5 Unexpected Moving Expenses

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—August is wrapping up, and as we push forward toward fall, there's that feeling in the air of a new beginning, a fresh start. For many, that involves real estate.

According to the website moving.com, over the summer and into September is the overwhelmingly most popular time for people to move, wrapping up one home and starting anew. Unfortunately, as many of us have discovered, moving can be an extraordinarily expensive process. Even if you think you've planned for the worst of it, there's usually another price tag hidden right around the corner.

So in the spirit of helping with your fresh beginnings--not to mention lending a hand to all those college students out there--here are a few hidden costs to look for during your next move.

Gas, Tolls and Parking

Welcome to the death of a thousand cuts.

A great way to save money on moving is to spare the expense of hiring a company and simply do the job yourself. Especially for people who live in an apartment rather than an entire house, renting a truck and taking care of everything in an afternoon is sometimes an incredibly practical, affordable option. If nothing else, it cuts the cost of labor down to bribing your friends with a six-pack of beer.

Just don't forget that driving a truck involves a lot more than simply getting hold of it. Trucks need a lot of gas, and if you're traveling any real distance those pit stops will pretty quickly start to add up, sometimes to several hundred dollars over a long trip. The same with tolls; over time and distance, those can really put their thumb on the scale of a tight budget.

Also don't forget about parking. Even a small truck, if it can fit a sofa, kitchen table and a bed, will need a lot of room. Those things don't easily parallel park on a crowded city street, and simply cramming the thing in front of a fire hydrant and hoping for the best is often a pretty quick way to a ticket. Depending on where you're moving, parking might be an issue and the easiest way out might be to pay. It isn't a guarantee, but it's something to consider when doing the numbers.

Insurance

Frankly, I didn't think of this the last time I had to move and in retrospect I wish I had.

Anyone who hires a professional will almost always automatically get some sort of policy to protect his stuff. This is just good sense on the part of the movers, because otherwise a homeowner facing catastrophe would try to take it out on the company and very likely succeed. It's also federal law.

For the do-it-yourself crowd, there's no such umbrella. A U-Haul might come with insurance in case of a crash, but that only covers the vehicle, and most renter's or homeowner's policies stop at the water's edge; they don't cover items in transit. In other words, if the worst should happen and the inside of that van winds up a total loss, you're on your own.

Moving insurance can take care of that. Typically low-cost coverage, this type of insurance is designed to protect your goods while they're getting from Point A to Point B. Like almost all insurance, odds are good that by the time you've unpacked this will feel like wasted money. On the off chance of theft, accident or other disaster, however, it could become a lifesaver.

Long Carry Fee

The reverse of paying for parking. If a moving company can't find a spot close to your front door, they may end up charging what's known as a "long carry fee," an extra charge added for having to carry too far. If your moving company charges this fee they'll have a set distance after which it applies, often 100 feet from the back of the truck to the front door. At the hundred-and-first, it shows up on the bill.

There's no way to know for sure whether this is part of your mover's policy except for to have the conversation outright. Make sure to ask whether, how much and how far.

Packing Supplies and Bulk Items

These are two day-of expenses that often manage to sneak up on people. Whether you've hired movers or not, packing supplies are simply expensive.

Personally, this writer strongly recommends that you build an ornate, cardboard chateau by the time it's all done just to get your money's worth out of all those expensive boxes. (And because, let's face it, at absolutely any age building a box fort is awesome.)

Still, it's with movers that you have to expect the unexpected. Although most professional moving companies will include packaging in the final estimate, it's important to remember that this is just an estimate. When the movers arrive it's very likely they'll discover objects that are particularly delicate or heavy, or just more stuff than they originally anticipated. The extra packaging for all these day of surprises will show up on the bill.

The same with bulk items. Any time the moving company has to take special precautions, or deals with something particularly large or delicate, a special handling charge can find its way onto the bill. This isn't a hard and fast rule, and there's no real way to tell for sure short of doing an item-by-item walkthrough, but it's one to keep in mind.

Utilities

Hopefully it comes as no surprise that making a move will change your utility bills. Sometimes the impact is marginal, moving from one apartment to another nearby will have relatively little effect, and other times it's enormous, such as moving from a studio into a house. However one catch that many people often forget about is the utility set-up fees.

Transferring and setting up utilities in a new home often comes with an up-front charge. Something like electricity and water is generally free, since those always run to the property and simply need a new name. Luxury services like cable and telephone service, however, generally are not. Those come with service charges attached that will show up on your first bill, although it's easy to forget about up front.

So that's it. Five hidden costs that could be lurking around the corner of your next move. Keep an eye out for them, plan well, and hopefully you'll soon be enjoying some well-saved money in your new home.

And enjoy the end of summer.

--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.

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