How to Move in New York City Without Spending a Fortune

By Heather Holland on August 27, 2013 7:29am 

Slideshow
 Experts and penny-pinching New Yorkers share their experiences and tips on how to move on a budget.
How to Save Money on Moving Day
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NEW YORK CITY — Ben Reeves was thrilled to find his dream apartment in Park Slope two years ago — until he realized he couldn't afford to move his belongings there.

“I had just changed jobs and put down a big deposit, so renting a van wasn’t really an option for me,” said Reeves, who is 24.

So Reeves decided to move his books, clothing and dishes from Chelsea to the Slope on the F train, one slow laundry basket at a time.

“In general, I wouldn’t recommend moving on the subway — it’s a lot of work," Reeves said. "But if you do, laundry baskets and wheeled shopping carts are good, although you might wind up looking a bit bohemian.”

As rents continued to rise in the red-hot market this summer, some New Yorkers opted to stay put, but students and other apartment-hoppers who must move may want to forgo one of the biggest costs — the moving company.

Many companies charge hundreds of dollars to move even just the contents of a small studio — Man With A Van, for instance, charges $75 to $180 per hour, depending on the type of furniture and number of movers needed — and that doesn't include a tip.

Also, it's often more expensive to hire movers in the summer and early fall, when companies are booked solid.

"Summer is the busiest time for all moving companies," said Regan Fishman, who works at Rabbit Movers, a Brooklyn-based moving company. "Demand increases exponentially, such that it is not uncommon for every major moving company to be without a vacancy at the end of the month."

While renting a van on your own is usually cheaper than hiring movers, the costs can still add up.

U-Haul is OK, but you have to pay for gas,” said Chelsea resident Ryan Chan, 24, who added that he prefers Zipcar, which offers hourly rates starting at $17, including gas and insurance. "To maximize value, have everything packed up and ready to be loaded before you rent the van.”

Still, plenty of young New Yorkers are opting out of movers and rented trucks altogether, whether they decide to go it alone in a cab or rope family and friends into dragging everything across town by hand.

Reeves suggested dumping or giving away as much as possible beforehand.

“I had been very conscious to get rid of extra clothes, books, etcetera, before beginning, and I was actually able to move everything in a couple of trips on the subway,” he said.

Like Reeves, Financial District resident Lynn O., 26, said she preferred to use the subway to move as a way of saving money.

"You move on the subway when you have a long time to move, because you can just take a couple bags at a time," she said. "I just used a lot of suitcases for everything."

Harlem resident James O'Brien avoided public transit altogether and used a shopping cart for his last move, from 145th Street down to 123rd Street.

“I lived by Pathmark so I used the available materials I had," said O'Brien, 39. "I needed to make a bunch of short trips, but the cart held up well.”

The do-it-yourself approach was more financially appealing than hiring movers, he added.

“Moving is very costly,” O'Brien said. “Most movers and apartments require a deposit so if you can do it under their radar, then go for it.”

But when it comes to the heavy lifting, even the most independent New Yorkers often need some help — and possibly some beer.

Stuyvesant Town resident Erin Diroll, 23, offered her new neighbors a case of beer in exchange for help getting her furniture up the stairs when she moved into her new apartment.

"It worked," she said.

Chelsea resident Ryan Chan said beer is a good enticement for friends too.

“In terms of help, I always get friends,” said Chan, 24. “I think the typical norm is pizza and beer is on you.”

And some New Yorkers are lucky enough to have a team of helpers in the family.

"My dad has nine brothers and sisters," said Lower East Side resident Alex, 16.

"On moving day, they all come to help. First they barbecue, then they pack everything into Jeeps, and follow each other to the new place."

"It's like a party."

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