Moving yourself vs. hiring movers
Tips to help decide if your move is going to be hands-on or handed off to movers
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Moving can be an exciting but stressful experience, and one of the biggest decisions involved (in terms of cost and effort) is whether to move yourself or hire professional movers.
In this article, we explore the key factors to consider when deciding how to go about your relocation. Both options have their ups and downs, so it’s essential to weigh them carefully.
- Moving yourself can save you money and provide control, flexibility and the ability to watch over your belongings, but it can be physically demanding and time-consuming.
- Professional movers have experience and expertise and can save you time and energy. Moving this way can be expensive, though, and means less control over your things.
- Moving containers are a convenient, cost-effective moving and storage option. They do require some effort on your part and can be vulnerable to vandalism.
- Factors to consider when choosing between a pro and DIY move include budget, time, energy, distance, the complexity of the move, your support system and risk tolerance.
When you move yourself, you pack your things, load them into your vehicle or a rental truck and then unload and unpack at the new destination. This option might be easier and cheaper if you aren’t moving very far and have access to a truck — moving is more complicated if you don’t have free help or you’re moving a long distance.
» LEARN: How to rent a moving truck
DIY moving pros and cons
Consider the following benefits and drawbacks of completing a move yourself — are the cost savings worth it?
- Cost savings
- Control and flexibility
- Personal oversight
- Physical exertion
- Lack of expertise
On the positive side, DIY moving can lead to significant savings because it eliminates the costs associated with professional moving services. It also offers you complete control and flexibility over the moving process, letting you plan according to your own schedule and preferences.
Handling the move yourself ultimately ensures personal oversight of your belongings — this way, you can keep track of your belongings and their safety in transit.
DIY moving also has its drawbacks. It can be physically demanding, especially when dealing with larger or heavier items, potentially leading to exhaustion, injuries, or damages.
The process is also time-consuming, requiring a considerable investment of time and effort in packing, loading, driving, and unloading. Also, without professional expertise, you may face challenges in efficiently utilizing space, properly packing fragile items or handling logistical issues.
» MORE: Moving tips
DIY moving costs
You’ll likely save a significant amount of money by doing all the work yourself, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be cheap. Don’t forget to consider the various associated costs.
- Truck rental
- If you don’t have a suitable vehicle, you may need to rent a moving truck. The cost depends on the truck size, the distance you’re moving and what kind of insurance you opt for.
- Whether you’re using your own vehicle or a rented truck, factor in the fuel cost and the mileage you’ll be traveling when creating your budget.
- Moving helpers
- If your friends or family are helping you, you should offer them food and drinks on the day of the move. Giving them a small thank-you gift after the move is also a kind gesture for their assistance.
- Equipment rental
- Depending on your specific needs, you might have to rent moving equipment such as dollies or furniture pads. These costs can accumulate, especially for larger households or longer-distance moves.
- Packing supplies
- To safeguard your belongings, you'll need boxes, tape, cushioning and other packing materials. Gathering these supplies incurs additional expenses, so remember to include them in your budget.
» WHERE TO GO: Where to find moving boxes
- Potential damages
- Moving without professional expertise increases the risk of accidental damage to your belongings. If any items get damaged during the move, you'll bear the cost of repairs or replacements.
Professional moving companies can pack your boxes, move items from point A to point B and unpack your belongings at your new house — but you can save on costs by packing yourself.
Pros and cons of hiring movers
This option can get expensive, but it involves the least amount of stress and work for you. Still, even if you can afford it, it’s important to consider all the pros and cons to determine if it’s worth it.
- Experience and expertise
- Time and energy savings
- Insurance coverage
- Less control
- Potential lack of personal oversight
On the upside, hiring movers means you get their experience and expertise. Trained professionals can efficiently manage all aspects of the move, adeptly navigating any challenges that may arise — one satisfied reviewer from Georgia said about their experience with movers, “Everything was packed very professionally, nice and neat. My wife and I were both impressed by the quality of the move.”
Another advantage is the time and energy saved. By delegating the tasks of packing, loading, transporting and unloading to professionals, you can focus your attention on other important aspects of your move. Reputable moving companies also offer insurance coverage, which can give you peace of mind knowing your belongings are protected.
There are also potential downsides to hiring professional movers. The cost can be significant, especially if you’re moving far away or add on services like packing.
Hiring movers can also give you less control over the moving process than you’d get with a DIY move; the timeline depends on the movers' schedules and methods. And, while movers handle the logistics for you, you might have concerns about the privacy, safety and handling of your belongings while you're not present.
Cost of hiring movers
Moving companies' services may not be as expensive as you think, and it’s worth getting an estimate for large or long-distance moves (small-scale moves might cost a few hundred dollars, while cross-country moves may cost several thousand).
When you’re considering costs, make sure to factor in the following expenses:
- Basic charges: Moving companies typically charge based on the weight of your belongings and the distance of the move. For local moves, they may charge an hourly rate.
- Insurance: Although movers provide some liability coverage, it may not fully cover the cost of replacing damaged or lost items.
- Gratuity: It’s customary to tip the movers as a token of appreciation for their hard work and professionalism.
