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U-Pack Moving promises to be the “quick, convenient way to move long distances.” It is part of the ABF ® Freight System, Inc. family, and it can move you anywhere in the country within two to five business days, according to its site. How it works is U-Pack provides you with a trailer or ReloCube ® (a big steel box or more than one of them), you pack your stuff into it (or hire movers to do it) and pay for renting out the space you use, a driver comes and picks up this stuff and drives it to your destination, where you will then unload it all. The service is more expensive than renting out a truck and driving it yourself, but the convenience factor just might be worth it. This is especially true for those of us who are a bit chicken about driving one of those big boys.
For the purposes of this guide, I am planning a long distance move (1,100 miles) of a 3-bedroom home from Fort Lee, N.J. (New York City area) to Kissimmee, Fla. (Orlando area) because those are two destinations with which I’m familiar. I order the rental about two weeks before the invented move date. I try to reserve the rental for a Saturday, which is a popular moving day. I complete the order and later cancel it. By keeping the particulars of the move about the same for each order, I make it possible for you to more easily compare companies and services.
Here’s the particulars of my move: I live in a 3-bedroom home with two large flights of stairs. In addition to the bedrooms, there are two and a half bathrooms, a finished basement (which includes a bar and living area featuring a sofa that turns into a queen-sized bed), a laundry room (with storage under the staircase that includes boxes of holiday decorations), a kitchen, living room (with two sofas, including another one that converts to a queen-sized bed), formal dining room (with a very large and heavy china closet filled with delicate china and glasses for entertaining), and an attic (with some pieces that will eventually be used to convert my son's toddler bed to a queen-sized bed and my wedding dress packed in a special box for preservation). The quotes I received are based on this information.
Prices vary based on the distance of the move and the equipment you choose (trailer versus ReloCubes). What really makes a difference in the price is how much space you need for your stuff in the trailer or how many cubes you need for it all to fit. To give you an idea, for me to move my 3-bedroom house from Fort Lee, N.J. to Kissimmee, Fla., I would have paid about $2,649. This includes the recommended 17 linear feet in a 28-foot trailer, the driver, taxes, fuel, “free” additional liability coverage, and the “free” ramp. I could have added on two helpers for two hours for loading ($465) and unloading ($308) or monthly storage ($395). I opted out of those extras, which meant I would be responsible for loading and unloading the trailer myself, which would have really meant forcing my husband or innocent friends and family – or more likely both – to do it if this were a real move.
There are a couple of ways to bring down the price of your bill. First, by booking online I received a $25 discount. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Students and military also score savings. Too bad for me, I don’t belong to either group. You can save $75 per unused linear foot. So, I would get $75 slashed from my bill if I used only 16 linear feet instead of the estimated 17. Finally, I could load and/or unload at a U-Pack service terminal for a $200 price cut. In other words, if I packed my stuff into a trailer at the Carlstadt, N.J. U-Pack terminal, which is about 20 minutes from my home, and picked it up at the Orlando, Fla. center, which is about 15 minutes from my Kissimmee address, as opposed to packing it up in my Jersey driveway and unpacking it in my Florida driveway, I could save a total of $400. While that is pretty inconvenient, you have three days to load and three days to unload your stuff, so you might be able to pack up your car and take everything, depending on its size, to and from the service centers.
For an additional $255, I could have signed up for U-Pack Guaranteed, which would guarantee the day of delivery for my stuff. If my stuff failed to arrive on the agreed upon day, I would be eligible for a refund of 100 percent of the transportation charges. Of course, the reason for tardiness would have to be the fault of U-Pack. In other words, if a natural disaster closed off the highway, and the driver brought everything two days late, I would still have to pay.
Those who are willing to spend more money to avoid driving long distances in one of those gigantic trucks are a good fit.
