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Moving Costs: What You Need to Know to Budget Your Move

By: Angelina Bader
November 19, 2018

Hooray! You’re moving to a new home! You’ve already thought of that new couch you want for your living room or found your dream dinning table to sit at with friends and family at Thanksgiving. Now you just have to get there, and that includes bringing along your favorite wardrobe and bed, too. You need to know: How much does it cost to move? When planning a move, there is a high chance that estimating expenses and looking for moving services are somewhere at the top of your to-do list. Remember that moving costs are a case-by-case matter and there are a number of factors that will play into how much you ultimately spend. To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to moving costs and how much it costs to move.

Consider distance when choosing a moving company

Typically, professional movers will calculate the cost of services based on the size of your house, the average weight of your belongings, and the amount of time it takes movers to load and unload them. A move is always a good time to declutter your current and future living spaces. Out with the witch costume from three years ago, and in with the refreshed, lighter luggage. This will save you time spent on packing and money spent on boxes.

Local moves—local movers are your go to!

If you are moving down the street, somewhere within your town, or maybe even a neighboring city, like San Francisco to Oakland, you fall into the category of a local relocation. This means you don’t have to look far for movers, because a local moving company is often cheaper than a nationwide franchise. On average, movers for a one-bedroom apartment cost about $350, and closer to $1,500 for a four-bedroom home. Here is a more detailed break down of the average moving quote of an intrastate move:

  • 1-bedroom apartment or house: $200-$500, 3-5 hours of labor

  • 2-bedrooms apartment: $375-$750, 5-6 hours of labor

  • 3-bedrooms apartment: $800-$1,500, 7-10 hours of labor

  • 4-bedrooms and up: $1,000-$2,000, 10+ hours of labor

Long-distance moves—cross-country movers are the deal!

Let’s say you are moving from Los Angeles, CA to Tampa, FL. An across the state move or further would be considered long-distance relocation. When your move falls into this category, long-distance moving companies also take distance into their cost calculations. Check out this more detailed break down of the average prices for long-distance movers:

  • 1-bedroom apartment or house: $900-$1,200, Average distance: 1,000 miles

  • 2-bedroom apartment: $2,000-$3,000, Average distance: 1,000 miles

  • 3-bedrooms apartment: $3,500-$5,000, Average distance: 1,000 miles

  • 4-bedrooms and up: $4,000-$6,000, Average distance: 1,000 miles

Here are a few companies that fall within this range:

Know time, day and month all impact cost

This may seem like a simple task: pick a date that best suits your calendar, right? Actually, that’s not all that there is to it. The day of the week and time of the year can affect the price of your move, so if you have flexibility, you may want to change your move date by a day or two, or even a month, to optimize for decreased moving costs. Being off work or out of school makes the weekends and summers an attractive time to move. In turn, due to high volumes of relocations, this also makes it more expensive to hire movers.

Research your moving company to get the best for your budget

When looking a for a reputable moving company, there is a few things to consider. You want to make sure that you receive clarity about the services and utmost support from the company that you hire. In order to achieve that and get the best bet for your money, here are some pointers to help you cruise through the selection process:

  • Make sure the company is licensed and insured. If you aren’t sure and would like to check whether the company you’re thinking of choosing is licensed, the Department of Transportation website is a good place to visit.

  • Read the reviews. Nothing will tell you more about the company than previous customers speaking about their experience.

  • Look for industry recognition. Is the company you’re looking at certified by the American Moving and Storage Association? Maybe some other legitimate industry recognition, such as a local award? If yes, that’s a good sign that they are reputable movers who will have your back.

Once you’ve found your perfect moving company or have a few solid companies to pick from, it’s time to figure out their quotes to include in your budget plan.

Here are a few steps:

  • Spill the details: Your moving company needs to know the size of your home and the number of belongings you will be taking with you. Don’t forget to mention if any of your items are antiques! The movers will need to pay extra attention to these items and may have to bring additional tools.

  • Your moving date: Find out how much a particular company charges as the base price for the move in date you have chosen.

