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.

Can Movers Help You With Other Stuff Besides Moving?

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If you thought moving companies do nothing but put all your stuff on a big truck, you’d be right—if you were living sometime in the distant past.

Today’s moving companies are constantly expanding their range of services and offering them all à la carte. That half-job or heavy lifting you need help with? Sure, you can try begging and bribing your friends, or you can call up a few movers in your area. You might be surprised at what they can help you with.

So What Else, Exactly, Can Movers Help With?

More than you can probably imagine. Heck, you don’t even need to be moving to have them give you a hand! More and more, people are turning to moving companies for all kinds of tasks too big to tackle alone. Movers make great day laborers, for things like:

Clearing out your garage or basement

  • Having a couple of sets of hands to move stuff while you figure out whether it goes to the curb or your cousin’s house or back into the garage can save you an entire weekend (if your garage looks anything like mine)
  • This also applies to attics, sheds, or anywhere

Hauling individual furniture from Point A to Point B

  • From your house to the curb; from your bedroom to the basement; to that cousin’s house; to the municipal trash dump; to your local secondhand store or consignment shop

Moving everything out of the room you are repainting or remodeling 

  • And then moving it back when you are done

Hauling stuff to your home from the furniture store

  • Or from your second cousin’s house, or from the garage of the guy selling that big beautiful piano on craigslist

Movers can (and often will) also take care of those jobs tangential to a move:

Even if you’ve managed to tackle your entire move on your own, you may be left with a mountain of unwanted cardboard boxes and unusable packing paper that you just don’t want to deal with. Movers, however, see gold in those mountains. So try giving them a call.

Protip: Most movers tend to charge for a minimum of two hours of labor, due to scheduling their business hours. This is not by any means a hard and fast rule, but make sure you ask before you book your help.

Can I hire movers to JUST help me load and unload my U-Haul?

You betcha!

Renting a truck or a moving container and hiring moving labor for all the heavy lifting is a huge trend—and for good reason. You save a ton of money by renting your own truck, and you save your back by hiring movers.

À la carte movers often:

  • Bring all the equipment
  • Have all the knowledge necessary to do the job right
  • Pack stuff you need packed, wrap stuff you need to be wrapped
  • Load it all up safely and securely

You drive your U-Haul (or Penske or Budget), or have your portable container delivered, and a fresh crew of movers unloads everything at your new home. This is what we call a Hybrid Move. As far as moving goes, it’s the best of both worlds. And it’s what HireAHelper movers do best.

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Protip: If you are moving locally, your movers may be able to rent you moving blankets for a small fee. But if you are moving out of the area, you might be able to rent them from your rental truck company. You may, however, have to buy them. Just please don’t move without them!

Can my movers do my entire move?

Yes, of course. Your traditional Full Service moving company will handle the whole moving enchilada if that is what you want, including packing up your entire home, right down to your last box of biscuits. This is the easiest way to move. It is also by far the most expensive.

Movers Know Best

Of course, we can’t tell you what’s best for you. But we can say with total confidence that movers know how to best handle your stuff. Whether it’s a single item job or a few pieces of heavy furniture; whether you’re moving one room or one door down or one hundred miles away; whether you need loading help, unloading help, or both, hiring moving labor is the best and most economical way to make sure your belongings are taken care of.

If you’re not sure what to do, that’s cool. Calling a mover and asking a few questions costs nothing. And it could end up saving you a lot.


Illustrations by Rob Wadleigh

A Pro’s Guide to Moving Heavy Furniture Without Hurting Yourself

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Chances are, there are movers near you who can help you move that fridge, bed, or whatever else makes your back ache by the mere thought of picking it up. But if you can’t find the right help, or if you and your back feel up to the task, then keep reading—we’ve got you covered!

The First Step to Moving Heavy Furniture

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Okay, that’s a little weird, but moving heavy furniture is the same idea. You gotta really, really prepare.

Before you roll up your sleeves and start picking stuff up, you’ll want to do a few things:

  • Clear as wide of a pathway as you can
  • Measure that your furniture isn’t too big to go through that path
  • Mark a clear, physical end point where you will drop the item

The last one will probably be near your moving truck or storage container or, if you’re particularly strategic, a staging area (meaning your driveway, sidewalk, or the garage during sketchy weather) in order to better “Tetris” your stuff.

Disassembling Furniture

The great news is that many movers across the country will offer to disassemble any furniture that might need it in order to be moved. All you have to do is ask if your local mover offers the service.

If you’re disassembling furniture all yourself, there are plenty of basics to know when taking off table legs, moving desks, or detaching a flat screen tv.