While the Web site overwhelmed me a bit, I was definitely impressed by the tools and gadgets and the information overload. Free e-cards wowed me. The ReloCubes for moving a smaller home and the trailer are billed as clean and easy to use for loading and unloading. By far, my favorite part of this service is that someone else – presumably with much, much more experience than I have – will be driving that ginormous truck from New Jersey to Florida while I’m sitting on a plane sipping a ginger ale or driving my car and stopping at South of the Border for a little fun. In fact, that might make the higher price worth it.
Like I mentioned, this was both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, you need to know a lot about the company, its services, and the general practice of moving your stuff. This site has it all. Even though it’s hard to navigate in the way that it is laid out, it offers all you need to know and more. I really appreciated the Simple Space Estimator and Room-by-Room Estimator, tools for determining how much space you needed to rent and whether you needed trailer space or ReloCubes. With the Simple Space Estimator, you just input the size house or apartment you were moving, and you found out about how much space you needed. My guess is that this might cause a bit of an overestimate, which is why the cost for me was higher than the truck rental companies. In the end, I might have ended up spending less by using fewer linear feet of space in the trailer. Who knows?
If I was really moving, I probably would have used the Room-by-Room Estimator, which had you mark off the number of items you’d be moving in each room of your home to spit out an estimate. Although it seems like it would be more accurate, I wondered if the tool could assess the size of items you’d be moving. The living area in my home includes two couches, a big chair, six dining chairs, a dining table, a huge china closet, two end tables, and two stand-alone cabinets, not to mention a stand-alone fireplace and flat-screen TV. That’s a lot of big stuff that would take up a lot more space than my son’s toys or even his toddler bed. I didn’t see a way to differentiate between the sizes of items. Still, it’s great to have a reference, a way to at least get an idea of how much space you would need to rent.
The site provides information for clients about all the to-dos after you move. I like this every time I see it on a moving site because it shows that the company cares about its clients. It’s an easy thing to post on your site, and it gives the sense that this is more than a relationship based on taking your money. What I really liked – and have not seen anywhere else, so far – were the free e-cards. You could share your change of address or invite your friends to a moving party to help you load and unload. There were a variety of them, so you had a choice. My favorite one was of the couple wearing boxes on their heads. I think that’s what most of us feel like when we’re moving, no?
I didn’t go through with this move, so I don’t know what the trailers or ReloCubes are really like firsthand. But I can tell you that they sound stellar. If they’re half as good as the descriptions, then I’d probably be satisfied.
The trailer is 28 feet long and has a loading capacity of 2,000 cubic feet with internal dimensions of 324” X 96” X 108” (LWH). It is recommended for those looking to move a large 3-bedroom home or a small 4-bedroom home. Your stuff will likely be hauled with other people’s stuff. A dividing wall that you have to install separates one load from another. You also have to use the ramp that comes with the package because the truck is 48” off the ground. On the site, you can learn how to install the ramp, and it seems easy enough. Again, I didn’t do this, so I can’t be sure.
ReloCubes, on the other hand, are a good option for smaller homes and apartments that need to be moved. You can reserve one or as many as you want. The estimator tools will help you decide what you need. The cubes are flat to the ground, so they should be really easy to load. One cube measures 70” X 82” X 93” (WWH). U-Pack promises it easily fits into a single parking space and can fit the furnishings of one room. They are custom built of steel and are weatherproof. If you’re worried about the safety of your stuff, you can feel a little better knowing that you will lock the cube, keep the key, and it won’t be opened again until you open it at your destination.
There’s really nothing else to say here. For someone, like me, who is intimidated by the thought of driving one of those big moving trucks, this is the ultimate perk.
Unfortunately, there are also lots of ways for you to ring up a higher bill, even after you’ve made your reservation. What is worse is that if you don’t read the fine print on the bill that is e-mailed to you, then you might not know the risks. Also, a few things I read on the site turned out to be somewhat misleading. The lack of online agents was frustrating because it meant having to dial up someone on the phone every time you had a question. Although the Web site is chock full of helpful information, it can be off-putting. As you’re reading, you’re sidetracked by links to fancy tools and other documents. Since I’m curious and therefore easily distracted, I found it overwhelming at times. But that negative can easily be looked at as a positive, too. After all, when has anyone complained about a company offering too much information?