  • Compare and contrast: If you haven’t found “the one” yet, compare and contrast all the information you have gathered across multiple companies.

  • Ask questions: Don’t forget to check for additional costs and fees that may apply! Inquire with the movers if the services such as packing and unpacking, large item (i.e. pool table) and antique moving, furniture disassembly and assembly are included in the hourly rate or are additional charges. Here are some questions you can bring up with your moving company:

    • Are packing services included? Will they also unpack for or with you?
    • Are disassembly and assembly services part of the base price?
    • Is cost calculated based on hourly rate or weight of items?
    • Are there any extra fees for stairs or far off parking?
    • Is this a binding estimate? A binding estimate is a written agreement between your moving company and you guaranteeing that estimate provided is the total cost of the move based on estimates of your items prior to the move date. If instead it is a non-binding estimate, then you may be surprised with fluctuating fees and additional charges later.
    • Are there any specialty items provided by the movers, such as stretch wrap, felt pads and mattress bags or would you need to take care of that yourself? If there a fee for using theirs?
  • Save the date: You did you homework and now you’re halfway there! Reserve the moving company and let’s move on to the next part of our guide for an affordable move.

Find cheap moving supplies

The price of common packing supplies like boxes, tape, plastic bins, and stretch wrap can add up when you’re preparing for your move. Ask your moving company if they provide packing supplies and if there are additional costs involved for using their stock. Here are some great ideas for places to find free moving boxes and save on your moving costs:

  • Craigslist

  • U-Haul Box Exchange

  • Large Retailers (i.e. Office Depot, Costco)

  • Grocery Stores

These items may be obvious, but just in case you forget something, here is a short checklist of basic supplies you will most likely need:

  • Cardboard boxes

  • Plastic bins

  • Bubble wrap/packing paper

  • Cleaning supplies

  • Storage units

Choose the right liability and valuation coverage

Knowing that the handmade chair your great-grandpa built is protected during the move can take a load off your mind. In accordance with federal law, moving companies are required to offer at least two types of coverage. Most widespread are the BVP (Basic Released Value Protection) and the RVP (Full Value Protection).

  • Basic Released Value Protection (BVP): This plan covers .60 cents per pound of cargo liability. It is a good idea to get this type of coverage for local moves.

  • Full Value Protection (RVP): This option holds movers accountable for any broken or damaged items. It also requires them to replace the article with a similar item or pay a cash settlement. This coverage will typically cost somewhere between $8 to $12 per pound, per item, and is the highest level of protection available besides insurance.

Remember that a moving company cannot sell you insurance and neither of these options are that. The difference between valuation coverage and insurance is that insurance is a contract between you and an insurer, whereas valuation coverage is regulated by federal law. It is an extent of liability that moving companies take on and in the event of damage caused by the movers, they are agree to pay a specified amount.

Consider alternatives to hiring a moving company - A DIY move!

If you want to cut some costs and maybe have a bit of an adventure in the process, a DIY move might be just the thing for you. This is definitely not something that can go completely unplanned. Besides all the regular moving supplies, such as cardboard boxes and some tarp, there a few other things and services you might need.

  • A portable moving container: A moving pod is a cheaper version of the full-service movers. The price will be determined by the size and number of containers you will be renting, as well as the amount of time you will be holding onto them for, or how far you’ll be moving.

  • Call on your friends and family: Ask your best friends to help out with a lift or two, and make a gathering out of packing. Who knows, maybe your best friend will love that loveseat you wanted to leave behind, but didn't know how to get rid of it.

  • Rent a moving truck: The amount a rental truck will cost you depends on the distance and the number of days you’re going to use the truck. Pro tip: A local truck rental company on average will cost less than the big, nation-wide counterparts. Note that they business may not cover as much territory and thus, may not be a good fit for a long-distance move. Also, remember that you will have to cover gas expenses, tolls, and possible cleaning fees.

If you are planning for a move in the future and had no idea how much it was going to cost you, hopefully this guide was useful. Moving costs can be hard to precisely estimate as so much can vary case-by-case, so be sure to plan ahead and get your budget prepared early.

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