There are no two ways about it. Moving is expensive.
And the farther you move, the more you’ll spend — unless you are lucky enough to have an employer pay for it.
For the rest of us, whether we’re moving across town or to another state, saving money on moving is no easy feat. Having just completed a move from Kansas to Ohio, however, we did find a few ways to shave a couple thousands dollars off the high cost of moving.
We didn’t go as bargain basement as we could have, but in the end, we moved the contents of our nearly 2,000-square foot house for under $4,500 — less than half the original quote we received.
Researching Your Moving Options
About two months before our target move date, I started asking around on Facebook and in real life to gather information about my friends’ moving experiences.
I quickly learned that there is a huge range when it comes to the cost of domestic moves, especially those that cross state lines.
On the low-end, you can fork over $800 – $1500 to pack and drive a U-Haul truck by yourself; at the high-end, you can spend upwards of $20,000 to hire movers that will pack, load, transport, unload and even unpack your possessions.
No Frills Full-Service Moving Companies
I also learned that there are several good options in between these two extremes. For example, a full-service moving company can load, transport and unload your possessions, while you take charge of packing and unpacking.
There are many benefits of going the full-service route, including having one contact person for your entire move. Also, most full-service companies provide a “will not exceed quote”, which includes all the pads, blankets and tie-downs required to pack the truck.
Self-Service Moving Companies
Lower down on the price range are self-service moving companies, such as those that provide pods and/or trailers. These companies deliver a pod (usually big enough for 1-2 rooms worth of stuff), a full-size trailer (usually big enough for a 3-4 bedroom house) or other container to your driveway, which you load at your leisure. When it’s full, you call the company and they transport it to your new address — where you are, again, in charge of unloading it.
There are numerous companies in the self-service category, but the recommendations I received from my Facebook friends included:
Unlike a full-service company, a self-service company does not provide blankets, pads, shrink-wrap or tie-downs — and if you’re doing anything more than a basic in-town move, you will need these.
Loaders & Unloaders
Even if you go with the pod/trailer option, you can add-on a bit of extra cost (but still less than a full-service moving company) by hiring a moving company just to load and/or unload your container.
Packing a moving container is a bit like playing Tetris – you have to make everything fit “just so”, otherwise your possessions will get bounced around in transit. And no matter how much packing paper you use around your breakables, bouncing around is never a good thing.
That’s why hiring professionals can be helpful – they know how to Tetris-ize your truck. They should also have dollies and straps for moving and loading heavier furniture. If you decide to handle the loading process by yourself, you may have to rent or purchase this equipment – so be sure to add those costs into your budget.
Storage During a Move
Another add-on option to consider with moving is the cost of storage. If you are leaving your current home several weeks or even months before you will be entering your new home, you may need to have your items stored.
Traditional moving companies charge a small fortune for any storage — even just a few days — because they have to unload the entire truck into their storage facility and then re-load it, which tacks on major man hours.
Pod/trailer options are typically much more affordable for storage — both long- and short-term — since they just store your entire moving container, without having to unload it first.
Insurance During a Move
A full-service moving company is legally required to provide you with insurance to cover any breakage or damage caused by their movers. Of course there is a deductible – although you can pay more for your move to get a lower deductible, if you’re worried about that expense.
With the DIY/You-Pack options, I found that while the company will tell you that the truck is insured, the fine print reveals a different story. The insurance basically only covers calamities, like the truck crashing on the interstate. If your dishes get broken in the course of a “regular” transit, you won’t be able to claim it.
Making a claim becomes even more complicated if you hire loaders and unloaders — as figuring out who caused the damage can be tricky. That’s why it’s important that at least one person oversee the process as much as possible. If the movers drop a box in front of you, you’ll have much better luck in getting them to cover the damage than if a few plates wind up mysteriously broken when you unpack a box several days later.