A customer service representative told me on the phone that there were no hidden fees. That is only half a lie because it’s fair to say that the fees are not completely hidden. When I read the fine print of the bill that was e-mailed to me after I made my reservation, I learned of a few ways I could end up spending way more than I expected, more than was in the estimate. The first way is obvious and totally acceptable; just as I would get a $75 price cut for using one less linear foot of space, I would be charged $75 for each additional foot I used.
If you cancel within one week of your scheduled date, then you’ll be charged $50. If you cancel the day of the scheduled date, then you will pay a steep $150. This is problematic only because I had more time to cancel without getting charged with the truck rental companies. As a result, I would have assumed I had more time had I not noticed that note in the receipt.
You have to be well aware of time when packing and unpacking, too. You have three days to load and three days to unload the trailer at either end. If you exceed the allotted time, then you will be charged $50 per day per trailer. If you don’t take immediate delivery of the shipment at the destination terminal, the company will hold your stuff in the trailer for two days for free. Unless storage is pre-arranged, subsequent days will cost you $50 per day per trailer. Your shipment will not be released at the destination until you have paid in full.
In some places, such as Manhattan, you can’t park the trailer, so you have to arrange for a live load/unload, which means that the driver waits while you pack or unpack everything and then leaves immediately. In these cases, the customer has four hours to get the truck ready to go. U-Pack will apply additional fees if it takes you longer.
This next discovery is super important for anyone getting a trailer, and I would have had no way of knowing about it had I not dug into the particulars of the receipt. If you get the trailer, as opposed to the cube, which is necessary if you’re moving a 3-bedroom home like I would be doing, then you need a ramp. It comes as part of the package, but you have to know exactly how to return it or you could end up spending extra money. The ramp has to fit within the trailer and be loaded outside the bulkhead wall (this is the divider that U-Pack gives to you to keep your stuff from catching cooties from other people’s stuff). If you pack the ramp with your stuff inside that divider, then you’ll face additional charges. If you fail to return the ramp, there’s a warning about replacement charges costing up to $1,000. Yikes! While I’m sure most people would realize they had to return the ramp, I think many would fail to pack it in the right place unless told ahead of time.
You are responsible for parking fees, and you’ll have to do research about where you can park a trailer of such heft in your loading and unloading neighborhoods. You could be charged for the “gypsy moth quarantine,” which is a problem if you’re unpacking in California. This has something to do with laws and restrictions about gypsy moth eggs that could be living on your stuff and that California wants to keep out of its borders. Sounds legit. Trash or boxes left in the trailer or a customs delay could also cost you more. In addition, you’ll have to pay $150 per redelivery attempt should the company have to bring the trailer to you more than once.
Early in my research of U-Pack, I was excited to input my origin and destination into a tool that would spit out the price I’d be paying for fuel. Up until this point, I had been studying truck rental options, and I was curious if my estimation of fuel prices were accurate. I would spend $532 in fuel if I rented a truck, according to U-Pack, which was close to my own estimation. The point of this tool was to show how much money you’d save by having U-Pack do the driving for you and it said so on the Web site page. However, when you make your reservation, you learn that the price “includes fuel.” So, it’s still baked in there.
I decided to put U-Pack to the test. I added the fuel cost that its Rental Truck Fuel Calculator estimated to the price that I was given by U-Haul ®, Budget ®, and Penske ®. While the prices all end up being close, U-Pack is still the highest at $2,649. U-Haul ® would cost $2,626, Budget ® 2,603.55, and Penske ® $2,621.05. Clearly, the fuel is not free with U-Pack. It’s part of the price.
