How I Moved Across the Country Completely by Myself

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Here’s the way things started: I had an opportunity, a big one, but I needed to move across the country to take it. And I had to take some of my stuff with me.

But the biggest issue? The move needed to happen in April, and I would be traveling across the northern part of the country from Idaho to Pennsylvania, plowing through late winter snows and other potential issues.

Oh, and I’d be doing it alone.

I started off with a plan, some goals, and some ideas of how things would go. And as is typical of these kinds of adventures, not everything went smoothly. Here is what I learned on my long distance solo journey.

I Went With a Rental Truck

One of the first moving related decisions you have to make is what how to move, including if you should go with a rental truck.

You ultimately need enough room, but you don’t want to pay too much. If you opt for a rental truck, you need one that is reliable the whole way across, and that gets as good of fuel economy as you hope for from a large vehicle. (You will save a lot of money driving your own truck versus a Full Service option, but it’s still roughly a $1,000 rental after expenses, on average.)

Which rental truck do you go with?

I chose to rent from Penske. According to Moving101 user reviews, it was the brand that was both the most reliable and comfortable. I had a sense this was true, thanks to my package delivery days when we had to rent delivery vehicles whenever our own trucks were in for repairs.

I got a discount right on HireAHelper’s page for booking my rental truck

How do you tell how much room you need?

There are some handy charts online made by truck companies like Budget and Penske where you can estimate based on the number and type of things you need to bring with you.

Penske.com

In my case, the most important things were in my office, like a desk, books, computers, other supplies, and books. About 1-2 rooms worth of stuff. This meant a small truck was fine for me, which would also get better mileage not being weighed down. Huge, since I’m the one paying for the gas!

Do you need movers?

Lastly, since I was by myself at one end, and then only had my cousin to help me unload at the other, I hired pros for the heavy lifting part for just a couple hundred bucks. This was a way more affordable way to move across the country, as opposed to hiring a van line for several thousands of dollars, which I didn’t have time to wait around for anyway.

The movers I got packed my truck way better than I could do by myself, which ensured that nothing would slide around or get damaged. And the person I got on the phone at HireAHelper was invaluable from start to finish, finding me the most affordable and highest rated movers for both ends of my journey in maybe 15 minutes.

I Dealt With Weather

Long Distance Moving

Sometimes when you gotta move, you just gotta move.

Early spring is often the time for late winter in the northern United States, and snow was a real possibility—one that turned into a reality in Utah, Wyoming, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

In Utah, the snow was almost blinding for over 150 miles!

What this ultimately meant to my move was a slower drive and a later arrival. Another unusual factor you don’t really read about while moving in those flyover states: wind. And with a moving truck that wasn’t loaded with overly heavy things, it was a larger factor than I at first imagined.

Adding to the adventure was the need to pass large semi-trucks carrying heavy loads, something that often involved those rumble strips on the side of the freeway and white knuckles on the steering wheel.

Finding Alternate Routes Actually Helped Me

Long distance moving

Besides snow and wind, early spring is often the time when states start their annual road construction projects on freeways and highways. For the most part, I let Google pick the fastest route across the country, like most people. The good thing about that is that Google Maps knows how to bypass rush hour in cities I was not familiar with. The downside? Google did generally point out road construction … but it didn’t know what kind of vehicle I was driving.

Orange cones, narrow lanes, and slow speed zones were all things I encountered along the way. Having alternate routes mapped out was seriously a lifesaver for me a couple of times on my trip.

(I’m looking at you, eastern Wyoming.)

I Didn’t Reserve Places to Sleep Ahead of Time

I decided to go with the reservation-less trip, and risk not being able to find a place to stop for the night. Since I was traveling alone, I figured at worst, I could sleep in the cab of the truck for a few hours.

As you might have predicted, this actually turned into an issue.

Long distance moving

As I passed the Chicago area, there suddenly were no vacant motels for a long time. I finally spotted a Motel 6 sign and pulled off the exit to find a large concrete structure I was convinced had once been a bunker or a hospital.  A couple of weary looking truck drivers followed me off the exit, and we all seemed to be ready for a bed, any bed.

