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Moving metros? Tow hitch or truck hire?

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“They showed up more than an hour late!” “They never went and fetched a second load.” “They broke my fridge.” “Upon unpacking I realised that items were missing.” These are real comments from unhappy consumers who made use of furniture removal companies to move their household contents.

Carel Buitendag, CEO of National Trailer Rental, says that more and more people are opting to do their moves themselves, and it’s not just because renting a trailer is cheaper. “Except during peak holiday seasons, we can make trailers available at reasonably short notice to our customers,” explains Buitendag. “Enabling them to move at a time and place convenient to themselves.”

Biddulphs International does confirm that moving during peak periods with a moving company is likely to cost more, with Owen Farmerey, group operational director at Biddulphs International, advising that a move takes place between the 5th and the 24th of a month as this can cut your cost by up to a third. It’s also best to move on weekdays as moving over a weekend or on a public holiday will cost more due to the moving company’s labour costs, says Farmerey.

According to Farmerey, relocating the average three-bedroom family home from Johannesburg to Pretoria will cost between R3,000 and R5,000 (excluding insurance and packaging). The cost of moving the same household contents from Johannesburg to Cape Town ranges between R17,000 and R22,000 when using Biddulphs International. Farmerey explains that the cost of each specific move is calculated based on the volume being moved on a part load basis and that return legs are not charged for due to the branch network, but that it is always best to obtain a free quote from one of Biddulphs’ relocation consultants.

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Buitendag believes that the 3m single axle and 4m double axle range of trailers is best suited to moving home contents. These trailers are available on a one-way rental basis from Trailarent, for example, and cost R1,500 from Joburg to Cape Town, and R1,200 from Joburg to Pretoria. This rate applies to the first three days the trailer is in use; thereafter an additional fee of R220 per day applies.

At first glance it does seem more cost effective to handle the move yourself. But based on HomeTimes’ calculations, assuming a move from Sandton to Pretoria East, where the vehicle towing the trailer is not registered for e-tolls, and has a fuel efficiency of 9l/100km, the trailer hire, petrol, toll fees and labour (4xR500) could work out to approximately R3,341.37 for the first trip. If an additional trip to Johannesburg and back is needed, the total estimated cost will increase by R424.13 to R3,765.50 to move an average three-bedroom home from Sandton to Pretoria East.

In the case of a move to Cape Town it becomes a little more complicated: Two sets of labourers will most likely have to be employed – four in Johannesburg and four in Cape Town – increasing labour costs to a minimum of R4,000 for the move to the Mother City. Unless the family moving decides to sell off a big chunk of their household contents in Gauteng it is more than likely that two trips will need to be made. Considering the distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg this is unlikely to happen in just three days so the additional fee of R220 per day will apply. Assuming the trailer is in use for three extra days, a move from Johannesburg to Cape Town, when handled privately, is very conservatively estimated to cost R13,218.16.

Moving? Do you know what you can expect from your first electricity bill?

The costs quoted above exclude all eventualities and unforeseen incidents that may push up costs. Buitendag says that, when using a reputable trailer rental company, the trailers should be serviced regularly and the company should be able to assist in the case of trailer breakdown.

The experts will all tell you that using casual labour to relocate household goods carries a significant amount of risk. These individuals are not experts, with years of experience in moving and packaging goods effectively. Neither is the individual. Farmerey cautions that, when packaging goods yourself, it is easy to fall into the pitfalls of using substandard packaging materials such as single-wall cartons and below-specification tape and bubble wrap, which could lead to the damage of the goods being moved. He explains that the risk of damage also increases if boxes are not correctly and tightly packaged.

According to Farmerey, Biddulphs supplies all required materials when a full packing service is used (this comes at an additional cost). If the client elects to do the packing themselves the correct, up-to-standard materials can be purchased from Biddulphs directly. What’s more, although the company does not relocate pets itself, it will arrange everything with a qualified sub-contractor to move man’s best friend stress-free. Farmerey estimates that the cost of this service will range between R3,000 and R5,000, depending on the type of animal being relocated.

Less stress on moving day does come at a costPuppy on hammock, relaxed

Farmerey explains that, depending on the time of the month, a lead time of at least 10 days is required to secure specific dates for relocation. The company requires full payment with confirmation of the booking, with a cancellation fee possibly payable depending on the notice given, ability of Biddulphs to source other work, and the reason for cancellation or postponement.

Farmerey reiterates that moving between the 5th and 24th of the month will save up to a third on removal costs. He also recommends not relocating big, bulky items such as pot plants and jungle gyms unnecessarily. A thorough spring clean, and selling/donating of non-essential items prior to the move warrants a requote, says Farmerey, as this could decrease your relocation costs even more.

Handling moves over shorter distances privately is probably doable if the individual can manage the casual labour themselves and if the required preparation is done beforehand. From our perspective though, it is a very brave soul who will attempt the great trek to Cape Town from Johannesburg without professional help. Let us know how it went if you have attempted this.

Biddulphs’ tips for a comfortable and successful relocation:

  • Ensure all packing is done prior to the relocation day.
  • Fit stabling bars to washing machines.
  • Disconnect, wash with a light bicarbonate of soda solution and dry fridges (specifically for storage) prior to moving.
  • Take down the curtains on the morning of the move.
  • Secure animals prior to arrival if still on site.
  • Ensure that you have the key for your new residence available.

In the third part of our “Moving metros?” series, HomeTimes will explore the house you can afford to buy or rent for your buck in different cities.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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