At a glance
If you absolutely need to spend as little money as possible on your move and you’re willing to expend significant time and effort to do so, then you might want to move yourself. You can usually spend less money when you move yourself than when you hire a mover.
However, for most people, the minimal savings of DIY moving don’t justify the extra time, effort, and stress of moving themselves. Self-moving often costs more than you expect, and then you have to deal with everything from the logistics of filling up a large truck with gas to figuring out how to move that heirloom hutch on your own. If you want to save time and energy, choose full-service movers.
Self-pack moving companies offer a compromise between DIY and full-service moves. You pack and load everything yourself, but movers transport your belongings. That means you save some money and you don’t have to deal with the worst parts of moving yourself.
In a Nutshell
The whole picture
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: every move is different. A recent college graduate moving one bedroom’s worth of belongings to a new apartment six blocks away will have very different needs than a family of six moving a house’s worth of stuff across the country. The graduate can squish all their belongings into the backseat of their compact hatchback. The family of six? Not so much.
These different needs mean that there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to how you should move, but there is a one-size-fits-most: you should hire a moving company.
Now, the thrifty among you might balk at that idea. You might think that moving yourself provides an obvious way to save money. That’s not entirely true. Let’s talk about some self-moving myths.
The hidden costs of moving yourself
If you’re looking at self-moving, it’s probably because you want to save money. There’s no denying that moving yourself is a cheaper alternative to using moving services—but you probably won’t save as much as you think.
The monetary details
We’ve all seen those rentable moving trucks advertising their cheap rates in big, splashy numbers on the side. While those numbers look low, remember that these advertised rates don’t represent what you’ll actually pay. At minimum, you’ll have to fill the truck’s gas tank. Given that these trucks often get an MPG rate somewhere in the low teens, gas costs add up quickly. For local moves, you’ll have to pay for mileage. When you add in extras like liability insurance and dollies, the cost gets even higher.
The other costs
Aside from the monetary costs, moving yourself requires significant time investment. You have to pack everything, move it into the truck, arrange it so it all fits in the truck, drive to your new location, unload the truck, fill up the truck’s gas tank, return the truck, and then go home and unpack your belongings. And of course, it always takes longer than you think it will.
This is why you should also consider the stress involved in moving yourself. You have to constantly solve problems. Where can you find a gas station that fits a twenty-six-foot truck? How do you fit all your stuff in the truck? If you’re not good at Tetris by the start of your move, you will be by the end.
Plus, there’s the stress on your body. By the time you’re done loading your truck, you’ll likely be exhausted and sore—and you’ll still have to unload everything.
The bottom line
With all that said, moving yourself often still ends up being cheaper than a moving company. The savings may not be substantial, but if you absolutely must save money anywhere you can, then a DIY move remains the cheapest option.
Likewise, if you have minimal belongings—no large furniture, just a few boxes—then moving yourself can be a reasonable choice. Otherwise, we strongly suggest you look into using some kind of moving service.
I was driving a twenty-six-foot moving truck with my car in tow. I’d been on the interstate for six hours when it started snowing. Traffic slowed to a crawl, then stopped altogether. The interstate was closed ahead because of multiple accidents. I was exhausted, I was hungry, I needed to use the bathroom, and the truck was almost out of gas. We were stopped for well over an hour. Because of the delay, I missed the check-in window for my new place and had to find alternative arrangements that night.
How much would you be willing to pay to avoid an experience like my last self-move?
The full-service experience
Using full-services movers takes away much of the stress of moving. Full-service moving companies can take care of your entire move for you—from packing to transporting to unpacking. If you’d rather leave the hard work to the pros, a full-service move might be right for you.
A multitude of options
Moving companies generally offer several packages to choose from. If you want to do the packing and unpacking yourself, you can choose a simple package in which movers do just the heavy lifting and driving. This is a great option if you want to save where you can without taking on too much stress.
Alternatively, you can choose a package that has the company do all the work for you. Movers will pack your home, load your belongings onto their truck, transport everything, and unload it all at your new home. You, meanwhile, can sit to the side and enjoy a cold drink as you enjoy not lifting a heavy entertainment center.
The safety net
Most full-service movers carry some form of damage coverage. That means that if your movers happen to drop Grandma Ethel’s china, you’re not up a creek without a place setting. Of course, professional movers have skills and muscles that you and I probably don’t, so you can trust your belongings are in good hands.
Hiring full-service movers will likely cost you more than doing a DIY move, but you won’t regret the extra expense. You’ll save on time, energy, and stress, so you can actually enjoy your new place when you get there.
Shop before you commit
Fortunately, you can request a free quote from a full-service mover. There’s no risk or obligation in getting a quote—it just helps you compare your options and plan your expenses with more accuracy.
On average, just over 11% of Americans move each year. Most of them stay in the same state.
The self-pack compromise
If you’re looking for a middle ground between doing it all yourself and paying someone to do it all for you, consider packing your own belongings and paying for them to be transported. Moving container companies offer a simple way to do just that.
How it works
When you self-pack, you’ll still be responsible for getting packing materials and putting all your belongings in boxes. Your company of choice will deliver a shipping container right to your home, and you’ll load your belongings inside it. Then, the company will pick up your container full of belongings and transport it to your new location, where you’ll unload everything.
Self-pack moving still has some of the disadvantages of a DIY move. In particular, it requires lots of your time and energy. You’ll spend hours packing your belongings, and you’ll be tired and sweaty by the time you’re done loading and unloading.
The monetary middle-ground
However, using a moving container takes away some of the more stressful parts of a self-move. You won’t have to drive a truck or worry about any of the associated costs or problems of renting a moving truck.
As you might expect, a self-pack moving company generally costs a little less than full-service movers and a little more than a truck rental. If you want to save money while also reducing stress where possible, consider compromising with self-packing.
Label your boxes on all sides for more efficient unloading. That way, you won’t have to keep spinning boxes around to see where they go.
Learn more about moving costs
Now you know the advantages and disadvantages of moving yourself, but what about the hard costs? We’re glad you asked. Check out our article on moving costs to get a better idea of what you can expect to spend with each moving method. Remember to keep the nonmonetary costs in mind as you make your decision.