The rug-free floors and bare walls, the old television, and the lack of other amenities did not matter as I fell onto the aging mattress.

The rest of the trip I was able to find reasonable lodging wherever I went, but I was close to cab-resting a couple of times. Next time, if there is one, I might plan things a little differently.

I Kept Eating and Drinking Alarms on my Phone

I had to eat, drink, and stay alert as I drove. Driving by yourself for a long time makes that tough to do. Here are some things I found helpful to do after my alarms went off every five hours:

  • Grocery shop: All that road food is not great, so I grabbed some healthy snacks at a grocery store each morning along the way and kept a small cooler in the passenger seat to put them in.
  • Drink wisely: I needed to stay hydrated, but didn’t want to have to stop too often to empty my bladder. On the other hand, bathroom stops offered a chance to stretch and walk around, so I eventually found the right balance of drinking only every few hours and not being afraid of semi-frequent pit stops.
  • Know your caffeine tolerance: Caffeine helps keeps me awake. But it’s is also a diuretic, and too much tears up my stomach. Caffeine is not a super great long-term plan.

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Staying alert also involves listening to the right things

Long distance moving

Silence is not good, and neither is soothing music. I rolled down the windows when possible, listened to talk radio or audio books; these were all things that kept my brain engaged. I also had to pre-download listening materials, knowing there were big sections of land with no radio reception.

Finally, I had a hands-free way to talk on the phone in order to stay in touch with people along the way. In some states, hands-free phones are the law, but in all of them it’s a good idea.

You Will Be a Magnet to Law Enforcement

As I traveled across Illinois, I was pulled over by a state trooper. Then it happened again.

Long distance moving

Not because I was doing anything wrong, but because I was driving a moving truck, plus it was windy … so I wandered over the fog line a couple of times. Okay, okay, want to know the real reason they pulled me over? Apparently, it is quite common for drug runners to use moving trucks filled with junk to disguise their shipments.

Understand that even the most minor traffic violation in a moving truck might get you pulled over. Since it quickly became clear to officers I was not a drug smuggler (the second state trooper bought one of my books from me!), they let me go. But it was still a delay.

Simply know that the police will be watching, be sure you have all of your rental paperwork in order, and don’t carry anything illegal across state lines—even if it is legal in the state you’re going to. (We’re looking at you, marijuana). You will get in trouble, the kind that can really stick with you.


Moving across the country by yourself is a challenge, and one not all people are up to. Once I arrived at my destination (during a gentle snowfall, actually) everything was fine. The best news: I got to my unloading movers on the right day! The move was more about the journey than the destination. I am now back in Idaho, but I learned a lot along the way:

Choose your truck, your timing, and your route carefully. Have goals, but be flexible. And keep things legal. It will turn your trip into something you will never forget.


Troy is a freelance writer and author who lives, works, and plays in Idaho. When not found behind the screen toying with the alphabet, he can be found cycling, hiking, skiing, and walking his very talented dog in the great outdoors.

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. 

Car Shipping: How to Ship Your Car (Safely) If You’re Moving Long Distance

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Every year, a large number of people moving to a new state ship their cars for the first time. Shipping a car isn’t hard, but a few common mistakes can cost you a lot of time and money, especially when trying to juggle the logistics of moving your house too.

So I’m using my decade of expertise to help. Here’s how to (safely) do an auto transport using a step-by-step process.

How to Find an Auto-Transport Company

If you reside in a big city, these days it’s as simple as typing “my city auto transport” into Google. The “my city” being either the city you are shipping to or from.

Literally hiring a company online to move your car is usually the easiest part of the entire auto transport process. It’s cheaper than hiring a professional driver, keeps miles off your tires, and it’s helpful if you aren’t able to drive the car to your new place yourself. 

Does the company have to be located where I’m going or where I am now?

No. Finding a company based in either your origin or destination city isn’t crucial. You can absolutely hire a company from anywhere in the country to ship your car. But companies based on where you are or are going are ideal because of the flexibility they might offer with scheduling. The shippers will be in your city of origin or destination for a few days, as opposed to passing through, which usually leads to more flexibility.