One thing to keep in mind is that most home owner’s insurance policies do cover theft of your possessions while in transit. Check with your agent to make sure that your policy will run throughout the duration of your move; ours ended up covering theft, as well as any loss that would have been caused by fire or water.
Figuring Out What Your Family’s Needs Are
Once we knew what our options were, my husband and I sat down to talk about about our personal threshold for the work involved in this move.
Obviously, I’m all for saving money, but there’s always the balancing act between saving money and spending time. Plus, Shalom Bayit (marital harmony) needs to play a role in any big decision — even (and especially) ones that involve money.
Where We Decided to Splurge on Our Move
For example, my husband really didn’t want to drive a big truck across state lines. Plus, since we have only two drivers in our family, and two cars to move to Ohio, we needed both me and my husband driving our cars — not a U-Haul. Given that, we ruled out the most inexpensive option right off the bat.
We also assumed that we would need storage. Our original plan was to close on our house in Kansas in mid July, and then stay with my parents for a few weeks, before moving to Cleveland and closing on our new house in early August.
As “luck” would have it, the original contract on our house in Kansas fell through — and we ended up with a new contract on the house with a later close-date. In fact, we closed on our Kansas house just four days before our Cleveland house. So, in the end, we didn’t need the storage — although we couldn’t have known that when we first priced out all of our options.
I was pretty adamant about hiring movers to load and unload the truck. Whether we went with a traditional moving company, or added on that option to a container move, I knew that I didn’t want our possessions getting damaged due to an ill-packed truck.
Of particular concern to me was loading our upright piano (mine as a child), a very heavy china cabinet, an antique bedroom set (my mother’s as a girl, then mine, and now my daughter’s), and the set of china that my great grandmother had brought over from Romania before the war.
The unloading of the truck seemed slightly less daunting of a task than loading it; but given that we were moving to a new community, I didn’t think we’d be able to enlist enough friends to help us in the effort — so outsourcing it on the arrival end made sense as well.
Where We Decided to Save on Our Move
As far as the top-of-the-line options, I felt that we didn’t need someone to pack for us. Not that I relished packing (believe me, I complained plenty!), but it wasn’t something I thought we needed to outsource. And I definitely didn’t want someone unpacking for me (it’s bad enough for me to remember where I put some of our lesser used kitchen gadgets; I can’t imagine trying to function in my kitchen if someone else had unpacked those boxes!).
If you’re moving internationally, you may not have a choice with regards to packers. I know that when we moved from Israel to Kansas, our lift company required that their movers pack up our house. We were told it was an insurance issue.
For what it’s worth, those packers in Israel were FAST. And good. They came in at 8 in the morning and by 2 in the afternoon, my entire home was packed. And there were only three (minor) things broken in the entire international move, which I think is pretty good!
So, if time is really short for you, you may want to get a quote for packers.
Most movers will break down your furniture, such as beds and dining room tables, and rebuild it once you get to your new home. If you’re moving appliances (we weren’t), they will disconnect and re-connect them up for you. We saved man hours by having my husband take care of all the furniture “break-down”. For example, he took apart my sons’ bunk beds and removed the legs from the dining room table.
Our Semi-DIY Move from Kansas to Ohio
Once Frankie and I agreed on what we were looking for in our move, I started calling around for moving quotes. First, I got two quotes from full-service moving companies to load, transport and unload our possessions — and insure them.
The most expensive of the two was $9,600, which did not include any packing or unpacking, other than our two flat-screen televisions. The less expensive quote was for $6,800 – and again, that didn’t including packing. Storage would be an additional $2,150 – $3,700, depending on how long we needed the storage – and whether we wanted it stored in Kansas or Ohio.
While clearly there are benefits to using one company for the whole move, we felt that the price was just too steep for us. So, I called around to several “DIY”/You-Pack companies. Each company had different offerings, so it was somewhat difficult to compare apples to apples. In the end, we decided to go with ABF U-Pack since a good friend recommended them and they had a 27-foot trailer option, which we felt fairly confident would hold all of our home’s contents (and it did).