The Most Important Basics When it Comes to Disassembly

  • When removing table legs, immediately reattach whatever nuts and bolts were holding the leg in place after the leg is off. This keeps screws from disappearing 
  • Always use a screwdriver with a magnetic head when unscrewing flat screen tv mounts, as losing important screws is extremely easy to do
  • Dresser mirrors always get removed and properly packed up. Any undetachable dresser mirrors require tons of special attention to move
  • Dining room chairs aren’t often designed to be taken apart easily, if at all. But if you have chairs with exposed bolts or screws, you may be able to disassemble them

The above just scratches the surface of what professional movers with experience know about moving furniture and disassembling furniture. You’ll learn plenty, just like I did, by trying to do it yourself.

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“The IKEA-Exception”

The furniture in your home didn’t just grow there, right? It had to have been carried in.

But the one exception to the “furniture doesn’t grow there” concept is IKEA-like furniture, or in other words, most anything you had to assemble yourself.

Full Service moving companies will generally refuse to move customer-assembled furniture made of pressboard. This is because such furniture was designed to be assembled, put in place, and never ever moved again. Any customer requesting their pressboard bookcase (or pressboard anything) be professionally moved usually has to sign a waiver stating they understand it will very likely get destroyed and the movers will assume zero responsibility for the destruction.

If you have any pressboard furniture or any furniture that – be honest with yourself – is generally cheap and flimsy, consider selling it or giving it away. Moving it costs time and money and will more than likely turn it into an unusable piece (or pieces) of trash.

Wrapping Furniture

how to move heavy furniture

At some point during the move-out process, you’ll need to wrap your furniture so it doesn’t get scratched, gouged and cracked into oblivion.

Cloth furniture pads (also known as “moving blankets”) are what movers use, and we highly recommend them. Wrapping your furniture before you carry it through your home and out the door can help protect it against incidental dings in the doorway and, quite possibly, holes in your walls.

No true professional mover will ever dream of transporting heavy furniture without furniture pads.

Protip: Moving pads can make it hard to keep a firm grip on your furniture. I always preferred to wrap everything in the staging area, or right there on the truck.

The Most Important Basics When it Comes to Wrapping Furniture

Wrapping a refrigerator or a bookcase is pretty straightforward. Wrapping a non-rectangular item like a sofa or a chair can be a challenge.

  • The key is to secure your furniture pads neatly and tightly, covering every surface except, in general, the bottom side
  • You mostly need to just make sure the pads don’t come off. Some movers use shipping tape to keep their pads in place, while others use shrink wrap. Both are effective but costly (not to mention a little wasteful). That’s why other movers use big rubber bands called “mover’s bands”. They are versatile and reusable for applications far beyond moving furniture (like, say, wrapping an office chair)
  • To secure those pads, whether you use tape, shrink wrap or those big rubber bands, just remember: avoid putting tape or shrink wrap directly on your furniture’s surfaces

How Many Furniture Pads Do I Need?

For reference, furniture pads the pros use measure 72” x 80”, give or take.

End tables, small bookcases, and dining room chairs usually only need one (1) pad; most furniture needs two (2), while things like sofas, really large dressers, even some big headboards need three (3) apiece.

How many furniture pads do you need, then? Your best bet is to go from room to room, check how many things you have that need to be wrapped, note how many pads each item will require to cover their surface, then tally it all up. (To be safe, you might want to tack on a half dozen more!)

How Do Pros Move Furniture Through Doorways?

how to move heavy furniture

Angling

If your sofa is too wide to fit through a doorway in your home, there are a few things you can do.

The simplest is to tilt it 45 degrees (more or less) so the front edge of the seat cushions and the top of the back of the couch are aligned vertically. This will make the bottom rear edge of the couch look like it is sticking further out, but all you geometry lovers out there will appreciate how this actually makes the couch narrower.

Curling

If your couch is still too wide, try standing it on end and curling it through.

Laying down a blanket first will help you smoothly and safely slide your couch through the doorway. Ease the top back edge through first, then curl the sofa around the side of the doorway closer to the seat cushions as you slip the rest of the couch through. (You can also push it through seat cushion edge first.) This same strategy can be used when trying to get oversized easy chairs through a seemingly too-narrow door.

Detaching

If you find you need a few extra inches of clearance before your sofa will pop through that doorway, try removing the legs or feet.

Even though they are sometimes nothing but short squares of wood, I’ve found on many occasions that taking them off is the difference between success and a damaged door jamb. On occasion, I’ve had to actually remove a door from its hinges in order to get a couch out the door. While not difficult, you will need a flat head screwdriver and a hammer to coax those hinge pins out, and a couple of extra sets of hands to keep the door in place until those pins pop free.

