How Do I Plan a Long Distance Move?

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Moving long distance requires patience, stamina, and grit. But it doesn’t have to be an awful experience. With some planning, a little know-how, plus some research, you can make the process of moving much easier. But just to help you out, we went ahead and did all the research for you.

After all, settling into a new, far-away land shouldn’t be anything less than transformational! 

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 children? Transporting pets? Both of those have special considerations, so click those links to learn everything you should know first.

What about my stuff?

The most hands-off option for getting you and everything long distance is a Full Service moving company. If you have the money for going that route, you need to find one with proper licensing, especially for interstate moves, as opposed to somebody off Craigslist.

What other options are there? Some people who make a long distance move opt to rent a moving truck for loading up their stuff and driving it themselves, then only hire movers for the lifting part, not the driving. This is called Hybrid Moving and can save a lot of money (if you don’t mind the drive). 

If you want to leave the driving to somebody else but still want to save money as compared to a Full Service Move, you can opt for portable moving containers like a PODS container. With those, professionals drive your stuff to and from destinations.

A final option to explore is to rent space in a freight truck that a professional driver hauls to your final destination, or sometimes to a warehouse for pick up.

The pros, cons, and prices of all of these options (and much more) are covered extensively on Moving101.

If you opt for a moving crew, make sure you get the answers to these questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How much experience do you have serving clients moving long distance? How does that compare with the number of local moves you conduct for clients?
  • Do you have proper, up-to-date licenses? Are you legally able to work in both states and cross state lines?
  • What kind of feedback do you get from clients?   
  • How would you describe the value you provide for the price you charge?
  • What are your policies regarding damaged or lost goods? What are your policies regarding re-scheduling or canceling service?

And you shouldn’t just take their word for it either. Get genuine opinions by consulting verified reviews on HireAHelper or anywhere you look.

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.

Should I ship my stuff?

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.)

Of course, you probably have more than a few pounds worth of stuff. In this case, moving containers are a savvy pick for getting your stuff driven to where it needs to go for you. Not only do shipping containers come in different shapes and sizes, but you can plan to keep them placed somewhere for usually as much as a month at a time, so there’s lots of flexibility with using a moving container for a long distance move.

There are several things to consider when thinking about using a moving container:

  • Do you care if it’s wooden versus metal?
  • How many do you need?
  • How long do you need it to wait for you before unloading it?
  • Do you need help loading and unloading it?

Your options will depend on where you live, due to which moving container companies are available to you. Beyond PODS containers, check out this massive break down of the best moving container companies for your exact situation.

Moving101 Container Price Comparison

How Much Do Long-Distance Moves Cost?

Long distance and interstate 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.

But 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.

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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 (read: 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

What 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 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.

To-Do list for interstate moves

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!)

How Do I Pack My Stuff?

Anyone who has ever moved can tell you that packing up your entire world is maybe the most stressful part of the journey. Getting sturdy cardboard boxes and wisely packing them is one way to ensure the process is easier. Refraining from making any of the boxes too heavy and keeping items that will go in the same room in one box are obvious tips.

Make sure to label everything. Most importantly, make use of soft items, such as pillows, to serve as buffers between breakables and harder items. Use appropriate packing material – such as bubble wrap and newspapers – to protect glass, china and other delicate items. You can learn more in “How to Pack a Moving Box.”

If you want to be extra cautious with your stuff, then turn to professionals for help with packing your things.

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).


Moving long distance is a tremendous undertaking. But if you prepare and research your options, you can make the move successfully without pulling out your hair. As you deal with the technical aspects of the move, give yourself a break if you – or others in the family – get emotional. Starting a new life in a new place is never easy. A stress-free move is the first step to arriving at this new world. 

How Much Will Your Move Cost? Here’s How to Figure it Out

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So how much does a move cost? It all depends. Years of moving experience shows that customers typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Gazillionaire
  • Employee relocating on the company’s dime
  • Confused soul wondering aloud, “Good gosh, how much is this going to cost me?”

As you probably guessed, most of us are the third one. AMSA, the American Moving and Storage Association, tells us the average in-state move costs $1,170, while interstate moves average $5,630. But take that with a grain of salt, because the real answer lies is in the details of your specific move—from off-base estimates to logistical issues, from slower-than-syrup movers to incidental expenses, all big and small.

So how is it possible to even come close to predicting the final number so we don’t go into shock when we’re handed the bill?

Some things are out of our control, but there are definitely things you can do and look out for to make the moment we get that final bill pleasantly unsurprising.

The Baseline Cost of Moves

These are the basic questions you need to ask ahead of a move:

  • Are you getting a Full-Service moving company to handle everything?
  • Are you renting your own truck, then hiring moving labor separately?
  • Are you doing everything yourself?

These are known as the three basic ways to move: A Hybrid Move, a Full-Service Move, and a DIY Move.

How much do movers cost?

