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It's a truth universally acknowledged that hiring movers is one of those things that's absolutely, definitively, without question Worth. The. Money. Every single time. (Personally, I've got a long, checkered history of U-Haul-related injuries, broken belongings, parking tickets, and damage overcharges to prove it.)
But given the amount of moving scams out there—and the sheer number of companies vying for your attention—deciding on a company can be surprisingly tricky. Of course, this being 2016, there are entire sites dedicated to helping you sift through the search and find the best deal possible. In hopes of tracking down someone reliable (and cheap), I took my hunt to Unpakt and CityMove, two sites that round up mover bids. Here's what I found:
HOW THEY WORK:
For both search sites, the process is similar: Plug in the details of your move—dates and desired time, addresses, apartment size, and, most dauntingly, inventory (in other words, how many boxes, and what exact size and type of furniture you're taking with you).
From there, the process differs slightly. Both sites have the option to search for hourly or flat rates (though I found flat rates to be way more common), but while Unpakt pulls up a list of comparisons right away, CityMove posts your job on its site, and you wait for movers to start bidding. (The bids started rolling into my inbox almost immediately.)
Crucially, both sites also show ratings and reviews so you can do some vetting before you bid, and Unpakt also links to outside review sources like Google and Yelp—helpful, since the latter has far more mover reviews than any individual platform. From there, you can simply accept a bid and book your move, and if you've opted for the flat rate option, your price is locked in.
PROS AND CONS:
For both sites, the option for touch-of-a-button comparison shopping is far easier than calling up a bunch of individual companies for an estimate. The Unpakt user interface feels more up-to-date and user-friendly while CityMove's interface is rather Web 1.0—Unpakt has nice photos and easy selection to help you put together your inventory list, while CityMove lets you go room by room, too, but then has you select items from a clunky drop-down list. Still, CityMove won out when it came to finding the best deals. To wit: For my move (which involved taking a one-bedroom apartment's worth of stuff 1.1 miles within Brooklyn), my cheapest Unpakt bid was $375 from a Brooklyn-based company called Great Movers, while bids from CityMove went down to around $300.
One interesting thing to note about the bids: As my move date loomed, I got some last-minute lowball bids from the CityMove crowd—one company called Critical Transport services lowered its offer from $315 to $285, which makes it a little too tempting to treat the process like gambling. "Should I risk waiting until 24 hours before my move to book, on the off-chance someone's willing to cut me a better deal?" Choose this approach at your own risk—if you're moving on a busy weekend and wait til the last minute, you run the risk of only finding movers who have inconvenient time slots still available, or higher prices.
But there was a big sticking point in the process: Unless you're a highly organized mover, attempting to inventory your stuff during the stressful lead-up to a move is a quick way to bring oneself to the precipice of a panic attack. (Suffice it to say I didn't exactly follow our 8-week preparation schedule to the letter). Instead, I found myself worrying that my quoted rate might change if I ended up having to move more stuff than I'd estimated.
While I most likely would have done my best guesswork on inventory and gone with one of the cheaper flat rates, both services were thrown out of the running by a last-minute contender: a close friend who moved recently gave me the number of her mover, Sergey, with a sterling recommendation: "My stuff was a mess and he still moved me in 90 minutes. In the middle of an ice storm."
At a quoted price of $200 for the first two hours (and $40 for every half-hour after that), Sergey's was the bid to beat (even once you factor in extra for the tip), and no one from the bidding sites came close. For a disorganized but relatively small-scale move like mine, it made more sense to roll the dice with an hourly rate and a trusted recommendation than to put myself through the stress of itemizing my haphazard trash bags of blankets and sweaters. And reader? Even in post-blizzard, un-plowed Brooklyn, my move was done in and hour and 45 minutes.
In short, good old fashioned word of mouth won the day here. But if you're new to the city or short on insider tips, bidding sites are the next best thing.