What if there is no auto-transport company near me?

Unfortunately, finding an auto transport company specific to your city isn’t always possible, especially if you live in a rural area.

If you live where there are few options near you, your first step is to search for a company based in the opposite place that you are shipping your car either to or from. Every state typically has at least a few auto transport companies that can help.

If you still can’t find one (or you don’t like any of the ones that you do find), move on to just a general search for auto transport companies elsewhere in the country. Yes, you can still receive fine service from a company not based in your state, it’s just an advantage to have someone familiar with your route to work for you.

I always recommend calling them, as opposed to emailing, because you get a much better feel for what working with that company will be like.

Also, call more than a few of the (reputable) companies that show up in your search. (More on finding reputable companies below.)

How much does it cost to transport my car?

This will vary significantly based on lots of factors, but transportreviews.com reports that the average cost is $983, based on the average distance of 1,662 miles. Obviously, this price will fluctuate lower or higher, depending on where you’re transporting your car, as well as how big your vehicle is.

How do I get a quote?

Be prepared to tell the company this basic information:

  • Where is the car is coming from?
  • Where are you going?
  • When do you want to have it shipped?

Knowing the basics is all it takes to get a quote. Want to be really sure what your best option is? It’s standard to get as many as four different quotes to get a good idea of what a fair price is. (Or at least tell them you’re collecting quotes.)

How to Hire a Good Company

How do you know who a bad company is? Knowing this begins with understanding what is happening behind the scenes. There are two types of car shipping services, and first-time shippers usually have no clue which they are (or how good they may be) until well after they ship their first car.

What’s a “Broker” and what’s a “Carrier”? And why does it matter?

Brokers are companies that don’t actually own the truck that ships your car.

Almost all of the companies that you find online are brokers and don’t actually own the transportation. Their purpose is to find the carrier who will actually ship the car. This can sometimes be a necessary step because finding a carrier without the connections that brokers have can be extremely difficult.

You generally want to avoid brokers who are not upfront that they themselves are not shipping your car!

Brokers charge a set fee for their service and make an educated guess on what the rest of the transport will cost when they give you a quote. Whether or not they tell you they are a broker upfront depends on what kind of company you find.

Carriers are the companies that own trucks and employ drivers. This is the company that will do the actual relocating of your vehicle. The reason brokers are necessary is due to most of these shipping companies being extremely small.

It’s not uncommon for the owner of the company to be the driver and sole employee. These small companies don’t have websites and don’t do any marketing because they rely on brokers for their freight. If you are not already inside the industry, finding a company on your route and on your schedule would require hours of work.

With the magic of the internet, it’s easier than ever to check who is and who isn’t legit. Before you request a quote from a company, check their reviews. Car shipping companies have many different sales tactics to trick you once they get your information.

What’s the most common tactic to trick customers?

After ten years of experience, I know it’s simply to promise impossibly low prices in order to get you to book right away.

Do not simply request quotes from as many companies as you can. By giving away your info, you will run into very persistent sales people that will never stop calling you. Furthermore, there are some companies that look like transport companies but are actually what are known as “lead generators”. This means the information you put on their site is going to be sold to 10 or 15 different companies. Your phone will not stop ringing for days!

You want to get as many quotes as you can, but you need to make sure the company is a legitimate broker or carrier before you inquire. How? Check for and read verified reviews before requesting quotes. This will help you avoid bad websites. Did you get an extremely low quote? That’s a red flag.

Get a Written Contract (Then Read It)

If you found a good broker, getting an easy to understand contract should be a breeze. But you still have to be careful (just like you should with every contract you sign!).

What should I watch out for?

Read through the contract very carefully. If your contract says anything – and it will be small – about the price “not being guaranteed”, this is a major red flag.

I have heard plenty of stories from customers about how they signed a contract with a broker, only to be told at the last minute that the price is a $100 to $500 more “than expected”.