Getting a Full-Service Move? That means the movers load, unload, and drive the vehicle all on their own. The estimate? Though it will largely depend on the distance traveled and volume of the move, Full-Service Moves run north of $1,500-$2,000, on average, and sometimes can be more expensive if it’s a really big move.

Hybrid Moves, on the other hand, separate moving labor from moving vehicle. That means you hire a mover to load and/or unload your stuff, then rent the moving truck on your own, saving you a lot of money. Roughly, the cost can run anywhere between $300-$1,000 for a truck and movers, occasionally more.

What’s the cost difference between a long distance and local move?

Local or state move? You’re looking at roughly anywhere between $100 to $300 for the moving truck, depending on the size needed and after accounting for mileage and insurance fees.

Moving long distance? Like, across the country? This will likely cost around $1,000 after gas and fees, plus potentially lodging and food.

As for local movers, prices vary dramatically based on scheduling and location. Moving during a busy summer is just going to cost more than during the dead of winter. Movers’ hourly rates also vary, depending on the size and distance of your move.

Here are some generalized queries on price ranges for “2 Helpers for 2 hours”, taken straight from HireAHelper.com:

  • Boston, Massachusetts: $250-$350
  • Austin, Texas: $200-$300
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana.: $300-$400
  • Los Angeles, California: $250-$400

Of course, some movers do charge more, or sometimes less. Check out our movers’ reviews, give a few of them a call, get some estimates, and then go with who you feel best about.

You might love our:

Moving Cost Calculator

If the quote from your movers felt expensive …
Make sure it lines up with the costs reported by other Americans.

Finally, there’s the DIY Move, which hides plenty of hidden costs, such as:

  • Gasoline
  • Power tools
  • Moving supplies
  • Pizza and beer
  • Heavy stress

Not to mention what it does to close friendships and schedules. You can get away with casually moving a bedroom with some friends, but let’s just say that in the past, I wish I had spent a couple hundred bucks to have had total peace of mind for those really stressful moves. As a mover, I recognize I am biased, but I am also just a person who has moved many, many times—just like you.

Why do random internet searches for movers cost more?

Moving estimations are rarely conservative. That’s because it’s dreadful to be ill-equipped and strapped for time, versus the other way around.

No matter which one you choose, having someone come out and do a thorough visual of your place and all your belongings can be an extra useful way to get the most reliable estimate of how much your move will cost, as it’s an estimate based on time needed.

Getting an estimate over the phone? That’s cool, but keep these two things in mind:

First, if someone can’t see all the things you want moved, no matter how pure their intentions, it is ultimately a guesstimate.

Why should I avoid “move brokers”?

Secondly, unfortunately, it’s a very real possibility that the “moving company” you quickly searched for on the internet is actually just a move broker.

That’s another term for a middleman who will assure you that they can give you an accurate quote – which will sound too good to be true – then sell your move to the highest bidder. That person will then come out (most likely in a rental truck) and load up your stuff … before telling you that your final bill will be a lot higher than you were originally told.

It happens every single day. Don’t let it happen to you.

That’s why after 20 plus years of experience moving people, I write for HireAHelper, a moving labor marketplace. All the movers are real movers with real reviews, which means absolutely zero of them are move brokers. Everyone here is the real deal.

Get a Quote

See prices for local moving labor. Read real customer reviews. Easily book your help online.

Still, marketplace or not, keep in mind that the more stuff you have, the more important it is to get an in-person estimate so your movers can give you a good idea of how many people you’ll need for how many hours.

Extra, Hidden Mover Costs

How much stuff you have isn’t the only thing that determines the cost of your move. Here are some other important factors that some moving companies take into consideration when giving quotes:

  • If the path from your door to the truck involves stairs or an elevator
  • If the distance from your door to where the truck will be parked is particularly long (meaning 75 feet or more)
  • If your movers can’t get their tractor-trailer anywhere near your place and they have to use a smaller truck to shuttle your stuff from your driveway to the big rig
  • If you have any (or a lot of) heavy, bulky or unusual items, like pool tables or gun safes

All or some combination of these will likely bring your quote up. This is another reason an in-person estimate is important. But if you do find yourself having to give movers a run-down of your stuff over the phone, be sure to let them know the lay of the land so no one ends up surprised. Also, don’t forget to potentially tip your movers.

Total: 

Local Hybrid Move: ~$350+

Local Full-Service Move: ~$700+

Long Distance Hybrid Move: ~$1,300+

Long Distance Full Service Move: ~$2,000+

Optional, Accidental and Potentially Hefty Costs

There are some potentially optional costs that can add up quickly.

Packing Costs

Doing your own packing? Be aware that boxes can get expensivea couple of bucks a pop on average.

Meanwhile, packing paper goes for around $30 per 25-pound bundle, and box tape runs at minimum a dollar per roll.

Thinking of using bubble wrap? Plan on dropping anywhere from $20-$50 a shot.

You’ll save some cash by doing your own packing, but your packing supplies can run you a couple hundred bucks, at least.

