Moving tips: How to move for less

May 16, 2018 - 5 min read

In this article:

If you’ve not changed addresses before, or if you have but would like to spend less, try these moving tips to save money:

  1. Be ruthless: the more stuff you get rid of now, the less you have to move. Charities, letgo, eBay and the old-school garage sale are good options for unloading
  2. DIY: Pack yourself and enlist friends if you have some buddies with big hearts and strong backs. The more you can do yourself, the less you pay
  3. Shop for moving services. And get your quotes in writing

These moving hacks won’t necessarily make moving more fun (we’d all prefer to be sitting in on the beach while someone else takes care of the tough stuff), but they will save you money (for that future beach vacation).

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Plan now to reduce stress later

In 2017, organizational psychologist Richard S. Citrin told The New York Times, “We build routines to make things as efficient as we can. When we move, we do something very foreign to us.” And he went on to explain that moving “takes a lot of mental and physical energy, and that expenditure of energy is very exhausting.”

There’s no way to remove all the stress from moving. But planning and preparation can help you execute your move with the minimum of fuss and bother.

De-clutter first

There’s no point in paying (in sweat and dollars) to move items to your new home only to decide once there that you no longer want them. Now is the time to weed through everything from clothes and knickknacks to pans and books. Sell, throw out or donate everything you don’t want.

Related: Moving tips for renters

Heavy and bulky items are especially burdensome when you’re moving, so be particularly ruthless about getting rid of them. For example, if you’re relocating across the country, it can cost you more to take your gym weights with you than to buy a new set at the other end.

Consider transferring your CD and DVD collections to hard drives and back them up online as well.

How hard do you want to work?

When money’s no object, you can have a full-service moving company come in to pack, transport and unpack every item you own. But, for most of us, money is very much an object.

So you have to decide how much your blood, sweat and tears are worth in actual dollars. In other words, you need to work out how much you’re prepared to pay to shift some or all the burden.

Related: First-time buyers (where to move and where not to)

For some, that’s a couple of six-packs and a pizza to say thanks to two or three muscular pals who spent a few hours moving you around the corner. Or it could be nibbles and a few bottles of vino for a packing party. You’ll also have to decide whether you’re going to spend hours scavenging for boxes and packing materials or just buying them fast.

Movers and shake-downers

If you’re using a moving company, there’s a whole different set of moving tips:

  1. Book early — Prices tend to rise as moving dates get closer
  2. Book strategically — Movers get busier (and charge more) during certain peak periods, such a month-ends, when many leases expire. If you can, pick a quiet time
  3. Shop around — It’s a very competitive market and costs can vary drastically. Get at least three quotes
  4. Check insurance cover — Make sure the insurance you’re offered is adequate. You may want replacement costs rather than market value on damaged or lost items. Don’t forget to ensure that your valuables are packed carefully and properly protected
  5. Obtain firm quotes in writing — It’s not unknown for a company to turn up on the day, when you’re over a barrel, and demand double the original quote
  6. Vet your candidate companies — Some moving companies are cowboys. Check out the ones you’re considering through the Better Business Bureau and online reviews

You’re going to be entrusting all your worldly goods to strangers. Better safe than sorry.

Relocation reimbursement is taxable income in 2018

If your employer pays for or reimburses you for the cost of moving in 2018 or beyond, that counts as taxable income to you. This was part of 2017 tax reforms and is a big reason to keep your costs down.

Related: The 2017 tax reform bill and real estate

In addition, you can no longer deduct the reasonable costs of moving household goods and personal effects, along with the travel costs of moving to the new home. So don’t build that deduction into your budget.

There is just one exception. Active-duty servicemembers can still deduct, providing they’re moving pursuant to military orders.

How much will it cost to move?

At some point, you have to come up with a realistic dollar estimate. The sooner you do that, the wider your choices are likely to be. Indeed, planning well ahead is one of the best moving tips you’ll hear.

Rental vans

Let’s assume you’re past the point where putting down the back seats in a borrowed SUV or station wagon will do the trick. Unless you’re very young, or are moving to a furnished home or apartment, you’ve probably accumulated a lot more stuff than will fit in those spaces, even if you make multiple trips.

One affordable solution is to rent a box truck by the day. For example, at the time of this writing, you can rent a vast, 26’ truck from U-Haul from as little as $39.95 a day with a standard driver license. But don’t forget the extras: You’ll likely want to buy a collision damage waiver and perhaps other insurances.

And there’s a charge of $0.79 per mile, plus gas, which is a consideration given this beauty gets roughly 10 mpg. If you don’t need that much capacity, there are plenty of smaller trucks with lower rental costs and better fuel economy.


Another popular choice is to use a container service like PODS. With these, one or more containers are delivered to your driveway. You pack them with your belongings and lock them up. The company will collect and deliver them to your new home’s driveway where you unload their contents.

Related: $165,000 to move, $165,000 to remodel (choose wisely)

U-Haul calculates you’ll need six containers for an average four-bedroom home. In one sample scenario, it’s currently quoting $269.70 for six containers for 30 days, plus delivery charges, but you should get a quote for your needs and add on insurance.

Whenever you’re packing your possessions yourself, you’ll need packing materials, including boxes, packing paper, bubble wrap and tape. Some you can scavenge, but you’ll likely have to buy some yourself. Don’t forget to budget for these.

Full-service movers

You can find various estimates of costs for an average move online. But they’re really only useful if your move happens to be average.

If you use a professional company and are moving within your state, the average is $2,300, according to the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Based on U.S. Census figures for 2015-16, the AMSA reckons 82.7 percent of Americans who moved that year remained within the same state.

The 13.4 percent who moved to a different state paid on average $4,300. Others moved abroad or didn’t specify their destinations.

But how helpful are such figures? It’s one thing to move from Iowa to Nebraska, or Oregon to Nevada, and quite another to relocate from Washington state to Florida. Similarly, there’s a huge difference in the costs of moving the contents of a studio apartment and a nine-bedroom home.

So don’t get hung up on averages. Instead, research your local movers and ask at least three of the best ones for written quotes.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.