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How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move

Posted in: I'm Moving, Long Distance Moving, Moving Advice

What’s the difference between preparing for a local move and a long-distance move? If you guessed “time”, that’s only part of the equation.

You have lots of options to prepare for, and unlike a local move, there are more steps you need to take for better results. After moving people for, give or take, a couple decades, here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to preparing for a long-distance move.

How Am I Gonna Get Me and My Stuff Where I’m Going?

You have a number of options when planning a long distance move. Your options will all depend on these three things:

  • How much stuff you’re hauling
  • Your budget
  • Personal preference

What if I’m driving?

Some people decide to drive across the country, especially if they are bringing a vehicle or two. Beforehand, however, you should consider:

  • Car’s age and how many miles it has clocked
  • How many people and things it needs to hold
  • If it can handle a long trip without breaking down

If you need to get repairs ahead of time, then trust us, do that first. If that seems like it could be an issue or you just don’t wanna add hundreds of miles to your car, consider getting your car shipped.

Your other options are hitching it (to a truck for towing) or just ditching it. You can always try selling it or trading it in if you decide this is the end of the road for the car.

Are you driving with small childrenTransporting pets? Both of those have special considerations, so click those links to learn everything you should know first.

Moving far away?

Do it cheaper.

 

HireAHelper.com can save up to 40%, compared to traditional interstate moving companies. Click here to learn how.

What transportation should you get to move your stuff long-distance?

Unless you’re selling everything you own and driving into the sunset, you’re gonna need something safe and reliable to get all your stuff to your new place.

What you need depends on your unique move. Don’t worry, you’ve got choices. Here are your best transportation options for a long-distance move.

Legend: $ out of “$$$$”

Get a Rental Truck

The three major rental truck companies you’re likely to have access to are U-Haul, Budget and Penske. (There might be alternatives near you for you to check for better prices.)

It’s true that you will get a better mileage rate for doing a “one way” drive (taking a rental vehicle from one store to another store), but your invoice will still likely be considerably higher by the end. If you’re willing to drive, though, this could save you plenty of money over other options.

Pros: Most affordable long-distance move option.

Cons: Much fewer customer service options, way more time investment, no labor estimate, very difficult without movers.

Price: $$

Hybrid Long-Distance

What if you don’t want to figure out where to get the truck? (Or you don’t want to drive it?) Well, Hybrid-Interstate is an attractive option.

For long-distance moves only, HireAHelper connects the dots and pieces together the best value of labor and transportation companies for you, so you don’t have to spend eternity calling a million businesses. All the customer service and insurance options stay under one roof too, so it’s not only cheaper than Full-Service, it’s a heck of a lot easier.

Check out the rates here. If you’ve already budgeted for a Full-Service move, you may be pleasantly surprised how much it can save you.

Pros: Your move is figured out for you, the best-reviewed moving service online.

Cons: More expensive the more stuff you have, less affordable than a DIY move.

Price: $$$

Renting Space on a Truck

ABF

This is the service a lot of the big-rig companies offer; you’ve probably seen their trucks on the road: ABF/UPack, Old Dominion, and more.

This is how it works: a trailer is dropped off at your home, you load your stuff (or have someone load it for you), and you partition it off to keep it separate from other customers’ belongings.

A driver will come to take the trailer away and drive it to your new home. Sharing space on a trailer with other people who are moving is a cost-effective way to get your belongings across the country because you only pay for the space on the trailer you take up. Beware, these trailers don’t offer the smoothest ride, so you really need to protect your stuff with smart loading.

Pros: You pay only for the space you use, transportation all taken care of.

Cons: Often less flexibility with loading and unloading dates, high claims rate.

Price: $$$

Get a Portable Moving Container

PODS.com

Moving containers are ultra-convenient for long-distance moves for a few important reasons.

The biggest plus for moving containers is being able to load your belongings at your own pace. Companies like PODS bill you monthly (while others are at least give you a few days). Like a freight trailer but a lot smaller (another bonus for people who don’t have their own private driveway), your portable container is dropped off empty and picked up when full, then kept in storage untouched until you request delivery at your new home.

But be aware: unlike more traditional self-storage, access to your portable container is only easy if you keep it in your front yard; an appointment is generally necessary and will cost you extra, so plan ahead.

Pros: The most flexibility of any long-distance moving option, transportation is taken care of.

Cons: Costlier the more items you own, can add complexity if you send your stuff into their storage units.

Price: $$$

Get a Quote from a Full-Service Moving Company

Two Men and a Truck

If money and time is no object, call a Full-Service moving company. They can assess your home and schedule a crew of movers to come with the packing supplies to pack, load, drive, and unload your stuff within the month of your choosing.

Pros: Your move done for you, minus the coordination.

Cons: Almost always the costliest option, lengthy to coordinate and requires more time.

