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How to move to another state

7 tips for moving out of state

Profile picture of Rosemary Avance, Ph.D.
by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Moving boxes in a house

Moving out of state poses several financial and logistical challenges. Ideally you have a couple of months to plan for your move so you can get organized and do most of the work ahead of time. If you’re crunched for time, though, don’t worry. We have you covered with everything you need to do to get ready for your out-of-state move.

1. Learn about where you’re moving

Whether you’re moving for a new job, to be closer to family or just for a change of scenery, it’s important that you’re financially, socially and physically prepared for a move to your new city. Here are a few things to look out for regarding your new location:

  • Research the cost of living: The costs of housing, food, car expenses, taxes and other things vary depending on your location. Check out the cost of living in your new city and choose housing that you can afford. If you’re moving for a job relocation, make sure the salary is worth the increase in living expenses.
  • Understand the local taxes: When you move to a new state, recognize the different tax requirements — statewide and locally. Check out the local property taxes if you’re thinking of buying a home and research your new state income tax. Make sure you can afford your new tax burden before you move.
  • Learn about your new community: Learn about public transportation, look for doctors and veterinarians in your new area, choose schools and day care and look into local churches, groups or clubs that are important to you.

2. Decide how and what you’re moving

Planning ahead is the biggest advantage you can have when preparing to move out of state. For these items below, the earlier you can start, the better.

  • Set a moving budget: Figure out how much you can afford to spend on your move by determining a realistic moving budget. Once you have your budget you’ll be able to determine whether hiring professional movers, using a portable storage company or taking on the move yourself makes the most financial sense.
  • Clean out your house: The easiest and cheapest way to move is to move with less stuff. Throw away, donate or sell whatever you don’t need or want. Getting rid of clutter will help you cut down on moving expenses and make your move less stressful.
  • Finalize a lease or new home contract: Don’t wait until the last minute to finalize your lease, contract, move-in date or any other details of your new home.
  • Have records forwarded: This includes school records if you have kids and medical and dental records for everyone in your household. Don’t forget veterinary records if you have a pet!
  • Research moving or self-packing container companies: You’ll need to spend some time comparing your options and getting in-person estimates, so start looking for the best movers or portable storage companies as soon as you know your moving date. If you’re relocating for work, find out if your employer will cover some (or all) of your moving costs.
  • Get a folder for important documents: Centralize birth certificates, Social Security cards, financial documents, your moving company contract and receipts and any other important documents in a special folder and keep it with you instead of in a box.

3. Finalize the details of your move

  • Hire your professional movers or self-packing container company: You’ve already researched the top moving and portable storage companies. Figure out which one you want to use and contact them to get a moving quote and schedule your move.
  • Complete an inventory of your items: Be sure to include all of your valuables, electronics and anything that would be hard to replace.
  • Make a plan for pets and plants: Pets and indoor plants can be difficult to move, and your moving company probably won’t move them for you. Make a plan to transport them yourself.

4. Start packing

  • Set aside the things you need: Imagine you’re packing for a two-week trip: How many sets of clothing will you need between now and moving day? Leave out toiletries, food and any personal items you use every day, like your laptop and chargers.
  • Pack everything you don’t need: Anything you haven’t set aside for the last two weeks before your move should now be packed up and labeled. Staying organized when you pack for a move will make moving in a whole lot easier.
  • Donate excess food: Use up your frozen and perishable foods by the move date, or begin to give them away. Try to plan meals for these last few weeks that won’t use pots and pans (so you can pack them up), and consider using disposable plates and cutlery.

5. Update your relocation information

With just seven days left before the move, you can take care of a lot of last-minute tasks. This is the time when you can finally do things that you had to put off for practical reasons.

It takes about three to 10 business days for your change of address to take effect.
  • Fill out a change of address form: Register a change of address so the post office will forward mail to your new address. You can pick up a change of address form at the local post office or fill it out online. Be sure to specify on the form the day you’ll be moving. It takes about three to 10 business days for your change of address to take effect.
  • Set utility turn on and shut-off dates: Call your current and future electric, gas, water, trash and cable companies to let them know when you’ll be moving.
  • Notify other accounts of your move: Cancel or update your accounts with your local bank, insurance providers, credit card company, lenders, subscription services, gym, lawn care service or cleaning crew.
  • Make plans to update your driver’s license or state ID: Most states require residents to update their driver’s license within the first 30 to 90 days of arriving. Check these requirements with your new state, call to set appointments at the local office and make sure everyone in your household plans to get their state ID updated within the required time frame. Often, updating your driver’s license from your old state to your new one is a requirement before you can purchase car insurance at your new address.
woman packing clothes in boxes

6. Make final preparations before moving day

The day before the moving truck or company arrives is a great time for some final prep work.

  • Take your car in for a tuneup: If you’ll be driving to your new home, make sure you have the oil changed and the fluid levels checked before moving day. Check the tire pressure and tread depth to avoid a flat or blown-out tire.
  • Refill prescriptions: You don’t want to run out of a prescription in the midst of moving, so refill your prescriptions before the moving craziness starts. You may need to call your doctor or your insurance company if your prescription isn’t due for a refill yet.
  • Defrost the freezer and unplug the fridge: The freezer will need up to 24 hours to fully defrost. Discard or give away any perishables. If you’ll need something perishable, like milk, for the day of the move, pack it on ice in an ice chest.
  • Prep your home for movers: Clear a path through your home, and consider laying plastic or carpet scraps if you have carpeting. You can put frame protectors around your doorways to avoid dings from oversized furniture.
  • Pack your clothes and essentials: Pack up the last of your clothes and personal items that you won’t need to carry with you. Pack a separate bag for what you’ll need while you’re on the road.
  • Do a final deep clean: As the move gets closer, you may need to clean your home again. But for now, take care of any extensive cleaning projects, like the stove or windows. You may want to hire a cleaning service to make this process easier.

7. Move out of your house

Double-checking IDs, doing last-minute cleaning and taking some pictures can all help prevent problems after your move. Make sure you take care of all these tasks before professional movers load your belongings and you leave for your new home.

  • Check the mover’s ID: When the movers show up, make sure they're with the company you hired. Ask your moving company for the name of the movers and then confirm their identity by asking to see ID when they arrive.
  • Sign the bill of lading: Before the movers leave your home with your cargo, sign the bill of lading, which serves as a receipt for your items and makes them the company’s responsibility.
  • Do a walk-through: Once everything is loaded on the moving truck, go through your home and check that nothing has been damaged by the moving company. Also, check every drawer and closet to make sure you haven’t left any property or trash behind.
  • Clean as needed: If you’re moving out of a rental, you may need to clean to get your deposit back. This might include dusting, cleaning windows, wiping out sinks and tubs, mopping and vacuuming.
  • Lock up: Before you leave, lock all the doors and windows. Turn off all the lights as well as the thermostat.
  • Take pictures of your new place: Before everything is unloaded in your new home, take photos of the empty rooms. Be sure to get pictures of any damage that wasn’t there before, especially if the damage would affect the home inspection results.
  • Get settled into your new home: Once you’ve moved in, you can take a little break. But there’s still more to do to get fully settled — getting these important tasks done as quickly as possible when moving into a new house will help.
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Profile picture of Rosemary Avance, Ph.D.
by Rosemary Avance, Ph.D. ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Rosemary Avance, Ph.D., uses her social science research background as a member of the ConsumerAffairs research team to help people make smart choices. She researches products, businesses and industries thoroughly, then passes on the most relevant and essential information for consumers looking to make important purchasing decisions.