Moving Furniture Up and Down Stairs

how to move heavy furniture

Hauling large pieces of furniture – more importantly, heavy pieces of furniture – down a flight of stairs is a dangerous proposition if you don’t take it slow (and smart).

  • Make sure you have a strong friend (if not two) on the lower end as you go down (or up) the stairs. Take those steps one at a time. Rest as often as need be, simply by laying that dresser or bookcase down, right on the stairs. Just make sure it doesn’t start sliding!
  • Watch for walls, banisters, and hanging light fixtures
  • It’s easy when you’re watching your feet to forget about everything else. And that, I can tell you, includes your knuckles!
  • When sliding items around corners on landings, use a blanket underneath
    • When doing so, put a blanket down to make the sliding process easier and to avoid damaging that dresser and/or the floor. If the floor is carpeted, the item is really heavy, or if the surface it is resting on is uneven, try walking that thing forward – using small, slow, easy steps

Using Wheels to Move Your Furniture

how to move heavy furniture

If you aren’t The Hulk, a little extra help in the form of wheels can make a huge difference. Here are what the pros use:

  1. 4-wheeler: A 4-wheeler is great for moving large, heavy items over long flat distances. Two main things to watch for: your piece of furniture is resting firm and balanced, and that the wheels, usually black rubber, aren’t marking or scuffing your floors.
  2. Hand truck: A hand truck has two wheels and a metal plate on which to rest your furniture, and a long upright surface with handles. Their soft-ish wheels let you move heavy items up and down stairs and across uneven surfaces all by yourself. However, we highly recommend having a second set of hands at the lower (bottom) end of that piece of furniture any time you are negotiating stairs.
  3. Appliance dolly: An appliance dolly is basically a heavy-duty hand truck with a strap to secure in place the refrigerator, washing machine, dryer or whatever. Despite its name, an appliance dolly can absolutely be used to haul furniture.

This All Seems Hard. Are There Furniture Movers Near Me, Just In Case?

Most likely, yes!

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Start by searching HireAHelper’s massive network of local movers to find movers near you to tackle the big stuff. You don’t necessarily need to hire an entire moving crew if you just need to move your heaviest items.

Normal moving rates will apply, usually starting at a couple hundred bucks for two experienced professionals for two hours. They will usually bring all the necessary equipment, too!

If you just aren’t sure you want to move heavy furniture yourself, relax. Professionals know how to do everything in this article, plus way more.


Illustrations by Marlowe Dobbe

5 Expenses I Didn’t Expect After Graduating

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Graduating is even harder than it looks.

I am one of the lucky ones who found my first job right out of school. But that secretly meant my living expenses suddenly skyrocketed after I had to buy a used car, move away from home and find and furnish an apartment.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew those purchases would be way more expensive than the usual trip to the grocery store. But there were so many details I didn’t even realize existed. It was a crash course.

Now I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Here are the random expenses that hit me after graduation, plus how I survived a rocky first few months so that I remained intact before my first adult paychecks could make an impact.

1. Moving Costs More Than You’d Think (But There’s a Hack for That)

Moving101 Container Price Comparison

When I graduated I lived on campus, but I still somehow had a lot to move into my first apartment. The first thing I did was figure out if anyone could help me move. In return for snacks, my friends and family were happy to offer some manual labor. I got lucky!

But when I got a job, it ended up being located out of state. So to save money, I figured out I could rent a truck and tow my car behind it, and only hire movers to do the lifting. Getting your own vehicle and hiring labor separately for either end of your move (Hybrid Moving) costs less than Full Service moving and varies dramatically in price, but the average cost is around $660. It’s an added cost, but plenty of critical time saved, which I needed.

HireAHelper lets you compare the price of movers and customize everything, from how many people help you move to what arrival time window you’ll need. The more options you can compare for a moving process the better, as every move is going to be a little bit different.

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How can someone so young take on that expense? Well, I barely had enough to cover the move, but here’s another thing I learned — many employers offer reimbursement for moving expenses! Make a note to talk with your new employer and ask if they make a similar offer. It was a lifesaver when my company helped me out so that I could put my money toward the next round of expenses!

2. Crossing State Lines Can Mean More Fees

When you move to a new state, you’re going to have to get a new state license and plate for your car. The steps will be different depending on your move, but you can check out the process for your specific state online to know what prices you’re in for.

I had to fill out paperwork and pay fees for the process of:

  • Getting an updated title for my car
  • Printing a new plate
  • Creating a new license

All of it cost about $200! Plus, there was the time it took to go to the DMV, get my new emissions test and talk with my car insurance company about my new address and license information.