Just imagine the moving truck has all of your things, then the broker calls and says they have a carrier but it is going to cost $150 more. You won’t really have a choice by that point.

Correctly Prepare The Inside and Outside of Your Car to Be Shipped

It is standard practice to get your car inspected by the shipping company, but first, you need to clean the car so that an accurate inspection can be done.

If the car is dirty, the driver might miss something when they do the inspection on pick up, or you might miss something when the inspection is done on delivery. An accurate inspection is vital in case there is a problem.

Do auto-shippers charge by weight?

Yes. Lighten your car as much as possible. Auto shippers will charge you by the weight of your car, and bigger vehicles will cost more to ship.

Most drivers allow 100 pounds or less for free. (Remember: the personal items you put in the car cannot be insured.) If you exceed 100 pounds, you could be charged extra for the added weight. For a totally packed small car, the driver will ask for around $200-$300. A totally packed large SUV or truck could be from $300-$500 extra, or the driver might even refuse the shipment. If you need to put things in the car, let your broker know ahead of time when you are booking so that they can arrange it with the carrier.

Drivers also prefer you leave the car with a quarter tank of gas. That’s enough so that they don’t have to worry about it running out when moving it, but not so much that they haul additional weight for no reason.

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Arrange to Get Your Car Exactly Where You Can Get It

Now that you’ve found a good company, you’ve signed the contract, and you’ve readied your car, you need to tell the company the best place to have the car picked up.

When will my car be available for pick up?

If you are flying, think about which end you need the car more. Is it the city the car is being picked up in, or the city it is being dropped off at? Trust me, in my experience, you will definitely beat the trucker to your destination. Remember that all delivery dates are estimated.

Moving trucks have one pick up and one drop off, so you can imagine that a moving truck estimate is much more accurate than auto transport trucks, who routinely have to deal with around 10 different pickups and drop-offs a day! Because of this fact, make sure that you have a backup plan on the day of pick up and drop off.

If the car isn’t delivered when and where you need it, ask a friend that can hold onto the car for you, or maybe a neighbor. It’s not even unheard of for a hotel manager or car dealership to offer this as a service.

What to Do When Your Car Shows Up

When the truck comes to pick up the car, make sure the driver does an accurate inspection and that you get a copy of the inspection report on pick up. This ensures the state of your vehicle cannot be altered. The inspection report is the only thing that can support your claim if any damage occurs.

The delivery driver does the inspection on pick up, you do the inspection on the delivery. Remember that if you sign the inspection report, you are releasing the driver and the company from all liability. That means if you notice something later, there is nothing you can do!

In my experience, damage doesn’t happen often and the process for getting reimbursed is not difficult if you do everything right. Almost all damage during transport is extremely minor. Small scratches or a dent is the most common of these things.

Most companies will prefer to handle the matter directly rather than have you go through their insurance company. The most important thing is that you do not sign the inspection report until you have received your reimbursement. Again, damage almost never happens in the first place, but you need to make sure you handle the paperwork properly if it does.

Do I have to do anything else after the car is delivered?

Hopefully, everything is done correctly and the process will be seamless. But if not, leave a review.

If you were happy with the service it’s always nice to leave a review saying so. The best place online to do this is on transportreviews.com, which in my experience is the biggest and most sincere community for car transportation reviews online. By leaving an honest review, companies know what they are doing right and you’ll help the next person transporting their vehicle make a more informed decision.

Similarly, if you weren’t happy with the service, let your broker know. Some things are out of the control of the broker and the driver, so be understanding if your car was a day late. Like I mentioned earlier, dates are always estimates in the auto transport industry.

If however, you feel that your experience was poor, then it’s especially important to leave a review. This helps future customers and the companies that are doing good work out there.


Max is the owner of MiG Auto Transport. He has been in the auto transport industry for over seven years. Originally from New York, he now lives in (sometimes) sunny Jacksonville, FL. He loves his wife, dog, cars and (sometimes) the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Every Major Moving Report of 2017 Analyzed: Where Is Everybody Going?

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Migration reports are out in full force, including the famous United Van Lines yearly report.

