Moving can be a challenge for an expat in Frankfurt am Main. It can be a problem whether you’re picking up furniture or trying to move an entire household. One problem many people run into in Frankfurt is the fact that many rely on public transportation, biking and walking as their means of travel. Many people do not own vehicles and those who do, often drive cars that are smaller and can’t really be used for hauling furniture items.
Finding a place in Germany and furnishing it can be a tricky experience for an expat. Many expats find themselves in need of a furnished sublet for the first few months (up to one year) that they are in Frankfurt, even if they have a job. This is because many landlords look upon foreigners (unless they’re EU citizens) as individuals who can leave the country and return home at any time. If this is the case, it can be very difficult to track the person down if money is owed or they’ve damaged property somehow.
If you’ve searched in the right places (I’ll post a blog on this later), you’ve probably found that there are many free or inexpensive items (in good condition) available in Frankfurt. The catch is simple: you’ve got to pick them up. If you’re willing to haul the item and often times, to disassemble it, you can furnish an apartment or room relatively inexpensively.
If you know someone who has a car that can haul some furniture items, you may consider asking them if they would be willing to help you get some furniture. Keep in mind, that it can take several trips to several different locations to find everything you need. You will probably need to pay for gas and depending on the person you’re asking, you may have to give them additional money for their time. You’ll have to work this out with your friend. If you are on a really tight budget and know the person well, perhaps offer them dinner or lunch.
Many people come to Frankfurt with the idea that finding and furnishing an apartment will be like it is other places. They are sorely mistaken. First of all, even if you have the money to pay for a place of your own and you have a full time job here, most landlords will not rent to you right away (again, I’ll post more on this subject in a different post). Which brings us back to having to sublet (usually furnished) an apartment.
If you find yourself in this situation, the smartest thing you can do is to look for a place to store furniture. This in itself can be very tricky and you’ll find that commercial storage rental places are extremely expensive and work differently than other places (for example, the United States). They often won’t have anything reasonable available and tend to rent the storage space to you in a leasing manner (for a year or so) or in many cases, they want to sell you the storage space (some people purchase the storage space and then rent it out monthly). Basically, this isn’t a popular option for most people.
You will have better luck going one of two routes. The first option is to find someone who is renting a house or an apartment that has a garage that they don’t need. You can often rent a garage for around 50 or 60 Euros a month. This option will take you some research and time to find (again, another post can be dedicated to this subject later on). The second option is to find someone who has either rented a storage space in their apartment complex or has access to one as part of their apartment. For example, in the last sublet we lived in, storage units were rented out individually. All of them were taken, but we were able to rent a storage space from another renter for a two month period. And if all else fails, ask around.
So let’s say that you’re either moving from one apartment to another or you just need to haul something. There are people with smaller moving vans that will load and unload items for you for an hourly rate. A good source for this is EBay Classifieds (go to http://www.ebay.de and choose EBay Classifieds; if you don’t speak German, make sure you’ve installed an automatic translator, like Google Translate, so that you can translate the page). You’ll find a lot of choices in varying price ranges for furniture pickup and also moving.
If you have a little bit more money to spend, you also have the option of hiring a professional moving company to come in, pack up your place and move you. You can save a little bit of money by packing everything yourself and having it ready for when they get there. These companies will also disassemble and reassemble furniture for a fee. There are websites where you can plug in information about your move in order to receive bids for this service, but we looked into this when we were moving and found it to be too expensive. Just to give you an idea of what I mean, we said we were moving a 100 square meter apartment and that everything would be packed and ready to go, as well as all furniture disassembled, and the cheapest price we received was for around 600 Euros with tax.
The other way you can move a household or pickup items is to rent a vehicle. The good news is that Germany makes it very easy for you to rent a car, truck or van, even if you don’t have a license to drive in Germany. Moving truck rentals vary and everyone told us to use a place called Turtle, and though they were cheaper than Europcar, we had the best luck with SIXT. We were able to rent a 12’ moving truck for around 80 Euros for 24 hours, including full coverage insurance. The catch here is that you’ll have to have someone who has the right license drive it. We were lucky enough to have a friend who still had an older German license, which meant he could drive trucks this big. Otherwise, you can go with one size smaller and anyone can drive it, including you. My boyfriend does not have a license at this time, but because he had a license in the U.S. at one time, SIXT provided him a temporary driving permit that allowed him to drive the truck during our rental.
With gas and paid help, we were able to move everything in one day for around 175 Euros total. If we hadn’t been so rushed, we would not have had to pay for so much help and could have taken our time in loading and unloading the truck and it would have been closer to 100 Euros.
The nice thing about SIXT is that you can request a truck online without having to put any money down. You can make a tentative reservation online and add on the drivers, etc. and pay in-person when you pick up the truck as long as you bring the reservation number from the email.
The final thing I’ll touch on here is boxes. Moving boxes are very expensive here. One friend told us that anytime friends or family are getting rid of moving boxes, her parents take them and store them for later use. You can expect to pay around 5 Euros per box if you buy them in the store. If you look for sales, you may get them cheaper. People typically sell them (again, EBay Classifieds) for about 1 Euro a piece (used boxes). We asked the grocery store outside of our last sublet for boxes and were also given several boxes from a friend. Between these two free options, we were able to acquire between 40 and 50 boxes for moving. The other thing to consider is that most moving boxes are very big, so boxes from the store can sometimes be better for dishes, etc. Otherwise, you can only fill the boxes up partially.
Hopefully this information helps some of you out. We spent the first 7 months or so living in a furnished sublet. We had limited space to work with, but did acquire a bed for our daughter and a small loveseat-sized couch. We then moved into another sublet that was a little bigger for three months. We purchased a lot of the furniture from this sublet, but still needed more furniture to complete an apartment. Once we had a rental agreement in place and knew how big our apartment was going to be, we began searching for inexpensive or free items online. A friend helped us pick these items up and we spent two months filling up a storage building in preparation for our move.
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