Call the DMV where you’ll be moving to ahead of time for clarification because it really is a lot to deal with when you’ve never done it before. It definitely was for me.

3. Even My Used Car Had a Major Price Tag

An approximation of how getting your first used car looks.

When I was in school, I used my parents’ old car to get around to my part-time jobs and the grocery store. But after college, I knew I had to get my own ride. I’d been saving up for a while and figured I could negotiate the price of the car down to what I had in my savings account, but it turns out there’s so much more to it than that.

The only thing I knew about buying a car before I walked into the first dealership was that you have to negotiate your final price, but fees and taxes can’t be worked down. The dealer had to explain things like document fees and dealer fees, plus the sales tax. (Again, every state will be a bit different, though some fees are the same across the board.)

It’s smart to save up some extra cash to cover these fees since they’re non-negotiable. While you’re getting your down payment together, take steps to research what these expenses will be so you can better plan for the total cost of a car.

Lastly, make sure you can handle the monthly payment. While I saved enough for a hefty down payment, I did have to take out a small loan to cover the rest. I automated my car payments through my bank once my regular paychecks started rolling in so I would never risk jeopardizing my credit score with late payments.

4. My First Student Loan Payment Shocked Me

The amount I had to take out in student loans wasn’t nearly as drastic as what some of my friends had to sign for—proud state school grad here—but there are ways those loans can pull you into paying more than you originally borrowed. For starters, I had no idea what capitalizing interest was. Basically, it’s interest that’s triggered by specific events and causes your monthly payment to not even make a dent in your overall debt. The debt increases while your payments stay the same.

I also began to panic when the loan bills came in. I hadn’t even earned my first paycheck with my new job yet, so how was I supposed to pay $350 a month after already paying for moving and buying a car?

That’s when I started to research how to consolidate my loans, and it really saved me. The Department of Education can consolidate multiple federal loans with one fixed interest rate, which streamlines the process and extends your repayment period. Rather than juggling multiple payments, I just had to worry about one.

You may also consider private refinancing if you’ve landed a steady job and worked to build a credit score of at least 690. This can both consolidate your loans and lower your interest rate — but isn’t necessarily always the best choice for recent grads. Do your research! 

(So I Learned a Budgeting Trick)

Sure, I’d managed my own bills in college, but between forthcoming loan payments and the costs of moving and a higher rent, I saw my expenses skyrocket. 

So I did some research online and began militantly tracking all of my income and expenses with a Google spreadsheet. I vowed to follow the 50/30/20 budget, which stipulates that half of my earnings pay fixed expenses, 20 percent goes to debts and savings, and 30 percent is reserved for variable expenses like groceries and light spending.

TheBalance.com

It’s tempting to have your paychecks come in and put all your extra cash toward one big thing like a savings account or credit card debt, but metering it out will help you tackle everything at once. Building my savings while decreasing my debt has helped me more in the long run than just choosing one over the other.

Now, my healthy savings account means a minor emergency like a car repair doesn’t trigger any anxiety. After upending my meager college savings to move, a steady and dependable tracking system soothed my nerves and helped me navigate this whole new world.

5. Filling Up a New Apartment Drains Your Wallet

The process of finding my apartment was easy since everything is online now. I could map out how far each apartment complex was from my work and not have to worry about it being too far away. Actually getting settled was a whole different story.

I had to buy all my own furniture, and you can bet that I didn’t have the money to do it all at once! For a little bit, my apartment décor consisted of a mattress on the floor and the most basic kitchen supplies. A good list of basic apartment supplies you’ll need will consist of:

  • Plates and bowls
  • At least two or three of each type of silverware
  • A trashcan
  • Dish soap and a sponge
  • Toilet paper
  • Basic cleaning supplies (e.g., broom, cleaning solution)

Don’t panic if your apartment doesn’t feel like home for a little while. Getting more than the basics will take time, but eventually, your new fancy budget will help you get everything on your list, and your apartment will gradually feel more like a home and less like a living space. 

Plus, if you have a roommate, that makes your quest to fill the space of essentials even easier! Me? I bought myself a couch from a killer Amazon Prime Day deal—and I’ve been treating myself with one apartment item a month since.


Some of the above surprise costs were never mentioned to me because I didn’t know to ask about them.

Give your post-college world about six to eight months to settle down. Now, I’m much more financially secure and living in a home that feels cozy and welcoming. I’m finally ready to put some money into my travel fund and I don’t sweat the occasional sushi dinner. For now, you just have to buckle in and prepare for a crazy ride after that diploma lands in your hand.


