Moving and Storage
Before you start your new life in Portland, you and your worldly possessions have to get here. Accomplishing that task can be expensive or cheap, complicated or simple, depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated, where you’re coming from, and how much of the heavy lifting you’re willing to do yourself.
If you plan to move your own belongings, you can simply rent a vehicle and hit the road. Look online or in the Yellow Pages under “Truck Rental” and then check the Web or call around for quotes. Even if you’re dealing with a nationwide company, you might try calling the location nearest you to check pricing and availability. (Keep in mind that some of the national truck rental companies offer significant discounts for reserving a vehicle online.) If you just need a minivan or a small trailer, get quotes from a regular car rental company (listed in the Transportation chapter).
If you are comparing different moving options, factor in the cost of fuel—which, for a cross-country move, can equal or exceed the cost of the basic truck rental—insurance, accommodation, and food. If you need to move a car, also consider whether you prefer to tow the car (most truck rental companies offer trailers or other car-towing options), have it shipped by truck, or have someone else drive it. Many companies, not all of them reputable, will arrange shipment of your car for you. Directory sites such as movecars.com list companies that arrange for auto transport. The Federal Motor Safety Administration (FMCSA) has advised consumers of a dramatic increase in complaints against auto transporters and auto transport brokers, so (as always) research and caution are in order. To check on complaints against a specific auto transporter, or to file one, call the FMSCA at 888-368-7238 or visit protectyourmove.gov.
If you need a truck during peak moving season (between May and September) be sure to reserve one at least a month in advance, especially for one-way rentals. If you can, consider timing your move for the middle, rather than the end, of the month, because demand is lower then.
The following four national truck rental companies have multiple locations in the Portland area:
- Budget, 800-455-1332, budgettruck.com
- Penske, 888-996-5415, pensketruckrental.com
- Ryder, 800-297-9337, ryder.com
- U-Haul, 800-468-4285, uhaul.com
Once you’re on the road, keep in mind that your rental truck may be a tempting target for thieves. If you must park the truck overnight or for more than a couple of hours, try to find a well-lit parking spot where you can keep an eye on it, and don’t leave anything valuable in the cab.
Commercial Freight Carriers and Container-Based Movers
If you don’t want to drive a truck yourself, but you also don’t want to hire a full-service mover, there’s a third option: you can hire a commercial freight carrier to deliver a trailer or container to your home. You pack and load as much of it as you need, and the carrier delivers your trailer or container to your destination. In some cases, this option can be cheaper than renting and driving your own truck, especially when you consider the cost of fuel. U-Pack Moving (877-453-7274, upack.com) uses commercial 28-foot freight trailers. ABF charges by the linear foot, and you pay only for the linear feet you use (subject to a minimum charge). When you’ve finished loading, you install a plywood bulkhead; ABF fills the remaining space with freight, which is unloaded before the trailer is delivered to your new home.
U-Pack, PODS (877-770-7637, pods.com), Door-to-Door Storage and Moving (888-366-7222, doortodoor.com), United Mayflower (877-670-6061, unitedmayflower.com), U-Haul, and several other companies offer container-based moves. In this type of move, the carrier delivers plywood, metal, or fiberglass cubes or other containers to your home. You can generally take a few days to load the containers; when you’re done loading, the company picks up the containers, transfers them to flatbed trucks, moves them to your destination city, and delivers them to your new home. You generally pay only to transport the containers you actually use, and, unlike a truck, the containers can be placed in storage at either end of the journey. However, a set of containers has a smaller storage capacity than a large truck, so this option may not work for people with many rooms full of belongings to move. In addition, some unusually long or tall pieces of furniture—grandfather clocks, for example—may not fit inside certain types of containers; if you have to move such items, ask the company for its containers’ interior dimensions (as well as the dimensions of the “door”) before you commit.
Probably the best way to find a mover is through a personal recommendation. Absent a reference from a trusted friend or relative, you can start with a search engine or the Yellow Pages. For long-distance moves, the American Moving and Storage Association (moving.org) keeps a list of certified movers that honor the organization’s code of conduct.
