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Moving yourself vs. hiring movers

What's the best way to move?

by Jami Barnett, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
man moving box into house

Moving companies, portable storage units and rental truck providers offer a lot of options and services to make your move run smoothly, whether you want to hire movers to do all the heavy lifting or you want to do most of the work yourself. Decide how much you can afford for your move and how much work you want to do. Then, choose the moving option that work best for you for a stress-free move that doesn’t go over your budget.

couple sitting on couch with moving boxes

Moving yourself

When you move, you’ll pack items, load them into your own vehicle or a rented truck and then unload at the other end. This choice might be easier and cheaper if you own or can borrow a truck and aren’t moving very far. Moving is more complicated if you don’t have the benefit of free help or you’re moving long distance.

Pros

  • Control over every aspect
  • Costs less than hiring movers
  • Can be done on exactly your timeline

Cons

  • Creates a lot more work
  • Supply and rental truck costs can add up
  • Can take much longer than expected

Costs associated with moving yourself

You’ll save a significant amount of money when you do all the work yourself, but that doesn’t mean it will be cheap. Don’t forget to consider these costs when deciding whether to move without professional movers.

  1. Truck rental: You may need to rent a moving truck. Pricing for this will depend on the size of truck you need and the distance you’re moving. Renting a small truck for an in-town move will be much cheaper than renting a large one for a cross-country trek. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of truck rental insurance when getting estimates.
  2. Gas: Whether you’re taking your own vehicle or renting a moving truck, remember to consider the cost of fuel when making your budget.
  3. Moving helpers: You should offer friends or family members who help you with food and drinks on the day of the move. You might also consider giving them a small thank-you gift after the move. If you need extra help, hire independent moving helpers. These businesses often advertise on local classified websites. They may also partner with rental truck companies, so you can book and pay for the rental truck and the extra labor all at once.
movers moving boxes out of truck

Hiring movers

Professional moving companies can do everything related to your move, including packing your boxes, moving items from Point A to Point B and unpacking your belongings at your new house. This option will likely cost the most but involve the least amount of stress and work for you. You can save on costs by packing yourself.

Pros

  • Less work than moving yourself
  • They do the heavy lifting
  • They insure your belongings

Cons

  • You work on their timeline
  • Less control over how the move goes
  • More costly than moving yourself

Costs associated with hiring movers

Using a moving company may not be as expensive as you think, and it’s worth your time to get an estimate for large or long distance moves. When you’re considering costs, make sure to factor in these expenses.

  1. Basic charges: The company will charge you to move your items from your old home to your new one. Most reputable companies base the cost on the weight of your cargo. Local moves are often charged per hour.
  2. Insurance: Although movers must legally provide some liability coverage for your belongings, it usually won’t cover the cost of replacing a damaged or lost item. For the most comprehensive protection, you’ll need to purchase full-value insurance from your moving company or an insurance company.
  3. Gratuity: It’s standard to tip movers, usually by tipping each individual on the moving crew.
  4. Miscellaneous charges: Moving companies charge for a variety of other services, like using a smaller truck if they can’t get their large truck into your neighborhood. Make sure you fully understand the moving quote when comparing the cost of hiring movers versus moving yourself without professional help.
LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Best long-distanceAmerican Van Lines Visit website
  • Full-service moving company with à la carte options
  • Loading, unloading and storage options
LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Best valueColonial Van Lines Visit website
  • Full-service moving company
  • Packing and storage options
LabelCompany nameLogoContactSummary
Best full-serviceMover DudesRead Reviews
  • Full-service moving company
  • Shipping and storage options
moving container

Moving containers

When you use moving containers, like PODS or U-Haul U-Boxes, you’ll pack your items into a portable storage container and then either haul it yourself using a trailer or have the shipping company move it. You can hire independent moving helpers to help you pack, load the moving box containers and transport them to and from the container provider. This option gives you a lot of flexibility in deciding which services you want.

Pros

  • Cost-effective compared to full-service movers
  • Convenient way to pack and move
  • Secure storage for your belongings

Cons

  • Takes up space on your driveway
  • You’re liable in the event of vandalism
  • Can be a lot of work to load and unload

Costs associated with moving containers

Using a portable storage unit for your move gives you some of the perks of both moving and hiring a moving company. The cost is often comparable to hiring movers, but make sure to consider these costs when comparing prices and making your budget.

  1. Container rental: Moving container companies charge per unit. It won’t matter how fully you load the container, so you’ll want to use as few containers as possible.
  2. Storage: The company may charge a fee to store your containers between the time they’re picked up and delivered to your new home. Renting a container often comes with one month of free storage, but that isn’t always the case. Make sure to ask about this cost if you need the units stored.
  3. Delivery and pick-up fees: If you own a trailer, some companies will let you pick up and return the unit yourself. You can also pay to have the unit delivered to and picked up from your old house and then transported to your new house.
  4. Shipping: Moving containers are so expensive because of how much it costs the company to ship them. The price for shipping will depend on the number of containers you use and the distance you’re shipping them.
  5. Moving helpers: You may want to hire independent moving helpers to help with loading and unloading your containers once they’re delivered. Many independent movers advertise their services online through classifieds and job boards. Some movers also partner with moving container companies so you can book your unit and additional help all at once.
  6. Insurance: Moving box companies don’t legally have to provide the same kind of insurance as traditional moving companies. However, they usually sell straight-forward insurance policies to offer financial protection if items are damaged in transit.
family moving into new home

Bottom line

Whether you decide to move by yourself, get some additional help or hire professionals to do it all, choosing a way to move should be about what makes the most sense for you. Consider your budget, schedule and preferences so your move can go as seamlessly as possible.

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by Jami Barnett, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Jami Barnett, Ph.D., is an experienced researcher, and she believes consumers have a right to clear and honest information about products. In her role at ConsumerAffairs, she thoroughly researches products and companies by interviewing experts, reviewing research studies, reading governmental regulations and investigating customer service responses. Her work gives consumers the information they need to make smart purchasing decisions.