Stevens Worldwide Van Lines was founded in Saginaw, Michigan and we’ve maintained our headquarters here through 106 cold, snowy (42 inches a year) winters. So you’d think we’d know a thing or two about moving in inclement weather. And you would not be disappointed. With that thought in mind, today I’m going to write about winter weather moving, the facts and issues you need to be concerned about and how to ensure that your winter move is safe and successful. Plus, I’ll point out one reason why moving in the winter can be a smart move. I’ll start with the latter.
Moving in the winter will save you money.
Traditionally, people move when school lets out. In fact, 60% of our business takes place over the course of the same four months every year and that’s the case with all moving companies. So if you can move during off-peak times you’re going to save money – as much as 15% and in some cases even more.
NOTE: While this post is intended primarily for individuals, if you’re an HR Manager at a large company who hires and relocates hundreds of people a year … shifting a percentage of your moves to the off-peak season can save your company thousands of dollars.
You, your moving company and winter weather: What you need to know.
From here on I’ll focus on weather-related issues and how they can affect your move. Specifically, I’ll cover information you need to know about what your moving company needs from you and what you should expect of your moving company. In the end, with a reputable mover and good communication and planning you’ll be able to handle anything Old Man Winter throws at you. At least that’s been the case for the 106 winters Stevens has been helping people move.
I’ve organized this part of my post into three sections: moving day, transit and unloading.
Moving day – Any reputable mover will be in close contact with you as your move date approaches. For example, with Stevens your move coordinator and other personnel will be in touch with you the day before your scheduled move. If the forecast calls for snow the night before you’ll be reminded to:
Clear the driveway and loading lanes of snow and ice – This will need to be taken care of before the driver arrives. If it’s not, he won’t be able to load. And if he and his crew have to wait for you to clear the pathways you’ll incur an extra charge for the wait time.
Extra in-home protection – One of the services you should expect from your moving company this time of the year is extra in-home protection … in the form of extra padding and cardboard throughout the house. With reputable movers this is a given and there’s never an extra charge for the extra protection. NOTE: At Stevens we cover 100% of move-day property damage, so if we soil your carpet or cause any other damage – no matter what’s going on outside – it’s on us to make things right for you.
Don’t pack liquids – As you know, when liquids freeze they expand and this could cause broken containers and a big mess. On a related note, don’t forget to drain any liquids from appliances, lawnmowers, or other items.
Now I want to cover a couple of questions that sometimes come up:
What if one of the movers slips on my driveway and turns an ankle or breaks a bone, am I legally liable? – With the standard caveat that I’m not a lawyer and this shouldn’t be construed as legal advice, the answer is usually no. The key is that the driver and his crew must be covered by Workers’ Comp (as is the case with all Stevens’ drivers and crews). Reputable movers are going to have this coverage. But if you have any concern or doubt ask the company to show you proof of workers’ comp and liability insurance before you hire them.
What if the weather is so bad that you can’t load or unload and you have to reschedule. Will I incur additional charges? – No. Stevens never charges the customer late fees for weather-related issues and neither will any other reputable mover. One final moving day note -- if the spirit moves you to make hot coffee and cocoa available for the crew by all means do so. Most of them will bring their own but your kind gesture will be greatly appreciated.
Transit – One of the biggest concerns with winter moving is driving conditions. And whether you’re moving across town or across the country the key to safely getting your household belongings to their next destination will be the competence and skill of your driver.
Driver training – Be sure to ask your moving company about its driver training program and the level of winter weather driving experience its drivers have. At Stevens our drivers receive several hours of safe driver training, including a segment on driving in winter weather and other hazardous conditions.
Vehicle and vehicle maintenance – You never want a breakdown regardless of when you’re moving. But as you know, winter weather is tough on a vehicle. So to ensure that there are no maintenance-related delays with the moving van, special precautions will need to be taken. For instance, your driver needs to be sure he uses the right fluids and fuels, and with a diesel engine he needs to plug it in at night so the block doesn’t freeze. Plus, he’ll need to know what to do when the brakes freeze on the trailer, which can happen a lot in winter weather. All of these issues and others are thoroughly covered in the Stevens driver training program.
Of course, one big factor in the dependability of a vehicle is its age. As a rule, large, coast-to-coast moving companies will maintain newer fleets. For example, our oldest truck is no more than five years old.
Unloading – You got loaded up without a hitch and your belongings safely made it to your new residence on schedule. All that’s left is to get the van unloaded and for you and your family to begin settling in. Here are a few final tips to help you put the finishing touches on a successful winter move.
Warm up your new home – Check in with the local utility companies at your new destination and make arrangements to have all necessary services up and running by your scheduled move-in date. To be on the safe side you may want to have these services turned on the day before your move-in date. That way if there’s a foul-up you’ll have a full day to get it straightened out.
Remember to clear the driveway and pathways, if called for – Yes, it’s your responsibility on this end as well.
In addition, if yours is a long-distance move that takes place entirely within a frigid clime please note: Manufacturers generally recommend that you do NOT reconnect certain household appliances and other items until they have had sufficient time to acclimate to room temperature – typically 12 – 24 hours.
For example –
Washing machines – Even if you drain the pump before loading it, some water and accumulated moisture will remain. Trying to wash clothes while this water is frozen can damage your appliance. Also, due to similar reasons it’s smart to hold off on hooking up your refrigerator’s icemaker.
Gas and electric dryers – The igniters and heating elements become brittle when exposed to freezing temperatures. The sudden temperature change caused when you turn on the dryer can damage internal parts.
Electronic equipment – Freezing temperatures can cause condensation that can potentially cause serious problems with your electronic equipment such as that big-screen plasma or LCD TV, your PCs and other items. NOTE: As previously mentioned on this blog, Stevens has partnered with Support Squad to offer customers free telephone technical support for hooking up home electronics, internet connections, Wi-Fi, etc.
Grandfather clocks and waterbeds – For the former, freezing weather can gum up the oil in the pivot points and for the latter it’s pretty much impossible to completely drain a waterbed.
Fast-forward to 72 hours after your move-in date. You probably still have more than a few unpacked boxes scattered about but the important thing is that everything and everyone made it to your new destination safe and sound. It’s already starting to feel like home. And odds are you saved a very nice sum of money on your move. Here at Stevens, we’d say that calls for a little celebrating. So if it’s just you and your spouse, why not Google “fine restaurants” in your new city? Or gather the family together and head out to a local ice rink or a nearby slope for skating, skiing or snow sledding. Enjoy the season.
Making a move during the winter months can present challenges you don’t normally get during other times of the year. No question about it. But with the right moving company and good planning and attention to detail your move can be as safe and as successful as during any other time of the year.
VP Relocation Services and Marketing
Stevens Worldwide Van Lines