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The Intelligent Mover’s Guide to Using a Moving Dolly

Dollies make moving easier. They allow you to move more weight with less effort while protecting you and the people helping you move from injuries. However, dollies aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and neither is using them. Before you rent or purchase one for your move, here’s everything you need to know about using a moving dolly.

Types of dollies

There are two basic types of dollies: those with two wheels and those with four. Mention the word “dolly,” and most people think of the two-wheeled, L-shaped version commonly known as a hand truck. But hand trucks, also known as utility dollies, aren’t your only options.

Furniture dolly: Usually made of wood, these square or rectangular dollies have four wheels, one in each corner, and little else—no handles, lifting mechanism or straps. However, furniture dollies sometimes do have a carpet top to protect the item you are moving from scratches. To use a furniture dolly, you place it underneath the item, and then push it, balancing it on the dolly, to its destination. Furniture dollies typically cost less than $25.

Utility dolly: The L-shaped utility dolly, or hand truck, has a metal base and two wheels. To use it, you slip its metal edge under an item, then tilt it back against the hand truck’s back. Hand trucks generally have a strap for securing the item, but if not, you can use a ratchet strap to keep it in place as you move. Depending on their weight rating, most hand trucks range from $30 to $100.

Appliance dolly: Similar to a utility dolly, appliance dollies can handle the much heavier loads of appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. They also have a wider base, reinforced back and straps to secure the appliance for the move. A standard appliance dolly will generally cost $250 but can cost up to $400 depending on how much weight it can bear.

Stair dolly: These specialized dollies resemble a hand truck, but instead of having one wheel on each side, they have three, for a total of six wheels. Faced with stairs, the dolly’s six wheels rotate, allowing it to “climb” up and down. Since most stair dollies are battery-operated, you simply guide it. Depending on their weight rating and whether they have a battery, star dollies can cost less than $100 and top $4,000 for heavy-duty versions.

Which dolly should you use?

Most people benefit from having at least a hand truck and furniture dolly on hand. The hand truck can help you move multiple boxes at a time or furniture that won’t balance easily on a furniture dolly, like a cedar chest with spindly legs. However, a furniture dolly can help you move couches, dressers, bookcases and even pianos.

If you intend to bring your appliances with you to your new home, an appliance dolly is a must. Since an appliance dolly can move anything that a hand truck can, you could rent it in place of a hand truck. However, the appliance dolly will cost more because it can handle a heavier load. Rent only what you need.

The same goes for the stair dolly. It will cost more to rent or purchase, but if you have stairs and heavy items, a stair dolly can be well worth the investment.

Where to get a dolly

You can rent or purchase dollies to use during your move. Unless you move frequently or need to routinely transport heavy items, renting usually makes the most sense. Most U-Hauls have appliance, utility and furniture dollies for rent. U-Haul charges $10 per day for an appliance dolly and $7 per day for utility and furniture dollies, making it affordable to rent all three for $24 for 24 hours. Service Basket

If you decide to purchase dollies instead, you’ll find furniture dollies and hand trucks (utility dollies) at any home improvement store. As mentioned above, expect to pay about $25 for a furniture dolly and $75 to $100 for a good hand truck. Appliance dollies generally cost $250 to $400.

You’ll probably need to go to an industrial supply company like Uline to find a heavy-duty stair dolly. Because these can cost thousands of dollars, they generally do not make sense to purchase. Renting one can cost close to $200 per day. If stairs play a big role in your move, it may make more sense to hire a professional moving company.

No matter which type of dolly you decide to rent or purchase, pay attention to the wheels. While solid wheels can handle flat surfaces with ease, you’ll want inflatable wheels for uneven surfaces. Faced with the choice, opt for the dolly with inflatable wheels.

How to use a furniture dolly

Using a furniture dolly isn’t particularly difficult, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can waste time or invite a potential injury. Take these steps for the best outcome.

  1. Recruit help. You’ll want a friend to help lift, position and steer the item.
  2. Plan your route. Measure any doorways and remove any obstacles.
  3. Measure the item. Note any potential problems fitting through doorways.
  4. Decide how to position. To fit through doorways, you may need to put the item on its side or even upside down.
  5. Empty the contents to make them lighter and easier to maneuver.
  6. Secure all doors and drawers. Use plastic wrap, rope or ratchet straps to keep doors and drawers closed as you move.
  7. Position the dolly on the ground close to the item you intend to move.
  8. Lift the item and place it on the furniture dolly, if possible. Do not attempt if the item is extremely heavy.
  9. If it is too heavy to lift, tilt it back and slide the dolly underneath with your foot.
  10. Lower the item onto the dolly, keeping the dolly in place with your foot. The item should be centered on the dolly.
  11. Roll the dolly forward. Go slowly, guiding the piece to its destination. The person in front should steer while the person in back pushes.
  12. Watch for obstacles, including ceilings, walls and doorways to make sure the item doesn’t hit anything.
  13. At your destination, tilt the item and kick the dolly out from underneath it. Carefully lower the item to the ground.

How to use a 2-wheel dolly

Many of the same rules apply to using a hand truck, appliance dolly or stair dolly. Follow these steps to get items onto the moving van and, later, into your new home.

  1. Find a friend to help. Again, you’ll need someone to help position and guide the item.
  2. Plan your route, then make sure the path is clear. Note any potential obstacles.
  3. Measure large items. If you are moving a large item like a refrigerator, measure it. If it is too wide, you may need to remove household doors to get it to its destination.
  4. Empty the item, and move it away from the wall. Secure all doors and drawers. Tape electrical cords to the back of appliances.
  5. Position the dolly at the back edge of the appliance. Your friend should stand on the opposite side of the item.
  6. Direct your friend to carefully tilt the item away from the dolly (towards himself). Slide the dolly’s edge under the item.
  7. Ask your friend to lower the item slowly down onto the dolly. The item’s back should rest against the dolly’s upright frame.
  8. Use the dolly’s straps or ratchet straps to secure the item to the dolly.
  9. With your friend’s help to guide the item, tilt the dolly back until the item is balanced on the wheels.
  10. Roll forward slowly. Be careful going through doorways and across uneven surfaces.
  11. At your destination, stand the dolly upright. Undo the straps holding the item. Have your friend tilt the item forward, and slide the dolly out from underneath.

Need some help?

If you’re breaking a sweat just reading about how to use dollies, leave the work to the professionals. has an extensive network of reputable and reliable movers who can pack and move your entire home. Plus, they can move the heavy items you’d need a dolly for, and because they’re professionals, they’ll do it safely and without damaging your items or your home.

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