Holly Welles is a millennial-focused real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update. For more home tips and financial advice, subscribe to her blog for even more financial advice.

How To Move a Piano: A Piano Mover’s Guide

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How do you move your piano? As with moving anything, the answer revolves around three objectives:

  • Keeping your piano safe
  • Keeping your home safe
  • Keeping yourself safe

No matter what type of piano you have, the best way to accomplish all three is by hiring a team of piano mover pros. Moving a piano on your own (or hiring non-professionals) is simply not a good idea.

Many (but not all) moving companies you find will move pianos as part of what they do. There are even a few who specialize in only moving pianos! The former might be a bit cheaper, while specialists will likely be more expensive.

How much does it cost to move a piano?

Another common question. And the answer is always the same.

It depends.

It mostly depends on:

  • What kind of piano you have
  • How heavy it is
  • How many obstacles (stairs) the movers will have to negotiate

The ballpark is typically between $200-1,000+, touching on both ends of the price spectrum

And it’s a safe bet that hiring piano moving specialists will cost more than having a typical moving company do it as part of your overall move.

As for how many movers you need, and therefore how much it might cost, figure:

  • 2-3 movers for a vertical piano (or 4 if it’s on the heavy end)
  • 4-6 movers for a grand piano

Multiply by your movers’ hourly rate (very roughly $25-40) and there’s your estimate! 

If your total sounds a little high, remember what counts: protecting your piano, protecting your home, and protecting yourself. Hate to say it, but getting that locked down no matter the price should be music to your ears.

Who should I hire?

Who you hire will depend on these questions:

What type of piano do you have?

The two major types of pianos are vertical pianos and baby grand pianos. A baby grand piano is an entirely different beast from a vertical piano, and it will impact who you hire.

While many standard moving companies have the tools and the know-how to move a baby grand, as you move up the scale toward larger, heavier and more expensive grands, you should consider hiring a specialist.

How heavy is your piano?

Is it a three-foot, three hundred pound spinet, or a five-foot, half-ton upright? Moving a Piano

Even if you somehow don’t know this, a moving company will either ask, or take an educated guess based on the info you provide, then prepare accordingly.

Where do you live?

Surprisingly, some states have very specific laws regarding piano transportation, due to weight regulations. Unless you are a touring musician, you’re unlikely to know your particular state’s laws, as well as any sticky interstate regulations. Professional movers will likely know all this info for you already.

What is the path out of your location like?

This is strictly the path from piano to truck. Distance is not a problem. Staircases are significant. The more you have and the heavier your piano, the more expertise and number of movers becomes a factor.

How does an upright piano get moved?

Very carefully, we hope. But if there are no staircases to negotiate, don’t be surprised if only two movers show up. Even for a heavier vertical piano, all it takes is for one person to lift one end and one person to position a 4-wheeler underneath.

Centered and balanced on that wheeled wooden rectangle, your piano will be a piece of cake for your movers to roll down the hallway and out the door. (If you clear the way for them beforehand, they’ll appreciate it!)

On average, the process of handling a piano – from wrapping it to moving it to securing it on the truck – only takes about an hour. Multiple flights of stairs and tight pathways will, of course, require more time. 

How to move a piano

But just like every other piece of furniture, a piano needs to be wrapped in thick, protective moving pads. It might seem strange if – potentially – your movers don’t wrap your piano before moving it. However, pads can make it tough to get and keep a firm grip on just about anything bulky and heavy. As a professional mover myself, I personally prefer to wait until the piano is on the truck before wrapping it up. Your movers might want to do the same.

Your movers will also likely have no problem negotiating a step or two (or three) without the aid of a third set of hands.

An entire staircase almost always requires a third person who (absolutely) should be helping out on the lower end of the piano, whether going up or down. The mover handling the higher end, meanwhile, will be bent over trying to keep their side under control. Here, too, a second set of hands is helpful, if not crucial.

But this is a professional’s job. Resist the temptation, if one arises, to jump in and help. Please, trust me on this.

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Though I’ve never done it myself, it is entirely possible as a last resort to turn a vertical piano upside down. If your movers do this in order to slide your heavy upright down a flight of stairs, understand it is not for any reason but the safety of your piano and your home – and possibly the movers themselves. (You may, however, question them if they try to slide your piano, on any side, across a bare floor or bare steps if that piano has not been pad-wrapped!)

What should I expect if I have to move a baby grand piano?

A grand piano requires an entirely different approach, not to mention totally different equipment. And if only two movers show up? Get between them and your piano and demand they call the office and double, if not triple their manpower. The steps for moving a grand piano show us why.