Cost: $$$$


Wondering which option is best for your move? Go ahead and ask the pros.

How Much Do Long-Distance Moves Cost?

Interstate and long distance moving companies charge based on weight, distance, and any extra equipment or insurance options you opt into.

The average cost of an interstate move is $4,300 for an average distance of 1,225 miles and a shipment weight of 7,400 pounds, according to the American Moving and Storage Association and as reported by numerous outlets. Sound high? See if we can help lower the cost.

Ultimately, as we’ve explained above, the price will depend on:

  • Your exact starting and ending points
  • How much you need to move
  • Modes of transportation
  • Who, if anyone, you decide to hire

One more big factor to consider is if you have any specialty items to move, such as a baby grand piano or gun safe.

Are there any ways to reduce the price?

Here are some money protips you should know as you collect estimates:

  • Binding vs. Non-Binding Estimates: This is important to know if you’re pursuing a Full Service move. A binding estimate means you will pay the final price of the estimate regardless of whether your stuff ends up weighing less or more than expected. A non-binding estimate means you could end up with a different final tally, either less or more, depending on the weight
  • You can bring the price down by being flexible with travel dates; weekdays, especially in the offseason (not summer) are often cheaper
  • Ask moving companies for discounts. For example, members of the military and veterans often get cheaper rates for rental trucks and containers
  • If you have time before you have to move, you should try to start a moving fund
  • Be sure to keep track of spending and make a written out or digital budget
  • Those who are moving for work should see if the company reimburses for any or all of the move

How long does it take to pack for a long-distance move?

Here is, generally speaking, the time-required estimates for packing a home:

  • Studio/1BR Apt – 1 Day*
  • 2BR Apt – 1-2 Days
  • 3BR Apt – 2-3 Days
  • 2BR House – 2-3 Days
  • 3BR House – 3-4 Days
  • 4BR House – 4-5 Days

* “One day” is about eight hours of one-person packing.

Knowing this, the single best strategy for packing is to start well in advance of when you think you should start, no matter which transportation option you choose. (In all my experience, I never heard someone say that packing took less time than they expected.)

Tips for fast packing

Try this: pick a closet or a room, or even just part of one room, and time how long it takes to pack.

This may give you an idea of how long it will really take you to pack up your entire home – and it will probably start looking like it will take much longer than you originally thought. Fair warning.

Make a checklist of the kinds of things you don’t need for a while. This can help minimize time spent deciding what to pack once you get started and are faced with that mountain of accumulation in the closet or the spare room.

The Most Trusted Moving Checklist on the Web

The Moving Checklist: Everything You Need to Know to Move

Things you don’t need for a while often include:

  • Out-of-season clothes
  • Holiday items
  • Books
  • Sentimental items
  • Decorations
  • Seasonal bedding

Even if you are undecided about what to do with some of your belongings, other groups of items are a no-brainer. Get them packed and out of your way.

Shelve the sentimental. You will undoubtedly come across stuff you think you might want to get rid of but aren’t quite sure. Expect it, and set all that stuff aside for later. The monstrous task of packing tends to make people see with much more clarity what they really need and what they can let go of.

Label boxes as you go! You will forget what is in all those boxes. Trust me.

DO NOT pack important paperwork, forms, documents. Shred those you don’t need. Things to to not pack away include:

  • Cash, credit cards, checkbooks
  • Bank and other financial statements
  • Insurance documents
  • Jewelry, high-dollar jackets/coats
  • Laptops/tablets w/cords, data backups
  • Medical/dental records, prescriptions/medicine
  • Personal documents, professional files/papers
  • Cell phones, chargers
  • Car/House keys
  • Family photos/irreplaceables
  • Identifying documents – birth certificates, social security cards, drivers licenses, passports

And get used to the idea of having boxes around.

Could I ship my stuff through the mail?

You could theoretically choose to ship some of your things via UPS, FedEx, or the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, it’s cheapest to send through USPS, but after packages get to only two pounds, pricing typically levels out. (That said, check out media shipping rates if you want to ship out a parcel or three that each weigh around 20 pounds.)

Where can I get packing materials for a long-distance move?

The easiest way to get clean, sturdy boxes and packing paper are from your moving service provider, who often sell these things. Many self-storage facilities also carry these things, along with tape. Though from a price perspective, you might be better off getting it from a home improvement store.

If you are looking to shave some dollars off your move, check out where you can find some free moving boxes here.

Protip: Bubble wrap is an attractive option for particularly expensive/hard-to-replace breakables, but it is bulky and becomes expensive quickly. Packing paper is more than adequate for packing most things. It is also easier to handle. Make sure you use the right kind of tape, too.

For some extra padding and protection for your most important and fragile items, consider using clothing/towels to wrap those items and/or line your boxes.

