Will Movers Move Things NOT in Boxes?

Quick answer: Professional movers generally prefer that items be boxed, but they will move loose items as well. However, each moving company has its own policies, so it’s essential to clarify these details beforehand to avoid move day confusion.

Whether relocating locally or embarking on a long-distance odyssey, nobody needs a last-minute hassle on moving day. The moving process is stressful and tedious under the best circumstances, so addressing trouble areas early is key.

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And since you’re here, you’ve probably been wondering:

  • Do professional movers need everything in boxes?
  • Will movers move loose household items?

The answers are “no” and “yes” respectively, but policies vary so you’ll need to address these questions when screening full-service moving companies.

But first, check out these helpful articles.

  • Best interstate movers – The moving industry is full of shady players. With so much at stake, it’s worth hiring a top-rated long-distance mover with verified customer reviews.
  • How much will your move cost? – Our moving cost calculator is a great resource. Just enter your move dates, origin and destination cities, and the estimated size of your move, and the magic algorithms will do the rest.
  • Consider moving containers – It’s simple. You load and unload, they drive, and you save big bucks. These are the best moving container companies.

Will movers refuse to move items that aren’t boxed?

To avoid move day headaches, it’s best to get each mover’s box policy in writing before signing a contract.

Consider this situation –

You’ve hired one of the big national van lines to move your household goods to another state. The estimator from the local agency says you can leave lots of items unboxed.

So far so good, but on move day when the van operator from another agency shows up, he or she may ask you to pack many of those very items.

Meanwhile, you’re dealing with a crying child and cranky spouse, and you may be fresh out of cartons.

In short, it’s more stress, work, and expense for you.

Remember, van operators in the moving business pay the lion’s share of their own claims, so most don’t let unpacked items slide.

To box or not to box?

When considering whether an item needs to be boxed, think about its:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Value
  • Fragility

It’s tempting to save money by leaving some items unboxed, but anything that can fit inside a carton should be packed.

Packing boxes is a pain in the neck (and back), but boxed items are much less likely to get damaged.

Instead of fretting over the cost of packing materials, consider it a relatively inexpensive insurance policy that’ll help make moving into your new home or apartment a pleasant experience.

Furniture vs odds-and-ends

Furniture like chairs, dressers, and night tables don’t need to be boxed. Instead, they’re wrapped in quilted moving pads before being loaded onto the truck.

On the other hand, small odds-and-ends or “loose items” should be wrapped in paper and carefully packed into boxes.

Which items will movers not move?

Most movers require the following items to be packed before they’ll move them.

  • Pictures and mirrors
  • Glass and marble table tops
  • Electronics and small appliances
  • Fragile items like glasses, dishes, and vases
  • Lamps and lampshades
  • Chandeliers (big ones may need custom crates)
  • Jewelry boxes
  • Guns

In some cases, if you’re moving locally, these items can be left unpacked, but your movers may ask you to sign a liability waiver.

Items you don’t need to pack

Packing is all about working efficiently and pinching pennies where you can. To those ends, the following items probably won’t need to be boxed.

  • Bicycles
  • Skis
  • Bed frames and rails
  • Toolboxes and garden tools
  • Patio furniture cushions
  • Rugs

Though boxes aren’t necessary, these and other loose items should always be wrapped in moving blankets.

Items that may or may not need to be packed

Some items fall into a grey area, which means that some movers will pad them, while others will require that they be packed. Examples include:

  • Floor lamps
  • Fishing rods
  • Power tools like circular saws
  • Golf clubs

Is it worth paying for packing when moving?

Though it’s a great way to save money, DIY packing is time-consuming and physically demanding.

That said, professional packing services can be prohibitively expensive, and moving boxes, newsprint, and packing tape aren’t exactly cheap either. It’s a classic catch-22.

Remember, packing is often as strenuous as moving because it requires lots of bending, stooping, and twisting that can stress muscles.

When convenience, safety, and affordability are considered, hiring professional packers is almost always worth the extra money.

What about moving insurance?

If you’re considering hiring full-service movers but want to do the packing yourself, you’ll need to think about how this will affect valuation.

When the driver takes the inventory, he or she will mark boxes you’ve packed as PBO, which stands for “packed by owner.”

Moving companies are generally only liable for damaged items in boxes they’ve packed.

However, you may be able to file a claim for PBO cartons if your boxes are dented, torn, gouged or wet.

Want to have your cake and eat it too? Let the movers pack your valuable and fragile items, and box everything else yourself.

Using trash bags

Heavy-duty trash bags are great for packing some items, but you’ll need to ask your mover what they can and can’t be used for.

And remember, trash bags may be OK for relatively light and non-breakable items, but you probably won’t be covered if the contents are damaged or soiled during your move.

