How Much Does it Cost to Move?

So you’ve rented, or bought a new home, or maybe you’re moving in with your significant other, or back into your parents’ house. You’re staring down one of life’s top stressors: moving. It’s something the average American does about 11 times in their life, but it never really gets easier, only harder as you accumulate more stuff over time. Of course there are lots of ways to move. You can borrow a friend’s pick-up truck and hand-carry every item you own, which might cost you nothing more than a case of beer. Or you can hire professionals to do it all and pay many thousands of dollars. This guide will help you understand and manage your moving expenses.

How Much Packing Supplies Cost

If you plan to do your packing and unpacking yourself, the biggest cost will be your time. Depending on the size of your home, how much stuff you own and how many hours you can devote to it each day, this process can take between a few days and a few weeks.

Stock up on supplies in advance. You’ll probably need packing boxes and packing material to protect your breakables, packing tape, and markers to labels the boxes. While boxes come in various shapes and sizes, including large wardrobe boxes in which your clothing hangs on a bar, loading and unloading is easiest when most boxes are the same size.

Here’s what you might need for a typical 2-bedroom home according to moving.com, and an estimate of the costs of these materials.

Moving SuppliesPer PieceTotal

30 Medium Boxes

$2.20$66.00

22 Large Boxes

$4.00$88.00

10 Extra Large Boxes

$4.00$40.00

6 Picture Boxes

$10.00$60.00

4 Wardrobe Boxes

$12.00$48.00

9 lbs Packing Paper

$1.30$11.70

6 10-ft Bubble Wrap

$2.00$12.00

6 40-ft Stretch Wrap

$0.80$4.80

2 Rolls of Packing Tape

$4.00$8.00

1 Tape Dispenser

$10.00$10.00

1 Set of Markers

$6.00$6.00

GRAND TOTAL

$354.50

Where should you buy packing boxes? If you plan ahead, you might be able to scavenge used ones from a site like Craigslist or Freecycle. But if you prefer to buy them new, you can order them online from places like Home Depot, Uline or Amazon, or pick them up at a local hardware store. Staples, UPS, and places that rent moving trucks also typically sell moving supplies.

The Cost to Rent a Moving Truck

To transport your belongings from your current home to the new one, you have a few different options, but all require wheels (unless you happen to be moving within your building). Your own car, if you have one, might be able to handle your smaller belongings. For furniture and other large items, you’ll probably need a van or truck. If you can’t borrow a reliable option, a couple of well-known national companies, like U-Haul and Budget, allow you to rent cargo vans and cube trucks of various sizes. Your town might have some local truck rental companies, too.

The cost of the rental will vary depending on where you pick up the truck, which size and type you choose, how long you need it for, and where you plan to drop it off. You could probably eke out a one-day, in-town move of a small apartment for about $100 (including the additional costs of insurance and gas mentioned explained below). But if you have a lot more stuff, or need to drive it from Chicago to California, you’ll be looking at much higher cost, easily over $1,000.

You might get a better deal on a truck in the middle of the month, or on weekdays, due to lower demand at those times. When you’re comparing prices, look beyond the advertised amount to consider the charge per mile. It can get up around $2. Also, ask about any insurance you will need for the vehicle itself and for your personal belongings. Most personal auto insurance policies and vehicle insurance offered by credit cards will not cover such large vehicles. And your existing renters insurance or homeowners insurance policies will only cover a limited amount of loss or damage to your stuff, so you might consider opting for cargo coverage to bridge the gap. Of course, you’ll also be responsible for gassing up the truck and paying any tolls along the way.

Other supplies you might consider renting, borrowing or buying if you’ll be packing the truck yourself: moving blankets and a dolly.

How Much Do Movers Cost?

If you have a lot of heavy furniture, live in a fully-appointed multi-bedroom home, have a moving stipend from a new employer or money to burn, you probably want to consider hiring movers. Hired hands could just lug the heavy things, or they can also pack and unpack for you.

Your options range from a local man-with-a-van to large national companies, like Mayflower or United Van Lines. You can go online and get some quotes from movers in your area at a site like UShip. Sites like Angie’s List, Craigslist, and TaskRabbit might also have options for you.

To find a reliable moving service in your area, try to get some referrals from local friends. Then, call and ask the companies to send someone over for an in-home estimate. Movers can offer various types: a binding estimate, a non-binding one, or a not-to-exceed (sometimes called a guaranteed price or price protection).

A binding estimate is a fixed price you and the mover agree upon and it will not change based on the ultimate weight of your belongings. A binding estimate should be put in writing and signed, and the company must adhere to it on moving day. If you request extra services, however, those charges can be added on.

You could also get a binding not-to-exceed estimate. For this one, you’ll pay based on the actual weight of the shipment, but not more than the estimated amount. You could actually end up paying less than the estimate.

Non-binding estimates are not as common, and the actual cost of your move could be much higher than this estimate, based on the weight of your stuff and any extra services you choose.

Tipping your movers is always appreciated, but not required. You might start at $20 per mover, and hand the tip to each one individually. You could add more if they worked a long day, handled enormous amounts of stuff, or did the work carefully and with a smile.

Are Moving Expenses Tax Deductible?

Moving expenses are deductible from your taxes if you meet IRS requirements. The deduction is on the front page of the long 1040 form, meaning you don’t need to itemize your deductions on a Schedule A to benefit from them.

In order to deduct your moving expenses—and these are defined broadly to include any storage costs and your own travel—you must move for a new job, or be relocated by your employer. The move qualifies for the deduction if your new job is at least 50 miles farther from your old home, compared to your old job (in other words, add 50 to the mileage distance of your old commute to see if your new job qualifies). If you were not employed previously and are moving to take a job, it must be 50 miles or more from your old home. Then, you must work full-time for most of the year following your move to keep the deduction, although there are exceptions such as if you become disabled or lose your job involuntarily.

You’ll probably run into other incidental costs—like getting rid of stuff you don’t want to bring along, buying things you need for your new home, and springing for takeout for two weeks straight while your kitchen stuff is packed away. But when all is said and done, you’ll be settled into a new home, sweet home.

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