Hidden Moving Costs and how to avoid them


Let’s identify hidden moving costs and how to avoid them. We take a close look at how to 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 moving costs 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 moving costs 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.

If you have requested any type of special packaging but you cannot see it specifically listed in the quote, raise the issue immediately with your mover.

Hidden Moving Costs and how to avoid them - Wooden crates on floor

2. Additional pick-up/delivery

Another hidden moving cost, involves additional collections or deliveries. 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.

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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 for 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.

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Hidden moving costs and how to avoid them - Delivery plan from Google map street view

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.

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 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” (known as demurrage), once the grace period (usually between 4-7 days) expires.

In reality, there 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 and delay, you incur charges for the privilege.

Hidden moving costs and how to avoid them - checking a container

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.

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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.

Hidden moving costs and how to avoid them - Delivering moving boxes via stairs

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 practical for many people and so, again, if this is addressed before the move begins, you can make an informed choice.

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 the 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.

It may be possible to arrange premium services, commonly referred to as “concierge service” so that all items are unpacked, and put safely away in your new home, however, you guessed it… additional costs will apply.

Hidden moving costs and how to avoid them - Unpacking

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.

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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 do not require, or have not agreed to.
  3. Accept and budget for any cost which is randomly applied and genuinely beyond anyone’s control.

So there you have it. We have covered all the main areas you need to focus on to ensure you avoid hidden moving costs and keep your move within budget. We hope this article has been some use to you, (why not share this with someone you know), and we wish you all the best of luck.

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