How To Save Money on Moving

Since the two words almost everyone instantly associates with moving are "never again!" it's wise to put in the time needed to plan for a smooth move, and more time and effort to save some money. Moving can be expensive. Here are examples for costs from, a site with a free moving cost calculator that doesn't require you to provide any info. The figures are industry averages, but the company did note that the rates include volume discounts they get, so your price as a single customer would be higher.  

Regional Move 550 miles

1 bedroom apartment: 5 - 7 room house (3 bedrooms)

3,000 lbs $2,100 - $2,600 12,000 lbs. $6,600 - $7,600

Long Move, Miami to Seattle 3,255 miles

1 bedroom apartment: 5 - 7 room house (3 bedrooms)

3,000 lbs. $3,500 - $4,000 12,000 lbs. $11,700 - $12,700


Here are the basics of moving, along with options for saving on your move. Let’s start with the basic decisions:

Step 1

Packing: Will you pack yourself? Do you have a substantial amount of time you can spend packing everything that goes in a box? If not, you may need to hire. A local cleaning or day labor service is likely to charge less per hour than a moving company. Noting the destination room on each box will save you lots of time, and money if you hire helpers. Use labels so boxes are more saleable or reusable. A moving company won't cover damage to items you pack.

Step 2

Better Business Bureau: It never hurts to check to see if a company has had issues referred to the BBB, and whether they were resolved. It's not all that uncommon in some industries to receive complaints, so resolution is the most important info. And, of course, a company with fewer complaints in its industry is less likely to cause problems.


Step 3

Using professional movers: Companies normally send a professional estimator who will tour your house and price everything from the overall move down to the number and kind of moving boxes you will need, provide personnel who are trained and experienced in moving with little or no damage, and reimbursement if things are damaged in their care.


Step 4

Loading the truck: One of the newer options is to load the truck trailer yourself, then have a professional moving company come attach the trailer to a truck cab and do the driving for your move.


Step 5

Can friends help? Do you have friends at both ends to help you load and unload a rental truck? Even if you live in a fairly small apartment, moving is usually beyond doing it all yourself, especially if you don't have at least two people who can do heavy lifting. Would you forgive a friend if something was damaged?


Step 6

Solutions if you need to hire help: If you don't have friends in a new city, a moving company might be willing to let you hire some of their movers (they always come in teams of at least two), but you need to be moving in a slow season and able to wait up to 7 - 10 business days until they have a crew free. The hourly fees are likely to be up to $100, and possibly more, for each team, but they will also include bonding. They might provide some insurance if they clearly caused damage, like a drop on the front steps, but not for any damage that may have occurred before they started unloading or that are because of faulty packing or loading.

You might also hire people from a temporary labor company, but you can't predict how careful they might be with your possessions, so plan to be with them every minute to be sure they take proper care about things like taking furniture through doorways. Temp companies do try to, and often can provide people with some moving experience. There are national temp companies like Labor Ready who have years of expertise in day labor work plus a national reputation to protect.

If you have contacts in the destination city, you might ask them to provide advice on good moving and/or day labor companies. 

Step 7

Renting a truck: If you are considering renting a truck, it's a good idea to find out how large a truck you will need and be sure everyone who needs to drive it will be comfortable doing so. Consult a rental company, and ask them if you can at least sit in the driver's seat, and, if possible, drive the truck a bit around their grounds. Even a medium-sized truck can seem enormous and unwieldy if you've never driven one.

Companies may provide estimates down to how many moving pads or other supplies you'll need. Talk by phone or in person to at least three rental truck companies, and press them for a detailed list of expenses so you don't get sticker shock when you pick up the truck and find there are lots of things you may want or need beyond the truck itself, such as loading ramps, dollies and straps so heavy furniture or appliances don't slide, huge pluses to make your move easier. They can give you rough estimates of the size truck you will need by the number of rooms of furniture you are moving and square footage of your current residence. If you have more to move than the average household, let them know. You may want a tow bar for your car.

You'll want furniture pads and perhaps mattress bags. Also confirm mileage costs, who pays for gas (even a smaller truck can cost $150 or more to fill up at 2008 prices), and all the different kinds of insurance they offer and/or require. Ask for the average miles per gallon for the size truck you will need, and how often they service their trucks. Check with your insurance company to see what coverage they provide when you drive a rental truck before you seal the deal.

Sign the contract far enough before moving day to have time to change companies if you get ambushed with new costs.

Step 8

Cheap packing: If you're making a local move, some stores still make boxes available for free. Spread the word - you may run across someone who moved recently and has moving boxes. Some movers sell used boxes at a nice discount, and they have boxes sized for possessions, such as dish and wardrobe boxes. You may be able to buy, and to sell boxes at the other end on sites like craigslist. Buy tape from a moving company - they do provide the best - and large labels that can be pasted over make the boxes more sellable. Get as much newspaper as you can on hand to be sure boxes are well padded for a move of any distance - you don't want a box to collapse and crush your stuff. You may want to buy the big squares of unused newsprint paper available from moving companies for things like dishes if you don't plan to wash them immediately after the move. Newspaper is the same thing, but with print.


Step 9

Books: If you have a lot of books, you'll save money by mailing them at the book rate offered by the U.S. Post Office as opposed to the weight they will add if you use a moving company.


Step 10

Antiques, fine furniture and other precious possessions: If a nick would ruin the value of an antique or your enjoyment of a precious possession, or you have a piano or keyboard, consider professional movers for at least these items, though you may have to give them a longer than normal window if you want them to move just a few things. Some nicks are almost inevitable when you move yourself. If you pack smaller valuables, be sure they are very well packed, marked fragile, and set aside to go on the truck last and come off it first.


Have a great move - look forward to the adventures that await you at your destination to keep up your spirits. You will survive!

Jason Kay recommends that you use Upack moving company, which allows you to save money by packing yourself. You can locate affordable self storage units and truck rentals near you at

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