, look over your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if your household goods are covered for loss or damage during a professional move. If not, you can buy the coverage you need from your insurance company or the mover.

Although interstate movers are required to assume liability for any loss of or damage to your property, there are different levels of liability. Make sure you understand the type of protection provided and the cost of the plan before signing any agreement.

An old time fill up station in Talbot county with two old gas pumps.

A 1930’s filling station at the corner of Dover and Aurora Streets. At one time, all four corners of the intersection had gas stations. Photograph from the collection of the Historical Society of Talbot County

Packing Pointers

Take it or leave it? Keep in mind that everything you move will add to the cost. Now’s the time to make a clean sweep of things.

You can save money by packing some things yourself; however, the mover probably will not accept liability if the items you packed are damaged during the move.

You can get free cartons from the supermarket or you can buy them from the mover. The mover can provide you with cartons and packing instructions for specific items like mattresses, dishes, mirrors, and clothes. Because there’s more to packing than simply throwing things into a box, it’s best to let the movers handle fragile items.

Start packing items you won’t need two to three weeks before the move, one room at a time. As you pack, take an inventory of each carton and label the carton accordingly. If you’ve packed properly, the sides of the cartons shouldn’t bulge and the top shouldn’t cave in when you close it. Pack heavy items in small cartons. Pack plates standing on their edges. Leave lightweight linen and clothes you may need in their drawers.

If possible, it’s best to pack computers, printers, compact disc players, and other electronic equipment in their original cartons. If the cartons are gone, wrap the components in plastic to protect them from dust and place them in a sturdy, padded carton marked fragile. Since tapes, CDs, and DVDS can be damaged by heat, arrange for their safe shipment or take them with you, along with your other valuable items and all of your legal documents.

If you plan to move appliances, make sure they’re clean and dry, and don’t forget to contact your utility company to disconnect any gas appliances. A few days before the move, empty gasoline and oil from motorcycles, snow blowers, lawnmowers, and any other gasoline-powered equipment.

Moving Out …

When the movers arrive, point out any concerns you may have about proper handling. Accompany the driver as he takes an inventory check and notes the condition of your goods. Carefully review the inventory list to make sure everything is on the list and that you agree with the descriptions of any pre-existing damage.

… And In

When the van arrives at your new house, be ready to pay the moving charges so the crew can unload your shipment. Take your time unloading, carefully checking your inventory list. If anything is damaged or missing, indicate this by writing on the driver’s inventory list before you sign it.

It’s not necessary to unpack every carton before signing the inventory list, but do note any damage to the outside of any cartons. You can still file a loss or damage claim if an unpacked item is broken. Just make sure you leave the pieces in the carton as proof. You have up to 90 days after delivery to file a loss or damage claim; however, it’s best to file a claim immediately.

It takes time to settle into a new house. Start by unpacking things for the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms. Experiment with different furniture arrangements. Get out and explore the neighborhood. Meet your new neighbors. Join a club. Soon you’ll feel right at home.

For additional information, visit the American Moving and Storage Association or call them at (888) 849-2672.

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