But while United handles more moves annually than any other mover network in the country, their numbers are not definitive across the industry board.

North American, Atlas and Allied all see slightly – and in some cases, wildly – different results in their migration study results. Not a surprise, because as a Full Service move provider, United handles a somewhat different clientele compared to companies like ABF, U-Haul and PODS – companies whose numbers might look a lot different. Then there’s that little thing called the Census.

Yep, the state-to-state migration numbers for 2017 are out – and folks, we have new inbound state championsHere are the results:

United Van Lines

Vermont Takes United 2017 Inbound Crown

In 2015 they came in at third on the inbound rankings. In 2016 they inched their way up to number two. Now, this tiny state known mainly for skiing and maple syrup has captured the coveted top inbound spot on United’s 2017 National Movers Study.

Yes, the champagne is indeed flowing like syrup in Stowe, Killington and Montpelier as Vermont looks back on a year that saw a whopping 68% of their interstate moves coming in. 

Reasons

According to United’s survey, “family” was the most common reason respondents gave for relocating to the Green Mountain State. Retirement, lifestyle and job also figured fairly evenly into the equation.

On the other hand, a full 75% of people moving out of state gave employment as their reason. This helps explain why half of all outbounders fell into the Under-35 age category – and another 25% were between 35 and 45 – while 40% of those moving into the state were 65 or older.

Those mountains may be green, but with those unemployment numbers, it looks like the valleys are starting to turn gray.

But before we start replacing all those ski lifts with wheelchair-friendly escalators, let’s take a step back and look a little closer at where the stats behind Vermont’s inbound crown come from. Keep in mind we don’t know how many moves Vermont actually saw by their report. (68% can be broken down to 17 inbound moves and 8 outbound moves – which hardly amounts to a mass migration to this land of wooden bridges and Bernie Sanders.)

Inbound:

1. Vermont
2. Oregon
3. Idaho
4. Nevada
5. South Dakota
6. Washington
7. South Carolina
8. North Carolina
9. Colorado
10. Alabama

This past year saw some familiar names on United’s Top Ten Inbound States list. Oregon, Nevada and North Carolina are all there, as they have been every year since 2011. Washington, Idaho, South Dakota, South Carolina and Arizona are also back after making 2016’s inbound list. Newcomers include Alabama and Colorado. Meanwhile, Florida has dropped off the inbound list after a strong three-year run.

This past year’s top inbound states are also fairly spread out around the country. The same cannot be said about United’s outbound states.

Outbound:

1. Illinois
2. New Jersey
3. New York
4. Connecticut
5. Kansas
6. Massachusetts
7. Ohio
8. Kentucky
9. Utah
10. Wisconsin

As with the previous few years, the major exodus seems to be coming out of the Northeast and the Midwest, with Utah adding a little “outbound yellow” to the otherwise blue western region on United’s interactive migration map.

Perennial outbound states New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois have been the most unfortunate ones; we’d have to go back to 2010 to see any of them as balanced. (New York and Connecticut were both spared the shame that year).

North American Moving Services

northamerican.com

Arizona Takes North Americans 2017 Inbound Crown

North American’s inbound champ is Arizona, with 67% of their interstate moves coming into the Grand Canyon State. Other top inbounders not on United’s list include Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and Texas – all south and southeast states. (Those North American drivers must really love the south.)

Inbound:

  1. Arizona
  2. Idaho
  3. North Carolina
  4. South Carolina
  5. Tennessee

Outbound:

  1. Illinois
  2. Connecticut
  3. New Jersey
  4. California
  5. Michigan

Like United, North American has Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut at the top of their outbound list (with New York a notable #8). But the rest of their top outbounders – California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Maryland (#4-8 on the map) aren’t even on United’s radar.

Interestingly, North American’s #10 outbounder is Washington, which ranks #6 on United’s inbound list.

In accounting for these discrepancies, it is worth noting what North American says of their report’s methodology:

We define the top inbound and outbound states as those that have the highest proportion of moves where the absolute value difference of inbound and outbound moves is greater than or equal to 400. This weeds out states that had a small number of moves but would have a high ratio of inbound/outbound moves.”