How do I load my vehicle for a long-distance move on my own?

Deciding to go it alone? Make sure to do this:

Load your belongings in what movers often call tiers. This means building walls, i.e., vertical layers of furniture, boxes, and assorted loose items. Furniture pads are crucial for this.

For example: set down your dresser and a desk (padded of course), some not too heavy boxes set on top of them, and top them off with outdoor equipment, pillows in plastic bags, etc. This all makes up one-tier.

Build one tier at a time, mixing furniture, boxes, and miscellaneous stuff. Cluster your items together like this to keep your stuff safer in the long run. Naturally, not all your tiers will be uniform. It is critical to pack tightly to avoid having everything shift and bounce around in transit.

To learn how pro movers move heavy furniture, check out this detailed post.

What if I’m flying?

If you’re taking a plane to the final destination, you should obviously consider bringing some things with you in luggage or handbags to save money on however you’re moving the rest of your stuff. Pack clothes and personal items that won’t break in the luggage, and bring fragile stuff, such as laptops and digital devices, in your carry-on bag. Paying for extra luggage on a flight is sometimes cheaper than shipping it via snail mail! Pile up your stuff, do the calculations and see what works best with your budget.

Looking to maximize your flying budget? In “The 10 Best (and Worst) Airfare Search Sites,” Frommer’s shares some of the best places for you to seek hot deals for air travel. When researching prices for flights, consider the following online travel agents and booking sites, but recognize that being better known does not necessarily mean being the best.

Is there anything extra I have to do if I’m moving across state lines?

Doing your homework on what is required of you for your specific interstate move is the first step.

Interstate moves are particularly complicated due to state laws. You still legally have to know what you are responsible for when you cross into another state.

Hiring movers? Some moving companies can’t even provide service for interstate moves because they lack the proper license. Check in with your mover ahead of time. (Of course, typing in your ZIP code into HireAHelper filters all that stuff automatically.) 

In addition, you have to know both state and local laws and ordinances that may be relevant to you. Both your departure and arrival towns likely have parking rules, which will be a consideration as you’re loading and unloading, especially if you’re leaving a PODS container somewhere for a week or more. (You think you can just park a big truck on a busy New York City road any time you want?)

Also, some states have certain laws restricting what you can bring in. For instance, there are a number of items that are illegal to bring into California, including certain firearms and fruits. Yes, your pet ferret, among other things, can’t join you if you’re headed for the Golden State.

What do people put off longest when they move interstate?

What do you need to do if you’re moving to a new state? This is what your to-do list should look like:

  • Forward your mail. Regardless of distance or state, do this first. This requires filling out a change of address form with the United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Get a new driver’s license and plates. Typically, states require you to get your new license within 30 days, so make this a priority. Unfortunately, this will probably require standing in line at the DMV. One thing we can guarantee is it will be as annoying as nails on a chalkboard no matter what state you’re in
  • Establish domicile for tax purposes. In other words, that means becoming a resident (No matter where you go, they’ll have taxes!)  
  • Transfer your utilities
  • Get a license for your pets if you have any (as long as they aren’t ferrets in California!)

Moving far away?

Do it cheaper.

 

HireAHelper.com can save up to 40%, compared to traditional interstate moving companies. Click here to learn how.

Should I get rid of my stuff?

Take a look over the vast empire you’ve established. You must recognize that the less stuff you have to move, the better off you’ll be. After all, professional moving companies generally charge you based on the weight of the stuff you need to be transported. In other words, both literally and figuratively, you will have lifted a weight off your shoulders if you downsize.

“You’ll almost certainly want to bring some of your stuff, but the vast majority of what you own is replaceable,” writes Scott Meslow in GQ. “And the cost of moving most of what you own across the country is comparable to the cost of just buying something similar—or better!—once you actually arrive.”

The good news? Purging can be cathartic. Discover some ways you can unload your stuff before moving day:

  • Sell stuff online through Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy
  • Have a traditional garage sale
  • Give away things to your friends and family
  • Donate items through charities or religious organizations
  • Throw away old, worn out, or unusable items

Experts suggest taking photographs, especially for anything of great value. You may want proof of exactly what condition the chosen ones – items with which you simply can’t part – were in before they get on the moving truck (or whatever mode of transportation you choose).

How do I move long-distance with a pet?

This, obviously, depends on the pet. For a typical dog (or cat), some rules of thumb include:

  • Minimize anxiety with a toy
  • Ask for help watching your pet
  • Build a safe space during load/unload
  • Keep them tagged
  • Keep medication unpacked, if necessary
  • Feed them lightly

If you want to learn all the little details of how to move with a pet, check out this post.


Got more questions?

We’ve got plenty of info in the form of reviews from customers of Penske, Budget and U-Haul on Moving101, as well as some alternative companies to look into for comparison shopping.

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