Once you’ve identified potential movers, do your homework. The federal government eliminated the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1995. Currently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the Department of Transportation, is charged with regulating interstate moves, but it has only a handful of full-time investigators and has no authority to intervene on a consumer’s behalf during a move. States do not have the authority to regulate interstate moving companies, and since the federal government basically won’t, you’re really pretty much on your own in your dealings with an interstate mover. Understandably, the interstate moving industry has degenerated into a largely unregulated free-for-all with thousands of unhappy, ripped-off customers. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus reports that complaints against moving and storage companies rank near the top of all complaints received by their bureaus every year.
Watch out for shakedown schemes that begin with a lowball bid off the Internet and end with the mover holding your belongings hostage for a high cash ransom. Despite the fact that federal law says that movers cannot charge more than 10% over any written estimate, it is not unusual for unscrupulous movers to charge you several times their written estimates—and with your possessions in their possession, you may find yourself paying anyway, since companies that operate this way also won’t tell you where they’re holding your stuff.
For an informative—but potentially terror-inducing—read, check out the MovingScam website (movingscam.com). MovingScam.com provides sound, unbiased consumer education and is committed to bettering consumer protections in the moving industry. The site features a host of useful articles and recent moving news, and maintains a list of endorsed movers and reviews of moving experiences. Its message boards are tended by dedicated volunteers who respond promptly and knowledgeably to moving-related queries, free of charge. The FMCSA operates a similar website (protectyourmove.gov). This website provides one-click checking to make sure that an interstate mover is properly registered and insured. (You can get this information by phone at 800-832-5660.) The site also includes news of recent criminal investigations and convictions, offers links to local Better Business Bureaus, consumer protection agencies, state attorneys general, and state moving associations, and maintains a moving fraud prevention checklist. In general, consumer advocates and attorneys general around the country urge you to take precautions before hiring a mover by doing the following things:
- Make sure the mover is licensed and insured. If the companies you’re interested in appear to be federally licensed, the next step is to contact the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) and find out if the Bureau has a record of any complaints against them.
- Get several written estimates from companies that have actually sent a sales representative to your home to do a visual inspection of the goods to be moved. Don’t worry about cost here; estimates should always be free. Don’t do business with a company that charges for an estimate or wants to give you an estimate over the telephone. Do, however, make sure each company is giving you an estimate for approximately the same poundage of items to be moved, and for the same services. Finally, only accept estimates that are written on a document that contains the company’s name, address, phone number, and signature of the salesperson. Note that estimates can be either binding or non-binding. A binding estimate guarantees the total cost of the move based upon the quantities and services shown on the estimate. A non-binding estimate is what your mover believes the cost will be, based upon the estimated weight of the shipment and the extra services requested. With a non-binding estimate the final charges will be based upon the services provided and the actual weight of your shipment. If you accept a mover’s non-binding estimate, you must be prepared to pay up to 10% more than the estimated charges at delivery.
- Remember that price, while important, isn’t everything, especially when you’re entrusting all of your worldly possessions to strangers. Choose a mover you feel comfortable with.
- Ask for references—then check them.
- Be sure you understand the terms of the moving contract. Get everything in writing, including the mover’s liability to you for breakage or loss. Consider whether to buy additional replacement insurance to cover loss or damage. Check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to see what, if any, coverage you may already have for your belongings while they are in transit. If the answer is “none,” ask your insurer if you can add coverage for your move. You can purchase coverage through your mover. A mover’s coverage, however, is normally based on the weight of the items being insured, not on their value. If you want to cover the actual value of your belongings, you will need to purchase “full value” or “full replacement” insurance. Though it’s expensive, it’s worth it—and you can lower the cost by increasing your deductible. Better yet, consider packing and moving irreplaceable, fragile or sentimental items, documents, and jewelry yourself. That way you can avoid the headache and heartache of possible loss or breakage of your most valuable possessions.
- Compile a detailed inventory of all items shipped and note their condition when they left your house. Take pictures of your important items, and be present for both the loading and unloading of your things. Since checking every item as it comes off the truck is probably impossible when you’re moving the contents of an entire house, write “subject to further inspection for concealed loss or damage” on the moving contract to allow for damage you may discover as you unpack.
- File a written claim with the mover immediately if any loss or damage occurs—and keep a copy of your claim, as well as all the other paperwork related to your move. If your claim is not resolved within a reasonable time, file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and appropriate authorities, as well. (See “Consumer Complaints—Movers,” below.)