This may explain why United’s 2017 champ Vermont and #5 South Dakota (United’s #1 in 2016 by the way) aren’t anywhere on North American’s Top Ten.

Atlas Van Lines

atlasvanlines.com

Washington Takes Atlas 2017 Inbound Crown

Atlas Van Lines offers some relative surprises too. Idaho, Washington and Nevada as their top three inbounders may not raise any eyebrows. But Alaska, Maine and New Hampshire at #5, #6 and #10? Oregon is a familiar name, but seeing them at #8 seems in contrast to their recent United Van Lines inbound championships.

Atlas’s top outbounder, meanwhile, is Illinois (same as both United and North American – those Fighting Illini have a real stranglehold on that top spot!). And their #2, West Virginia, was a strong outbounder for United for six years straight before balancing out in 2017.

But Nebraska at #3? Nebraska has been balanced for United since 2001! And #4 outbounder South Dakota has been an inbound darling for United the past three years.

Rounding out the Atlas top outbound list are Hawaii, Indiana, Delaware and Louisiana, all of them somewhat surprising since three of them have spent the last ten years on United’s “balanced” register. Only Indiana has managed to make a blip on United’s outbound radar in that time frame.

Inbound:

  1. Idaho
  2. Washington
  3. Nevada
  4. Tennessee
  5. Alaska
  6. Maine
  7. North Carolina
  8. Oregon
  9. Alabama
  10. New Hampshire

Outbound:

  1. Illinois
  2. West Virginia
  3. Nebraska
  4. South Dakota
  5. Hawaii
  6. Indiana
  7. Delaware
  8. New York
  9. Louisiana
  10. Kansas

In contrast to the percentages United and North American provide, Atlas gives actual numbers of inbound and outbound moves for each state. Here we see that Vermont has seen just a fraction of the moves so many other states see, so it’s easy to imagine why they wouldn’t have made it onto North American’s list. (Meanwhile, once again, Canada’s Yukon Territory has seen zero moves. We’ll blame it on the roads.)

Allied Van Lines

allied.com

Florida Takes Allied 2017 Inbound Crown

Allied Van Lines keeps it all very short and sweet. They report only their top fives:

Inbound:

  1. Florida
  2. Arizona
  3. North Carolina
  4. South Carolina
  5. Texas

Outbound:

  1. California
  2. Illinois
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. New Jersey
  5. Michigan

Based on this limited report, we’re able to come to at least one solid conclusion: Allied’s drivers love moving people south even more than North American’s do.

U-Haul

Texas Takes U-Haul 2017 Inbound Crown

Because news outlets predominately focus on Full Service van lines, it can easily be argued this eliminates an entire sector of the migrating public. (In fact, Full Service van lines actually conduct less than half of all moves performed in the US every year.)

Do U-Haul’s numbers reflect what the van lines suggest are moving trends?

Nope.

Inbound:

  1. Texas
  2. Florida
  3. Arkansas
  4. South Carolina
  5. Tennessee
  6. Washington
  7. North Carolina
  8. Connecticut
  9. Colorado
  10. Vermont

Outbound:

  1. California
  2. Illinois
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Michigan
  5. Massachusetts
  6. New Jersey
  7. New York
  8. Arizona
  9. Maryland
  10. Georgia

Texas tops U-Haul’s 2017 Growth States list. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as Texas has fared well recently in the inbound-outbound game. In 2017 their inbound percentages with United, North American and Atlas were 54, 53 and 53, while Allied put Texas down as their fifth biggest inbound state.

Oddly, Texas won U-Haul’s Growth State crown by bringing in – get this – a whopping 50.3% of all one-way truck rental traffic crossing Texas’s borders. That’s right. Fifty. Point. Three.

This hardly lends a whole lot more understanding to the migration trends we’re trying to dissect. But here we are, so let’s keep moving.

