They're retiring to Arizona. How can they keep the cost of the move down?
Advice and Tips for a Cross-Country Move
by Dollar Stretcher Contributors
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Advice and Tips for a Cross-Country Move
I will be retiring in 18 months and moving from a condo in Jersey City, New Jersey to a small house in the Tucson, Arizona area. I would appreciate any tips and advice from others who have made a cross-country move. What should I look for in a moving company? What's the average cost? How do I choose a storage facility for my household items until I'm ready to move into a new home? What's the best time of year to make the move? Anything else that might be useful would be appreciated.
Choose Wisely When Picking the Month to Move
I moved from Illinois to Arizona about 26 years ago. Do not move out here between May through September! There's simply no way to describe our summer heat until you've lived it. You do not want to be lugging boxes and furniture when it is 110 outside. And because both metro Phoenix and Tucson are so populated, the cement roads/buildings/parking lots can retain heat so bad that it's nothing to be in the 90s still at midnight. On the reverse side, you're going to be driving a long way from Jersey and will definitely be going through plenty of mountains. You do not want to be driving in the mountains when it is snowing! For most areas, that means avoiding November through March. That leaves October or April as the sanest months to move. Of the two, pick October. That way you get to live the next seven months in paradise until it gets too hot to do anything. If you arrive in April, we start seeing 100 degree days in early May, so you'll be baptized by fire coming here at the start of hot weather. My first summer was 1990 where we saw record 122 degrees on June 26th. If I hadn't just lived through my first perfect winter here, after that summer, I would've headed back to Illinois!
My Cross-Country POD Experience
I moved halfway across the country last year from a condo in New England to a house in the South. My move cost about $2000, not including storage, but including insurance.
First, get rid of most of your large pieces of furniture that have seen better days. I sold a sectional sofa and an entertainment center. I also donated 16 carloads of odds and ends, including books to my local library and other things to a well-known charity.
I found that the most economical way for me to move was to use a POD-type company. I hired men to load the pod. The POD also came with a month's free storage in my new location. Then I hired men to unload it. About three rooms of furniture plus boxes will fit into a large POD. You can pay for additional storage time if you need it. The advantage is that your belongings are handled less, so there is less danger of damage.
I also rented storage for some items that were already in my new location. I asked around and found a decent place at $30 a month. Friends helped me pack it efficiently. It held a roomful of furniture plus ladders, outdoor equipment, and many boxes. Climate-controlled storage would have cost more at about $50 per month. Some storage companies will loan or rent you a truck to move things in.
The rental cost for a POD and I assume for more traditional moving varies greatly with the demand (time of year). I was quoted considerably more in late summer than I actually paid in November. If you use a POD, make sure that you have insurance for the people who load and unload. I had a terrible loading company, but the people I used at my destination were wonderful. Check Yelp and other sources for the experiences others have had.
A Cheap and Efficient Cross Country Move
We used ABF freight. It was the cheapest way we found, and we were happy with them. They bring a very large truck to your door and you do all the packing and unpacking. You are allowed just so many feet in the back for a flat price, and if you go over, it's more money. You crisscross it in with rope. We had enough room for a house full without going over. They then load the truck with their own goods and deliver them first. Then bring the truck to your place. We had 24 hours to load and unload. We packed our van with our personal papers and a box of items (soap, toothbrush, etc.) we would need before the truck arrived. It came the next day. We slept on an air mattress and used it later for guests.
Dee Bee in Naples, FL
Declutter Before Move
There are a lot of things you can do that will make a big difference in the cost of the move. One suggestion I have is for you to declutter all your belongings before the move, so you only move the things you use and love. It is expensive to pay to move things that aren't really needed, and it will decrease the size of the storage facility or whether you will even need a storage facility once you arrive to your new home.
Only Move What Matters
I moved several times cross-country and learned that unless things are very valuable and have some meaning, it is best to sell them or give them away. Storing costs and moving costs can be spent on new furniture etc. at the new location, and most of the time, it actually saves some money this way.
Here in Florida, some people moved their old furniture from up north only to find out none of it fit their new home and lifestyle. All these pieces ended up in thrift stores, etc. where they could be picked up for pennies on the dollar. Furniture from NY does not fit into Florida, and furniture from FL does not look too good out west.
Even clothing should fit a new lifestyle. There are thrift shops where one can get some clothes that will be more appropriate for the new region and can be used for a while.
Cross Country With Just a Suitcase and Money in Hand
When my husband and I moved from Michigan to Florida, we moved with only those things that had real meaning to us, mainly art we had purchased over the years and a few small items having special meaning to us. When we found out the cost of moving the entire household, we decided the expense wasn't worth it. We hired an auctioneer to hold a tag sale after the house sold and he told us nothing would be left in the house after the sale which is what happened. After closing on the house, we left for Florida with our suitcases holding only clothing useable in a warm climate and enough money in our hands to buy a house and furniture. We never missed any of the things we had left behind and we didn't have the stress of packing, unpacking, and giving a large sum to a moving company. How we moved might not be for everyone, but it worked for us.
U.S. Moving Resource
The US Department of Transportation has a great website that may be a good resource for you. It's ProtectYourMove.gov. This website has tips on how to plan an interstate move, and it's broken down into useful sections. I used this website as a guide a few years ago with my interstate move, and it made the process go a lot smoother than it would have otherwise.
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We Moved Cross-Country In Our Car!
Congratulations on your early and excellent planning. I moved to Tucson from the Midwest 12 years ago. At the time, I minimized what I brought, arranging to ship a partial truckload. If I were to do it again, I would only bring what I could get in the car and any light items I could ship. It costs a fair amount to move furniture and other belongings. Unless you have family heirlooms you want with you, I suggest selling and giving away everything you can't get in your car. Then you can use what you save in shipping costs to just buy what you want and what fits into your new home in Tucson.
Tucson is "smaller" in the summer when the university students and the snowbirds are gone. It might be easier to get around then if you are not familiar with Tucson, but it is pretty hot during the summer.
Another Moving Resource
The government has several pamphlets available. You'll find a helpful one here.
Take the Next Step:
- On a sheet of paper list the pluses and minuses of the moving options you're considering.
- Visit the TDS library for more on moving.
Have an idea that we didn't include? Send it to us and we'll add it to the article.
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