When moving houses, the average household relocates 7,400 pounds — nearly four tons — of stuff, and an eight-room home uses 100 boxes in the process. The average interstate move costs about $4,300, while staying in-state costs about $2,300. All these stats add up to one massive undertaking. Read our guide for advice on cutting it down to size.
Should You DIY Your Move?
Moving yourself will most certainly cost less than hiring a moving company, but before you go it alone, consider:
- How big the move is. Taking a teen off to college or even moving into a first or second apartment is a much different experience than moving into a four-bedroom house or downsizing to a retirement condo. Outline exactly what will be involved, in terms of quantity and size of belongings and furnishings to determine how much and what kind of help you’ll need.
- Your and your helpers’ stamina. Moving is exhausting, both mentally and physically. Are everyone’s back/knees/stress-coping skills up to it?
- It will cost more than you think. Factor in: the cost of supplies (boxes, tape, markers, bubble wrap, rope), gas and tolls (moving trucks get less than 10 miles to the gallon and cost more at the tollbooth), equipment rentals (hand trucks and furniture pads aren’t usually included), buying your helpers lunch/dinner and beverages, and on-the-road costs (hotels, meals) if your move will take overnight or longer.
How to Hire Movers
Keep in mind these tips to save a little cash:
- Mind your timing. Moving company rates are higher at the beginning and end of the month, when most leases are up, and on weekends. If you can take a day or two off midweek or midmonth, your wallet will benefit.
- Do some of the work yourself. Pack your own boxes, or even just get things inside more mover-friendly (unplug appliances, roll up rugs, disassemble anything you can) shaves off time and therefore saves you on the hourly rate.
- Consider going halvsies. Hire movers (or local college/high school students) on either end to help you load and unload the rental truck. Or for a long-distance move, consider “self-service movers” who drop off a truck for you to load, then drive the truck to your new home for you to unload.
- If you hire anyone, you want them to be reliable and careful — and not overcharge you. Get detailed written estimates from at least three movers, and have them do an in-home inspection instead of estimating by phone or email.
- Do your homework. Moving companies are among the most complained-about businesses in the U.S. Get references, and look for complaints and reviews at the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and movinghelp.com.
Lighten Your Load
A long-distance move is usually priced by volume (how much space in a truck the stuff takes up) and weight, and a local move by volume (size of truck needed) and time (local movers usually charge an hourly rate). What this means: Don’t move stuff you don’t need.
- Weed out items to sell, donate, or throw out. Be ruthless — moving is a chore, but it’s also a chance to make a clean start. As you go through your things to fill boxes, make piles or fill trash bags with what you really don’t need. It may even be worth renting a dumpster (especially if the move is to a smaller space). Bonus: Unloading unneeded furniture on Craig’s List, having a yard sale, or making a tax deduction on donated goods can help you recoup some expenses.
- Use it or lose it. Items that are not worth the cost of packing and moving: Pantry foods (eat what you can, and donate what’s unopened to a soup kitchen), cleaning supplies (also can be donated, or given to a neighbor), open condiment bottles (dump ’em), stacks of old magazines (clip the articles you love and recycle the rest), and partly used paints, propane tanks, or solvents (they could be dangerous, especially if they spill; donate or recycle properly).
Save on Moving Supplies
- Collect free boxes from the local liquor store or grocery store — liquor boxes are particularly good, because they are often a good-quality cardboard, and are uniformly sized and not too big, so you’re unlikely to load them so heavily that they’re a strain to carry. Printer-paper boxes from an office or school are good, too.
- Check online, on Craigslist for “curb alerts” of people giving away their packing boxes. You may also have some luck getting giveaway ones on freecycle.com.
- Consider reusables. A few companies rent or sell reused cardboard and reusable plastic boxes. Check out usedcardboardboxes.com or zippgo.com or rentagreenbox.com.
- Visit a home-improvement store. Home Depot and Lowe’s both offer reasonably priced moving supplies, as well as online checklists and other useful tools to help get you organized.
- Mark boxes on the top and on the side (so if one is covered, you can hopefully spot the other) with a short summary of contents (kids’ books) and where they should go (playroom).
- Stack filled boxes that go to the same room together, so they go out to the truck at the same time, and are (hopefully) loaded at the same time.
- Use the app for that. Moving Van is an iPhone app ($1.99) that lets you snap photos of the contents of boxes, quickly catalog them, and assign each box a name or number. Then, when you’re unpacking everything (which isn’t always a super-fast process), and you need to find a specific item that isn’t unpacked yet, you can simply search for it on your app and immediately ID the box you need to look in.
Packing the Moving Truck
If loading it up yourself or supervising movers, keep in mind these rules of thumb.
- When reserving a rental, follow the trucking companies’ size suggestions — but if in doubt, go bigger (you don’t want to have to make two trips).
- Make of list of what you intend to move — and think about what you’ll put in first (see below). It’s no fun to have to take things out once you’ve put them in, if you decide too late that they’re in the wrong spot.
- Know your packing order. First, load the biggest, heaviest stuff such as furniture and appliances (and don’t assume things need to load as they normally sit — sofas, for instance, take up much less space if flipped up on one end). Then, add the heavier boxes. Next go lighter items (furniture like chairs). On the very top, add the glassware and other breakables. Put your best puzzle-solver inside the truck to decide where stuff goes.
- Boxes and items should be packed tightly together so they won’t move, and furniture should be wrapped in pads or blankets. Rope things to the walls of the truck to discourage sliding, and if the truck won’t be filled to the brim, keep the top surface level so nothing will topple down. A good last add is a mattress, which you can rope tightly into the end as an extra pad if items slosh back.
Do You Need Extra Insurance to Cover the Move?
Your regular homeowners’ and/or car insurance may cover a move but ask — if not (and even if so), it may be worth the peace of mind to purchase extra, from the truck rental agency or on your existing insurance plans.