To be extra clear, the truck rental company costs include additional rentals of furniture pads and hand trucks for loading and unloading and protecting my stuff, including delicate wood furniture and the like. U-Pack offers the opportunity to purchase those items – not rent them – at an additional price. Since I’d be packing and unpacking the trailer myself, I would need these things. In other words, it would undoubtedly cost me more than the U-Pack quote and therefore significantly more than the truck rentals. In addition, U-Pack suggests you cover your stuff with tarp or a plastic cover, which I’d also have to purchase if I couldn’t borrow it from someone.
Another example is how the first e-mail I received from U-Pack indicated that the online reservation discount of $25 would end on Feb. 28, which made me think I had to rush to make a decision. According to a second e-mail, the discount would end April 30, more than two months from when I was making my reservation.
In the age of the Internet, you have to dial a phone to ask U-Pack a question. Now, this isn’t a big deal. We all have phones still, at least the cellular kind that are not attached to our home. But I’ve been spoiled. I often deal with online agents and I appreciate the convenience of having the site or reservation right on the screen while I’m chatting with an agent. I like to be able to strike up a conversation pretty much whenever I have any minor question (during business hours but sometimes beyond them, too), something I would not do by phone. I missed the online agent component on this site. Still, you can live without this. And as much as I don’t want to, so can I.
U-Pack offers a ton of information about moving and using its services on its Web site. I love that. But there were no drop-down menus to help you navigate. Whenever I clicked on a new page, I found more resources by way of hyperlinks, so I would get distracted from what I was reading, click on another page that would have more links that would intrigue me and take me to yet another page. Before I knew it, I was lost. I had no idea how to get back to the information I originally was reading up on. Although I found my way to nifty tools, such as the fuel calculator and the ramp setup and removal pictorial instructions, I felt as though I was getting sidetracked. It definitely distracted me from my goal of determining whether this was the right service for my move and me.
Standard liability coverage is free, or at least it comes with your reservation and space rental price at no additional cost. This covers items at $.10 per pound per piece for loss or damage that are a result of carrier negligence. The bill stipulates that ABF does not provide insurance for your goods. For an additional fee, you can increase the amount of coverage. For $75, your coverage increases to $1 per pound per item up to a maximum of $20,000 per trailer and $2,500 per cube. For $125, coverage increases to $2 per pound per piece up to a maximum of $40,000 per trailer and $5,000 per cube. For $175, you can increase coverage to $3 per pound per item for a maximum of $60,000 per trailer and $7,500 per cube. You have to call an agent on the phone before the scheduled date of your trailer or cube’s arrival to request additional coverage, according to the site.
There are more than 250 service locations, also known as terminals. ABF Upack is “One of the newest, best-maintained fleets on the road,” according to the ABF website.
The backstory of U-Pack gets a little complicated. Its parent company, ABF Freight System, Inc., is a whopping 85 years old, a grandparent of the trucking industry. But U-Pack, more like a great grandchild of ABF, launched on Oct. 1, 1997. ABF claims to have one of the best-maintained and newest fleets on the road, and it includes 1,600 tractors, 2,500 city tractors, and more than 17,000 trailers, according to the Web site. There are 13,000 employees, and service to all 50 United States, 9 Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
The American Trucking Association frequently honors ABF, the parent company of U-Pack, for its safety, security, and freight handling standards, according to the company’s Web site. Of ABF’s 7,000 drivers, more than 2,600 of them have received the safe driving award for long-term, accident-free driving.
U-Pack’s parent company ABF handles more than 23,000 freight shipments a day. Talk about moving!
The driver, Kelly, was wonderful. Very respectful and knowlegable. He dropped off the Relo-container at my storage unit and all went well. He kept in touch next day after the movers packed the container so as to pick it up as agreed. Thank you to Kelly / this company.
The truck driver who delivered the empty trailer to my home in San Antonio, TX as well as the one that delivered the full trailer here to me Foley, AL were very courteous and knowledgeable.
Easy drop off and pick up for the truck in both locations. Helpful customer service representatives and we had the perfect amount of space needed in the whole truck. We would definitely use them again if/when we have to move a long distance again.
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