Reviewed February 2018

Do-it-yourself moving tips to make your move easier and cheaper

Do-It-Yourself Moving

by Dollar Stretcher Readers

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Do-It-Yourself Moving

We will be relocating from FL to PA and will be paying the moving expenses ourselves. We would like your readers' input on the most cost-effective way to do this. We have done a move in the past using a moving company. We packed everything ourselves and the movers did the rest. We then drove our two vehicles to the destination. This was a bit pricey (we thought), but our employer had paid for the move at that time. Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or past experiences on a do-it-yourself moving would be greatly appreciated. We have about six weeks to get this move completed.
J & D

Our Three Moves

Our family moved coast to coast three times. One of the tips we found most useful was in how we packed. For example, pack dishes in dishtowels, wrap bedroom knick-knacks in your clothing, bathroom knick-knacks and perfumes in bath towels. This saved us in so many areas. There was no unwanted garbage, newspapers, packing materials, etc. I didn't have to sort through boxes to find what I needed, because my dishes and dishtowels were all in the box labeled kitchen and so forth. Don't forget the time you save unwrapping all the stuff and disposing of it. Think of the space you save in the landfills, too.

Related: Could LTL Moving Save You Thousands?

Do-It-Yourself Moving Discounts

We recently moved from FL to TN and did it ourselves. I rented our truck through the Internet. Most dealers (U-Haul, Ryder, etc) have websites and give discounts for online rentals. We completed a form online and a representative called us. The websites can also tell you the closest pickup/dropoff sites. The rep doesn't always give the closest locations if they are unfamiliar with your area.
Cheryl in TN

Our Experience with Do-It-Yourself Moves

My husband and I moved from TN to GA to TN to MD in 14 months. Along the way, we learned a lot about saving money on a state to state or local move.

  1. Call your local moving companies and see if they have any used boxes (they can't reuse them) or check at the local base (the military families always have lots of boxes after unpacking). This info will enable you to get free boxes for packing. The sooner you begin the packing, the more organized you are and the less stressful the move.
  2. Schedule your utility disconnects and turn on as soon as possible. This helps eliminate any possible delays due to scheduling. We once waited 3 weeks for a phone, no fun at all.
  3. We found the most cost-effective way is to rent the largest truck and a car trailer for towing one of the cars. It is easier towing with a car trailer than a car dolly. It's worth the extra money. Doing it this way enabled us to move two cars, a boat, and all furnishings. It is better to have extra space at the end of the truck when you finish loading than to run out of room while loading, and have no place to put remaining items. I always plan to load the car that is riding on the car trailer plus the back of the trailer is great for grills, bikes and outdoor furniture.
  4. Call all of the national truck rental places. Give each of them the same information, such as size of truck, pickup/destination, car trailer, etc. Make sure to keep detailed notes on what each company is offering including mileage and give each company your name, phone number, etc. Compare what each company offered and pricing, then call the company you would most like to rent from and let them know what was offered from the company with the lowest pricing. Most of the companies will meet or beat their lowest price competitor. You will need to supply the competitors name and phone number for verification. Also if you give the companies your personal info when calling for pricing, the main office will call usually within a couple of weeks and see if they can help to book you. My daughter was originally quoted $2600 for a truck and trailer from CA to Washington DC, after following my directions she ended up paying $1100. She cut her cost by 58%, a big savings.
  5. If you need storage at the destination, consider U-Haul. They offer one month free storage at destination with truck rental. If you need more mileage than what's offered then consider Peneske, they offer unlimited mileage.
  6. Keep detailed records and get receipts for everything. If the move is relocation for work, it is a tax deductible on that years taxes.

Brenda D.

Related: How Much is Your Move Really Costing You?

60% Saved on Do-It-Yourself Moving

We recently moved from Texas to Colorado and did it ourselves. We couldn't afford the $5000 to $7000 quoted by movers. We did it for under $2000. We called several different rental truck companies and found the rates pretty comparable. We went with UHaul because they had the biggest truck and we needed lots of room for all our stuff.

We did a thorough house-cleaning and held a huge garage sale in preparation for the move. We made about $500, which went toward moving expenses. We could have made much more if we had sold our furniture, but we have spent 20 years furnishing a home together and didn't see the economy in buying furniture all over again.

Tell everyone you are looking for boxes and ask everywhere you go. Collect them and flatten them until you're ready to pack. Office supply stores have the best boxes. Paper boxes are sturdy, have lids and stack great. Auto supply and liquor stores also have good boxes. I got a lot of boxes at Target, but Wal-Mart refused to give me any. I did buy wardrobe boxes for hanging clothes and a dish crate for my good dishes. I got these from UHaul, and ordered a couple of picture boxes and some mattress covers from Anchor Box Company. My husband worked for a printer, so we were able to get roll ends of unprinted newspaper to wrap dishes, figurines, etc. Ask around. The unprinted stuff is cleaner and easier to use than printed newspaper. Wrap everything well. In a 1000-mile move, we did not break a single item.

Arrange for friends to help on moving day. The company will provide a brochure for hints to pack the truck. Pack tightly so the load doesn't shift and use lots of moving blankets. Rent or borrow a dolly.

If you need to spend the night on the road, call ahead to make sure the hotel has a place to park your moving van. We had three dogs with us, so we also had to find a place that would let them stay overnight. A Best Western took us with no problem at all. Camping out would be another alternative. We packed food to eat on the way, since stopping in restaurants was a hassle.