U-Haul rounds out its top five Growth States with Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. Yes, Arkansas – which has been balanced on United’s report 37 of the last 40 years. Then again, Arkansas remained balanced in 2017 on United’s ledger with a 54% outbound rate, so that they are U-Haul’s #3 Growth State is rather surprising no matter how minuscule their positive U-Haul balance might have been.

And who comes in at #8 on U-Haul’s list? That big loser with United and North American (but not with Atlas), Connecticut.

On the flip side, U-Haul has Colorado at #9 – exactly where United and North American have them.

United States Census Bureau

Idaho Takes United States Census Bureau 2017 Inbound Crown

Yes, the Bureau has all the moving numbers we could possibly want. So many, in fact, that it could take until next January to weed through them all.

But thanks to Business Insider we don’t have to.

In this piece with the strangely long title: While the Bureau considers “a variety of components” in determining what’s happening among the more than 325 million people who make up the US population, Business Insider brings us what we need: domestic migration.

Here we see the net population gain or loss for each state for 2017. Births, deaths and international immigration are not counted; this is simply and strictly an account of how many people moved into or out of each state. (Again, not moves, but individual people.)

Inbound:

  1. Idaho
  2. Nevada
  3. South Carolina
  4. Oregon
  5. Arizona
  6. Washington
  7. Montana
  8. Florida
  9. Colorado
  10. North Carolina

And in this, the winner is Idaho, with a net domestic migration gain of 14.6 people per 1,000 residents. In second place comes Nevada, with South Carolina, Oregon and Arizona rounding out the top five. The second half of the big ten winners are Washington, Montana, Florida, Colorado and North Carolina.

These results actually mirror the van lines’ findings to a striking degree. Only Arizona, Montana and Florida don’t show up in United’s top ten. Seven of the Census top ten are also on North American’s top ten. Unbelievably, Colorado is #9 on all three lists.

As for the Net Domestic Migration losers? Yes, Illinois is up there, but at #5, maybe this is the survey they should be talking about in Chicago.

Outbound:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Alaska
  3. New York
  4. Hawaii
  5. Illinois
  6. North Dakota
  7. New Jersey
  8. Connecticut
  9. Louisiana
  10. West Virginia

The big loser in the 2017 migration tournament is Wyoming, a surprise since the Equality State doesn’t show up on any van line outbound lists – or inbound for that matter. United had them at 53% inbound for 2017. North American had them at 54% in. Only Atlas has them as outbound – based on a grand total of 330 moves.

The Bureau’s next three biggest net migration losers are Alaska, New York and Hawaii. Alaska and Hawaii, neither of which show up anywhere for United or North American, are Atlas’s #5 inbound and #5 outbound, respectively. North Dakota, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana and West Virginia complete the Bureau’s top ten.

Again, while there are outbound wild cards, we still see some consistency between the Bureau and the van lines. Atlas and the Bureau actually have seven migration losers in common between their top tens. Looking at the US Census Bureau’s Net Domestic Migration map we can clearly see the winners clustered in the south and west with the losers dominating the northeast and midwest.

What’s The Takeaway?

Remember, the numbers put together by each of the van lines represent the migration trends among the customers they’ve served. Van lines count moves, the Bureau counts people.

This may not account for the reason United’s inbound champion Vermont is somehow a net loser according to the Census Bureau’s numbers, but it does suggest that, despite the discrepancies, the van lines and the Census Bureau can give a decent overall on what is going on out there.

But in the cases where data remains too contradictory to be meaningful, evaluating regions rather than individual states might give us a slightly more reliable picture of the migration trends playing out across the US. At the end of the day, we are only looking at a mere slice of the American migratory pie.

There’s More Realistic Data Out There

We need another, more encompassing way to look at where America is moving to and from.

DIY Moves and Hybrid Moves (besides U-Haul), which by far and away are the more common ways to move, are sorely misrepresented. When you move, do you routinely call up $2,000+ movers? Have you ever saved money by having your friends move you? What are these Full Service reports actually reflecting?

That’s something to keep in mind when the local news sounds off on “moving trends” based off a single Full Service Moving company’s report. 

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