How to move a piano

Don’t try this at home. When you hire a professional to move your baby-grand piano, this is exactly what you should expect them to do:

  • Your piano is wrapped – across the top and all around the sides
  • All but one of the crew grab hold around the left front corner of the piano
  • The one remaining mover crawls under the piano to remove the bolt from that corner leg. The crew lifts the corner slightly off the floor
  • The mover under the piano (gently) bangs the leg loose from its bracket with a rubber mallet
  • Half the crew holds that now-legless corner up while the other half grabs hold of the piano along the opposite side
  • Legless corner gets lowered to the floor while the movers on the opposite side lift up to keep the weight of the piano off the two remaining (and now diagonal) legs. (This is critical to make sure those legs don’t crack under the piano’s considerable weight.)
  • The left side of piano – the longest side – is set on the piano board the movers need to have brought. This strong narrow platform is padded, has a raised lip on one end, and sports two metal brackets on each side for the ratchet straps necessary to keep the piano strapped tightly to the board
  • Once the piano is strapped firmly in place the remaining two legs are removed, the piano is tilted so a 4-wheeler can be placed under the piano board, and the crew keeps it steady as they get rolling

That’s a lot of technical stuff. Could you even keep up?

Normally, the grand piano will remain on the piano board all the way to the owner’s new living room. But if you rented a rig from Budget truck rental and are using local moving labor like HireAHelper provides, expect the move-out crew to take your piano off their board once it is on the truck. They’ll set it on extra pads and strap it tight to the (inside) wall of the truck, and the unload crew will put it on their piano board to haul it into your new home.

Don’t worry, many of HireAHelper’s movers are well-qualified to handle your piano. Just make sure to checkmark that you own a piano while browsing the nationwide marketplace. And be sure to let the winning mover know what kind you have so they can bring all the right equipment – and enough manpower – to do the job right. Your piano deserves it.


Illustrations by Subin Yang

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.

When Your DIY Projects Will Fail

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We love a good do-it-yourself project. There’s just something about improving your home all by yourself without the assistance of a professional that feels so darn good! (Heck, our blog is called The DIY Playbook, so obviously we are obsessed with all things DIY.)

But it may shock you that we firmly believe that there are many instances when you should not do a project yourself. (Ever heard of “nailed it”?)

Yep, we’ve outlined all the times when you need to call in a pro to get the job done below.

Time Will Inevitably Be More Valuable Than Money

Many people assume that just because a project is easy, they should do it themselves. However, even simple tasks take time.

Here’s a real situation we were both in recently. Painting a room only takes 1-2 days. The problem is that it takes an entire 1-2 days of your time, and we were moving.

If you have 1,000 things on your to-do list for a big move, then it may make sense to call in a pro to get it done quickly and efficiently. (Hiring help to move is another bright idea when that to-do list is bursting with items!)

It cost us each about $1,000 to hire this DIY out, but we weighed that against packing up one house to move to another, closing on a home, and finishing things up at your old pad. So yeah, painting a room will only take about 1-2 days and costs roughly $100 in supplies, but sometimes you don’t have an open schedule.

In our particular case, an additional $900 was a resource well spent, because hiring it out ensured that we could subtract our labor, plus have a crisp white trim and fresh paint on the walls as we moved our new items in.

Don’t worry DIY fans; as we’ve designed each room in our homes later on, we’ve re-painted a few spaces with new colors ourselves. From experience, what sounds like a great DIY project is only realistic after you have the time.

Some DIY Projects Have Sneaky Costs

People turn to DIY to save money. And it’s true, often times labor is the most expensive part of a large project. However, there are some sneaky costs that you need to keep in mind before you decide to handle a project by yourself. Here are the two biggest ones we’ve figured out are the worst.

Transportation: This line item is way too often overlooked when it comes to large-scale projects. If you need a lot of large materials for a project, figure out how the heck you’re going to get those supplies home before you consider it worthwhile.

DIY Playbook has lived it. We decided to add a large decorative wall treatment to a guest bedroom, not realizing that we would need 12-foot wooden boards from the home improvement store. We had to rent a truck on the fly (which cost about $75). It made us question the savings.

Tools and Supplies: The more you DIY, the more tools and general DIY supplies you’ll acquire, making this a thing of the past. But the first time you tackle a project, you’ll probably have to buy all.the.things.

We recently completed a large tiling project for the first time and that meant we had to buy trowels, sponges, and a wet saw for the job. That added up to a couple hundred dollars pretty quickly! Of course, the next time we do a tiling project we will be prepared (and won’t have to spend quite as much), but buying all new supplies is something you’ll want to consider.

