Pros: Much less expensive than a full service mover. Like 1/4 the cost!
Cons: You need extra bodies to help load and unload. Plan in advance!
Moved from Southern California to Northwestern Pennsylvania without a hitch. We used 9 feet of trailer for $1560, including one ramp. Took from Dec 16 through Dec 27 for transit, which is pretty good considering the weekend and holiday. ABF went out of their way to get the trailer to the drop-off point on a Saturday for us, for which we were truly grateful.
Basically, this is what I had to do:
My elderly aunt was living in CA, with no relatives close to her. She is experiencing some health problems, and she decided it was time to move back to PA. I (the grand-niece) figured I should get it done ASAP, and arranged everything. My step-mother and I flew to CA, rented a mini-van, and spent a week packing my Aunt's things.
Okay folks. Here's the real deal about U-Pack. (Considering the whole experience in retrospect, the U-Pack portion was the best part. Yeah, YOU try to tell your elderly relative to leave some of her stuff behind!)
1. Read the ABF U-pack website. www.upack.com Watch the mini-movies about packing. The material on their website is accurate and relatively complete. It does not embellish the truth about the service. I won't waste your time by detailing how it works here.
1a. Read all the other opinions here: I found 'A Successful Terminal to Terminal Move plus Helpful Tips' and many of the other reviews helpful. They're full of hints. Do it, it's worth the time.
2. Insurance: make sure you're covered. I investigated my Aunt's homeowners insurance. The policy ceases to cover her belongings the moment they are placed in a moving truck of any type. (U-Pack provides minimum insurance, read the website.) So I got a renter's policy for her new address, which BEGAN coverage of her property the moment it is placed in the truck. (I wondered about what happens between the porch and the truck, though . . . hehehehe.) Anyway, be sure your things are covered by insurance. Trust me, it only takes a few phone calls.
3. Order boxes. I ordered 75 boxes in 3 different sizes from uline.com and had them shipped to my Aunt. Check uline's moving boxes section. I had 5 boxes left over, but I also picked up some bigger ones that Wal*Mart was tossing. Keep in mind this was 75 boxes for a two bedroom double-wide trailer and a shed.
4. Packing: take care to protect your belongings. If it can break, wrap it in a towel or newspaper or something. DON'T just throw stuff in boxes. My advice: if you can get it in a box, pack it in a box. You don't want to try to fit a lot of odd-sized things onto the truck.
5. Arrange for people to help you load. We had three men doing the lifting and carrying, and the truck was pretty much loaded in 2 hours. (HOWEVER, most of it was boxes.) Have one person on the inside sending items out, and one person in the truck directing the packing. Plan ahead (see #6) to coordinate this process. It will save you time later. Park the trailer so the end of the ramp (yes, get one on the loading end, unless you have a forklift, folks) is as close as possible to the door.
6. PLAN YOUR PACKING! I spent an hour or so measuring furniture and mentally putting in on the truck. I even went so far as to draw a few sketches. It was well worth the effort. Keep in mind that we moved 4 dressers, a cedar chest, a small desk, a computer desk, a LARGE couch, and a double bed, as well as a ton of boxes and miscellaneous items. Chairs, tables, etc. No appliances or anything like that, so our move was not representative of the normal household. Remember, you do have 9 feet of trailer height, so you WILL need a ladder.
7. I bought three tarps: one for the floor, one to go up the front of the trailer and over the top (which I put behind the one on the floor to keep any water off the furniture) and one for the back of the load. These tarps kept everything dust free. Check the floor, walls, and ceiling of your trailer for cracks and holes. We put duct tape on any tiny holes we found, but for the most part, the trailer was in good condition. Oh, and sweep the WHOLE trailer out before you start. You'll be glad you did. In our experience, we had NO water infiltration, but tarps are cheap, so it's worth the precaution.
8. This goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. PUT HEAVY STUFF ON THE BOTTOM of your load. Period. Also, put fragile things on top.
9. We put a label on each box to indicate it's contents. Truly worth the effort.
10. Cardboard -- the next best thing to tape: I rented a mini-van for a reason -- to get large pieces of cardboard and other packing supplies. Go to a furniture store, and get all you can. Most places are happy to give you their cardboard.
10a. Use the cardboard. I mean it! We wrapped mirrors and large pictures in blankets, then in cardboard, wrote FRAGILE on them and put them on the top of the load. They ALL came out on the other end in the condition they were when they were wrapped. Here's some items I didn't wrap and wish I had: footboard for bed (just a folded piece of cardboard over it didn't cut it -- wrap the whole thing) and wooden rocking chair. Yeah, make a box for the rocking chair, and pack soft stuff in with it -- you won't be sorry. Any pieces of furniture you take apart (like the computer desk, dagnabit!) be sure to wrap at least in cardboard.
11. Unloading. Since we couldn't park the trailer on the street in front of my Aunt's apartment building (or in the lot), we chose to have the trailer parked behind the shopping plaza building two blocks away where my office is located. Then, we used two pickup trucks to move the goods. We had 7 people on the unload end: two unloading the trailer into the pickups, two pickup truck drivers, two unloading the pickups at the apartment building, and of course, me putting boxes as close to where they would need to be unpacked. Plan this, too, so you don't have to wrestle your furniture into their proper places after your help leaves. This process took about 3 hours total. Advice: Park the doggone trailer as close as you can to the door. But if you can't, use pickup trucks. This way, you can just back them up to the trailer, and hand things into them.
12. Plan to do all this stuff during daylight hours. Yes, it'll mean getting up early, but trust me, you don't want to be doing this in the dark unless you absolutely have to.
Ok, so I've been rather verbose, and demonstrated exactly how anal I can be. But, folks, I'm doing this for you! All said, the U-Pack experience is very similar to the U-Haul experience, except you don't have to take another week of your life to drive across the country. The people know their stuff, and they try to get your YOUR stuff ASAP. They want their trailer back to work, so don't dally on the unloading.
So go forth, and U-Pack. You're probably going to pack your stuff anyway, so why not load and unload the truck?