Hidden Moving Costs
and how to avoid them

Take firm control and move under budget by avoiding the top 10 hidden moving costs 

For many people it’s a case of finding out the hard way – moving can be an expensive business. Additional ‘hidden costs’ and charges can accumulate at an alarming rate if you are unprepared; with any grey areas potentially costing you a lot of money. So how can you keep to your moving budget and avoid hidden moving costs?

The key to avoiding hidden charges is to understand the scope of your move. In other words what services are included in the quotation and what is not. This eliminates the grey areas and dramatically reduces hidden charges which you may have not budgeted for. We have compiled a list of the most common hidden charges with advice on how to avoid them.

1. Packing/Special packaging

When you are moving, hiring a professional mover to pack all of your items is unquestionably the best way to proceed. Not only is it convenient but packing items yourself may invalidate insurance cover. Most movers will include the packing charges in your quotation, but it is always wise to double-check and ensure this is explicit in the quotation.

Any highly specialised packaging, particularly any wooden crating requirements may not be included in your quotation.

Unless you can see this specifically listed in the quote, raise the issue immediately with your mover.

Moving Tip – If necessary, insist the movers re-submit the quotation to you with the ancillary services specifically included.

2. Additional pick-up/delivery

Most moving quotations will be based on collecting items from point A and delivering them to point B. If you do have an additional pick up at point C, perhaps you have just purchased a new Refrigerator which needs collecting, or at destination you want some items dropped into a storage facility at point D. This will incur additional charges and may be hidden unless you specify the logistics clearly.

Moving Tip – Movers charge a premium for this. Suppliers and third parties are likely to be considerably cheaper.

Additional handling of goods such as a second collection or delivery will mean extra cost

3. Parking/Long Carry/Shuttle

The number one cause of additional charges is poor/restricted access. It might not be possible to place the container or delivery truck immediately outside your home. If your goods have to be carried more than a certain distance – this can range between 20-40 meters, then the vast majority of moving companies will apply a charge. For longer distances, the goods may have to be transferred to a smaller ‘shuttle’ vehicle in order to access your home and again charges may apply. Even if you live in a wide, accommodating street, it may be possible that parking fees could apply.

Whilst charges of this nature may be unavoidable, you can at least budget for them in advance by providing the full delivery address or from example a postcode which will allow the moving companies to determine the exact delivery location which should allow them to indicate any additional access related fees which may be applicable.

This is particularly important if your employer is covering the cost of your relocation, in which case you want to ensure all ancillary costs are provided at the time the quotation is accepted. You may not be in a position to seek reimbursement at the time of delivery.

Moving Tip – Google Maps can allow Movers to look closely at your origin and destination address from a street level. Encourage them to do this and to alert you if any hidden charges might apply.

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4. Insurance

Whether it is a move cross country or across the globe, your belongings are at risk whilst in transit. Accidents can happen, items can get broken, lost or even stolen. Moving companies, airlines and container shipping lines all carry a basic liability cover but this is very limited and is unlikely to provide you with an equitable level of compensation. So it is important to initiate a specific transit insurance policy for your goods and most movers can arrange this for you at additional expense.

Moving Tip – Shop around for the best insurance deal.

5. Demurrage/Customs Inspections

This is another major point of contention however there is a caveat to this one. The majority of countries do not have the capacity to physically check every single shipment which arrives at their ports. This means there is a possibility your shipment might get randomly selected for a random inspection. This will incur additional costs, not mentioned or budgeted for in the quotation.

Since the inspection does not take place immediately the port is likely to apply a storage fee (known as demurrage) whilst your shipment waits to be inspected and to really rub salt in the wounds, if your goods are shipped in a container, the shipping line will apply a “late return fee” once the grace period (usually between 4-7 days) expires.

The reality is very little the mover can do to avoid this from happening – imagine a passenger walking through customs at an airport, can he/she guarantee they will not be pulled aside and have their bags checked? The difference in our scenario is, in addition to the inconvenience, you incur charges for the privilege.

Moving Tip – Do not include anything in your shipment that might pique the interest of a customs official. The bottom line is you might as well cross your fingers and hope for the best – and allow a few hundred dollars as a contingency just in case.

Customs inspections are applied randomly - it's really the luck of the draw

6. Import Duty/Taxes

Once again, generally speaking, the majority of countries will permit someone arriving to import used personal effects and household goods free of duty and taxes provided certain conditions are met. This will not be accounted for in your quotation since it is completely in the hands of the customs department at destination.

Moving Tip – Unless you are shipping items that are clearly brand new, you should avoid this issue. It is wise to keep receipts of items especially anything that is less than one year old.

7. Stairs/External hoist/elevator

When moving to or from an apartment block or a building which utilises an elevator or lift, there is a chance additional charges may be applied. Most moving companies will deliver to the ground floor or first floor, but higher floors, especially with a small elevator, where an external hoist might be required, are very likely to cause significant additional charges.

If the mover at destination only discovers this shortly before (or worse still), on the day of delivery, options will be severely limited which can incur charges which may have been avoidable with the benefit of hindsight.

Moving Tip – Be transparent about this when you first meet the mover, so they have time to identify a cost-effective solution.When

8. Dismantling and Reassembly of furniture

Just because the movers at origin dismantled some items, it does not necessarily follow the items will be re-assembled at destination as standard. A simple bed or table might be included with the compliments of the delivery team, but anything considered new, or system furniture, like Home Center or IKEA, will require handyman services which can cost a lot of money.

You can, of course, handle the reassembly yourself, but this is not everyone’s idea of fun and so, again, if this is addressed before the move begins, you can make an informed choice.

Moving Tips – Any complex dismantling or reassembly requirements may are unlikely to be included in your quotation. Unless you can see this specifically listed in the quote, raise the issue with your mover and, if necessary, have them re-submit the quotation to you with the ancillary services included.

Furniture Re-assembly can be a hidden cost. Ask your mover to include 2 hours for free!

9. Unpacking

Unpacking of your goods at destination should be included in a door to door price – that sounds great!  However, check with the movers you are considering to specify what the term ‘unpacking’ actually means. At delivery, some movers may only unpack furniture and leave you to handle unpacking all of the contents – that’s potentially a lot of work for you.

Other companies will unpack to surface level, this means they will unpack kitchen contents until there is no more counter surface available and then stop. In other words, they are unlikely to wait for you to put things away and then continue unpacking. Make sure you seek clarification on this in order to avoid nasty surprises at destination.

Premium service can be arranged so that all items are unpacked, and put safely away in your new home, however, you guessed it… additional costs will apply.

Moving Tip – Once you have established the scope of work provided during the delivery; Ask yourself how confident you are of handling the aftermath of the delivery alone, can you include family or friends to help out.

10. Disposal of materials

Movers will conduct a general tidy up of your home upon completion of the delivery. They will collect all unpacked boxes, paper, and debris and take them away for recycling and or disposal. However, they will only do that on the day of delivery. So as we covered in point 9 there may still be several boxes and items to unpack, which means you will be left with boxes, paper, bubble wrap which all need to be disposed of.

Moving Tip – Some movers might be willing to pass by your home if they are in the area for a second collection at no extra charge. Ask your mover to explore this and include it in writing in the quotation.

In conclusion

The vast majority of people ask for and expect a door to door service. However, as we have seen door to door is a loosely applied term. Keep your move on budget by applying the 3 following steps.

  1. Ensure all services you require are included in the price.
  2. Check you are not being charged for any services you have not agreed to.
  3. Budget for any cost which is genuinely beyond anyone’s control.

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