However, by making that investment in purchasing and learning how to till ourselves, we saved about $2,500 in labor. (Granted it took us two months to get the bathroom done, but heck … that’s still some big saving!)

Think through a project carefully, jot down some numbers, and add everything up before you start a project on your own.

Be Honest When You Don’t Know How

As DIY’ers ourselves, we always encourage people to expand their skill. However, if you’re an average homeowner, there are projects that will be far too advanced for you.

For instance, while we think most people can easily learn how to install a faucet online, we’d advise hiring a plumber to move plumbing lines in a bathroom. Sometimes it isn’t just safety to you and your materials, but not knowing regulation and keeping things to code also matters. The project don’t necessarily have to be too advanced for you to need an expert opinion.

And of course, some projects are incredibly dangerous if you handle them yourself! Gas repairs or extensive electrical work are not DIY projects. Know your limits and hire out when necessary.

Don’t DIY “ASAP Projects”

As a homeowner, you’re bound to run into emergency issues that need to be fixed ASAP. Whether it’s a flooded bathroom or a busted hot water heater, you’ll want to have a professional on call immediately.

When we were renovating our bathroom, we accidentally bumped the toilet valve and it immediately started leaking. Not wanting to flood our new bathroom, we called in a plumber to swap the old valve with a new one. This set us back about $275, but the job was done correctly and in about an hour. Plus, we felt much more at ease knowing our new bathroom wasn’t going to flood from that pipe!

These urgent issues should be handled by a professional. When you don’t have the time to research and buy the correct supplies, you can make a mistake trying to do an extensive repair yourself. If it’s a home emergency, call it in.

Don’t Experiment If You’re Gonna Stare at It Every Day

If there are any perfectionists tuning in, this category is for you. You may be stuck looking at the results of your DIY for years, so if you are someone who may constantly critique minor (or major) mistakes, then DIY-ing a large project may not be worth the money saved.

We recently renovated our guest bathroom (more on that here!) and I stare at all of the tiles in there when I shower. I’ll always focus in on the corners where I know a tile is 1/8 of an inch off from our handiwork. It’s minor, but it really bugs me!

We know this question sounds like a silly one to ask yourself, but DIY-ing is never worth it if you’re not going to love the end result, or even worse, hate it more than when you started.

The DIY Projects We Recommend

There are lots of DIY projects that you can (and should!) tackle on your own. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…

  • Changing Doorknobs
  • Painting your Front Door
  • Changing a Faucet
  • Installing a Ceiling Fan
  • Swapping out Light Fixtures
  • Changing an Outlet
  • Adding Cosmetic Woodworking to Walls
  • Installing a Smart Thermostat
  • Fixing a Screen Door
  • Painting a Room
  • Changing out your Baseboard

To DIY or not to DIY? Sometimes the answer is crystal clear. But when you’re unsure, we hope you consult this list so you make the right decision for you (and your home!).

How to Best Unload Your Moving Truck

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Loading your truck is like getting ready for prom. You want everything to be perfect.

Unloading, on the other hand, is kind of the same way; take everything off, drop it on the floor and go jump in the pool with your friends, right?

Yes and no. Unloading a moving truck is definitely easier than loading one, but like jumping in the pool, there are good ways and bad ways to do it.

Below are some tips for safety and speed so you can not only do the job right but have plenty of time for the post-party. (And this all applies for moving containers too!)

How to Prepare Your Unload

Park on a flat, level surface

If you are renting a portable container like a PODS, you can expect it will be set on even ground. The same thing goes for a rental truck.

You’ll want to park in a similar level place, to make unloading both safer and easier. If you simply have to park on a sloped surface, point the front of your truck downhill. (You can imagine why.)

Apply the emergency brake

This applies even if you park on a level surface. It also doesn’t hurt to put chocks – or rocks or blocks of wood – under one or more of the wheels. 

Open the back of the truck slowly

Your stuff will have shifted around in transit, and the possibility of something tumbling out onto the ground, or on you, is very real.

If something is about to come tumbling out, you may feel and/or hear it pushing against the door as you open it. But not always.

Keep your eyes open and have an extra set of hands ready.

Ramps slide out quickly, be careful

Rental trucks generally come equipped with a loading ramp that slides right out from under the rear door. Unlatching it, sliding it out and locking it in place is simple. So is hurting yourself if you aren’t careful.

That ramp is heavy! And pulling it too hard can turn it into a battering ram with you being the one getting battered. Ease it out all the way and set it down on something not your toes. And remember to set those hooks at the top of the ramp securely in place!

