Should you move yourself or use a professional? The odds are that you will do it yourself.

According to industry estimates, professional movers handle 1.3 million to 1.5 million families annually, or less than 10 percent of total moves.

That's probably because so many of those who relocate are young. "We don't move a lot of really young people," said Herb Conklin of Greenmount Moving & Storage Inc. in Upper Marlboro. "You have to be in your mid-thirties before you think of using a professional mover."

He said, "As people progress along in life, they find it harder and harder to get friends to help them move."

Charles Kuhn of JK Moving and Storage Inc. in Sterling echoes the standard advice to check with friends, the Better Business Bureau and consumer groups. "I'm a big believer in referrals," he said.

But then Kuhn recommends that would-be customers go a bit further--if it's possible, go to the moving company yourself and check it out, he said.

"A quality operation has quality people, clean and well-maintained trucks and quality storage facilities," he said.

Plan as far in advance as possible, particularly for summer moves, said Chuck Lawrence of Security Storage Co. of Washington. "It's economics 101, the law of supply and demand. It tends to be more expensive to move this time of year, and it's much harder to get a quality mover unless you plan and book your move early." That means 45 to 60 days before the move.

How about packing for yourself vs. paying the movers to do it? "It depends on who's paying for the move," Conklin said. When an employer is paying, packing is usually included. But people who pay for their own moves usually do their own packing, too.

If you do your own packing, the mover won't be liable for the broken crystal. Use lots of packing material. If you insist on using liquor-store boxes instead of buying packing boxes, at least get the ones that don't have big holes in the bottom.

And how do you pack those good dishes, anyway? Many experts say that you shouldn't stack them, as you would in a cupboard. Instead, Lawrence said, pack them standing on their edges, each wrapped individually. That reduces the stress that breaks them. "Think about a piece of glass, like a mirror," he said.