If you’ve followed the steps above and succeeded in hiring a reputable mover:
- Listen to what the movers say; they are professionals and can give you expert advice about packing and preparing. Also, be ready for the truck on both ends—don’t make the movers wait. Understand, too, that there may be delays caused by factors—adverse weather, for example—that are beyond a carrier’s control, and your belongings may not get to you at the time, or on the day, promised.
- Treat your movers well, especially the ones loading your stuff on and off the truck. Offer to buy them lunch, and tip them if they do a good job.
- Be prepared to pay the full moving bill upon delivery. The mover may require cash or a cashier’s check. Some carriers will take VISA and MasterCard but it is a good idea to get written confirmation that you will be permitted to pay with a credit card; the delivering driver may not be aware of this arrangement and may demand cash.
If you are using a mover for a move that is wholly within Washington or Oregon, follow all the steps above for dealing with interstate movers: make sure they are licensed and insured, check with the Better Business Bureau, check estimates, check contracts, and check references. The regulatory entity for moves that start and end in Oregon is the Oregon Department of Transportation, Motor Carrier Transportation Division (MCTD) (503-378-5849, oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/). The counterpart agency in Washington is the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (360-664-1160, 888-333-9882 for consumer complaints and information, wutc.wa.gov).
A complete list of state-authorized movers in Oregon is available from the MCTD at oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/MOVERS.shtml. You can find out whether an Oregon moving company is licensed by calling 503-378-5985. The list of Washington-authorized moving companies is posted at wutc.wa.gov/consumers/movers/; follow the link to “Lookup Permitted Moving Companies” or call the commission at 360-664-1222 to ask if a specific company is registered.
Packing and Organizing
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about packing. You’ll need plenty of boxes, tape, and packing material—probably more than you think. Moving and truck rental companies sell boxes, as do most office supply stores, but most grocery stores or liquor stores will let you scrounge some empty boxes. For foam “peanuts,” bubble wrap, and other materials to protect fragile items, look in the Yellow Pages under “Packaging Materials”; if you have some especially fragile and valuable items, you might also want to look under “Packaging Service.” Post-move listings on Craigslist (craigslist.org) often offer excess boxes and packing materials in the “free” category.
Loading and Unloading
If you are driving a rental truck or using a freight carrier, but you are disinclined to load and unload the truck yourself, many moving companies and independent businesses offer “pack and load” services. Companies that provide these services generally charge by the person/hour, with a minimum charge. (Call around, as hourly rates and minimums vary tremendously.) The same cautions that apply to hiring full-service movers apply equally to pack-and-loaders: try to get a recommendation from a trusted source, make sure the company is insured, and always check references. Beware of companies that use inexperienced temporary workers who may not be especially careful with either your belongings or your walls, and who may not pack your items securely in the truck—a fact which you may not discover until you unpack your crushed possessions at the end of your journey.
Because packing and loading do not involve the actual transport of goods, the businesses that provide these services are often unregulated. A 2003 Oregon law required pack-and-loaders in the state to have insurance and to register with the Oregon Department of Transportation, but 2009 legislation exempted pack-and-loaders who do not provide or operate a moving vehicle (or act as an agent for someone who does). Non-exempt pack-and-loaders are regulated as moving companies. Washington does not currently require pack-and-load companies to register with the state.
Whatever moving method you plan to use, make sure you’ll have a spot at both ends of your move to park the truck or to place the trailer or containers. Some cities require a permit to park a truck or place containers on a public street; others don’t require a permit, but will issue one so that you can reserve a parking place for your moving truck. You can get such a permit from the city of Portland’s Office of Transportation, 503-823-7365, portlandonline.com/transportation (follow the link for “Get a Permit”), for a nominal fee.) If you are moving to or from a large apartment building, check with the manager to see if you need to reserve a time to load or unload.
Most communities have commercial storage facilities where you can rent a secure, climate-controlled self-storage locker—your own little warehouse—to keep items that don’t fit in your home or that you only use occasionally. These can also be convenient places to store your belongings temporarily while you find a new home or while you prepare to sell your old one, and many have moving vans for rent. Find a storage facility online by using a search engine or searching online yellow pages (such as dexknows.com or yp.com) under “Household and Commercial Storage.” Alternatively, check the tangible Yellow Pages under “Storage—Household & Commercial.” Keep in mind that demand for storage surges in the prime moving months of May through September, so try not to wait until the last minute to look for a storage unit.