Figure in the cost of gas for your car and the truck. Our gas costs were about $200. We didn't know anyone at our new location, so we called the UHaul where we would be returning our truck and asked them for recommendations for help when we arrived. They put us in touch with a local man who helps people unload. For $25 he and another helper unloaded the truck at our temporary home and at our storage unit (we will be moving into our permanent new home after the first of the year, a short-term move we will again do ourselves.)

Related: A Frugal Long-Distance Move

No More Horsing Around... It's Time to Move!

We moved my husband's brother and his wife from MI to FL. We used our horse trailer we had at the time and it worked out great. The only cost was the cost of fuel. We also sold the trailer after the move on the way back! Many friends borrow the trailer I have now to move, etc. It works wonderful. It holds four horses (to give an idea of the size) and everything inside comes out. It was the best investment we ever made. There are many people who haul horses for a living. You may be able to locate someone coming back from a delivery with an empty trailer and get a real good price. Of course, ours is cleaned after every use so no worries there. You will be surprised how much stuff will fit in a "stock" trailer and the back of a pick-up truck. The one used to move my brother-in-law was a fully enclosed trailer with a ramp so it made it easier to load, but most horse trailers are low to the ground. Put an ad on Craigslist and state when and where you're going.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

A couple of years ago, I moved two states away using only my large car. I didn't have enough space to bring everything, so I used this as an opportunity to clear out the clutter. I used up everything possible in the weeks before the move. I made meals out of items in the pantry and freezer and didn't buy any non-perishable groceries. I used up the last little bits of lotion, shampoo and perfume so I could throw away a few bottles rather than bring several half-full bottles.

I threw away any non-essential papers and scanned those that I needed. I burned these to a disk and also emailed copies to myself as a backup. I recycled all those magazines that I thought I would read again, but never did. Old gifts that were no longer enjoyed (or never were) were donated. I sold books, CDs and DVDs that I no longer wanted to the used stores around town to clear out space.

There were many items that were falling apart and needed to be replaced. A wobbly pizza cutter, thread bare socks, outdated clothing, and a terribly ugly lamp were all items that I desperately needed to replace. I used them until we moved and threw them away the morning I left. I replaced them after the move. Some items were so big that it would be more costly to move than to replace, such as my mattress and old couch. I threw away the mattress and sold the couch and armchair. The first couple of days in the new home, I was sitting on the floor, but I soon found a nice set for a low price.

Even if you rent a truck, by simplifying, you can rent a smaller truck to save money. You'll also save the cost of boxes, tape, and the chiropractic bill after loading and unloading all of that stuff!
Cynthia H.

Related: Getting Rid of Stuff When You Move to a Smaller House

Beginning Again

Having made a major DIY move from the West Coast to the Mid-West at a cost of over $4,000 for a relatively small three-bedroom apartment, I've decided that the best of all possible DIY moves is not to move much at all. In looking back at the costs of a rental truck (and a trailer when the truck became too full), sleeping in hotels over the time period, gas for the truck, and all the packing, we realized that most of what we moved we could have replaced for equal or less with far less headaches and expense. That way, we would have had new "stuff" for our new home. Instead, for the cost, we ended up with very used stuff. Some items were more damaged after the move, and we had little reserve funds left. I suggest you go through everything and only keep what is truly sentimental and important like real antiques, photos, etc. Be ruthless. With your clothing, only keeping what you really wear all the time. Pare down everything else through garage sales, overt sales in the newspaper, etc. Your goal is to rent a single small trailer, pocket the money, and begin again. We tried this with our next move and found how refreshing it was to just be driving our own car and not having to worry about who might break in. We loved the joy in re-furbishing our new place with new items as we found what we wanted (even if those new items were thrift shop finds). Moving allows you to re-make your life. Take full advantage of it by not hauling your old life around with you.

Do-It-Yourself Moving Container

I just moved across town and used a container to do so. I also learned you can do this for moves across the country. Depending on the size of the container, you rent it for a month (between $100-$250 approximately) and then you pay the transportation costs (in town $39 for each transport). By the end of it, I am going to pay $250 to move from my townhouse to my new house. My co-worker just used this system too and said that it worked great for her as well. They drop the container off. You load it. And then they pick it up and deliver it. Finally, you unload it.

Make Money on the Move

When I moved to Alaska from Washington state, rather than rent a U-haul for $800, I bought a small enclosed utility trailer brand new for $2200. Upon arrival in Alaska, I was able to use the trailer for storage for several months, avoiding renting a storage unit. I finally sold the trailer for $2500. I figure I came out over $2000 ahead, counting the money I would have had to spend on storage!
Reidun in Delburne, AB

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Ship Some Belongings

Believe it or not, you can ship packages (books, small and medium-sized appliances, etc.) for less money than it would take to put them on the moving van. Ship via Greyhound Bus or Amtrak. Chances are that they have a route near where you are going and you can pick up the parcels when you get there. I have done this several times when I have moved cross-country and from the Southwest to the Northwest, and it always saves me money because I can rent a smaller moving truck for my larger, heavier items. The cost of shipping this way is much less than you'd think!
The Baroness in Oregon

Insider Report on Moving

As a former mover for North American, I know that there are several prices for each move, and if you do not ask for a discount, you get the highest price. Get several bids for competing companies and play them for the lowest price. Watch out for ATC (additional transportation costs) at destination. Have the load delivered directly to your house and not to a warehouse, which increases storage and re-delivery costs.

Reviewed February 2018

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