How to Unload Safely and Quickly

Get off to a pretty slow start

That’s right! Even if nothing looks about to topple over, you still want to take it easy when you begin unloading your stuff.

Your stuff will shift and resettle in transit

This goes triple if you have a freight trailer!

The pedal of the bicycle you so carefully placed on top of all those boxes might now be stuck in between two of those cartons, and pulling too hard trying to free your bike can send a whole stack of stuff cascading down on top of you. 

Remember, if your truck was packed to the gills, you won’t have much room back there for your feet. Take your time. Watch your step. Ease those first items off the truck, always aware of how close your Nikes are to the edge of that deck. One misstep and there goes your stuff (and you).

Assign a ramp person

If you have someone (or a few people) helping you, assign one person to stay on the truck to break down the load and put everything at the edge of the deck where the others can grab it without having to climb into the truck.

Not only does this save time, it also eliminates a ton of bending over.

Working like this, it’s never long before the person on the truck gets ahead of the others. This is a good time for that person to nominate someone to help carry that sofa or dresser off the truck and into the house. In addition, jumping off the truck and helping get all the stuff they’ve set on the deck into the house is the obvious way to keep the process rolling.

Tackling the unload all by yourself? Try working in a similar fashion. As you break down your load, position as many boxes and other items as possible along the edge of the deck. Then you’ll be able to make a bunch of trips back and forth without having to walk up and down that ramp every time, saving both your legs and your back.

 

Form a box brigade

Building on above, if you are lucky enough to have two or more people helping you unload:

  • Keep one person working on the truck
  • One person carrying stuff from the truck to a staging area (usually the garage or the front door)
  • One person working inside carrying everything from the staging area to where it all belongs

Naturally, the person on the truck will start getting ahead of the person carrying stuff to the staging area, who will in turn probably get ahead of the person running back and forth inside the house. Periodically jumping off the truck or stepping inside to help your buddy catch up keeps everyone moving – and quickens the process of emptying out that truck or portable container.

Which, of course, leaves more time to enjoy the pool.

Use a dolly

When you are unloading your moving truck, a hand truck (also known as a dolly) is your best non-human friend.

Rolling heavy stuff means you don’t have to carry it. Rolling a stack of boxes means making one trip instead of three or four! The bigger your load and the heavier your stuff, the more you will thank yourself for having that hand truck around. It’s an essential item to rent of your moving truck doesn’t come with one, or if you don’t hire moving labor.

Make sure, by the way, to use that hand truck correctly. You should always be higher than the dolly when rolling stuff down that ramp. If you are hand-trucking something large and/or heavy, have an extra set of hands at the lower end to keep that thing moving steadily—and slowly!

Want to really learn how to use a dolly? Check out this post.

Center everything before it goes off the truck

It goes without saying that when you’re unloading major appliances and large pieces of furniture – or anything for that matter – you want to be doubly certain neither your feet nor the wheels of your hand truck miss that ramp.

But you also want your hand truck to hit the ramp squarely; if one wheel starts going downhill before the other your hand truck will start to tip to one side. Your buddy on the bottom end will naturally try to steady it, which can send one of his feet off the side of the ramp, and things will just keep going downhill from there.

Whether you are rolling or carrying that big heavy appliance or piece of furniture, you want to get centered on the back of the truck before you head for that ramp.

Again, when using a dolly, those wheels go down before you do. If you and a buddy are carrying that item, whoever is holding the bottom end needs to travel down first. In either case, the person on the lower end is responsible for maintaining a straight line of forward progress. 

Ready to unpack?

That’s a whole other thing, so make sure to read our unpacking guide too!

Protip: If you have to walk up a slope or up any stairs, it’s good practice to turn yourselves around so the person holding the top of that big bulky piece is again in a higher position.

Going upslope, however, the person on top takes over steering duty. The person on the bottom then will have the responsibility of providing most of the upward momentum. (This is especially true when going up a staircase.)

In other words, the person on bottom pushes while the person on top does their best to avoid banging into the walls and tripping up the steps. 

Get Some Quick Help

And if all else fails (or you realize you have more stuff than you thought you did after loading your truck), do yourself a favor and double-check our movers’ prices for unloading trucks.

Get Help Unloading Your Rental Truck

See prices for movers by the hour—instantly.

Read real customer reviews.

Easily book your help online.

 

From my decades of experience moving people, an unbooked mover is pretty motivated to come out, as opposed to sitting around doing nothing. Do a quick fly by on HireAHelper if you were wondering, “But are there any local movers near me available to lend me and my friends a hand?”

I’ve saved plenty of people’s moving day who thought to check, even last second.

Illustrations by Emily Roberts
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