If you plan to open your storage locker only twice—the day you fill it and the day you empty it—then consider a suburban location that will be cheaper than facilities closer to the heart of a city. If you need more frequent access to your locker, location will matter, and so will access fees. Also note that some storage facilities only allow daytime access. Others have gates that only open when a car or truck triggers a weight-sensitive mechanism, which can be a problem if you don’t own a car. Ask about billing and security deposits, too, and don’t be late with payments: if you fall behind, the storage company will not dump your stuff on your doorstep—they’ll auction it off.
Mobile or modular storage is more convenient, and more expensive, than self-storage. The company delivers a large container to your door, you load it, and the company hauls it away until you call for it. This can save you a lot of time and effort—it’s one less round of unpacking, re-packing, and transport—but it’s not good for easy access.
Portland and its suburbs are awash in storage possibilities. Your best bet for finding storage is to focus on a geographic location and then explore options within that general area. The biggest storage company in the Portland area is Public Storage, with more than 40 locations in the city and suburbs. Call 800-688-8057 or visit publicstorage.com for locations and quotes. Here are a few other storage companies that you can contact to start your search:
- Downtown Self Storage, 1305 NW Davis St, 503-388-4060, and 1304 NW Johnson St, 503-388-4061, downtownselfstorage.com, has two locations in the Pearl District.
- Northwest Self Storage, nwselfstorage.com, is a network of independent storage companies with more than two dozen locations in the greater Portland area; their website provides links and contact information for dozens of storage facilities in Oregon and Washington.
- U-Haul Self-Storage, 800-468-4285, uhaul.com, has several storage facilities in the area; U-Haul sometimes offers free storage for one month with a one-way truck rental.
To file a complaint about an Oregon mover, contact the Motor Carrier Transportation Division (3930 Fairview Industrial Dr NE, Salem, 97302, 503-378-5849, oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT). For a bad move within Washington, contact the consumer affairs staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission at 888-333-9882, or visit wutc.wa.gov/fileacomplaint to use their online complaint form.
If yours was an interstate move, your options for government help are limited. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommends that you contact the Better Business Bureau in the state in which the moving company is licensed and that you register a complaint with that state’s consumer protection office. You can also file a complaint directly with the FMCSA by telephone or online (888-DOT-SAFT [888-368-7238], nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov). Don’t expect much from the agency, however; the complaint hotline is essentially just a database and you will only hear from the FMCSA if it looks at your complaint and determines that enforcement action is warranted.
If satisfaction still eludes you, start a letter-writing campaign: to the state attorney general, to your congressperson, to the newspaper, to online review sites—the sky’s the limit. (You won’t necessarily get results, but you might feel better.) If the dispute is worth it, and the moving company actually has assets or insurance and hasn’t vanished into the ether, you can always hire a lawyer and seek redress through the courts.
If your move is work-related, and your employer is not reimbursing your moving costs, some or all of your moving expenses may be tax-deductible. Though eligibility and specific requirements vary—depending, for example, on whether you have a job or are self-employed—you can generally deduct the cost of moving yourself, your family, and your belongings, even if you don’t itemize deductions. To qualify for the deduction, your move must be employment-related; your new job must be at least 50 miles farther away from your former residence than your old job location; and you must work in the new location for at least 39 weeks of the first 12 months after your arrival.
In general, you can deduct:
- The cost of moving household goods from your old residence to your new one
- The cost of storing household goods in your new city for up to 30 consecutive days
- The cost of shipping your car
- The cost of moving your household pets
- The cost of your family’s trip to your new residence (including transportation and lodging, but not meals)
Keep your receipts for these expenses.
If you take the deduction and then fail to meet the length-of-employment requirements, you will have to pay back the IRS (unless the failure is because your employer transferred you again or laid you off through no fault of your own). IRS publication 521 (available from the IRS website at irs.gov or by phone at 800-829-3676) provides full details of the moving expenses deduction. It’s a good idea to consult a tax expert if you are unsure whether, or to what extent, your move qualifies for the deduction.
Moving can be hard on children. Kids that move to a new city are suddenly isolated from their friends and have to start over in an unfamiliar school and community. According to an American Medical Association study, children who move often are more likely to suffer from such problems as depression, aggression, and low self-esteem. Often their academic performance suffers as well. Besides avoiding unnecessary moves, there are a few things you can do to help your children cope with these stressful upheavals:
- Talk about the move with your kids. Be honest but positive. Listen to their concerns. Involve them in the process as fully as possible.