Total:

Moving boxes: ~$0-25

Packing supplies: ~$35-75

Packing help: ~$75-100

Rental Trucks

Renting a truck? You may find one for $20 or $30 or $50 a day, but gas, tolls, equipment rental, liability insurance, mileage charges and any fees included in the fine print of your rental agreement add up fast. Plus, obviously, the bigger the truck you need, the more it’ll cost. Not to mention, some days are busier than others (e.g., holidays, weekends, etc.), and you’ll get charged more for a last second rental. (Read this rental truck guide for more info.)

If you are moving long-distance, you also need to factor in food and lodging. And by the way, if you’re driving that truck, how are you going to get your car to your new home? All of this basically means one thing: get a quote on a moving truck early

Total: 

Local (or daily) moving truck: ~$75-300+

Long distance moving truck: ~$1,000-5,000+

How much does insurance cost?

Planning on getting your stuff insured? Full-service moving companies offer free basic coverage against loss or damage, equaling 60 cents per pound for any lost or damaged item. If you are okay with getting fifteen bucks in return for your newly-smashed flat screen TV, then this is the plan for you. That’s called valuation, not insurance.

If you want to be actually insured, you’ll want to consider paying for coverage that actually means something—which will cost you a percentage of what your stuff is worth in total.

 

What Moving Insurance Actually Does

(And why it might not help you!)

Total:

Insurance cost is completely relative to the item you insure (as well as how far you take it). Taken from MovingInsurance.com FAQ:

The cost of the insurance, or premium, is based on a proportional rate, relevant to the declared value of your shipment and the level of deductible you have chosen, and includes an administrative fee. Rates vary depending on your insurance type as well as based on your household goods’ final destination, whether be locally, out of state or internationally.

Storage and Lodging

And if your new home isn’t ready when you are? This unfortunate possibility comes with having to shell out more cash for the extra time your stuff has to sit on the moving truck, the extra time you have to hold onto your rental truck, or the storage space you have to rent until your home is finally ready for you. You might not include such expenses in your moving budget, but be aware of the potential for things to go wrong. There’s even the hotel cost if you’re moving for more than a day.

And what if you don’t get your life all packed up on time? You’ll have to hire packers last-minute. Obviously, this situation is entirely avoidable. All you have to do is make a careful and calculated estimate as to how long it will take you to pack everything. Then whatever time frame you come up with, multiply by two and a half. (Seriously.)

Total: 

Storage container costs depend on their size and distance driven. Taken from Moving101:

You can move locally or long distance, but moving containers are more affordably suited to local moves of small houses or apartments…mostly because you need to rent out more than one container for larger homes, which raises the fee. And the costs associated with the company driving the container long distance (read: paying the driver, fuel, insurance, etc.) all pile onto your bill, but then again, you’re not driving that massive truck 2,000 miles in 110-degree heat. Tradeoffs. Prices range from just under $500 for a local move (with the largest container) to more than $5,000 for a long-distance move (with two of the largest containers).

Incidental Costs

After moving people day in and day out for decades, I’ve heard everything under the sun when it comes to random moving costs the customers weren’t expecting. But the thing is, they almost are never random, just unexpected. The list of sometimes surprising incidental costs include:

  • Restocking your pantry/kitchen, and replacing items you got rid of
  • Paying deposits on utilities, cable, and public services at your new home
  • Sucking up any cancellation fees or broken contract penalties for things like cable, phone and health club membership
  • Repairing damage in your old home – or losing your security deposit if you don’t
  • Changing your driver’s license and car registration
  • Running a credit check to pass along to your new landlord and new utility companies
  • Picking up all the little things you need for your new home: light bulbs, shower curtain, shades/curtains for the windows, cleaning supplies because you used up and wore out everything cleaning your old place so you could get at least some of your security deposit back
  • Getting socked with penalties for being late paying bills because your mail didn’t get forwarded promptly, or you missed a bill altogether

Apartment Costs

Also, are you renting a new apartment? Obviously, don’t forget you have a security deposit as well as first and last months’ rent to shell out. Those can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to the value of the entire month’s rent. Buying a new home? That’s another topic altogether, but with that comes closing costs, realtor fees, appraisal costs, inspection fees, attorney fees and more. Yay!

Long-term Costs

There’s another part to this incidental list, which includes moving costs that are repeating or more long-term in nature.

  • Does parking cost where you live, and how much?
  • What are the average car and health insurance rates in your new state?
  • With your new home will you be subjected to building maintenance fees? Property fees? Homeowners’ association fees? Do you have to buy special trash and recycling bins?

That’s a lot of stuff to take into account, huh?

Figuring out what your own move will cost is all about specifics, not averages. So get that in-person estimate (more than one, if you are able). Use a moving cost calculator. Find a deal on a reliable rental truck (and remember to read the fine print). Check out rates for coverage against damage. Keep an eye on all those incidental charges and keep a list of things you’ll need at your new place.

And please, leave yourself plenty of time to pack!


Illustrations by Vicki Tsai
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