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.
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