- Make sure the children have their favorite possessions with them on the trip; don’t pack “blankey” or “bear” in the moving truck.
- Plan some fun activities on the other end. Your children may feel lonely in their new surroundings, and some ready-made activities can help them feel more comfortable.
- Keep in touch with family and loved ones as much as possible. Photos, phone calls, and e-mail are important ways to maintain links to the important people you have left behind.
- If your children are of school age, take the time to involve yourself in their new school and in their academic life. Don’t let them get lost in the shuffle.
For younger children, there are dozens of good books designed to help explain, or at least help ease the transition of, moving. These books include Max’s Moving Adventure: A Coloring Book for Kids on the Move by Danelle Till, illustrated by Joe Spooner; Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst; Goodbye/Hello by Barbara Hazen; The Leaving Morning by Angela Johnson; Little Monster’s Moving Day by Mercer Mayer; Who Will Be My Friends? (Easy I Can Read Series) by Syd Hoff; I’m Not Moving, Mama by Nancy White Carlstrom, illustrated by Thor Wickstrom; and The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day by Jan and Stan Berenstain.
For older children, try The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide by Gabriel Davis; Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger; The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park; Hold Fast to Dreams by Andrea Davis Pinkney; Flip Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson; and My Fabulous New Life by Sheila Greenwald.
Moving live animals across the country is stressful for everyone involved, whether animal or human. The Pet-Moving Handbook by Carrie Straub, available from First Books (firstbooks.com), provides practical answers for all your pet-moving questions and covers domestic and international moves via car, airplane, ferry, etc.
In general, driving your pets thousands of miles comes with its own set of challenges, including dealing with extreme weather (which could prevent you from leaving your pet in the car while you eat, for example) and finding pet-friendly overnight accommodation. If your pets go by air, you’ll have to navigate the maze of regulations, services, and prices that each airline has devised for animal transport; some airlines will not transport pets at all, others allow them only in the cabin as carry-on luggage, and still others will only transport animals when outdoor temperatures are moderate. A few airlines have special climate-controlled pet care facilities at their hub airports, and will place pets in a climate-controlled cargo bay on the plane. At a minimum, you’ll need to get a health certificate from your veterinarian.
Given the complications of moving animals over long distances, you might want to leave the task to professionals. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association (903-769-2267, ipata.org) maintains a list of pet shipping companies. These companies, such as WorldCare Pet Transport (631-751-2297, worldcarepet.com), will make all the arrangements with airports, airlines, and the licensing authorities at your destination—and, of course, they will (or should) move your pet in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and USDA specifications.
Online Relocation Resources
The following websites feature moving tips and links to movers, real estate leads, and other relocation resources:
- American Moving & Storage Association, moving.org, offers referrals to interstate movers, local movers, storage companies, and packing and moving consultants.
- Sperling’s Best Places, bestplaces.net, compares quality-of-life and cost-of-living data for US cities.
- First Books, firstbooks.com, offers relocation resources and information on moving to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis–St. Paul, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., as well as China and London, England. First Books also publishes the Newcomer’s Handbook for Moving to and Living in the USA; The Moving Book: A Kids’ Survival Guide; Max’s Moving Adventure: A Coloring Book for Kids on the Move; and the Pet-Moving Handbook.
- Move, move.com, provides realty and rental listings, moving tips, and more.
- The Riley Guide, rileyguide.com/relocate.html, is an online moving and relocation clearinghouse with links to dozens of useful relocation-related sites.
- To learn more about your rights and responsibilities with respect to interstate moving, check out the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) publication “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” which is downloadable off the protectyourmove.gov website. The State of Oregon has created an online list of moving tips (“Consumer Guide to Moving”), available at oregon.gov/ODOT/MCT/movers.shtml. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has compiled various fact sheets and consumer guides for moving at wutc.wa.gov/consumers/Pages/moverpublications.aspx.
- The United States Postal Service offers an online change of address form and general relocation information at moversguide.usps.com.
- Worldwide ERC—The Workforce Mobility Association, online at worldwideerc.org; if your employer is a member of this professional organization, you may have access to special services. Non-members can use the online database of real estate agents and related services.