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If you're about to move your family and possessions to another city, rest assured that I have walked a mile in your shoes.

I've "walked" heavy sofa beds down flights of stairs in a self-move. I've watched comfortably as packers wrapped up virtually everything in my home in a corporate move. I've moved in subzero Northern temperatures. I've moved in 115-degree heat. I've had good moves and I've had bad moves.Each time, fortunately, everything managed to get where it was supposed to go.

More than 45 million Americans move annually, 10 percent by commercial movers, another 30 percent using rental trucks and 60 percent with their own or borrowed vehicles. The busy season culminates on Labor Day weekend.

Some personal advice is:

- Get rid of anything you don't really need before you move. Donate, offer to trustworthy consignment shops or surprise Aunt Edna with a gift, but don't pay to move items you don't care about.

- If you're going to do the moving yourself to save money, be realistic about how much you can handle. Be careful about how you lift items, in order to avoid injury.

- If you're selecting a moving company, shop around for the one with the best reputation, services and available dates. Ask neighbors, friends and business associates about the mover they've used and how they rate the service.

- Remember that even when using a professional mover, you can save hundreds of dollars by doing much of the packing yourself.

- Don't wait until the last minute. You may not get the moving date you want if you don't get in touch with the mover more than six weeks in advance, or if you ask for a rental truck less than a month in advance.

"It never ceases to amaze me that people phone us to say they need, say, a truck to go cross-country, and when we ask when they need it, they say, `Right now,' " said Andy Anderson, director of dealer development for Ryder Consumer Truck Rental.

Incidentally, the least expensive time to book a truck is in the middle of the week during the middle part of the month, since that's the lowest demand time that features reduced rates.

Besides cost, another advantage to a self-move is that your goods never leave your control, Anderson pointed out. Truck choices range from a 10-foot minivan for moving the contents of a studio apartment to a 24-foot maxivan for a large home. Items such as boxes, rope, tape, cutting knives and furniture pads also are offered.

There's another side to the coin.

"The consumer should get an estimate on differences in cost between a professional move and a self-move, for you may find that when the cost of items such as cartons and insurance are factored in, self-move savings may not be as great as expected," said George Bennett, vice president with the American Movers Conference, a trade group for full-service moving companies.

Other negatives to a self-move are the chance of injury and the hard work involved, he added.

There's no one right answer. Choosing the type of move depends on how many items you have, how heavy they are, the ability of your family to do the work, the opportunity to hire inexpensive helpers, your finances and, most likely, your age.

Do-it-yourself movers should ask their insurance agent whether their homeowner's or renter's policy covers belongings en route. If it doesn't, many truck rental companies offer protection plans. Professional movers can now offer a variety of liability coverage.

Moving company prices, based on weight and distance, are regulated.

"Whether a mover is held to the estimate that he gives depends on whether it was a non-binding or a binding estimate, but they're always based upon the mover's tariff (rate publication) on file with the Interstate Commerce Commission," said Dennis Watson of the ICC, which regulates interstate moves.

"The mover can collect its lawful charges, no more or less, and the rates can't be bartered."