- Miscellaneous charges: Keep an eye out for any additional charges that may apply, such as fees for using a smaller truck if accessibility is an issue in your neighborhood.
» MORE: How much to tip movers
When you use moving containers, like PODS or U-Haul’s 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 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 and cons of using moving containers
If hiring movers seems too expensive and you don’t want to drive your belongings yourself, a moving container could be a good way to meet in the middle in terms of cost and effort.
Moving container pros
Moving containers can be more cost-effective than full-service movers, since you have more control over the packing and loading process. You also have the flexibility to pack and unpack at your convenience, allowing you to set your own timeline for the move.
Many moving container companies also offer storage options, providing a safe place to store your belongings if you require temporary storage before or after the move.
Moving container cons
Using moving containers means having them occupy space on your driveway or designated area, which can be an issue if you have limited space available.
Since the containers are placed on your property, you’re responsible for any potential vandalism or damage that may occur. Loading and unloading the containers can be physically demanding, requiring effort and coordination on your part.
Costs associated with moving containers
Using a portable storage unit gives you some of the perks of 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.
- Container rental
- Moving container companies typically charge based on the size of the storage unit, so the cost all comes down to how much room your belongings take up.
- If you require storage between pick-up and delivery, the moving container company may charge a fee for storing your containers. Be sure to inquire about storage costs and whether any promotional offers include free storage.
» MORE: How much do storage units cost?
- Delivery and pick-up fees
- The moving container company may offer options for self-pick-up and return, or you can opt for them to handle the transportation. Delivery and pick-up fees will vary based on your specific requirements.
- The shipping cost of the containers depends on the number of units and the distance they need to be transported. Consider the shipping fees when comparing prices and planning your budget.
- Moving helpers
- If you need assistance with loading and unloading the containers, you can hire independent moving helpers. These individuals often advertise their services online or may be affiliated with the moving container company.
- While moving container companies may not provide the same level of insurance as traditional movers, they usually offer insurance policies that provide financial protection in case of any transit-related damage to your items.
How to choose between a DIY move and hiring movers
When it comes to deciding whether to move yourself, hire professional movers or pay for moving containers, there are several important factors to consider, including your budget, the type of move and how much help you can get from friends and family. Taking the time to evaluate these factors will help you make an informed decision aligning with your specific needs.
Assess your budget and determine how much you’re willing to spend on your move. Consider the costs associated with each option, including truck rental, professional movers' fees and moving container expenses in your area.
» MORE: How to make a moving budget
Time and energy
Evaluate your available time and energy. Moving yourself requires a significant investment of time and physical effort. If you have a busy schedule or limited physical capabilities, hiring professionals or using moving containers might be more suitable.
Distance and logistics
Consider the distance of your move and the logistical challenges it presents. Long-distance moves or moves involving delicate or bulky items may require the expertise and specialized equipment only professional movers can provide.
Level of control
Determine how much control you want to have over the moving process. If you prefer to oversee every aspect and have the flexibility to plan according to your schedule, moving yourself or using moving containers might be preferable. However, if you'd rather delegate tasks and rely on professionals to handle the logistics, hiring movers can provide peace of mind.
Complexity of the move
Assess the complexity of your move. Do you have valuable or fragile items that require special care? Are there any unique challenges, such as navigating narrow staircases or dealing with limited parking space? Professional movers can not only move these items — they can also pack and unpack them if you have the budget for it.
Consider how much support from friends and family you can count on. If you have a network of reliable individuals who are willing to assist you in packing, loading and unloading, moving yourself is a more viable option. However, if you lack a support system, hiring professionals or using moving containers can provide the necessary help.
Evaluate your tolerance for risk. Moving yourself may save money, but it comes with potential risks of physical strain, injuries and damage to your belongings. If you prefer a more secure and insured option, hiring professional movers or using reputable moving containers can provide the necessary protection.
How far in advance should I book professional movers or moving containers?
It's generally recommended to book professional movers or moving containers as early as possible, especially during peak moving seasons. Aim to book at least a few weeks in advance to secure your desired moving date and ensure availability. However, if you have a flexible moving date or are moving during the off-peak season, you may have more flexibility in booking closer to your desired date.
Are there any restrictions on what items can be transported in a moving container?
Moving container companies often have restrictions on transporting hazardous materials, perishable items, plants and flammable substances. It's important to check with the specific moving container company about its policies and guidelines regarding restricted or prohibited items.
How does the weight of my belongings affect the cost of professional movers?
Estimating the weight of your belongings can be challenging but essential for determining the cost of hiring professional movers. You can use an online moving weight calculator to estimate the weight of the items you’re moving, or you can request an in-home survey from the moving company.
Can I deduct moving expenses from my taxes?
As of publishing, the tax deduction for moving expenses is no longer available for most individuals. However, tax laws can change, so it's advisable to consult with a tax professional or refer to the latest guidelines from the relevant tax authority in your country or region to determine if any deductions or credits apply to your situation.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- Local Movers Corp, “Moving Weight Calculator.” Accessed June 21, 2023
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