Tips for DIY Moving

by Ryan Guina

My wife and I recently relocated from Ohio to Illinois, moving a distance of 350 miles. This was a major move in my book, and took a lot of work and planning. But I’m convinced we saved money by moving ourselves. We spent roughly $1,200 which is probably half the cost of what it would have cost us to hire a professional moving company – and we didn’t have to wait around for our items to arrive, since many commercial movers load large trucks and ship several household’s worth of good on each trip, making several stops along the way. In the end, we were able to load our truck on Friday, unload on Saturday morning, and have our house completely set up by Sunday afternoon – cheaper and faster is a big win in my book!

Tips for DIY Moving

Get rid of stuff

As soon as we agreed to an offer our house, my wife and I listed a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. We sold several boxes and large items we didn’t want to take with us – basically things we either didn’t need, or which were replaceable at minimal cost. We also canceled cable and sold our TVs since we had bulky tube TVs we didn’t watch often and didn’t want to move. The items we sold on Craigslist paid for our move and the repairs we needed to make to our house before we sold it.

Save money on packing materials

You can probably find free or discounted packing materials on Craigslist or Freecycle. Additionally, try contacting companies such as grocery stores and other businesses to see f they have additional boxes. Many of these are just thrown out anyway. Family and friends are another great resource. Here are more tips to save money when moving.

Start packing early

My wife and I packed our own boxes, and started packing in earnest about a week ahead of our move. We went room by room and packed away everything we didn’t think we would need for a couple weeks. We did a few items each day and the organized manner in which we did it made it easier to see how much work we had left. Two days before we loaded the truck we began stacking everything in an organized manner in the living room so it would be easier to pack the moving truck – large heavy items were placed nearer to the door since they typically get loaded first. Smaller and lighter items were packed in the rear of the room. We hired some professional movers to help load our truck and they smiled when they saw how much of the guesswork had been removed from their job – they just had to grab the right box and secure it away. This made their job easier and saved time, which saved me money. Use these tips to protect your items when moving.

Get the right size truck

We originally reserved a 16 foot rental truck from Budget Truck Rental, but after looking at our household goods once they were in boxes we decided to get the larger truck. And I’m glad we did. We probably would have been able to fit everything in the truck, but we would have needed to pack everything tightly from floor to ceiling. A tight pack is a good pack, as it minimizes movement to your household goods, but it is also more time consuming, which is important if you are paying someone by the hour. Getting a larger truck meant we could pack everything more quickly and didn’t have to load and unload to try and fit things in a different way. Larger trucks are slightly more expensive and a little more cumbersome to drive, but the added cost and inconvenience are much better than leaving things behind or making two trips (not an option when you are moving 350 miles away!).  Remember this rule of thumb: a larger truck is better than a smaller truck.

Hire professionals to help load and unload

I know the purpose of DIY moving is to save money, but hiring professionals is well worth it. Professionals know the ins and outs of packing a truck correctly and know how to secure items so they won’t move around and break. Call around for estimates and make sure you understand all of their fees – including minimum hour requirements, travel costs, etc. It also helps to make sure they are bonded or have insurance. Since we moved in the off-season, we were able to find movers to help load our truck without a minimum hour requirement. They were able to load our truck in 3 hours, which was pretty darn good since we had to hit the road for a 350 mile road trip to our new location.

Do you have any other tips?

Published or updated February 28, 2011.
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