This really is where Julia can show the strength of her giphy game by providing the appropriate “throwing money out of the window” memes.
Seriously, though, both of us, especially Philipp as a former production manager, normally have a pretty good gut feeling how much a certain service will cost, from bulk garbage disposal to vet bills. But in this case, oh my god, have we been off the mark!
And as one can imagine with this intro, we did not widely underestimate moving costs. Moving to Finland definitely is expensive enough to warrant colorful language.
We live in a three room apartment (what Brits would call “two bedroom”). And since a lot of our furniture is a rather mediocre mix and match from before we moved in together, we won’t even take all of it with us.
The process of getting a quote is the same no matter whether you take all or none of your furniture: You can either use a self-service tool on a moving companies’ website and spend an evening putting in a ridiculously detailed list of all your belongings. Or you can make an appointment with a person from the moving company, who will visit your home to give you a quote. That's what we did.
These people have seen their fair share of apartments, knowing not only every single IKEA thing we own, but also every other piece of brand-name furniture by name and with exact dimensions by heart. As cogs turn in their head and numbers are added to each other, meters of books or LPs are smoothly translated into amounts of boxes, as are drawers of clothes.
And then they sit down with you and suddenly you learn that even though your belongings are not that much by volume, they are still enough weight to overload a small truck since they only can load about 2.5 tons legally. So you need a full-size truck. For 1500 kilometers. In each direction. On toll roads.
Adding ferry cost. And the harsh reality of a team of two drivers being booked for the job full-time for a whole week, needing their wage and food expenses paid. Then, with you having the sinking feeling of not moving clearly being the more budget-coscious option, they leave and tell you that the cost estimate will be e-mailed to you the next business day.
So, we were prepared for a hefty cost estimate. But not for the 8.500 Euros that actually showed up in our inbox. Being a project management veteran and knowing to never accept a cost estimate without haggling, Philipp called the moving company and tried to get a thousand Euros off the bill at least. All the company gave in to was in tune of 250 Euros.
Luckily, economies of scale played into our hands in the end. European moving behemoth Zapf Umzüge is located in Berlin. And with the downside of “our” move not taking three days, but one and a half weeks of transportation time, they have enough customers moving to the Nordics to fill up said full size truck with the belongings of several people at the same time. This means transportation cost is split between several parties, leading to a cheaper move for us (and probably higher profit margins for Zapf).
So, after some haggling (did we mention the importance of haggling yet?) we ended up with an offer that did not have a “7” as the first digit. Barely.
Tl;dr - The question on how to get a quote from a moving company is answered thus: Get a person with insane guesstimation skills from the company to look at all your stuff. And be prepared to pay a lot more than you thought.
But also keep in mind what an enormous amount of work it would be to do all the moving with friends or on your own, and that truck rental, fuel, toll, or ferry costs will be hefty as well for a private party. So in the end, at least for us, the cost-benefit calculation was clearly in favor of paying a company.