What We Spent on Our Move
The cost of the ABF U-Pack trailer was $2235. We filled the entire 27 linear feet, but had we not used all of it, we would have paid $60 less per linear foot of unused space.
We got a few recommendations on movers to load the truck; the company we decided to hire quoted me $800 + $125 additional fee for moving our piano. Since we didn’t know anyone in Cleveland to ask for recommendations, I checked Angie’s List. I called three companies – two never called me back and the third quoted me $175/hour for three guys plus a $75 transportation fee. I budgeted for three to four hours, so roughly $700 (which ended up being right). I also checked to make sure that the companies were bonded and insured — which they were.
With the trailer plus the movers on each end, my estimated cost for the “DIY” option was $3960 — vs. $6800 for the full-service company. If we had ended up needing storage, ABF U-Pack quoted us a rate of $495 for up to 30 days — vs. the $2,000+ from the full-service company.
Of course, nothing ever goes exactly according to plan when you’re moving. First, I didn’t realize in my initial calculations that we’d need to buy for all the blankets, padding and shrink wrap — and those supplies aren’t cheap. I bought them from ABF as well as Amazon, and spent a little over $300 in total on six dozen blankets (I got 4 dozen of the
“good” ones and 2 dozen of the thinner ones) and three wardrobe boxes. I plan to re-sell the blankets on Craigslist and hope to recoup a portion of that money.
The packers in Kansas City also ended up costing $1320 vs. the $925 that they had quoted us (see why below). Plus, I tipped them $100 and bought them lunch ($40), bringing our total up to $4495 – about $500 over our original budget.
Would I do it all over again?
In short, yes. I was extremely pleased with ABF U-Pack. The order process — both when I initially did it online and when I had to change our dates over the phone — was quick and efficient. The trailer was dropped off when they said it would be – and picked up in a timely manner. They delivered it to Cleveland earlier than expected, and picked it up within three hours of me calling to say that we had it unloaded.
Since cost was the biggest factor in our forgoing a full-service moving company, I want to dig into those un-budgeted expenses a little bit further. I assume I’ll get somewhere between $150 and $200 for the six dozen blankets when I sell them on Craigslist, which means that the bulk of those over-budget expenses came from the loaders in Kansas City.
There were two reasons for the higher-than-quoted fee: First, I ended up asking them to pack our flat-screen TVs and box up several of our pictures, which we hadn’t originally planned on. (With my husband being out of town the two weeks before our move, I just ran out of time — and steam — and needed to outsource that piece of the packing process.)
And second, I think the team worked rather slowly — and sloppily. I think they got tired by the end of the job, because the back half of the truck wasn’t well packed. It was heaving forward when we opened the truck in Cleveland and a few items were broken as a result. They also didn’t use the proper equipment when moving my piano and it got damaged — although the owner was good about paying for repairs once we got settled.
If I had it to do over again, I’d still go with the Self-Service Move option, but I’d do more research into the movers I hire — and interview a couple companies in person, rather than going with the first one that showed up at my house.
That said, we totally lucked out with the team we hired to unload the truck in Cleveland. The three guys that came to our house were efficient, industrious and incredibly polite. In fact, if you’re in the Cleveland area and need movers, call Ark Moving & Storage (they don’t know me from a hole in the wall, I’m just dropping their name because they really rocked).
Despite a few hiccups along the way, the damage from the move was fairly minimal — and most was repairable. While I’d love to have been able to save even more, I’m pleased that we came in under $4,500 for all the various components of the move – especially since our first quote was for twice that!
Have you moved recently? Did you use a full-service company? Take the DIY option? Go with something in the middle, like us? What tips do you have for keeping the astronomical costs of moving in check?
Disclosure: I want to be clear that I was not compensated in anyway by the companies mentioned in this post. Our move was entirely self-funded and these companies don’t even know what Kosher on a Budget is! The Amazon links, however, are affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you click thru to purchase.