Is it cheaper to move yourself or hire a moving company?
Moving to a new home presents so many difficult choices, among the thorniest of which is how exactly to get it done. So many people about to pull up stakes have probably lay awake at night, wondering whether to hire professional movers, or to opt for a DIY move, renting a moving truck and doing all the heavy lifting themselves.
And for many wrestling with this choice, the major factor is often cost.
For those on a tight moving budget, where price is the deciding factor, it can be tough to determine which option will end up being cheaper, in part, because moving quotes may not take into consideration all the costs. There may be additional expenses that you don’t anticipate.
So let’s compare the cost to hire movers versus a do-it-yourself job on a hypothetical trip moving a three-bedroom apartment from New York to Florida — let’s say New York City to Orlando, specifically. (In 2020, New York had the second most people leaving of all the states, while Florida had the most people moving in.)
That’s a distance of about 1,000 miles — a pretty significant long-distance move, though not quite as significant as a cross-country one.
You have a few options for how to get your stuff from your old place to your new house, including renting a pod or a moving container, but let’s assume the two main moving options are a full-service moving company or a truck rental, like a U-Haul.
For definition’s sake, a professional moving company is one that will load all of your belongings, breaking down whatever furniture needs it, drive it to the destination, then unload everything, reassembling whatever furniture was broken down. Moving blankets and pads are included.
A do-it-yourself move, on the other hand, involves simply renting a vehicle from one of the truck rental companies, then loading and unloading everything at your new house yourself.
A very rough estimate for the full-service movers for the entire move of a three-bedroom apartment from New York to Florida is between $4,200 and $7,250.
The pricing for the DIY moving truck rental is less, though how much less depends on the rental company and numerous other factors.
Let’s assume you’re hauling 8,000 pounds of cargo — about average for a three-bedroom apartment or a two-bedroom house. In general a 26-foot truck might cost $500 per day with an additional charge of 99 cents per mile.
Let’s also assume the truck will travel an average of 60 miles per hour and will be on the road eight hours a day. That means the 1,000-mile journey from New York to Florida would take three days, with a total cost for the truck rental of $2,490.
In reality, prices will fluctuate depending on the truck rental company, where you pick up and drop off the vehicle and the time of year. For another very rough baseline, renting a 26-foot truck through Budget for this hypothetical move from New York City to Orlando during peak moving season in the summer months would cost around $3,600.
Several add-ons are available, including $29 for pads, $37 for a hand truck and $264 in insurance that would just cover damage to the truck. If you want liability and other coverage, it will cost more. Some truck rental companies in some areas have begun offering flat $100 policies, as well.
And then there’s gas. A truck this size probably gets around 10 miles to the gallon. On a 1,000-mile journey, you might expect to pay another $300 in diesel fuel, assuming a cost of $3 per gallon.
Hotels are another expense. The average cost of a hotel room in 2020 was $186, meaning lodging will add another $372 to the total cost over a three-day journey.
Meals, too, must be factored in. Even if you decide to eat fast food on the road, you can expect to spend at least $30 a day per person for three meals. That’s $90 over three days.
There are also tolls to consider. Depending on which route you take and how you pay, tolls could add an additional $38 to $44.
You’ll need packing materials, as well — boxes, tapes, bubble wrap and all the other supplies needed to pack your things away safely.
Then there’s the moving labor. How will you get the heaviest items from your house into the truck? Is that something you can do yourself, or will you have to ask friends? Will those friends be compensated in the age-old way with beer and pizza? And if your friends aren’t willing to help, will you have to hire helpers? Depending on where you live, you might expect to pay at least $25 or $30 an hour for those services.
All of these additional costs bring the price of the DIY moving day a bit closer to the cost of professional movers.
Of course, some of these same costs will be incurred even by hiring a professional moving company. The pros will drive the truck and pay for gas and tolls, but what about your own vehicle? Will you drive it yourself or have it shipped? Will you need to stay in a hotel on the way? Will you have to buy plane tickets to get to your residence?
And, will you pack your own stuff or hire the full-service moving company to do it? If so, that could add to the cost a fair amount.
You’ll also have to tip the moving crew, which is about 10 to 15 percent of the total cost of the move.
Those on a tight budget may opt to just handle the entire moving process themselves. For everyone else though, is it worth it to fork over a few extra dollars for professional moving services?
The perks of hiring movers are legion. For starters, it reduces the hassle of moving in a big way.
Do you really want to be driving a giant moving truck hundreds of miles down the freeway? Unlike with other large trucks, U-Haul trucks do not require a commercial license. Unfortunately, many drivers are not skilled enough to operate the oversized vehicles, and crashes do happen. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, rental trucks were involved in 145 fatal crashes between 2005 and 2010.
Navigating narrow residential streets and parking the truck can be even more difficult for inexperienced drivers. Picture yourself chomping handfuls of Maalox as you try to back a gigantic rental truck into a tight driveway, avoiding parked cars, the mailbox and a stray squirrel.
With a DIY move, you should also consider whether you have the physical strength and stamina to lift all those heavy boxes and pieces of furniture.
There’s also the peace of mind factor. Every reputable moving company is going to have insurance. That means if your stuff is damaged in transit, the cost to replace it could be covered. During a DIY move, you’re on your own. Anything that’s damaged or broken is your problem, and repairing anything that’s broken could wipe out the price difference between a do-it-yourself move and a professional one.
In the end, it’s a pretty safe bet that renting a truck and doing the move yourself will be cheaper — just maybe not as cheap as simple estimates suggest.