Do some digging, and save
By LORE CROGHAN
DAILY NEWS BUSINESS WRITER
Moving will be more expensive this year.
Many of the city's moving companies are raising their rates to pass on increasing costs of their own, as they gear up for their busiest season of mid-May through August.
Galloping gasoline prices are a problem, of course. But so is the price of packing tape — which has gone up 300% in the past two years, said Eric Klepar, general manager of FlatRate Moving in Manhattan.
Cardboard boxes are 25% more expensive than a year ago, he said. The metal bars used in wardrobe boxes are pricier — and so's insurance coverage.
If you're planning a move, you'll feel a more urgent need than ever to find ways to rein in your spending. But don't let your desire for a bargain cloud your judgment, industry execs cautioned. Some firms give super-cheap moving estimates — then demand two or three times as much money when the moving van gets to your new home. If you don't pay, they won't unload the truck.
Selecting a mover
* Make sure your mover is licensed and insured.
Use www.SaferSys.org — the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Web site — to check.
* Shop around.
Get estimates from at least three moving firms before choosing one.
* Have the estimates done at your house or apartment.
By law, the amount the mover actually charges must be within 25% of the estimate — only if the estimate's done on-site, said Greg McIntyre, general manager of The Padded Wagon in the Bronx.
You can find firms that guarantee their estimates. FlatRate Moving does all its pricing that way, and Padded Wagon offers binding estimates as one pricing option.
* Do online research to steer clear of disreputable movers.
Consult MovingScam.com — which has a "Black List" of companies that repeatedly cheat customers. Also, the city's Better Business Bureau — at www.newyork.bbb.org — lists consumer complaints about moving companies.
* Make sure the company you're hiring is a real business with a local office — which you should visit.
"Anyone can build a Web site today," said David Cohen, owner of Divine Moving & Storage in Manhattan.
* Check out the mover's trucks for clues about whether the firm's a fly-by-night.
A truck with nothing but the company name in lettering on its doors may signal a firm that frequently changes its name to avoid dealing with customer complaints, Cohen said. A company that spends money to paint its name and logo all over its trucks probably isn't a chronic name-changer.
* See first-hand how the mover does business.
Drive around and find the company's trucks — and watch its crews in action, said John Healey, owner of Big John's Moving in Manhattan.
* To save dough, do your own packing.
You can cut your bill for moving a one-bedroom apartment by 15% to 30%, said Eric Klepar of FlatRate Moving.
Don't buy insurance for your move unless you need it. Homeowner and renter's policies protect your possessions whether they're at home or in transit — from theft, or damage by fire and weather disasters.
But some policies limit payouts when your stuff is outside your four walls.
"Consult your insurer," Jeanne Salvatore, spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute "Ask lots of questions."
* On moving day, don't sign the contract if it doesn't specify what rate you're paying.
* Remember — it's customary to tip the moving crew, though it's not kosher for them to ask for tips.
Fifteen per cent of the bill is an appropriate tip — which you give to the foreman, and he divvies it up among crew members.
For long-distance trips, you should divide the bill in half before figuring out the 15% tip, Cohen said.