Full Service Residential Moving / Relocations & Alternatives

Last Amended:  April 2018


“The most stressful experiences in life for the average person,  will involve death, divorce or moving.”

-Mayflower Moving Driver,  Indianapolis, Indiana, 1992


Step #1:  Learn about the process and options by obtaining a free, on-site, full service estimate.


Look at the information provided by a top tier, full service moving / international relocation company:



Locate a local office and schedule a full service estimate.



Step #2:   If you are shipping a full truckload or full container, the best practice is to obtain three full service estimates.  


If the shipment is boxes, suitcases and furniture that could be palletized or crated, then only one on-site full service estimate may be necessary .  A detailed packing list with estimated weights and dimensions and photos of the furniture pieces can be all that is necessary on smaller shipments..


The second and third estimates should be easy as information is on hand from the first estimate of the sizes/dimensions of the boxes and furniture being shipped, or the size of container needed.   Don’t schedule the second estimate until you have the numbers on the 1st estimate. While the second company sales agent is at your residence, show them any estimates your already obtained and ask them questions.   This will be far more informative for you and them than just having them repeat the survey of boxes and furniture.


Try and have the second and third estimate to line up with the first and break down the costs for an apples to apples comparison between the written estimates.



Step #3:  Read the fine print.  Questions to ask include but are not limited to:


Where in the estimate does the provider mention transit times, destination fees and inspections?  


  • Per the estimate and terms and conditions of transport, the mover may be entitled to have your goods sit in their warehouse until they have another truck or container with other shippers cargo shipping to a similar destination.

  • For international ocean and air movements, the household moving company is relying upon the supply of ocean containers at the nearest rail yard, rail schedules, vessel schedules, port operations and the vacation schedules of customs officials.  Circumstances with any of these “providers” can affect the residential moving company performance. Under the moving company contracts, they are not to be held at fault when circumstances happen with the providers upon whom they rely.

  • Destination port fees, terminal handling charges, fumigation, warehouse charges or other costs that may be incurred, may not be included in the estimate and could be the responsibility of the importer.

  • Inspection fees, both before export, during transit and at import, may be assessed by carriers and/or customs regulators.


What does the insurance actually cover ?


Insurance will often have a significant deductible, exclusions for certain types of events and losses, and require professional packing.  For ocean shipments, a maritime liability policy is generally required to cover the the party whose goods are being shipped - who are proportionally liable for the value of the ship if it is lost at sea.


Is the move date firm ?  What is the cancellation policy for you or for the carrier?


75% of residential moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day.   Finding available labor and drivers can be difficult. While cannabis is now legal in many jurisdictions, it is still a disqualifier for a commercial drivers license and along with regulations limiting driver hours, moving companies can run into situations where labor and drivers are simply not available or they are just overworked.   It is critical that the shipper and carrier have some flexibility on their loading date, and a backup plan



Step #4:  How does your estimate break down costs.


  • Packing materials (boxes, padding, crates);

  • Packing Labor (per box, crating, specific to high value or fragile pieces);

  • Insurance and deductible;   

  • Loading  (per man hour, cubic foot, container, flat fee, variables for premium dates and times)

  • Trucking of boxes, pallets, crates or ocean container.

  • Storage of cargo prior to export or delivery;

  • Cost of trucking, air or ocean freight between origin and destination ports/terminals;

  • In transit security inspection

  • Destination Port/Handling fees (estimate)

  • Clearing or Entry Filing fee

  • Storage or Demurrage prior to delivery

  • Destination Trucking / Delivery;

  • Unloading, Unpacking, Assembly, Debris Removal


Are they itemized or are they given as a flat fee?  Often a full service quote only lists three categories: packing; (loading, transport, unloading); and insurance.  Port destination handling fees, inspections that may or may not be required by customs and any duties, taxes or local fees that are not included are also not estimated in the quote.



Step #5:  Decision time on price and what can I do myself.


I want the full service.  

  • Can I negotiate a better deal?

  • Can I get help negotiating a better deal on a full service move?


I want to consider the parts can I do myself and save?:

  • Packing - buy the materials yourself and either pack yourself or get only the level of help that you need for specific items and any palletizing or crating you need.  Local individuals or companies that provide packing services.

  • Loading onto pallets/crates, a truck or into a container - do it myself, family, friends, hire casual labor or a smaller loading/moving company;

  • Loading the auto.  I can load the boxes, but I may need help loading and securing an auto.

  • Find my own insurance and/or check to see if my cargo is covered under my renter, homeowner or business property owners insurance policy.

  • Deliver my packed goods to a moving company, freight terminal or an export central freight station (air / ocean freight terminal).  In the case of an ocean container, you can deliver your goods to a warehouse and cross dock into a a container, but you cannot truck the container to the origin facility or load your container at the container facility.  Only specially licensed trucks and drivers are allowed to move containers from the container yard to your loading site.

  • Use a Freight Forwarder to book any of the trucking, ocean freight or containers, or air freight needed to move my cargo to destination terminal;

  • File the forms to clear my own cargo (international transport) and pay the local destination terminal and handling fees;

  • Recover my own cargo from the truck terminal or ocean freight station or air cargo terminal, or hire a driver to remove the container from the port to my warehouse or residence.

  • Unload the ocean container and unpack any crates, pallets or boxes and move them into my warehouse unit or residence.

  • Assemble my own furniture and recycle my own packing debris.