On DIY moves, trash bags work well for:

  • Shoes
  • Baskets
  • Sporting goods
  • Pillows, comforters, and sleeping bags
  • Throw rugs
  • Sofa cushions

Just keep in mind that cheap trash bags tear easily, so pack them sparingly and load them high up in the moving truck.

Hiring professional packers on a DIY move

These days it’s easy to hybridize your move. One way is to hire a professional moving company to do the packing and move your household goods yourself.

This is convenient and cost-effective when you don’t have heavy items like pianos and appliances, but have lots of glassware, electronics, and knick-knacks.

If you go this route, just be aware that movers won’t accept liability for the items they’ve packed since you’ll be moving them yourself.

Do movers move everything?

Movers will move almost everything, but there are some items you’ll need to dispose of, give away or move yourself.

They include:

  • Cleaning liquids like bleach, detergent, peroxide, and rubbing alcohol
  • Flammables like gasoline and lighter fluid
  • Explosives like ammunition and fireworks
  • Paint, paint thinner, and nail polish remover
  • Automotive liquids like coolant, motor oil, and transmission fluid
  • Perishable food and cooking oils
  • Propane and other compressed gas tanks
  • Important documents like birth certificates, medical records, legal papers, and passports
  • Irreplaceable heirlooms
  • Hazardous materials like corrosives, poisons, and marine pollutants

If you’re moving across town you can move some of these things yourself, but it’s often better to leave them for the new homeowner or give them to a neighbor.

Common packing mistakes

1. Procrastinating

Why pack today what you can put off until tomorrow…or next week? Take it from me, we’re all guilty of procrastination. In fact, this article should have been finished last month.

The point is, renters and homeowners often bite off more than they can chew when it comes to DIY packing. This often results in move day chaos which can lead to serious delays and significant price increases.

Always err on the high side when estimating packing time, or better yet, hire experienced packers.

2. Paying too much for packing material

Buying packing supplies from moving companies is usually a bad idea because it’s often cheaper online and at home improvement centers.

Also, it’s worth reaching out to friends, family members, and coworkers to see if they have old boxes you can use.

Either way, before stocking up, ask your full-service mover if they have free or discounted used cartons.

Movers often entice prospective customers with free boxes during the fall and winter when it’s slow.

3. Using worn-out boxes

Do you know those old waterlogged, moldy, and moth-eaten boxes in the basement? They’re gross, so don’t use them for your upcoming move.

Though they may have dried out since the last flood, they’re much weaker than when they were new, which means damage is more likely.

4. Not using enough packing paper

Saving the rainforests is important, but it’s not as pressing as protecting family heirlooms and other valuables during a big move.

Thankfully, with the right know-how, it’s possible to pack properly without using too much newsprint.

Adding an extra sheet of paper between dishes and around your DVD player is always a good idea, and after your move, you can use it to clean your windows.

5. Packing dishes and glassware flat

Did you know that professional movers pack dishes on their edges? Why? Because they’re much less likely to break this way.

The truth is, it’s always best to wrap plates in a few sheets of paper, tape or bubble wrap them together in bundles of four or five, and stack them on their edges in sturdy dish cartons.

6. Using cheap tape

Inexpensive tape loses its adhesive qualities quickly. When this happens boxes often pop open and the contents can end up on the truck floor.

7. Not labeling boxes properly

It doesn’t do much good to pack your dishes on their edges like a pro, only to load the boxes sideways in the truck. Especially for cartons containing breakable items, you’ll want to indicate which way they should be loaded.

8. Packing boxes too heavy

As a rule of thumb, heavier items like books, tools, and canned goods should go in small (1.5 cubic foot) boxes.

The bigger the box, the lighter the items that go inside.

Instead of filling large boxes and the empty spaces at the bottom of wardrobes with tools and scrap iron, opt for clothes, pillows, and comforters.

Last-minute moving and packing tips

  • Print a copy of our comprehensive moving checklist
  • Verify that your mover has a valid USDOT number
  • Set aside an hour or two a day to pack, and start weeks before your move date
  • Disassemble tables, home gyms, and entertainment centers a few days before your move
  • Check with your local trash company for tips on how to dispose of non-movable items

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What happens to items not in boxes?

Items that don’t need to be boxed will be wrapped in quilted moving pads before they’re loaded onto the truck.

Will movers pack liquids?

No, movers won’t pack or move liquids.

Can movers move a couch?

Yes, all moving companies move sofas.

Do movers need items boxed up to move them?

Not all items need to be boxed, but get a written copy of your mover’s policy to avoid move day mix-ups.

Do movers need to know what to pack in boxes?

Before the packers arrive it’s best to set aside an “off-limits” room or closet containing the items that you’ll pack and move.

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